June 2017 Member of the Month
Laura CrostaJune 7, 2017
Images © Laura Crosta
Laura Crosta is an award-winning photographer and director based in both Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles. Specializing in lifestyle and portrait photography, she captures her subjects in an honest way, shining a light on how they interact with themselves and the world at large.
Crosta’s work has taken her from tour buses to dark rooms around the globe, from volunteer assignments in Ghana to film festivals in Colorado, and from her first gig as a college sports photographer to landing assignments for AT&T, ESPN, Microsoft, Rolling Stone, Nike, shooting basketball legend Michael Jordan and even rock royalty KISS. In addition to her photography business, she is the owner of Mashed Potatoes Productions and oversees the creation and execution of music videos, video content for brand advertising and film documentaries.
Here, Crosta tells us how she made it big.
PB – What made you first decide you were going to be a photographer?
I was a fine-art student at Syracuse University, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was hoping to learn more artistic skills and came across a dual program where you could study communications as well as fine art. It combined advertising, design and photography, which appealed to me because I wasn’t sure which job in the art field I would ultimately want to do or would ultimately be good at.
I found I was much better on the photography side than the graphics side. Since this was back in the analog days, we were hand-drawing everything—it was hard! I could draw, but I was better at drawing more artistically than realistically. Meanwhile, I was spending countless hours in the darkroom, developing my own film, printing in color and black and white. I loved it. (I had a darkroom for years until digital took over.) I wanted to have enough skills to actually work without being a complete starving artist.
The final decision to jump into photography came when I started shooting the Syracuse basketball games. I sat on the court taking pictures and following the ball across the court and focusing the camera. At the time, you had cameras that needed to be manually focused; you weren’t just pointing and shooting. It really honed my eye, to be able to track what was going on around me. That’s still applicable to my current work because, as a lifestyle/portrait photographer, you need to follow the moments that are around you.
PB – Is there a photograph you loved as a kid that pushed you into being a photographer?
I love the photographs from the Beat generation, specifically Robert Frank’s “Parade and Trolley” from his book The Americans. I found his insight and his images so intriguing and revisit his pictures whenever I need inspiration. Along with The Family of Man by Edward Steichen and Carl Sandburg, this was one of the first photo books I was introduced to in college.
PB – What do you primarily photograph?
I photograph people. Specifically, I shoot lifestyle images and portraits.
PB – What is your favorite set up (camera/lens) to shoot with?
The Cannon 5DS with a 24-70mm f/2.8 L II lens is my go-to still camera. I’ve been shooting with Cannon cameras for so long that it feels like an extension of my hand.
I also now own a Sony a7S with an EF lens adapter that I bought to shoot videos; it’s an amazing little setup.
With both setups, I have a 35mm and a 50mm prime lens, which I love as well.
PB – Who are your greatest influences in the art world?
Andy Goldsworthy http://visualmelt.com/Andy-Goldsworthy—he has a transient state in his art. Some of it his work is made out of leaves, branches, stones or icicles—elements that decay in nature—and he photographs them as they decay in stages. I just think it’s so beautiful. Watch Rivers and Tides. (see the link above)
PB – Do you do anything before a shoot to prepare yourself?
Besides assembling a great production team to create an environment that allows my photographs to be spontaneous and creative, I also watch an artistic film beforehand to keep my mind thinking visually. We spend so much time talking about the projects prior to the shoot: the location, the wardrobe and the creative direction—all decisions that are very important. I like to have something to reset my mind visually.
Additionally, I want my images to capture real life, so if I can give my subjects directions as if they were making a movie, then the pictures will appear unstaged.
PB – What is your favorite photography quote?
This quote comes from Maya Angelou. She wasn’t a photographer, she was a poet and an activist, but within each photograph I take, I want to portray these ideas: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
PB – Who are your three favorite photographers?
His outsider view of America is beautiful.
Tina Modotti. https://www.moma.org/artists/4039#works
I read Shadows, Fire & Snow and was moved by her life. Mentored by Edward Weston, her portrait work is so inspiring and her life was complicated and fragile.
I saw an exhibition of her work in London when I was studying with Robert E. Gilka, editor and director of photography for National Geographic
(1958-1985) and Syracuse extension professor. Miller’s work and life as a female photographer was extraordinary. “In Hitler’s Bathtub” is one of my favorites.
PB – What is your favorite photo that you have taken?
“The Collectibles.” I took it approximately 18 years ago. It depicts three guys in suits, sitting in the front window of a secondhand store that sells furniture and collectibles. I sat them in some old chairs in the window, and I love the juxtaposition of the storefront and the men inside.
My favorite new image is “Chevy Mike.” My neighbor and his buddies collect and build souped-up cars and they are incredible. During one of their stoop parties, I met Chevy Mike and asked if I could photograph him driving down my block. The blue door in the background is my house.