Conversation with Laura Austin
Laura Austin‘s photography has been described as “that feeling when you finally hit an open stretch of highway at the start of a road trip, the windows down, with the world in front of you, and your favorite song comes on…” So it’s not surprising to find out that her career was inspired by exactly that. As a young adult, she had never thought of turning her preoccupation with photography into an occupation. Then she found herself on a road trip in Iceland, in nature with her camera. She flew home to the US, quit her job at a snowboard magazine, and hit the road full-time.
SO, WHAT'S THE APPEAL OF ROAD TRIPS?
Laura Austin: “A couple of years ago after a break up with my boyfriend right before New Year, I decided to do something that would make me happy and went on a solo road trip to New Mexico. When you are traveling alone, especially when you are road tripping, you are forced to confront anything in your head, with that much time driving behind the wheel. It forces you to deal with anything you need to deal with. That became a very therapeutic thing for me. Also when you are traveling alone, you don’t have anyone holding you back. I made a tradition out of that. Every New Year, I go on a solo road trip to start off the year on my own accord. It clears my mind and provides a lot of clarity. It’s me, I am doing my own thing. It provides a sense of freedom.
“There is a whole stigma that women shouldn’t travel alone. It is fun to see other young females that I inspired by doing this. Their parents wouldn’t let them go, then they showed them my work, and they allowed them to go on this trip and it changed their life. So it is cool to inspire, especially, younger females to go and feel confident.”
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WORK?
LA: “For me, photography is so interesting because of the experiences it affords you, and the lifestyle that it allows you to have. You get to travel to new places and meet new people all the time, it is always changing, it is always different. But then, there is the creative aspect, realizing that you can tell a story in an image. There will always be new areas to pursue, and I enjoy the challenge to always push myself to be better, knowing that there is never a place in this career path that is truly a peak… There is always more to learn.”
WHAT IS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE?
LA: “Since I have a background in graphic design, I learned everything a designer would, from composition to color theory. I think my graphic sense is very prevalent in my work. I see everything through my viewfinder as a page, and every single object in that frame is going to affect the eye in some way when looking at the image. I love negative space, so there tends to be a lot of that in my photos. But I also have a background in journalism from my days of working at a magazine. So I am very much a storyteller with my images.”
DO YOU MAKE NEW FRIENDS ON THE ROAD?
LA: “Any time I am shooting people, it puts me into that situation. I am introverted and grew up a little more shy, and the camera became a good ice breaker. It forces you to meet and interact with people… and in general it can put you in situations outside your comfort zone. Shooting chef Francis Mallmann on his island in Patagonia was one of my more memorable instances of this. After watching his episode on “Chef’s Table”, I was so inspired by his work and life that I left a message on his Instagram saying it would be a dream to shoot him and his team in Patagonia. He replied that he loved my work and invited me to his island to shoot for 10 days. If I wasn’t a photographer, that wouldn’t have happened. That was a life-changing experience, and now he has become a mentor and friend to me.”
HOW DO DESIGN AND AESTHETICS IMPACT A TRAVEL EXPERIENCE?
LA: “When the place where you are staying is beautiful, and also the area where you are staying is beautiful, it’s just going to make the experience that much better. If you travel to different countries, people have different taste, and so you can get more of a feeling of the culture there if you are staying in someone’s home, it could open you up to different styles and tastes that you never knew you would be attracted to.”
Photographs courtesy of Laura Austin. Discover more about her adventures and explore her portfolio here.