A Her Campus Q&A With NYC Photographer, Lauren Tepfer

In this age of technology where the world is at your fingertips, it's easy to feel lost, or even disconnected from what feels like the real world. Lauren Tepfer is a sophomore at Parsons in New York City, originally from the suburbs in New Jersey. She captures the world around her in a way that both comforts the viewer and evokes deep emotion with her incredible use of color and light. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Lauren about her work, the process, her inspirations, and her future plans. If you want to see more from Lauren, check her out on Instagram, @s.ilver and her website http://www.laurentepfer.com/.

Q. Where do you go to school and what are you majoring in?

A. I go to Parsons in New York City, and I’m majoring in photography. I have a strange relationship with school. Graduation has never really been the end-all goal. I’m going to be in school until something happens, work-related. I’ve never had any formal training [in photography], so I was really adamant about going to school. I loved it, but I was still working and it was kinda hard to juggle it. The whole idea was that if something presents itself, I’ll do that but I’ve been taking it one semester at a time. It’s been a kind of strange journey.

Q. How old were you when you started taking photos and what made you start?

A. I always say I feel like I have always been interested in photography, which is the cliché artist answer, but I really feel like it’s always been [something I was interested in]. I’ve always been shooting photos on my phone, or a point and shoot camera. I used to bring a point and shoot camera to school in middle school and send the photos to everyone. It was very dumb, but I’ve always been drawn to photography and I was always a creative person growing up. I think I saw photography as an art form sophomore year of high school. I realized that I could make stuff that was actually meaningful, instead of just taking photos. I think at that time I started taking myself seriously, I was ready to make stuff that matters. I started working at sixteen, maybe seventeen. The timeline is kind of scrambled.

Q. You’ve shot a few campaigns for Nike, and most recently a Crayola ad. Was there a pressure you felt because you were young?

A. Yeah, so the first professional thing I shot I was eighteen, for Nike. That was definitely really scary, that was the first actual big-league job that I was offered. It’s really stressful even when you’re offered the job, you still pitch to it so it’s kind of a waiting game. I was offered the Nike job but still had to pitch to it — I was really stressed during that process. It felt like it was the whole world. It has been stressful working for big brands, but I think I’ve gotten over the serious scariness of it. I wasn’t fearful at all during the Crayola project, it was different because I sent them my idea and they loved it. So after that, I knew they liked the stuff that I wanted to make for them, so that wasn’t super scary. To answer your question, it is a really scary thing working for brands since I’m not the oldest person in the industry, but I think I’ve gotten over the idea of it being scary.

Q. What inspires you when you get stuck creatively?

A. It happens a lot more than it used to. When I was younger, I would feel stuck and continue to make stuff while I was stuck which would make it even worse. I always felt like I still needed to create things, it wouldn’t be a good method. It made me feel worse, it made everything more intense than it was. I think since I’ve been in college, my method while being stuck has been to take a break. It’s definitely easier to take a break in New York than in New Jersey. When I feel stuck, I put it on the back burner. I try to read a lot. I say that I watch movies, but I really watch movies I’ve already seen. I like watching interviews with other artists, musicians or photographers or directors. I like listening to people speak about their process. Recently, it’s been easy to get stuck, so I’ve been trying to give myself breathing room because it’s hard to keep making stuff until you get burnt out.

Q. You started taking photos of suburban New Jersey, now you live in New York City. What’s the biggest difference between shooting in such a chaotic atmosphere vs. shooting in suburbia?

A. It really is a big difference. When I was first making work, it was centered around suburbia and my experience being in the middle of nowhere. Moving to New York, I was kind of like I had just ripped myself out of my comfort zone and especially my comfort zone in the stuff I was making creatively. I freaked out when I moved to New York, I didn’t know what the work I was creating was anymore. I had to go through a relearning process, what my work was without suburbia and where I grew up. It’s so easy to forget about making things while I’m in New York because living in New York is a process in itself. Getting up, leaving your apartment is like a whole event. At home, I’m surrounded by nothing, my friends are at school. It’s me, my mom, and my brother and it feels like I don’t have anything else to do but make stuff. I don’t know which I like better, or if I like any of them, honestly.

Q. Your use of color is absolutely incredible. What do you think when/if people call your work nostalgic of something? Do you find your work to be nostalgic?

A. I don’t know if I love it or if I hate it, or if I feel any specific way towards it. I don’t agree or disagree, but I definitely understand what they mean when they say that. I don’t know, I think color kind of evokes that. Color and light draw people toward a feeling of nostalgia. I think a lot of the art that we consume is reminiscent for a lot of people. Art is a tool to connect with people, and a lot of art evokes memory whether that's the intention or not. I don’t know if my work is specific to it, but a lot of the work I like evokes memory and is very nostalgic of past experience. I think that kind of is the function of art, not solely, but I think that is the underlying function. I think that’s why we like to consume art, why everybody’s drawn to music and photography and movies, everything is reminiscent of something, I think that’s just how our brains work. I think my work evokes that because of color and light. I feel like it’s that — everybody’s the same person deep down inside and we’re all looking for the same thing and that’s why everybody connects to certain things.

Q. Do you have any specific goals for the near future?

A. It’s hard to pin down because I have a billion ideas everyday. I’ve been working in music lately, I kind of just fell into it. I really like working with musicians because I think the way they create things is so amazing. And I mean, everybody likes music. If you don’t like music — that’s just like a staple to being a person. A short term goal would be to maybe work on a music video I’m really excited about. Depending on the artist, there’s really a lot of creative freedom. A short term, or a long term goal, would also be a short film. I’m just not at the time or place in my life, in my writing ability, to do that yet. There are a lot of artists I’d love to work with. I was just watching the video Camila Cabello put out, I’m really fascinated by her. But, yeah, my short term/long term goals are making a music video and hopefully a short film.

Q. If you could give younger photographers just starting out advice, what would you say?

A. I would say to a young photographer or any young artist in general, it would probably just be to figure out what you like and why you’re making what you’re making and just run with it. It’s the most important part of being young and being an artist. You’re hellbent on what you’re making and you don’t care what anyone else has to say. Figure out what you like, why you like it. Don’t make stuff according to what other people are making. Make stuff that you would like to consume, make stuff about what you’re experiencing. It’s easy to get stuck in trends or what other people are making, catering your art to other people’s needs. You will find more success internally with what you’re making if you’re truthful to your experience.


All photos contributed and shot by Lauren Tepfer.