Hustle Chat with Lauren Morrison
LH: Lauren, tell us a little about yourself please.
LM: I'm a portrait photographer based in NYC - currently working on becoming my own boss - I started out as an actor, and while in school I would shoot friends' headshots and would always have my camera at parties. I realized what I really wanted was to be behind the scenes - documenting.
LH: That's so cool!
LH: Tell us a little about acting, and transitioning from acting to photography.
LM: Being an actor is hard. It can take a toll on you. If your heart isn't in it 100% then it's probably not the right path. The day I realized that my heart wasn't there, I started looking into photography classes. From there I started shooting a lot - on my way to class - rehearsals - backstage - and when I could convince a friend to play model for the day. In the beginning I was shooting a lot of production shots - which I love - it's perfectly lit reality! But, I think coming from the actor's point of view gave me an advantage because I knew how to work a camera, and I also knew what it was like to be in front of the camera.
LH: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
LH: Growing up, what did you tell yourself you wanted to do or be?
LM: I spent most of my childhood daydreaming about New York. I am from a small town in West Virginia, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do it in New York. I still love mountains and camping and a good flannel, but New York was "it" in my eyes. It has definitely delivered - along with delivering things like the stinky car on the train and million dollar rent. I think I knew I wanted to create something, but I didn't anticipate it leading me to photography.
LH: Yeah! I totally get that.
LH: I know that figuring out what you want to do can sometimes be a struggle. How did your friends and family react to you wanting to pursue acting, but then transitioning over to a different form of art? What was the best piece of advice you received during this period?
LM: Oh man that's a great question! I actually just had a heart to heart with my parents recently about this.
LH: I love heart to hearts!
LM: I have been super lucky and thankful to be surrounded by very encouraging friends and family. But - I am the odd ball. I had been talking about acting since I glued a jewel in my belly button and played Jasmine in the 4th grade play (yea- what!?) so when I come home one weekend from college and all of a sudden I'm so sure that I want to become a photographer - they were a bit shocked. It did make me question my motives - Was it just that I was feeling discouraged? Was I bailing? And looking back, maybe part of it was that, but I think each step leads you to something else - everything is building, the knowledge and strength doesn't go away. My parents had been kind of quiet over the years and let me figure the path out on my own - which I think was the best. All you can do is give someone your experience and your thoughts - but at some point you have to start developing your own. You have to build something yourself - and that can be a million different things that seem to make no sense. But when you start to hit what you really want- what you're good at - all of those past little things will start to make sense and you'll be super thankful for them. I have had jobs driving a fork truck, building terrariums, selling tickets in a duck hat, checking people into hotels, and answering phones. Every single one of these things have made me a better artist, businessman, and person.
LH: Holy wow. That is incredible! Such AMAZING words of wisdom.
LH: You mentioned having odd jobs and doing things that aren't related to the career path you chose. Can you elaborate on how some of those experiences influenced your way of hustling?
LM: Sometimes it feels like a low while you're there - especially in the duck hat - but it's really not. You're still working toward something.
LH: Haha yes! I agree 10,000% Duck hat sounds like a humbling and fun experience though!
LM: Haha for sure!
LM: So the hotel experience - being able to meet so many different people on a daily basis was inspiring; your imagination can go crazy, which is totally awesome! Driving a fork truck erased any fear of getting on the floor during a shoot or needing to get a bit dirty. Working with my hands making terrariums has helped me get involved with styling shoots - I think I could maybe go on for too long if I start to think about how it's all played a part, but it's all contributed. I think at the core it's made me love genuine moments, and real people - shooting with me is more like hanging out than a glamour session. In terms of the hustle - I think it's made me a bit more gritty, I've gotten myself out of tough situations when working for all of these companies because of the training and experience - so I can for sure apply that to my business - and even tweak it - we're boss ladies, right? We make the call.
LH: I'm obsessed with all of your answers! That's amazing. It's incredible that you've been able to make those connections.
LM: Ah! I was so nervous I'd sound like a goof - you're the best! Haha!
LH: Build the perfect burrito.. GO!
LM: SO much sour cream. SO much cheese. Absolutely no lettuce.
