INTERVIEW// MEGHAN KAY SADLER
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Our latest interview is with editorial and wedding photographer, Meghan Kay Sadler. Meghan first studied communication design and worked for graphic design boutiques and agencies, before changing direction and becoming a photographer. Meghan lives in US and talks to us about the opportunities given to her as a photographer in LA and shares with us her thoughts on creativity and on being an artist.
Interview by Sachin Khona // July 2016
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
Hi Meghan! Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us When you knew you wanted to be a photographer?
I think I tried not to be a photographer for a while. I went to school for Communication Design (Graphic Design / Art Direction) and had a comfortable job doing that. During this time I grew increasingly frustrated creatively and was more aware how it wasn’t a good fit for me.I do distinctly remember working on a design for an annual report, and being very excited about it and how it was turning out, then receiving the photographs from the client and getting so sad. They were bad and were going to ruin all the pretty design work I had done. I spent a lot of that particular job sourcing images for publication projects and websites I was working on. From there I started getting hooked on certain photographers’ blogs.
There came a time when I was more excited to look at photography than I was to look at design and I knew I was in trouble then.
Somewhere in there I received a lower-end DSLR as a gift and played a lot, just learning how to use the gear.
Home is Los Angeles, however I was born and raised in Texas.
Have you always lived there or was there a conscious choice to move there?
I enjoy almost everything about California, but I am a Texan at heart. We moved here 3-ish years ago for my husband’s career, he is a musician, but it has actually been wonderful for me as well. I shoot all over, and therefore I edit everywhere too.
I love all the adventure that comes with working in many different cities, but sitting in my own living room with the windows open and editing are some of my favorite days.
In what way does living in LA influence your work?
Los Angeles has some major benefits to a photographer. It is really beautiful, and there are so many different types of terrain within driving distance- the city, the beach, the forest and the desert. Additionally, with the type of city it is, being so focused on entertainment, everyone needs their picture taken. So I think this amount of opportunity has allowed me to progress.
Do you have a designated workspace or office?
I tend to move around the house. From couch, to dining room table, to desk all in a day. Additionally, I work at coffee shops quite a lot. I am big on variety and I have noticed that changing space helps me focus more at different times.
What has been the most defining moment in your career?
When I started working with Emily Newman & Joy Thigpen at Once Wed was a huge turning point. I really wasn’t working that much at the time and was fairly discouraged, but they saw potential in me and we did our first project together and they loved it. I’ve done some of my favorite projects with them or because of their connections. They are also just wonderful humans and friends at this point.
Can you describe your style via a series of 10 photos (10 maximum) that you feel define the work you’ve done in the last year and where possible describe why each one was included.
I think as a general rule my work is quiet but interesting.
I love beauty and simple moments. Additionally, fascinated with the space between moments so I think that reflects in my imagery.
I love to play with light, form, and movement; and the interaction of people with each other or their environment.
What inspires and motivates you to create meghan?
Since I was small I’ve always been a maker. I grew up drawing and painting, and making books and mobiles and anything out of leftover construction paper. We were also on the poorer side so I think my mom was great at encouraging me to make treasure out of the ordinary things we had. She always encouraged me to be creative and to play make believe; to look at the world creatively. As I write this I have the windows open in my living room, the sun and wind are pouring in, and the curtains billow up and are pulled back to the window almost like the house is breathing.
Life is beautifully poetic if we let it be. I feel like, as artists, we are called to be fascinated with the magnificent and the mundane and we create to call attention to both of those.
Do you do any creative training outside of your work?
I’m a big advocate of creating in all the ways you can. I think it encourages you to look at your chosen medium in a new way. Right now I’m working on a painting for my living room, it’s one of the largest canvases I’ve ever worked on so it’s been in sketching phase for many months. I also have a few personal projects and collaborations that I don’t really consider work.
if you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
Go for a walk.
I am quite bad about working myself until I get sick. I’m trying to learn that I need space if I want to be creative. I can’t be on all the time which means I can’t book myself solid.
How do you know when a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?
Oh goodness, art is hard in that way. There is no finite right answer for a piece of art. I normally have to walk away from a project for a day or so and then come back to it. When I come back if I am proud and feel like it lines up with the emotional content, then I am finished for now.
Are there any key lessons in your career that you’d like to share?
I think just be as kind and humble as you can. That’s not saying you can’t stand up for yourself, but at the end of the day you have to be confident in your work and your value, so as not to throw a fit if people devalue that.
Do you have a photograph burned in your memory that you never took but wish you had?
Too many to count.
Every moment there is some beauty to be had at 100 different angles.
Traveling is always hard because you are in a place for a finite amount of time, but one could photograph the same city their whole lives and never capture it all.
Can you share one creative tip that you use when you are working?
I am mostly too hard on myself, which doesn’t exactly fuel creativity. I get asked to work on such neat things and many times I think of all the other photographers who would just do a phenomenal job on it other than myself.
