Interview by: Vanessa Peters
SKYN: Laura-Lynn thank you so much for interviewing with us, we are huge fans of your work and we’ve been really eager to get to the heart of your art, so I suppose the first thing we should ask you is…why photography?
LL: My pleasure! Photography is my passion. It brings me great joy. I am a very observant person; I see beautiful things around me all of the time. I love to photograph my perspective. I love the medium’s ability to capture emotion and how it serves as a memory, and transcends time, as it is preserved through history.
SKYN: “How it serves as a memory” is a great way to put it. You are from Thunder Bay, Ontario but you moved? Could you tell us a bit about that that journey?
LL: I needed to get out of Thunder Bay, to expand my mind. It is a very wonderful town and beautiful place to grow up, especially the countryside where I was raised, but I needed to evolve and experience other cultures and world views. I came down to Southern Ontario, straight out of high school, to study at a university in the Niagara region. I found myself migrating to Toronto on the weekends, and sure enough ended up living here midway into my schooling. I loved the liveliness and openness of the city, and the pace of it inspired me. Coming from a slow-paced town, being in Toronto really opened my eyes to many things. Being here helped me evolve as an individual. I started to take myself seriously as an artist, and notice the opportunities around me to make photography my life. I’ve since been continuously travelling to nearly all of the states in America; I think I’ve been to around 46 states. But I will say I’ve never been to Europe. I’d love to pretend I’ve been but I have to be honest. I am waiting for Europe to call for me. I believe in destiny and I know Europe is soon in my future. I’d like to go for a reason… My travels are often focused on specific projects or tours, and that’s what I’d like of Europe. I have many friends there but I just haven’t gone yet. I know once I’m there, I will not want to leave. It seems so enchanting.
SKYN: Europe really is a whole other world, it’s incredible to the point where it’s actually overwhelming but I’m trying my best not to get off topic *laughs*. Your work has been featured in the Village Voice, the New York Observer, the LA Times, Rolling Stone, Nylon, Dazed and Confused, the Fader, literally the creme de la creme of North America. How does it feel to know that you are just that fucking excellent?
LL: I feel as a photographer I am always striving to do better, even reading this question, made me think that. Though if I were to have known I would be published in those publications, say 5 years ago, I would be jumping up and down in euphoria. I do very much respect those publications and I think it’s quite cool my work’s been published by these respects, but I feel like it’s an endless climb as photographer. I don’t know where the ‘top’ is and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop climbing, you know?
SKYN: I know exactly what you mean, thinking of it negatively could be daunting but thinking of it in a positive light means endless possibilities. I’m curious about the camera(s) you generally use when you are working?
LL: I use primarily Nikon FM 2 (35mm) & a Yashica Mat (Medium Format). For Super 8, I use a Canon 514.
SKYN: A little of everything, I like it! I notice a strong sense of nostalgia in your photography, why do you tend to capture that rather than other feelings?
LL: I didn’t know that came thru, but it makes sense. I have always been a nostalgic person. I think that’s where I first made my connection with photography. I would look at my grandparents’ old photo albums and long for the past. The past to me seems so elegant, simplistic, and calm. From the architecture, the cars, the style and all that jazz. It is so romantic to me. I love to study the past, watch old films, listen to old music, I began to use antique cameras to try and capture my reality in this way, for my life to resemble the “olden days”, as though we are evoking former eras in our modern day. I feel as though I was born in the wrong era, so my photography often negotiates that disconnect between myself and the modern world.
SKYN: You’re right, for whatever reason the past does seem more perfect. Aside from that though, what is it that motivates you, not just in photography but in the world, in life?
LL: The sun and the moon, really. When I see the moon I feel a surge of energy and vitalization. The sun energizes me too. I am very sensitive to their presence. It’s hard in the city sometimes because of the light pollution and all, so sometimes I go days without seeing either, and it feels so strange. Being in the nature motivates me, being by the ocean, in the desert, in the countryside, in flight. I suppose it’s a bit selfish, but I am motivated by my desire to leave something noble behind on my life on earth. Something that will transcend time. Hopefully my photographs will carry on my vision.
