Laura Beckerdite is a photography major at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Accustomed to the small town vibe of her hometown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she only heard about SCAD during her senior year of high school. She knew it was the place she needed to go to pursue her education. Amidst our conversation, she talked about everything from collaborations to her latest project.
Mary Tres: When did you first develop an interest in photography?
Laura Beckerdite: I want to say freshmen year of high school. I've had three hip and three ankle surgeries. I obviously couldn't get up and do much. I had a little bright Kodak point and shoot and all of these gorgeous flowers that people had sent me. I started off with the little macro flowers and I just kept going after that.
MT: And then how did you end up gearing towards fashion photography?
LB: After Photo I in high school, Photo II had a little bit of controlled lighting in it. One of our assignments was a self directed fashion shoot and I just had so much fun. I had confetti on the shoot and I had one of my friends, who was a gorgeous model. Just the energy and how involved everyone had to be on set was just so much fun to me. But, I didn't necessarily realize fashion photography was going to be a thing until I got here and I realized how big of a section it was. Then the second shoot that I did in high school was when the Edward Steichen Star Power exhibition was coming through a local museum . This assignment was to recreate some Steichen-esque images. I shot one of my friends, Lily, who’s absolutely gorgeous and has a timeless face. My best friend Elizabeth styled everything and it was just such a fun collaborative effort that I wanted to stick with it
MT: How would you describe your specific style of photography?
LB: Very clean. I don't like a lot in the frame and the more that's in the frame, the more it stresses me out. But I also like to challenge myself to fit more than just one object in the frame because that's boring. I like to do a lot of monochromes. I love studio stuff, that's my strong suit and that's where my passion is at because I have complete control over the image. I know exactly what's going in the frame and what's not.
MT: Do you feel more comfortable when you have complete control?
MT: What do you think sets your work apart? If you had to be a little bit bias about yourself.
LB: A lot of people tell me that they have fun on my shoots. I guess anybody can have the technical skills and anybody can push themselves to learn what we’re learning here at SCAD. What I’ve learned at this point is that you really have to set yourself apart by being a positive energy and making sure you know that you can deliver what you're supposed to and make sure everyone is having a good time. You can't have pouty people on set and expect gorgeous images because if one person's energy is bad, the whole energy is bad. I think I just try to keep very fun and upbeat shoots so I know the images will be strong and portray that fun, successful attitude.
MT: As far as the process of setting up a photoshoot, what things do you need to plan for and take into consideration?
LB: On any given shoot, I've had at least a team of four to five people including a stylist, hair and makeup artist, and then one to two assistants; not even including the models yet. I just kind of pull everything together and it starts with one big team and me casting everybody; making sure I know whose personalities will work best with other people. And then going on from there.
MT: How would you compare the pre-production to the post-production?
LB: The pre-production is a lot more head on. You hit the ground running and you don't stop until you wrap the shoot. I just started casting and putting stuff together for a lookbook for one of my classes. It's a group project and we literally just started today and none of us will stop running until we wrap the shoot. And then post-production is kind of my time to sit in the back and be like ‘this is what I did.’ I’m going to put on some quiet music, sit in a dark room at Bergen and edit pictures and take a break [laughs].
MT: You've collaborated with several different majors. What do you find to be the most challenging part of working in a larger group of people? Kind of like you said before about personalities, but is there anything else?
LB: I'm pretty head strong and I get that from my mom for sure. So I guess it's just learning how to take a step back myself. I’m collaborating with a fashion marketing group because they asked me to shoot. It’s not my project but hopefully it'll give me the opportunity to shoot images that I want to.
MT: Is there a specific collaboration that you've participated in that stands out to you?
LB: Definitely the Poltergeist lookbook with Erin Wyrosdick and her team. Erin sounded completely crazy to me when she wanted me to get up at 4, 5 in the morning to catch a sunrise and have a full day of shooting. I just didn't realize what I was getting myself into but it was probably one of the best things that I've done. Its some of my favorite work that I’ve done too.
MT: Has there ever been a time when you've gotten stuck on a project?
LB: In my Seminar I class I really wanted to focus on doing surrealist stuff like Kyle Thompson and Rob Woodcox. I thought that I could make it my niche for a quarter and it just was not working out. That was not my style. I did not have the skills to do what I wanted to do for it, so it was just hard focusing on that one project because we couldn't change it all quarter.
MT: Can you talk a little bit about your seminar project, Not Your Baby?
LB: This is the latest project that I'm doing. I think it's a really strong project, not just for me but for everybody that’s participating. The stories that I'm getting from people are absolutely incredible because I feel like we all have a ‘not your baby’ story. There’s intimate relationships, there’s sexual assault involved, there's finally leaving for college and not being your parents’ baby anymore and there's so many different directions that people are taking this, but I think that's what makes it so much better. My plan for this right now is to keep up the Instagram account and to make a book for my Seminar II class. Eventually it's going be an ongoing project and it’s going to go past this quarter. It kind of took on a mind of its own so I’m just kind of riding with it and seeing where it ends up.
MT: How do you feel that the text enhances the imagery?
LB: I think there wouldn't be a project without the text because anybody can take pretty pictures of people holding flowers, but you really have to have that message behind it to make it so strong. I think it’s a recovery project for a lot of people involved and I’m really honored to be a part of that process for them.
MT: That’s really amazing. What are your thoughts on social media and the art of crafting an image via phone with apps as opposed to a camera and computer based editing software?
LB: I have mixed emotions on it. I definitely will take Instagram pictures and edit them on my phone. They’re not taken with my DSLR, but overall I think it's good. It just happened really fast and I think people are still adjusting to that.
MT: Lastly, if you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
LB: That's so hard. I would really like to make portraits of my family more. I think that’s hard for me because I’m so used to being in this fast-paced, commercial environment. I want to take a step back and do these thought out portraits versus these candids of my family because I think those are very important to have.
Check out Laura’s portfolio on her website at http://www.laurabeckerdite.com/
Photography by Erin Wyrosdick