Recently, I have found a lot of solace in the idea that even if I am not my own first choice for a job, that doesn’t mean I’m not the client’s first choice.
Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?
I’ve always been particularly fond of this image of two ballerinas I photographed in New York. It’s not a super flashy image, I’ve found that my favorite images are always a little quieter. I think I love the simplicity of this image, I love the “in between” momentary feeling of it. They are just getting ready, waiting to dance, or to just begin or to just finish the rehearsal.
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MEGHAN KAY SADLER CONTINUED…
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
Truth, people, and kindness.
Do you work in any other fields of business?
I used to work for graphic design boutiques and agencies, then I dabbled in freelance and calligraphy, but now I just do photography.
Can you share a bit about your daily schedule? Do you have a morning/evening routine?
If I’m not traveling it looks fairly simple. Normally I wake up and answer emails for a bit, I have some regular clients/business friends on the east coast so I always wake up feeling a little behind being in California. I make coffee and edit for a bit, then usually do an early afternoon walk to the store or the bank, anything to get me moving. I am known to take the afternoon off and work a bit more in the evening. My husband tends to have gigs at night so I push my editing/meeting schedule around him. Additionally, I think sometimes I just hit strides, and I will be into what I am working on so I will edit late into the night. So basically, no real routine :)
What within your work do you not like to do and why?
I don’t really like timelines. I know they are absolutely essential for most projects, but I think like any creative as much as I can get lost in the art and not check my watch or be rushed I make better work. And I am able to experiment and play more, which always makes the more interesting images.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
This is laughable as I’ve just come off from 7 straight days of shooting 5+ hours a day and am soon to be getting on four planes next month. However, I do have most of the next month off, no additional shoots or weddings, so just a lot of editing. I have been trying to schedule as much as I can when I am in certain cities instead of having to fly back and forth. Right now work/life balance just looks like scheduling my traveling when my husband is traveling. That way we can spend as much time at home together as possible.
What was your hardest / painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you?
I think for a while I felt like a failure when I stopped doing design. It was something that I went to school for and had a good job, but ultimately I wasn’t really happy doing that type of work. I went back and forth for quite some time before deciding to do photography. I learned from this that work doesn’t have to be miserable, and it doesn’t have to fit into a definition that other people make. I am so happy that I finally decided to risk it and change direction.
What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?
I am not really a goals person, it can be hard for me to look towards the future. I’m much more of a present and past type of dweller. I do always feel like I am working to be a kinder person, to make art that feels honest to me, to slowly push myself while also becoming more ok with who I am as a person.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I’d love for people to feel connected through my work, that they would see we both find the same thing beautiful and that means we somehow share the same vision. I think the more we all feel connected, the more we will all show compassion and will be on the same team. A lonely person is an angry person and vice versa, I hope what I make will maybe push that along somehow.
If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity?
Anything is a potential to be art. How we comb our hair is art, how we stir our coffee, how we collect objects for our home.
Professionally I could see myself going back to drawing and painting, which I’ve never done for money, but grew up with.
Are there any mantras that you live by?
It is said a lot, and can be cliche, but it always helps me be present, “love the journey, not just the destination.” Most artists you talk to had no idea where they would end up when they started. Chances are that “destination” or type of artist you want to be will change vastly over the years. If you live just for that final product you will miss out on a lot along the way.
If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?
At my grandparents house, they have this old round dinner table (that wobbles miserably) that we always sit around, and we sit and talk hours after we have finished eating. Usually there is a lot of wine and laughing and playful mocking. I would be there; with some friends added into that family mix.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
People would only need to tap into my internal dialog for a few minutes to realize just how much. I had a lot of things happen when I was very young that unfortunately compound my self value issues. Being an artist is beautiful but it also is very hard. At the end of the day our work is a lot of who we are, so when people reject that we can feel rejected.
I think how I work through doubt is just keep moving, keep making, keep looking; doubt comes in waves and when you don’t let it affect your progress it passes.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)
Fav Music // Artists?
Ben Howard, Lauryn Hill, Alexi Murdoch, Temptations, Sam Cooke, Arcade Fire and Chet Baker
Film / Documentary that is a must watch?
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading?
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
Currently into Herman Leonard’s jazz portraits
Favourite TED talk
Chip Kidd’s Ted Talk on book cover designs
Last gallery / exhibit you visited
The Broad in Los Angeles
Your favourite photography book
I have a Rolling Stones Magazine portrait collection I love and look through all the time.
A creative you’d love to see interviewed on ARC?
Links to your personal work // projects
Can you share a short assignment / project that has benefited you in the past OR create / describe an assignment that you feel can help those reading this interview?
I think photographing one person in five different lighting situations and seeing how that affects how you photograph them and how they react to the different lighting situations is good practice. Not worrying about it being a “set” or an “album” but letting each image be its own.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME, MEGHAN!
You can see more of Meghan’s work here // Web
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ON ARC?…
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Stay tuned for an interview with Vancouver based Wedding Photographer, Tomasz Wagner
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