This past year, Minneapolis based Sara Rubinstein has spent much time revisiting her whole creative process as a photographer. For her, it involves going back to her personal work and trying to bring that original mark of photography into her commercial jobs. One way she is able to do that is by shooting a lot for herself, not relying on a job to come her way to make imagery. She spends quality time integrating more personal work into her non-work life, reinvigorating her creative process along the way. She finds her inspiration for the personal work by looking at her family and herself, as well as remembering that photographs are powerful if they had a universal theme to them. Shooting work in a way that is meaningful to her has helped guide herself on set when working with a team that isn’t necessarily her family.
Visual themes in her personal work tend to be of her family, landscapes, and the road, the road acting as a metaphor for the personal journey she— and we all— are on. In the Spring of 2016, she spent three weeks on the road in Chile with her family, making many personal images along the way. All of the work was made very spontaneously with no set ups necessary. Sara likes to look at the emotional content of things, and making a moment a moment, sealed forever in an image. This happens by capturing moments that are already emotional, usually alongside whatever her kids are doing. You will find images like these from her trip to Chile spread across her social media platforms, as she chooses to post only personal work on her accounts as opposed to client work. The work she makes for clients stays with her clients, even if she’s really proud of the final piece. This personal preference has driven her to find new content for social media, which consists of all the new personal work she has been putting out.
She finds her commercial work inspires her personal work, and vice versa. Much of her work is made on the road or while traveling to different parts of the States or the world, so its no surprise most of her work for commission is agricultural and on the road based. The thing which crosses over between her two bodies of work is looking for authenticity and the emotional component within the image. One thing she markets herself on and clients hire her for is being able to create an array of emotions within a commercial shoot, or being able to get a specific emotion out of a subject that a client wants and needs. It is all about making the emotion look authentic in a safe environment, and that is Sara’s speciality.
It can be hard to bring some artistry to lifestyle work, as its hard to make lifestyle imagery that comes across as real and not staged. It requires Sara as the director to allow her talent to react in certain ways, and move through out the frame in a way that feels natural. The loose approach gives the talent time to open up and come across in a believable manner. When she directs her talent— whether it be a model or a “real” person— she directs to their emotions, interacting with them, and letting them interact with her. She does’t let her sets be stagnant for very long, so there is always a lot of movement. This movement allows for more authenticity in the final frame, with a greater range for emotional content.
A wonderful example of how the energy and emotion of a subject shifted the mood of a shoot for the better took place on an editorial assignment of Sara’s to photograph a woman grazier— a person who rents land for people to graze bison. On the way to the location of the shoot, it was nothing but rain. And while the rain had let up once she arrived, there was still nothing but gray skies and muddy fields. The client and Sara were ready to reschedule the shoot due to the conditions, but the subject encouraged them to follow through with the job, telling them they just had to go for it.
Since they had already driven 5 hours to arrive at the field, the decided to try some shots quickly, so they hopped on some four wheelers and headed out in rain gear and cameras dressed in waterproof cases. As Sara began snapping portraits of the woman, she realized it was one of the best portraits she had ever shot. The gray sky became a unique kind of beautiful through the camera lens, with tiny rain drops coming down across the frame, and she was able to photograph wet bison looking at her as she hid behind the ATVs to avoid their potential charge.
This shoot acted as a valuable reminder to always go for it, no matter the circumstances or conditions, as she never would have gotten away with that photograph had there been better weather. While this is something she always carries with her, it was a nice reminder for her to try and get the shot, even if its not ideal, and that’s advice every photographer can take.