Featured Artist: Sarah Sloboda

Sarah Sloboda, photographed by Samantha Tyler Cooper

Sarah Sloboda is a photographer specializing in working with children and the young at heart.

She’s also a writer and seeker of real-life magic.

Sarah is currently working on projects that blend her travel adventures and musings with her children’s photography work.

Effervesce
A single-sheet newspaper journal printed in limited edition.

Slideshow Project
Sarah created slides from images she took whilst traveling and then projected them for a kids style series with model Calista Evangeline.

 


How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
Since I was quite young, I have loved creating as a way to focus energy and thought. I vividly remember my childhood, which is interesting, to have continuity of thought from a time when I didn’t know the words for so many concepts about life. I find identifying labels like “artist,” cause me to become obsessive and perfectionist, trying to achieve an ideal. So I never know what to call myself.

I prefer to get in the mindset I had when I was small. I like to focus my mind and create, and I’m happiest when I’m doing that, and around others doing that. That’s what being in the arts is about for me.

Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
Danny Clinch and Anton Corbyn did this thing with musicians, a behind-the-scenes documentation where the imperfections of the photo recordings were utterly expressive of the vibe of the moment.

To me, this was an applied street photography technique. Using the same timing skills and compositional nuance of street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and war photographers like Robert Capa, but applying it specifically to the music scene.

When I was starting out, I shot weddings, and that style was my inspiration – shot on film, as often in black and white as not. Over the years I focused more on kids, and my work got sharper, brighter, and more colorful. But I hope that edginess is still in there, along with a keen sense of improvisation, because it’s important to remember that photographs only point to a fleeting moment we can never get back.

I didn’t follow rock bands around like my heroes did, but I imagine children are just as impulsive as rock stars, so our careers must be similarly open to chance and spontaneity.

When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I usually try another medium all together. If I’m writing, I do something photography related, or vice versa, or I make something completely different, like sewing cushions by hand or baking bread. Or go for a walk; I love walks.

How do you define success?
Success is when intention has powered clarity of thought and/or feeling and found authentic expression. This applies to business owners, and living one’s life, as much as it applies to art.

When I was studying Italian, I realized there were expressions in Italian that didn’t literally translate into English and vice versa. I saw that there was a thought behind the expression, and different languages had successfully found expression for different thoughts.

To me, a successful piece of art is one that finds expression for a thought or feeling. Maybe someone sets out to capture the feeling of their childhood home, and the image that does it the most isn’t a photo of the house, but a painting of the way the light hits the blades of grass under the trees outside. It’s about allowing the thought/feeling to become so clear that it guides even the form that it takes and the medium of expression. That requires letting go of trying to translate something into English that can only be said in Italian.

When I identify someone as successful, I see both the clarity of their vision, and a lot of “letting go” of what they thought would work in favor of what actually does, which gives them an aura of humble strength.

What legacy do you hope your work creates?
The reason I love street photography style so much is because it is a recording of something that actually happened, and yet so much gets interpreted in the timing and framing of the shot. What I try to interpret and frame are moments of truth and hope and joy.

I hope my work communicates that there is real beauty in the world, moments of true happiness, and unfiltered expressions of nuanced, raw emotion that is powerful and good. That these things don’t have to be fictionalized; they are real, beautiful moments and lived each day.

I get overwhelmed when I sense something has been spun negatively; that produces anxiety. I want to create things that do the opposite, that look for the light and hope within any given moment. My work is subtle, and I seldom know if it has reached anyone. But if subtlety is the opposite of sensationalism, I would double-down on subtlety. The world needs more of whatever the opposite of sensationalism is.

What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
I learned it’s important to steady myself and focus on cultivating my own personal foundation. The complexities of life are pretty much impossible to puzzle out. When I start a project, I take in what I can about the market, people, timing, strategy, history, etc., but everything in the world is constantly evolving, and I can’t possibly take all of that into account to make every decision. And so many things will be different tomorrow.

So, I learned that the most important thing I can do is get clear in myself, my vision, and my intentions. Then I recognize the right opportunities and people when they come. And the wrong ones don’t waste my energy because they’re not even on the radar.

I have found that the internet is still great for looking up recipes and how to replace car parts, but the answers to things I’m trying to build have to be guided by my own personal value system. First and foremost, that’s where needs my attention needs to go, to remember who I am and what I stand for in this moment.

Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
I would probably just love her and tell her to keep going. I’ve learned what I’ve learned in life when I was ready to. So, I’d remind her of that, too. “There’s no rush. Enjoy the process,” is still advice I could stand to hear more often.


Photo of Sarah Sloboda by Samantha Tyler Cooper. Explore Sarah’s work at www.sarahsloboda.com.

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