In celebration of Women’s History Month, we caught up with our fabulous women authors to learn about their experiences in art, and the inspirations that encourage them to push their work to the next level. Read on to get to know the women behind your favorite Rocky Nook titles. — Interviews from March 2019
Marie Read: Author of Mastering Bird Photography
“When I was a child in England, my Dad had an old rangefinder camera and used to develop his own film and make prints using a homemade enlarger. When I was about 10 years old, I started to take photos with it too. Later, in college I took a black-and-white photography course, during which I explored the more expressive, as opposed to documentary, side of the medium.
It wasn’t until the 1980s, when I was part of a research team studying bird social behavior in East Africa, that I began pursuing wildlife photography… Portraying bird natural history and behavior has been my main goal, but I also love to show birds in more artistic, even abstract, ways.
When I first started in the 1980s, the field of wildlife photography was very much a man’s game. That was especially true in the genre of bird photography, where I was one of only a handful of women lugging around a giant telephoto lens. But there were a few pioneering female wildlife photographers back then. I was inspired by Tui De Roy, who grew up on the Galapagos Islands and whose groundbreaking images of animals in their native habitats went on to feature strongly in conservation efforts worldwide. Another source of inspiration was Wendy Shattil, who, in 1990, became the first woman to win Grand Prize in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, and who too is an ardent conservationist.
When I’m not photographing birds, I’m watching them everywhere I go. I love the outdoors and nature in all its diverse forms. Music (jazz, blues, and World music, especially Latin and African) and dance are other passions.”
Norah Levine: Author of Pet Photography: The Secrets to Creating Authentic Pet Portraits
“My mom handed me her Fujica film camera to use while participating in my first photography course during an 8th-grade summer camp. She took beautiful black-and-white photographs of my siblings and me with that camera. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but I am positive that her love of photography influenced me.
A career in the arts might scare some parents because of its general uncertainty, but she knew I loved it and became my biggest cheerleader. Without that kind of support I’m not sure I would have pursued it at the level I have.
Another creative woman in my life, Genevieve Russell, encouraged me to become an instructor at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops many years ago. She saw my experience as a pet portrait photographer and thought I would be an effective teacher. While I was initially unsure, I do feel that stepping into the role of teacher and using my experiences to instruct others helped me become the photographer I am today.
Aesthetically speaking, I have been inspired by the work of Annie Leibowitz, Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark and Sally Mann. In the realm of painting, I am inspired primarily by contemporary artists Shawna Moore, Betsy Eby, and Raphaelle Goethals. All are very strong women who create stunning artwork.
I recently gave birth to a baby girl, and I am extremely passionate about being a strong female role model for her. I want her to see me as her loving mother and also as a creative businesswoman.”
“I first discovered my love of photography as a way to share time with my mother and grandmother. We would wander around the family farm together using our cameras to uncover and capture the beauty around us. From a very early age I had a personal connection to this art form because it reminded me of precious time with my family.
Even from my very first inklings at wanting to be a professional photographer, my mother supported me 1000%. When I was 15, she helped me to formalize my first photography business, helped me to attend photo workshops and conferences, and bought me my first “real” camera. There was never talk about me needing to become anything other than an artist, and for that support I know I am extremely lucky.
It is important to realize that the accomplishments of other women helped pave the way for my own success, the same way that I hope I’m helping bring opportunities to women in the field of photography. Photography has been a heavily male-dominated field. In the past, the photographer, the assistants, and often the creative team have typically been men.
Now, I see women becoming prevalent creative forces on more and more sets. I appreciate women like Ellen Von Unwerth, Annie Leibovitz, Jill Greenberg, Lillian Bassman, makeup artist Pat McGrath, and many more who have each found a way to make their names and their work iconic. My heart was instantly stolen by the work of Lillian Bassman. Her imagery was way ahead of its time—experimental in its techniques, bold, and conveying women with such strength and elegance. Her images could easily be in a magazine today, and would still feel like they were pushing boundaries.
All of my passions in life play beautifully into my love of photography. I love to travel. I love to teach. I love art. Photography weaves beautifully into these other drives.”
“Even though I grew up long before the era of smartphones or digital, we were a pretty photo-centric family. Every family occasion from trips to birthdays was photographed prolifically…I grew up documenting.
