A New Yorker to the core, Lauren Fleishman’s work has appeared in The Fader, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The Sunday Times, Time, and ELLE. But it was her incredibly personal photo essay, You Would Have Loved Him Too, that caught SMITH’s eye. “The series is about the loss of a relationship with a person that I met when I was very young,” says the Brooklyn-based photographer. “He was very attractive and charismatic—everyone loved him and wanted to be around him. That’s where the title comes from.” Using her own photographs and letters he had written her, Lauren created a book which contained images and collages chronicling the affair. “I’ve always kept journals and this gallery started in that style when the relationship ended.”
Named one of the Photo District News’ 30 young photographers to watch in 2003, Lauren is now a finalist for the American Photography 23 and an award recipient in the 2007 PDN Annual for her series, Sixteen Candles, which appeared in Time.
Lauren talked to SMITH about her craft.
Can you tell me your name, the brand of camera you’re using, and how long you’ve been taking pictures?
I have been taking pictures since my sophomore year in high school. We had a photography program that started us in black and white and then moved into color. It was fantastic because we could develop our own color film.
I use a lot of different cameras depending on the job, but I started with 35mm. Now, I mostly use the Hasselblad H1 and the Contax 645. For digital, I like the Canon 5D.
You Would Have Loved Him Too is a very personal and compelling photo essay. Why did you decide to capture this moment in your life?
I had been in a small town in France with him and I left for Paris alone, which is when I started to put the images together. I did it because I thought it was an important point in my life. I used my own photographs with his handwriting. I would work in this hotel room where I was staying and paste everything together in a book and make pages. The original consists of a combination of 60 images and collages.
What has the response been like from friends and colleagues to the series?
The series was first edited and published by Whitney Lawson at Nerve. She was the one that came up with the name for the gallery. There was a comments page and most people thanked me for being honest. Someone wrote something about how the work was mediocre and self-obsessed and I can respect that opinion. I work mostly as a magazine photographer and I would probably be really hurt if someone said that about my editorial work. But these pictures came from a different place, so they will always hold something for me. I continue to show the story because people seem to respond to it, but it is so much harder for me to show personal work.
What makes a good image to you?
Any image that makes you connect with the subject or the place.
What do you consider off-limits to shoot?
I don’t think anything specific is off limits to shoot, but you have to respect boundaries.
What’s one fish that got away?
I was sitting in a one-room Amish schoolhouse with about 10 older members of the community. It was 8 o’clock at night in the middle of winter with nothing but the gas lamps for light. I felt like I had stepped back in time. The Amish typically don’t allow themselves to be photographed, and on that night I was asked not to take pictures.
From whom, what, or where do you derive inspiration?
People inspire me. My job allows me access into so many peoples homes, so many different lives. The best way I can describe it would be like when a friend introduces you to something new that turns out to be fantastic. Except in my case, this person is someone you’d probably otherwise never meet, which maybe even makes it more extraordinary. Being a freelancer can be really lonely and I need those moments to make me feel normal and connected.
What’s the picture you’d most like to take?
I hope I know it when I see it.
If anyone could take a picture of you, who would it be?
This is a tough question, but strangely enough it would probably be my father. I remember when he would photograph the family and he would step back and insist on always taking a vertical [shot], but the pictures would always be crooked.
Where are you happiest taking photographs?
In Northern Indiana.
More from Lauren Fleishman.
Also check out more “My Ex” stories.