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Q&A: Laura Bartczak 

Your body of work ranges from photos of movement- to expecting mothers- to product stills. Somehow, despite the subject, there’s an energy injected into your work and the themes your pursue that makes it distinctly yours. What would you say is your signature? How did you acquire it?
wow, thank you! I guess my signature would be a recurring theme of body, limbs, movement, body language, etc. Im interested in the "in between" moments and spontaneity as a way to capture someones essence. I think my background as a movement artist and dancer has infiltrated how I take pictures- in terms of the motion and composition. Something I also try to achieve is a sense of no time and no place- so the image captures a feeling more than a specific time or place. Using film definitely helps with that. 

You never shoot digital, only film. No flash! In a world so focused on seeing results in real time, how do you stay true to your craft? 

I learned how to shoot, develop, and print photos in high school, so I'm just more comfortable with 35mm and super 8mm than I am with digital. I feel that film is so visceral- the whole process is more hands on and rooted in instinct and trust.  To me, shooting on film feels more natural and like alchemy- the energy and movement and lighting are integral to the outcome- so it's more than documentation. I find that I am drawn to working with people that are okay with the unknown and taking risks, and prefer the look of film (like Baby Baby!) which gives me the opportunity to keep shooting on film.

Any special techniques you apply to your photography you’d be willing to share? Is there a specific environment or material that's integral to your work?

I can't say I have any special techniques, but I do shoot pretty instinctually and fast. I have experimented with developing film with household products like coffee, beer, flowers, tea... that definitely creates a specific look to the images. (shout out to Mono No Aware- where I learned non-toxic developing techniques, as well as analog filmmaking!)

You’re a photographer but you’re an equally talented movement coach and dancer. Movement and photography are so intertwined. Tell us about your experience with these skills and how you marry both your strengths. 

I've studied and worked as a dancer and choreographer for most of my life, so movement is definitely a big theme in my film and photography work. My more recent choreography work dealt with themes of body language as a way to unearth personal narrative, and was inspired by natural formations and slow, minimal almost glacial movement. I love to create site-specific, sculptural pieces with dancers. I'm now working more with musicians and dance for stage performances or music videos, which is a big shift, but I try to stay true to my roots in post modern and improvised dance. Working so closely with bodies in space just sort of naturally translates to how I compose a photo or direct someone behind the camera. I encourage natural movement and try to draw out nuance. It is like a casual, improvised dance between myself and the subject  

How do you collaborate with other dancers? What’s that process like usually for you?

I love working with dancers and non-dancers alike, though there is an undeniable somatic awareness that is so present in dancers, it reads on film as much as it does in live performance. My process and practice with dancers is very collaborative and open. I want everything to feel good, both physically. and conceptually.  Aside from choreographing and perfuming with dancers, I have had the pleasure of documenting the process and performance of several artists, and it may be my favorite thing to capture. Its like making a whole new piece of work out of their original piece. 

As a dancer, you know poise- what’s the worst or best slouch, pose you’ve seen at the table? 

my daughter eats at her high chair with her right leg up on her tray, foot dipped in yogurt or whatever she's eating. I'd say that's the craziest table posture I've seen. ha!

Do you play music while you shoot? What? Do you have a playlist you can share?

I don't! In fact... all of my super 8mm films are in silent too... I love music but find silence profound while experiencing art. The movement becomes the music.  

Cameras can be expensive. Where do you suggest people starting out or with an interest in photography go to look for more inexpensive camera options? Any search recommendations? Ex- a specific Olympus.

I know, shooting on film can be cost prohibitive. That is often a major limitation for me. I shoot on a Cannon AE1 and also a Nikon FM10. Both are relatively inexpensive and are built to last for a long time. Your can find people selling used on eBay. 

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Trisha Brown, Maya Deren, Sally Mann, Robert Rauschenberg, Kelly Reichardt, Walter De Maria... and friends in NYC making beautiful choreographic work- Melanie Maar, Laurel Atwell, Athena Kokoronis, Tyler Rai. ... 

What motivates you to create? What about on the hardest of days to get motivated?

knowing how good it feels to be present and focused for long enough to make something- whether its a collage or shooting a roll of film, or. a dance phrase- it really brings me back to myself. 

On hard days ( or weeks) when I feel creatively stagnant I try not to force myself to make something, but rather listen to that impulse and use it as a time to absorb- go to a gallery, read a book, watch a film... I find this useful to reignite and get back in a flow. 

Your work with expecting or new mothers is so thoughtful and beautiful. How do you describe the impact of the images of these women has on society? 

I feel so honored to capture women in such an intimate, vulnerable, yet powerful moment. I try to keep the portraits true to the expecting mom by keeping the images candid and real. These images aren't meant to be a political statement, but as we know the pregnant body. is a political battleground, which is not something I was totally prepared for when I began this series. I hope that society can both honor the pregnant body, while also letting it be. 

How do you manage a work-life balance as an artist and a new mom? What are some words you’d go back and tell your younger self? can be when you were expecting, had just given birth, before having gotten pregnant. 

That balance is HARD. Sometimes it works pretty well to juggle a baby and a project, other times its total chaos.

I now realize how vital just a few minutes of uninterrupted time can be. 

I would tell myself to be more patient and to trust that everything I am doing and working on is the creative practice, no matter when or if it actually does get done. 

What has been a seminal experience? How has it affected your work?

having a baby has completely changed my relationship to time. Having a little human that has absolutely no awareness of this made up structure can be liberating. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Does not need to be work related. 

less is more

Name something you love, and why. 
martinis! because they are simple and perfect. 

Name something you don’t love, and why. 
people who are rude to restaurant staff. no explanation needed!

See more of Laura's work on Instagram

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