LH: Lettuce has no nutritional value anyway so I hear you sister.
LM: Maybe they could add some chips for the crunch instead.
LH: HAHA YES! So perfect.
LH: Can you think of a time where you recently felt discouraged? How were you able to overcome that?
We've come across so many stories and so many women who don't make it past the point of discouragement and so we love to hear and share stories of women who constantly push through it.
LM: Ah yes! - I am a firm believer that if you get past the day that you feel you're going to quit - you're going to be ok. Seriously - just one more minute past the quitting minute.
LH: I LOVE THAT!
LH: I'm trying to come up with a better reaction other than 'I love that' but you're speaking to my soul right now.
LM: I think it's super easy to let other people call the shots. Whether that's feeling like your work needs to look like someone else's so you get stuck for a week shooting like them and end up right where you started because that's not YOU, or letting someone decide how much you're worth. It was really hard for me to realize that the way I want to shoot or the decisions I think are best are right - but they are! And YOU get to decide them. I think giving yourself permission to do that is important.
LM: Also this is a daily struggle - I'm not sure this goes away 100% haha
LH: I think that's a very great point. As an artist myself, I stand behind the saying, "Comparison is the thief of joy," (Theodore Roosevelt) and it's very hard not to do so in any competitive industry.
LH: What piece of advice do you have for fellow Lady Hustlers who are currently struggling with figuring out who they are as artists and accepting their own voice?
LM: Have you read the quote by Ira Glass about making bad work but having great taste?
LH: No, please share!
LM: This thought drives me daily!
LM: It's a fairly large paragraph, but the gist of it is that when you're starting you're going to make bad work - and you're not going to be satisfied - and the reason that you're not satisfied is because you have great taste and your work isn't passing that test. But the key is getting past that damn quitting day and continue to make work - a lot of work. And eventually the gap will start to close between your work and work that you love.
LM: Also realizing that people we look up to have gone through this. They have had days where they felt like their work was crap and they should probably go drive a fork truck.
LM: Sometimes just looking through your old work can give you a boost. I recently shot a headshot session for a friend that I had shot in college as well. I put the old headshot next to the new one and we were both so proud - proud of our progress and the women we had grown into - we're getting better with age.
LH: That's so good!
LH: It's insanely encouraging to hear about people that make it past the 'quitting day.' Not only make it past, but find an idea, or reflection to cling on to for the next quitting day.
LM: Haha right - because there is not just one of those days.
LH: Haha, depending on the time of year, I have quitting weeks.
LM: Yes - the Netflix binge weeks - I'm familiar.
LH: YES, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about, haha!
LH: Who are some of your biggest inspirations right now?
LM: "Who's inspiring me right now?" - SO MANY women. Have you seen Adele's Rolling Stone cover?
LH: I'm OBSESSED with that photograph
LM: The grit! She looks so strong and I love it.
LH: She looks like the perfect human being in that shot. I love, love, love the grit!
LM: Unapologetic, messy, and so beautiful.
LH: I agree one thousand percent.
LH: What's your favorite 90s article of clothing?
LH: YES YES YES.
LH: What's happening in your hustle right now, and where are you looking to go in 2016?
LM: I have a lot of plans for 2016. In the immediate - I am currently sitting next to a giant outline for a new website design that is taped to my living room wall. I think it's one of those taste things - I haven't been able to hit a point with web design that I feel really pumped about so that is coming soon. I am also going to try to put more focus on things that I'm interested in creating - for example - this weekend I saw a jazz band at a restaurant and felt inspired, so we talked for a bit and I'm working on setting up a styled shoot based on that night. I've put a lot of focus on the business side of being a boss this past year and I'm hoping to get back to a better balance between that and some gritty, awesome personal work.
LH: Same here! That's really exciting!!
LH: Are you a full time photographer right now?
LM: This is the year! This is the scary quit all else year!
LH: Ahhh I am rooting for you! All us Lady Hustlers are. It's such a great thing and I know you're going to kill it!!
LM: Thanks for the encouragement! It's great to have a community of inspiring, hardworking women to look to.
LH: Lauren thank you so much for chatting with me!
Keep up with Lauren's amazing work HERE!