Portraits by Diana Deaver
What’s your birthdate?
August 13, 1975
When did you first pick up a camera? Tell me about that. When did you know you had a talent for photography? Natural talent or learned process?
My mom was really good about making photo albums, and I remember from a young age wondering whether I actually remembered an experience or if it was because I’d seen photos of it so often. That was the beginning of my fascination with the ability of a photo to jog memories.
The first photography class I took was in high school, and I loved how I could use it as a form of expression. I’d always been labeled “the artistic one” in the family, but i think that’s because I didn’t always follow the status quo. It wasn’t until the summer before I started college at UNC that I realized there were all of these wonderful art schools out there that I should have applied to instead. My parents insisted that I at least try Carolina. I lasted 1 semester before I transferred to SCAD.
What do you love to photograph?
I really love photographing kids and dogs. It sounds cliche, but they are the creatures most true to themselves. i.e., they don’t put on airs. The challenge I love is to capture the right moment that epitomizes their authenticity.
I also love to photograph underwater. Light travels differently through water and you see things in a whole new light, literally and figuratively. Also, there’s a lack control that I have in the water. It’s impossible to stay still and it’s not always easy to communicate with my subject. And though I can see the last image I took on my camera, I can’t scroll back through them all with my underwater housing. That forces me to take more risks and to trust my intuition more.
Who are some of your photographer icons and/or mentors?
I have so many! I am drawn to bold, graphic images with a subtle twist – like something funny or an innuendo or double entendre. One of my favorite magazine is COLORS. (http://www.colorsmagazine.com) Each issue has a different theme and the articles include stories and photos form around the world. I also love the graphic design of the magazine.
Other photographers whose work I love:
After I graduated from SCAD, I moved to San Francisco and worked for various photographers, and two of them became mentors. It was a symbiotic relationship of sorts–they were both veterans of the photography world and I was a recent graduate with a digital background. I taught them Photoshop and they taught me about studio photography and running a business. I really miss having a mentor like that now.
You get to have dinner with 3 other people, alive or deceased. With whom would you dine? What would you ask them?
Aziz Ansari – More than anything, I love comic relief. I’m pretty wound up underneath a laid back facade, and I need someone around who can provide the levity and turn any situation into something to laugh about. As for our conversation… I wouldn’t need to ask him anything, I’d be happy for him to talk about anything and make me laugh.
Paul Klee – I secretly want to be a painter and I love Klee’s work. His work was a big influence on me when I was studying art. I’d love to take art lessons from him and talk about color theory.
Seth Godin – Seth Godin is the ultimate marketer and entrepreneur. I love the psychology behind marketing and PR. I’d ask him about how he sees the future and then hand the reins over to him!
Do you know when you have a spectacular shot, or does that come about in the editing process?
Yes, sometimes! There are definitely moments when I am photographing that I know the conditions are perfect and the light is amazing and I have this sort of Zen-like floating-on-a-cloud moment.
Then, there are other shoots where I’m nervous to look at the images. I let fear get in the way. But once I sit down and start to loose myself in the editing, I start to discover the gems.
What makes you feel connected to your subject?
I love it when people have the confidence to be themselves. It’s contagious and a win-win as we both get to maximize or photo session.
I also love what happens when I am able to pull children out of their shells to the point that they are asking me to take their photo instead of the other way around!
What are your thoughts on editing? Like it or abhor it? Do it yourself?
I definitely have a love-hate relationship with editing! Up until last year, I edited everything myself. I think there’s a lot of value in editing your own work as you get to reassess every shot you took and you learn what works and what doesn’t. That said, it’s also a major relief to outsource editing on occasion.
Is there any genre of photography that you’d like to explore further?
I’d love to have a lighting guru on hand to teach me more sophisticated studio lighting techniques. I’d love to learn more about video. I’d love to photograph in pools at night using special light sources, that are in the water and out.
What’s on your photographic bucket list?
I have a running list of places where I’d like to travel and there are various series that I’d like to photograph along the way. I’d love to do a book on “Kids Around the World,” “Dogs Around the World,” “Kitchens Around the World,” “Pools Around the World”… I think you see a pattern here. 🙂
What inspires you?
Travel is my biggest source of inspiration. I would move to SE Asia in a heartbeat. I’m also inspired by strong women, artists and original thinkers.
How would you handle a difference of opinion with a client?
I never want a client to be disappointed or less than thrilled with their photos but the truth is that that sometimes happens. First and foremost, I want them to know how sorry I am that they are unhappy. The next step is to figure out how we can resolve that, whether it’s a reshoot or a refund.
What advice would you give an up and coming photographer?
Shoo,t shoot, shoot! Do a 365-day project. Try photographing in all sorts of different lighting conditions. Take your camera everywhere. Learn. And then, most importantly and once you have the basic skills down, develop your own personal vision.
Are you involved in any kind of continuing education or professional groups?
Yes! My bookkeeper jokes that I am the most educated photographer she knows. Every year, I travel somewhere to take a workshop and be around other photographers and creatives. If money were no issue, I’d constantly be traveling and attending workshops around the world.
What makes you feel loved?
I feel loved when I am around people who know me well enough to give me space to let me do my thing, but also know when to butt in and make me join the party.
What are your favorite conditions/lighting/circumstances to shoot?
Give me a warm sunny day with bright light and clear blue water and I am set.
What are your social media handles?
What makes you feel pretty?
I feel prettiest when I am myself, when I’m wearing clothes that are “me” (probably something black that fits well) and I’ve just had a haircut, a pedicure and a workout!
Do you have any other thoughts or things to say about your profession?
The profession of photography is evolving. I think the most important thing is to find your niche, something that feels true and authentic to you within the field of photography, and to run with it.
What a wonderful interview of a wonderful person. I’ve always admired Leighs persistence at perusing her creative passions at all costs. I’m team Leigh, always. (And team Pamela, FYI)