SKYN: There is nothing selfish in wanting to leave a legacy that you are proud of. Who inspires you beyond all reasonable doubt?
LL: My family and my best friends.
SKYN: That’s great, I can certainly relate to that. What are three brands that characterize you right now?
LL: Sara: Yerba mate tea, it’s what I drink every day. It’s my morning ritual and keeps me cool, calm, and collected.
Kodak: The film I use is Kodak Portra and Kodak Super 8 film. I don’t know where I’d be without their films; they have a very special quality to them. The colours and the grain are gorgeous.
St. Francis: they have the best tinctures and they keep me healthy.
SKYN: Yerba Mate is such a major key, so I hope everyone is paying attention when I say, that shit will keep you looking like 33 when you’re 44. In other come up news though, who in your opinion is a rather underrated photographer?
LL: I really like Joe Curtin's work. It is timeless, very interesting, has this everlasting youthful feel to it. You can see his work here.
SKYN: I agree, it’s fresh and insightful. One of the reasons I actually wanted to get into photography was because of the American apparel shoots and brand campaigns I would see everywhere and I noticed that you have actually shot lookbooks for the brand, what was that like?
LL: The shoots themselves were pretty fun. I was shooting mainly with one of my good friends Mouna, so we had a lot of fun. She is a very confident, sexy, and vibrant woman and a fantastic model, so shooting with her was a breeze. Overall though, it was not so great working with the company, a lot of poor communication and I had to hound them to get paid, which is very unprofessional. It was an interesting experience none the less.
SKYN: That frustrating, people always love to shoot with photographers but when it comes to paying for the work that they love so much, shit gets real. I suppose this is a case in point. Moving away from that experience, what brand would love to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to collaborate with yet?
LL: I’m gonna be very honest and say I’m not so hip with brands or new fashion. I took a step back from fashion a few years back when I began to focus more on music photography. And as I said before I am kinda living in the past, so I’m a bit out of the loop with what’s new and cool. I’ll say though I’d like to work with Budweiser. That is a brand I feel I would work well with. The company plays upon their nostalgic aspects and their connection to old-Americana, which I love to photograph. I think we could do incredible ad-campaigns together. I often photograph my bottles of Budweiser on my travels, as they are situated in different American locations, like at a saloon, on the beach… Something feels right.
SKYN: You hear that Budweiser? You better get your life and hire this girl! *laughs* Anyway aside from Photography what else are you passionate about?
LL: I am very passionate about music: South American, Jazz, Mexican, Blues, Rock ‘n roll. I love aromatherapy, nature, herbology, cooking, wine, geology, driving and the golden era of Hollywood film.
SKYN: There is certainly something to be said about the nostalgic nature of the golden era of Hollywood film. I didn’t realize it until I binged watched turner classic movies one Christmas. Anyway, amongst all of your many accomplishments, which do you feel is your most notable?
LL: I would say what I am most proud of is being published in Rolling Stone. This is a publication I deeply respect; it is the epitome of music photography.
SKYN: Right it really is quite an honor, what has been your favourite collaboration this far?
LL: My favourite collaboration is a recent music video that I shot and directed with my best friend, Kai Davey-Bellin, for the beautiful and talented singer Weyes Blood. We were blessed with the opportunity to film it in our hometown of Thunder Bay, shot the video in locations we have emotional attachments to, and got to shoot the video on super 8 film. We had so much fun filming. We canoed in the river he grew up hanging out by, we filmed the artist swimming in the lake I grew up on and climbed a wild mountain that overlooks our town. We wanted to show the beauty of our hometown surroundings, the serenity of nature there, and we accomplished it well. When I watch it to this day, I tear up. It really hits home and makes me miss my country life in Thunder Bay. Plus her song is absolutely brilliant. I am very proud of the video as a collaborative project, I think I will look back on it decades from now and still feel this pride.
SKYN: You’ll have to send us a link so we can show our support! Jeez your work is so remarkable and given I wonder if you find commercial work to be more challenging than your personal work?
LL: I would say the challenge is juggling both. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming knowing I have to split my focus into two. I think developing my personal work may be more challenging, because there's so many projects I compile and archive, and that takes an exceptional amount of time and patience.
