Laura Shortt is a wedding and portrait photographer based in British Columbia, Canada. For her personal work, Laura prefers to switch over to her trusty Rolleicord medium format and Praktica 35mm film cameras. For this feature we are running a selection of Laura’s work shot entirely on the Rolleicord. Enjoy…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first got started in photography.
I first got into the art of photography because I was 18 and thought it was ‘cool’. I also really didn’t want to take my film to the drug store to get developed anymore and was seeking more control over my images.
I really had no idea how to go about this until one night while working as a barista, I overheard my co-worker talking to a customer about his darkroom. I asked my co-worker if he would teach me how to develop film and make prints, which he agreed to. The following week we had the tutorial, I thanked him very much and went home. He later confided in me that he thought I was trying to find an excuse to make out with him and was surprised that I was actually interested in the development process. Barf.
A lucky garage sale find a few weeks later gave me an entire darkroom set up and I then proceeded turn my apartment living room into a darkroom. I went on to formally study photography at Camosun College in Victoria, Canada, Central St. Martin’s in London, England and Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada where I received my BFA in Photography and a distinct loss of pigmentation in my hair and eyes from spending so much time in the colour darkroom (no worries, my eyes once again have colour and surprisingly, so does my hair). Since that time, I have lived in four different countries, worked across remote Arctic Canada as a portrait photographer, shown my work throughout North America and started a family.
How would you define your style?
An introverted documentary of the modern condition. You will notice there are few humans in my personal work and, if they are present, their back is usually turned. I am also coming to terms with the fact that my composition is somewhat informed by The Vancouver School and that an influence on me has been Stan Douglas’s documentary work in Vancouver, specifically ‘Every Building on the 100 Block of West Hastings’.
You shoot your personal work on an old Rolleicord; what is it about this format that appeals to you?
I adore medium format; the quality one can achieve is unattainable from any other format and I prefer the look of a square composition to a rectangular. I bought my trusty Rolleicord on the Nieuwendijk in Amsterdam in 2003 for 60 euros. I keep meaning to get a Hasselblad but my old squeaky, clunking Rolleicord has accompanied me so many places that it would feel like infidelity to switch to a Hasselblad at this point. We’ll break up when its time.
How do you keep challenging yourself and your work? Who or what are your motivators?
Lately I have been challenging myself by the locations I choose to shoot in; I find the more sketchy areas of a city often hold beauty that most people pass by because of the reputation of the area. This last weekend I did a shoot in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side at night. The challenge for me is setting up my shot and executing it before I get noticed. It gives me a thrill.
I’m motivated by three things: an innate drive that I can’t explain, excitement because every time I get a roll processed its like opening a present and guilt because if I don’t keep photographing I will feel bad about being lazy and not following my path and I don’t like feeling that way.
What has been the best piece of advice given to you about your photography?
Al, the old dude who lived in a van down the street from me and spent his time painting at the beach told me one day “Look for the beauty, that is the key”. I have carried that with me ever since. It’s a great piece of advice.
What does the year hold in store for you? Are you currently working on any photographic projects that you can tell us about?
I will be shooting a few weddings over the year with my business Losho, which is always fun. I am in the process of applying for an artist residency on a shipping container traveling from Vancouver to Shanghai this summer and I am in the planning process for a pinhole photography show I am curating in Victoria, BC in the spring. I am currently working on an anecdotal photo book about my time spent working up in the Arctic – it’ll be interesting to see how it all comes together.
See more of Laura’s work at:
All images copyright Laura Shortt.