Today’s interview is with Courtney Larson!
Hi Courtney! Congratulations to you on Clickin Moms Pro of the Month! Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself and how you got your start in photography?
Thank you! I feel so lucky to have found this community. I have always loved photography, even buying a Yashica twin-lens camera with my first paycheck when I was 16 years old. I did not realize, however, how much it meant to me until I was hit with some serious jealousy when a friend started her own photography business. It wasn’t long after that I gave up my Etsy jewelry business to pursue photography.
You once said that you’ve always considered yourself a storyteller. What is it about storytelling that resonates with you so deeply?
I grew up with parents that are not emotional. I remember “happy” being the only emotion we were encouraged to show. Walking through life, the hurts and joys of being an awkward teenager, I had to learn how to express my emotions in other ways. Art, in its many forms, has been my space to share my story – or create a new one. I love that I can reveal or hide as much of myself as I want to within an image and, regardless of how obvious it may be to me, art/photography always connects to people where they are in their own story. What I may see as plain as day could translate to something completely different to another viewer. I love that! Photography has given me a voice while exposing me to so many others. It is an honor to be the teller (through the art of photography) to so many amazing stories!
Many of the narratives that you document highlight human connection, whether you’re shooting couples, births or newborns. Can you talk about your pull to document these connections. Are they staged or do you aim to capture authentic interactions?
I believe there is more power in human connection than anything else on this side of heaven. While many things help us disconnect with life or reality, relationships lead us deeper into it. And just as we are broken in community, we are healed by community, so I feel most fulfilled when I am documenting those healing connections, even if it includes a bit of pain (like in the birth of a child).
My photography is a mixture of spontaneous and staged moments, but both are always authentic. I aim for truth regardless if it is the story of my clients, the emotions within my own heart, or the everyday happening of my little family.
Locations and lighting conditions are often considered to be crucial elements in the creation of compelling images. As a birth photographer, you regularly shoot in less than ideal conditions. How do you handle the unpredictability that comes with shooting on location?
I actually thrive off of stress – a personality trait that hurt me in school, but has come in handy as a birth photographer. In the beginning the unpredictable lighting at a birth, especially a dark home birth, really hindered my art but it was because I fought against it, as if I could somehow come up with magical camera settings that would give me golden-hour-brilliant-lighting. Once I embraced the shadows and low-light, I began to actually prefer them! Every birth is a test of my ability to see light, shadows and how they can be something beautiful.
In what ways do your experiences as a wife and mother influence how you approach your client work?
I saw a meme recently that showed a mother with two kids that said “You’re making it difficult for me to be the mother I always imagined I would be”. Isn’t that the truth! Motherhood has shown me so much about myself, the good and bad. I’ve had to move things that used to be important, like clean floors and polished nails, lower on my list of priorities so that I can tend to the little souls running around my feet. I still have to remind myself the compromise is worth it. Human relationships, especially the ones under my roof, are the most important things I can invest in.
Likewise, instead of seeing my client’s messy home as a reflection of their lack of respect for me, I can see it as a mother choosing to spend her time loving the hearts of her children rather than wasting her days doing laundry (because that’s my home 95% of the time). No matter the story put in front of me, I can always decide to look for the good out of the bad.
Is there an artist, past or present, who has influenced the way you approach your work? If so, who?
I’m the kind of person where admiring quickly turns into comparing. For that reason, I do not spend too much time being influenced by other photographers. However, I was really challenged by Gabe McClintock’s work and his use of shadows. It is refreshing to see an artist intentionally shoot the shadows, even in portrait work.
What is your favorite image from your personal portfolio? Why is it your favorite?
Well, that changes weekly! Right now it is this shot that I actually captured with my iPhone.
First, it’s my daughter so my heart is already wrapped up in it. Second, I adore the light and shadows, how they move across the image and dance around her tiny, chunky body. As I prepare for baby #3, I am trying to soak up the quiet moments like this.
You are a self-admitted quote addict. Can you share your favorite inspirational quote with those just beginning their photography journeys?
A quote that has consistently come in and out of my life is by K.P. Yohannen,
Do not let men flatter you and do not let them flatten you.
It can seem appealing to surround yourself with people who are going to tell you how much they love your work. My husband is that person for me. He only ever sees the good. I love that; it’s flattering, but my growth will be slow unless I also invite people into my life that will push me to go deeper. Likewise, I have embraced who I am right now and be proud of it! I cannot compare my current journey to someone much farther ahead of me. That will just leave me “flattened”. The only person I can be is me, and I want to be the best version of me possible.
As the mother of two small children and one on the way, how do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Honest answer, I don’t. I’ve only been wearing Motherhood for 3 1/2 years now and following a day when I feel I have found that balance, I’m growing or tending to yet another baby. (Three babies in 4 years sort of throws “healthy” out the window!) Throw in the demanding schedule of a birth photographer and it’s more accurate to say I am maintaining a chaotic work-life balance! My house is kept sane by the amazing community I have around me. My husband encourages me to pursue my passions and supports me more than I could ever have imagined! Things would become unraveled if I was left to do this life alone.
Finally, you have a Clickin Moms Breakout session coming out soon. Can you talk a little about the focus of the breakout and who it will appeal to most?
Everyone, regardless of what genre of photography – hobbyist to business owner – is a storyteller. That, at it’s core, is what makes for a powerful photograph. Without sharing a story, telling the viewer something about the subject or setting, an image is “disconnected”. My Breakout, Finding Freedom in Chaos: The Art of On-Location Storytelling walks the reader through practical ways to incorporate storytelling by approaching your photography much like a writer approaches constructing a book. We look at things like locations, lighting, creating an emotional flow to your sessions, and how to embrace the “imperfections”. Although I use my own work as examples, I believe that the principles behind storytelling photography can be applied to anyone’s journey.
On top of a jam-packed PDF with 160+ pages of information and personal exercises, I include a behind-the-scenes hospital newborn session, two editing videos and a bonus 30+ page PDF detailing how to understand and use VSCO presets. I cannot wait to see how the readers apply this book to their art. I hope you’ll join me and share your story with me!