Last fall, we launched our capsule collection with Passion Passport: five vibrant, limited edition colorways for their 5th anniversary. To celebrate the collection, we've asked five talented photographers from around the world to tell us about their creative journey and process, and put the bags to work in their daily creative lives. For our second profile—conducted by the Passion Passport editorial team—we spoke with West Coast photographer Laura Austin.
How did you choose photography as your creative medium? I didn’t land on photography right off the bat. I explored several different forms of creativity before I ended up pursuing photography full time. I started off as a graphic designer, but after spending two years in a cubicle glued to a computer screen, I realized I didn’t want to be confined to a desk. From there, I took a job as the online editor of Snowboarder Magazine, where I was able to travel the world while writing and shooting photos. Once again, since I don’t like constraint, the box of action sports felt too limiting after a while. But it was at that job that I discovered travel and photography were my main passions… and now my camera has become my ticket to see the world!
How has photography changed the way you look at the world? Well, I’ve always been an observer — the quiet one who doesn’t say much but absorbs everything. This trait has simply carried over into my photography. I’m always scanning my environment, looking for those beautiful little details that would normally go unnoticed. That said, photography, in particular, has changed the way I look at and appreciate the nuances of light. I now get giddy when I see beautiful, natural light, whether I have a camera in my hand or not.
What goes into your creative process? It is very circumstantial, but I like to be pretty spontaneous when shooting, letting my reaction to the environment and subject dictate how and what I shoot. In my personal travel work, the only planning I do is choosing what locations I want to visit. From there, I just see what I’m inspired to do once I arrive. When shooting commercial jobs, however, I normally work within the guidelines of a shot list — so, more planning is required. In those situations, I tend to have a general shot in mind but still allow for some spontaneity. Personally, I think if you over-plan in advance, you’ll have tunnel vision on set and risk missing out on a beautiful moment you didn’t expect.
How does environment impact your work? In terms of the setting I’m shooting in, I treat the environment as if it were a character in a story I’m trying to tell. From where I stand, it is of equal importance as any person in the photo. I like to shoot pretty wide and pulled-back shots, so the model isn’t the only focus in the image. The environment completely dictates how I shoot a photo: I first figure out from what angle the background will look best, then I insert the talent. The environment in which I am shooting shapes the images I create.
What's it been like to shoot with the ONA x Passion Passport Bowery? It's been a great addition to my camera gear. Before I had this bag, I had to carry a pretty bulky backpack containing my camera and all my lenses — no matter if I needed all that equipment or not. So I would tend to only have my big DSLR on me when I was on a photo shoot. But the ONA bag is much more low-profile; I can comfortably carry my DSLR and a lens or two around with me on a more regular basis, whether I know I am going to shoot photos or not. It has enabled me to shoot more spontaneously in situations where I would have previously been bummed I didn’t have my good camera with me.
How did you approach shooting the "Saffron" colorway? It’s been fun to take a yellow bag and figure out how to incorporate it into the Los Angeles landscape. To be honest, I tend to escape the city to shoot photos, but this project challenged me to see this place that has become so familiar with a fresh set of eyes. By taking a closer look at my surroundings — specifically seeking out yellows to match the bag — I noticed details about my city that I would typically take for granted.
Why do you think collaboration is so important? Photography can be a pretty isolating career path if you let it be. You tend to only see things from your narrow perspective, but collaboration opens you up to new ideas and offers inspiration you might not have otherwise been exposed to. It can also be a pretty competitive field, so it’s always nice to have the opportunity to lift each other up.