Learning from the Best; an Interview with Master Photographer Mandi Lynn.
I have been so excited to do this interview, and to share Mandi´s story with you guys!
Firstly I must apologize that this post is a week late - I have been so so busy planning towards my upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
But in return I promise it is going to be a post jam packed with inspiration and golden tips of the trade!
Mandi is in fact one of the amazing photographers
that have been a part of my Bodies of Art project.
We have collaborated many times,
and the stuff we come up with together are pretty magic.
Before Mandi became a photographer she was a nurse, and before that she was a farmer, and before that she was in the navy!
But really she was born to be an artist, and in 2009 she decided it was time to finally follow her dream.
When I call her a master photographer that is not a word I use lightly.
Mandi has won many awards with her images, most recently 3 gold medals at the 2016 Iris award.
Her unique take on Art Photography is like nothing you´ve seen before!
One of the things I admire most about Mandi is her incredible way of bringing out people´s inner beauty. In this interview I´m going to pick her brain about that, as well as many other things!
Whether you are a photographer, or any other kind of artist following their dream - this post is for you!
I hope you will find inspiration and motivation in Mandi´s story.
So lets get into it!
This is what Mandy had to say the other day, when we caught up for a creative jam:
Firstly Mandi, tell me where your Inspiration and your Art comes from?
For me its important to figure out what you are doing with your art, what your core message is.
And for me it´s always been about women, always about women´s health.
About women becoming "more".
The true Mojo runs through everything that I do. Its helping women to see that they are these gorgeous creatures - that they deserve to be seen.
Its scary to think about the fact that our self esteem peeks at the age of nine! When society and culture makes us worry about our lumpy asses rather than focus on what we were actually put on this earth to do, then we got problems.
Women have to get their mojo back. We have to try and reverse the body hate and all that has gone into surpressing femininity. If we get that positive feminine energy back into the world, we will have more balance.
So that is where my art comes from! Then its just about simplifying that message so it reads clearly.
Core message. Clarity. How you are able to express that.
Clarity is my catch-word for this year. Be clear, be simple, but still get the point across. That is a challenge for me as i tend to say too much haha.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I call myself a `Mojo Midwife´. Even though i´m not a midwife, I´m a mojo midwife. I am there holding space and witnessing people moving into their own mojo. Thats what i do, really.
I used to help women deliver their babies, and now i watch people let their energy out.
As an artist I have a much deeper purpose than just the art itself. Its that whole thing about bringing more feminine energy back into the world. Everything just kind of spins around that somehow.
I cant stand doing things the normal way. In my heart i´m a rebel. I even rebel against myself sometimes!
I´m not afraid to challenge myself, as well as others, challenging people to be more than they currently are.
Take for instance the project that I´m working on at the moment - "Every Body is a Treasure";
Its about rebelling against the culture that says only 1% of the population is worth looking at, and is worth seeing.
For me everybody is worth celebrating, every body is a treasure.
These sessions that I do with women, I´ve seen them change their lives.
Its like they are finally able to see that they have value.
Using something so superficial as makeup and photographs, actually symbolises something much deeper. Its this part of it, that makes me really happy with what i do. I love working with women, i love seeing them discover who they are.
We look at who you are, and what is your unique beauty and we get excited about that. That is what my studio `Ala Mojo´ does.
My other work, my fine art, is bigger than just the physicality, its more focusing on people´s souls.
Going back to when you first started - What encouraged you to pull the plug and make the decision to become a full time artist?
What encouraged me was that i was on my knees. My marriage had fallen to shit.
Through my whole marriage i kept making excuses not to be an artist.
When i was in the navy i couldn´t just drop it and go to art school, i had to finish my term of commitment.
Then i had a baby, so i couldn´t drop my responsibilities to my son.
I took an art class here and there, but that was as far as it got.
Then when my marriage fell apart, i thought "what I do from this point on, is nobodies business except my own". For too long I had made excuses not to follow through with my dream.
It was resistance manifesting.
I realized, looking at my son, that there was this battle. I was running a blueberry farm, I was working at the hospital as a nurse part time.
I was a photographer but I wasn´t a professional photographer.
I´d always taken photos but i hadn´t ever, at that point, considered that i could be a professional.
But I thought "fuck it, I´m going to do it". That was literally the conversation that went on in my head.
If I didn´t do it then i was going to be letting myself down.
And I would be letting my son down, because then my son would see an example of someone who didn´t live their dream, who didn´t have the courage to follow it, but instead caved themselves for something else.
How did you go about teaching yourself all that you needed to know?
I took care of my son, put him to bed at night. Then I´d get back up and study.
I had my camera with me all the time, i was constantly shooting.
I would go to conferences, experiment and do lots of collaborations.
Collaborations, collaborations, collaborations! When i really started jumping was when i was working with other people, it wasn´t when i was in my own little box.
I contacted people who were awesome photographers. There was this guy who had won photographer of the year, Tony Carter.
I asked him "Hey how do you get into this?", and Tony said "Oh go check out New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers".
He was quite dismissive initially. Not in an insulting way, but just like he didn´t have time for me, probably because he had a lot of people contacting him.
But now we are really good mates, and i keep teasing him about it!
Anyway, i researched the NZIPP people and what they do is that they have a thing where you submit 10 images. If they are good enough, they will accept you at the institute as a provisional member.
So i picked my 10, but honestly i was still using the `running-man-function´ on my camera. I didn´t know how to use the manual settings yet or what the fuck i was doing.
But i had a good eye, and so I submitted the images i knew looked cool, even though I really didn´t have the technical expertise that would be expected of a professional photographer.
My thoughts were basically - if I submit these images they will give me feedback and i can use that instead of school. I couldn´t go to school cause i had my son. So i will just use this as a kind of free schooling.
I submitted my 10 favorites and got accepted!
And i was like "oh shit!". I really didn´t know my ass from a hole in the ground, photographically speaking, but they obviously saw that i had the potential to get there.
So I would go to any meeting they had, I´d go to every bit of training. I was online all the time, researching. Shooting shooting shooting, and getting critique from people. I met Gino Acevedo around that time and he brought me in as an intern at Weta in the Textures Department, so I got to experience that kind of behind the scenes stuff too.
Well, so I was basically teaching myself how to do all this, and how to do Photoshop. I didn´t have a clue, so it was all online.
I started going to the national photography award each year and I´d sit there with my laptop and take notes on what the judges were saying.
Like what did they think was needed in a great image.
I was there for the whole thing, it was the best education ever.
I did the same with the world bodyart festival before i competed myself.
I´d follow lots of different artist, see what score they´d get in different sections, and what the judges seemed to like.
Yea it blows my mind, because hardly anyone does that anymore.
They will happily pay big money to go to school but they won´t be there to see what is actually considered a decent image.