Interview with Voyage LA
Today we’d like to introduce you to Mara Zaslove.
Hi Mara, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in a family of artists (pianist, singer, writer, and animator), and my creative sensibilities have been highly influenced by my father and the art that surrounded me in our home.
My father was a top animator and taught drawing as a professor at Otis Art Institute. I recognize that many of my impressions are instinctual and that my response to body language, shapes, and patterns was established at a very early age.
Before I became a fine art photographer, I was a dancer. After deciding not to go to New York to become a professional dancer and traveling extensively abroad, I went on to acquire my Master of Education and Counseling. This led me into accruing the necessary hours to receive my Marriage and Family Child Therapist license.
Upon the completion of an extensive career as a Child Therapist, I discovered my passion for photography and have never looked back. Not having had a formal background in photography did not deter me.
I switched over from film (which I still use at times) when digital cameras became available. I use a limited amount of Photoshop since I consistently am satisfied with how accurate my eye captures what I see.
My innate sense of composition seamlessly supports my process. My images continue to feel like gifts that I am giving to myself.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to
I only had one class in high school that introduced me to the darkroom. I didn’t really pick up a camera again for years to come. When driving back from Sequoia, I got out of the car to shoot a controlled fire in the redwoods, and the photo that I took won 1st place in a Sierra Club contest. Receiving that recognition spurred me on to delve more deeply into photography.
After pursuing several other careers and having no formal training in photography, I challenged myself to learn photographic basics through practice and experimentation. I eventually took some classes through LACP that encouraged me to identify and develop projects that interested me.
Living with an unstable back, I have been restricted in my use of heavy equipment; the lighter the camera and lens the better. I have adapted to the reality that I am unable to use more evolved technology but do not feel limited by this.
When I document dance performances, my background as a dancer allows me to anticipate and track the choreography. It is uplifting to feel as though I am a part of the presentation. Unfortunately, this type of personal movement is demanding and afterwards, finds me seeking out ways to ease my sore back.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a fine art photographer who loves to interact with others as part of my process. I enjoy striking up conversations with strangers and then, if they are amenable, invite them to collaborate with me. This relationship has prompted many of the themes that I develop.
Working with my muse, Inge has been a long-term project beginning when she turned 87 and continuing, as she celebrates 94 years of age. Meeting as strangers, we have developed a deep and lifelong friendship.
Also, having been a dancer, I have been able to combine my love of dance and my passion for photography. For several years, I was the staff photographer for an international dance company called Diavolo. Currently, I continue to photograph the performances choreographed by Donna Sternberg and her dance troupe.
I also volunteer my support photographing events for Jewels of Youth, JOY, run by my friend, Lupe Ibarra Smith. ‘The JOY Foundation’ reaches out to underprivileged children who live with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and similar conditions.’ Children warm my heart, and it delights me to combine my love of photography with my affection for children both typical and non-typical.
When producing images, I use minimal Photoshop and rely primarily on my gift for composition and my instinctual reaction to what enters my field of vision. I also enjoy tactile intervention with my work by collaging my printed images and creating 3D works of art such as mobiles and scrolls.
My focus with my photography is to develop work that engages me and hopefully, resonates with a larger audience. Most importantly, volunteering my expertise photographically to support others in their journey is paramount in my practice.
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Many people have told me that I always have a smile on my face, which draws others in. I seek out beauty and joy daily and engage with others whenever there is an opportunity. This involvement and curiosity enhance my experience as a photographer.