SKYN: Yes I can see what you are saying, what kinds of things make you happy Laura-Lynn?
LL: Swimming, cruising, aged wine, herbs, filming super 8, saunas, Mommas cooking, doo wop, guitar, my best friends, sunshine and flying in an airplane.
SKYN: Mommas cooking is always a good idea. Is your favourite photograph taken by you or taken of you?
LL: My favourite photograph is a new one I just took in in the New Year in Monument Valley, of an endless road. I've always wanted to go there more than anything in the world, it is mesmerizing. I've always wanted a photo of this moment, and now I have it.
SKYN: Certainly something you can tick off your bucket list. Tell us about what your college life was like, we all have our respective experiences and I would like to know yours and how it formed your trajectory of success?
LL: It was strange but I am grateful for it. I did not fit in at the school, I was too different. But I really enjoyed the content of my degree, studying film and music and choosing my own subjects. Overall I am not really into the formula and routine of university, it is not my vibe. I am more interested in independent studying. I was very socially removed from my school, but I did have a really inspiring professor, whom I still stay in touch with and receive support from. She helped motivate me to do film and photography professionally. I remember giving her one of my first solo zines.
SKYN: You probably didn’t fit in because you were ahead of your time! You seem to really love working with elements like the earth, wind, sky, water, so what is it about those things that speak to you?
LL: I feel a connection with all of those. I grew up in the country, quite lonely as a kid and I would spend a lot of time in the backwoods. I found my love for Mother Nature at an early age. It’s magnificent and its beauty blows my mind every day.
SKYN: Nature really does have a way of setting our egos straight. As someone who really enjoys listening to music as you previously mentioned, what music do you find yourself grooving to more of the time?
LL: Doo wop & Bossa Nova. I also tune in to my pals' radio station Reverbaration Radio a lot.
SKYN: Well shout out to Reverbaration!’ I’m curious, about what you would probably be doing if you were not wrapping your life around photography?
LL: I would learn how to garden and start a herb farm. Make my own apothecary.
SKYN: Ahh, I’m seeing some recurring themes here, you truly are a botanical soul. Switching gears a bit I’m interested in your editing process, what’s that like because it looks like you don’t edit them much.
LL: I do not edit my photos. They are directly from the negative. It is also really difficult for me to make selections based on my quantity of rolls. I usually get one of my best friends to sit with me and we go through the best of together. I need their help with that kind of thing, because I love every photo from each roll.
SKYN: Right, right I believe you mentioned that previously! I imagine that the whole process from start to finish can get heavy sometimes so what self-care strategies do you practice just to keep yourself sane?
LL: Aromatherapy, walking a lot to clear the mind, sleeping in and call up my parents to ground me.
SKYN: Aromatherapy is another major key; UNIQLO and Muji have great aromatherapy diffusers for anyone who is looking for a good place to start. One of my favourite series that you shot was for your city at night scenes, which was a mix of portraits, architecture and nuances of a city that I can only assume, is Toronto, what inspired that?
LL: There's an edge to nighttime in a big city, with uneasy feelings, of desire and darkness. I found it in Toronto. Most of the photos take place there, or New York, another place which has that night-induced urgency. I love the way people change when the sun goes down, the city's energy shifts especially in cities that never sleep. I was inspired to by the glow of city lights and the fast movement of the city. The series is an attempt to document those feelings I get from being out late.
SKYN: What's next for Laura-Lynn Petrick?
LL: Soon, I'm going to move to the U.S. Try out New York and then get set up in California, somewhere on the ocean by LA.
SKYN: Anything or Anyone you want to shoutout before we wrap things up?
LL: Shout out to Cotillon, aka Jordan Corso, who I'm sitting next to as I write this, we're on tour heading to San Francisco. Shout out to Sunshine & the Blue Moon, my best friend Kai's fantastic band.
SKYN: When next we get to Toronto do we have an open invitation to spend some time with you?
Absolutely. You can come over for a juice & snacks.
SKYN: Awesome we will be taking you up on that.
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