When our first overseas family trip rolled around, I asked for an SLR a few months before my 16th birthday because I wanted time to get comfortable with the camera. I came home from two weeks in Europe with something like 22 rolls of 36-exposure film…I remember experimenting by making a bizarre double-exposure portrait of my brother and playing with perspective and angle when photographing architecture. That trip was definitely when photography really started for me.
When it comes to landscapes, I love Athena Carey’s work. She has this fabulous minimalism to her images and she often does longer exposures that give this beautiful, seamless sense of the passage of time…Cristina Mittermeier is a truly phenomenal nature photographer. She lives the nature/wildlife/travel photographer’s dream. I love following her adventures on Instagram and it gives me special joy to see a woman succeed in what is a mostly male-dominated subset of photographers. For architecture, I am continuously impressed by the work of Swee Oh…She fixates on repetition and pattern within architecture. Lots of photographers try to isolate elements like that in architecture images, but she nails it every time.
Last month I launched the pilot episode of a self-produced series of educational photography videos, Focused on Travel with Jordana Wright. I’m currently in the process of securing funding for a 12-episode run. This project feels mammoth in scope and ambition, but I’m really excited to bring interesting and entertaining female-hosted educational content to the photography community.”
Claire Rosen: Author of Imaginarium
“I have a very vivid memory of the first time I watched a print emerge on a blank piece of paper in darkroom chemicals—it felt like pure magic. I was hooked immediately.
There are countless women who have supported my work and influenced my way of thinking and seeing the world. My mother has been the biggest influence in forming my aesthetic sensibilities from a very young age. Lisa Micele, a fellow student at SCAD, had a strong visual influence. After graduation, Joyce Tenneson was my first mentor, introducing me to Cig Harvey and Bobbi Lane, who were both role models as well. Beth Taubner of Mercury Lab helped me to connect the dots and solidify a clear articulable vision and direction for my work. Rebecca Manson, my retoucher, has been an invaluable collaborator on my projects. Other role models include curator Heidi Aishman, UPI co-founder Laura Roumanos, and photographers Maggie Steber and Andrea Bruce.
(Beyond photography, I’m interested in) Natural History (taxidermy & curiosities), Art History, History, Animal & Environmental Conservation, Historic Preservation, Circus, Interior Design / Decor, Decorative Arts, Painting, Experiential Art, Graphic Design, Fairy Tales, Mythology, Philosophy, Jungian Psychology, Innovative thought and Creativity.
I have a number of ongoing projects. My largest is the restoration and preservation of a newly acquired historic farm in Pennsylvania. I hope to host artist residencies and retreats there, implementing many of the practices outlined in my book, Imaginarium: The Process Behind the Pictures. I continue to add to my photographic series, Birds of Prey, The Traveling Mouse, Persephone’s Feast, and The Fantastical Feasts, while developing new projects that whimsically speak to our impact on the environment and the creatures we share the planet with.”
Khara Plicanic: Author of The Enthusiast’s Guide to Composition
“As a kid, I loved imagery, whether it be photos or paintings or illustrations. I used to spend hours looking at books of Norman Rockwell’s work and I always enjoyed family trips to the portrait studio, where the variety of props and backdrops were mesmerizing. If I remember correctly, Maria on Sesame Street was a photographer, and I remember thinking that I’d like to do that.
One thing that strikes me over and over again is the impact my photos have on clients and their extended friends and family. As a wedding photographer, I’ve spent quite a bit of time taking candids of the guests and family milling around on wedding days…After documenting scores of weddings over more than a decade, these images pop up over and over in my social media feeds as tributes to loved ones as they pass. It never ceases to amaze me that out of all the images clients presumably have of their loved ones, it’s mine they choose to highlight. I’ve had phone calls from random wedding guests—years after the event—trying to track down images I’d randomly taken of their loved ones who happened to attend a wedding I was documenting. That’s powerful to me. I’m always grateful to have been able to give them the gift of capturing something so special for them.
These days I’ve taken a hiatus from my camera to focus on my most exciting project yet—motherhood. I’m reimagining all kinds of new possibilities and am excited to see where adventure and curiosity lead me next. Learning new things is a continual passion, and I chase it down on all 8 cylinders. Over the years I’ve geeked out in lots of different areas: design, typography, cooking, running/fitness, travel, sewing, crochet, comedy, and politics. I’m always looking for a new idea or new adventure to pursue, and I read a lot, which keeps things fresh. I’m a total sucker for a good memoir.”