How to Become A Photographer, From Los Angeles to Australia and Back

This is the introduction to my new photographer series. Now available for free as 23 separate interviews that will be released weekly, this series highlight different photographers from Los Angeles to Australia and back. Taken over a long road trip, each interview is crafted and will present different forms, mediums, and opinions of artists from all over the world. Primary representing portrait, fine art, and fashion photographers, these interviews hold a special place in my mind as snapshots of artists during a certain time in their lives.

I’ll leave you with the introduction to my interview series that highlights my own personal road trip where I conducted 90% of the photographer interviews and one interview with Lizzy Gadd, just so you get a sense of where this is all going. Please enjoy and thank you for your time :)


In Rhode Island I met a wonderful group of friends. We explored chasms and woke up at sunrise to chase the light. It felt good to be surrounded by photography. It felt like the appropriate start to a much longer journey. We stopped on the side of the road to explore abandoned houses, swam in rivers to get the perfect shot, and ate good food at night.

We explored an abandoned sanatorium and an old ruined boys’ school covered in ivy. As the week came to an end, we said goodbye to a few friends and some of us made our way to the mountains and rivers of New York where I stayed another week.

Upstate was a spectacle to behold. Fifteen of us stayed in a three story cabin in the woods. The house was up-to-date, but still a bit haunted and eclectic. We ventured to the largest waterfall and explored an abandoned hotel on back-to-back days. The house somehow survived a thunderstorm, an outing of one of its members, and a bear attack. We played hide-and-go-seek in the dark and took pictures constantly. Our neighbor was an older gentleman who collected broken-down cars. We explored the small and notable town of Woodstock. We survived a roaring river and a crashing tree that almost left us without a car.

I left satisfied but itching for the city. Some internet acquaintances picked me up and I slept in their dorm room at NYU. The city was hectic and nice, at least in small doses. I did most of the tourist attractions. I watched a gay pride parade. I shot photos in Washington Square Park and Times Square. I made new friends and immersed myself in a different kind of adventure.

Then off to Richmond, where I stayed with a group of artists in every sense of the word. They lived and breathed art, which occasionally left no time to sleep or eat, or even for much comfort.  I learned more in three days there than in a couple months at home. 

The next nine days were a blur of cities and faces. I caught bus after bus, bed after bed, and each day was another distinct opportunity. I realized that I preferred staying put in one place; that constantly going from city to city without much thought was tiring and nerve-wracking.

In Philadelphia I experienced my first thunderstorm. In D.C I submerged underwater countless times to get the perfect shot. In Boston I stayed with a friend from London and toured the city by foot.

I left for Chicago. I stayed with the first internet friend I ever made. He lived a few feet away from the elevated cars that would pass by as I slept. I stayed there for a week. I saw glimpses of the city and the university that my friend attended. I explored an abandoned cathedral with a beautiful young princess. I met the man who had taught me Photoshop over the internet. I enjoyed an ice cream donut sandwich. I took a train away toward Michigan.

For a week I stayed with a young woman who let me stay in her spare cabin in the fields. I soaked up the sun, the sweat, and the freedom of my tiny comforts. My host was deaf, but we communicated well, although I don’t think I’d spoken so little in a long time. We met up with old friends and new friends and some not friends.

Exploring sand dunes and lakes and an expansive mansion in the woods, I felt an incredible sense of adventure. Meanwhile, my tiny borrowed cabin remained. It was devoid of technology and allowed a space to think and rest and reflect.  But it had been two months and I was anxious to return home, if only for a few days.

I had to leave again. I spent my few days at home with my family and a beautiful girl I was deeply fond of. I went on the longest date of my life and practiced my mini golf skills. I realized in part that I didn’t want to leave, wasn’t the adventure over?

I left and drove up the California coast. I visited friends and family. I gave a presentation for Yahoo. I ate ice cream constantly. I did a photo-shoot with seven princesses in a suburban mansion. I ran with my tripod through fields with the fog rolling over the mountains and the sun setting against my back. I hiked up a mountain and drove through

I made it to Oregon. I spent a night curled in the backseat of my car. I watched the sunset drip endlessly on the beach of a coast I didn’t know. I drove for hours and hours, changing CD’s and trying to make the most of my time alone with my thoughts. The magic of Oregon that I had heard of seemed distant, but I managed to catch a few glimpses as I progressed further north. I drove through a fire up a mountain and photographed a striking model covered in moss. I traversed Oneonta Gorge and experienced Multnomah Falls for the first time. I ate meatballs with a friend from back home, and watched television on the harbor of a man-made river.

My longest stay I spent in Canada and Washington State. Immediately the world seemed more dynamic. I went from hiking two miles under the earth, to hiking the trails of Mt. Rainer. I spent nights amid Seattle’s suburbs while exploring parts of the city by day. I spent a week in Canada with over fifty photographers on a small quaint island in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Our fifty ate like kings and were well provided for. I have pages full of my thoughts from that week. It was the culmination of the word journey.

Time slowed to a crawl. The island felt so carefree, but it also seemed superficial. I found solace in nature. I took walks almost every day. I read Brave New World under the shade of a tree. I made the local swamp my quiet place, hidden away from the sometimes indistinguishable voices that inhabited the island. I shot a self-portrait with the light from a passing ship in complete darkness. I met the man who was responsible for my entire photographic career, and gave thanks for the wonderful if sometimes terrifying experiences that I’ve had because of it.

I turned around and left for home on a different path. I rested up in Seattle. I needed to escape the life for a little bit. I was tired of photography. I had been gone for three months.

In Montana I met my father. Here I took no pictures. My camera stayed put and I simply tried to enjoy life without the necessity to capture the moment of every moment.

The final month went by. I drove through the nothing of Idaho. I returned to California and spent a week exploring the coast with friends. I housed a vagabond from Arkansas. I explored the valleys and sand dunes of Utah’s vast national parks.

Coming home was a relief. I had wanted to travel, but part of me felt like what I wanted was home the whole time. I wanted the adventure, but I also wanted a place to return to after all was said and done. At some point the adventure becomes too real.


Interview with Elizabeth Gadd Photography

            Lizzy Gadd, prides herself on being an avid lover of chocolate, photography, and nature. Along with her dogs, Pepper and Sparky, Lizzy wanders the beautiful landscapes of her hometown in British Columbia, Canada. There she is able to create photographs which focus primarily on small figures set against monumental backdrops. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lizzy at her home, to discuss her life and her photography.

Lizzy started taking pictures because she had a huge obsession with her pets. “I used to take conceptual pet photos which were sort of cheesy but cute. I’d set up Sparky and put him in cool poses.” After that she was hooked.  Home schooled, growing up Lizzy didn’t have very many friends, so her dogs were kind of her best friends.  She still takes her dogs everywhere and they come on all her photo adventures.

Home schooling effected Lizzy’s photography by giving her a lot of freedom. If she got her school work done quickly, she could have the whole day free to do what she wanted, which was great for her creativity. “I got into photography very easily. I feel like if I had gone to public school I might never have been a photographer at all.”  Lizzy believes it was really that freedom and experimentation that allowed her to pursue what she loved to do.  Being home schooled also meant that Lizzy was frequently by herself, which she enjoys.  I asked if her fondness for being alone was something that perhaps other people don’t understand or appreciate. “I have a lot of friends who don’t understand how much I love to be alone. I’m definitely an introvert and most of my friends tend to be the opposite. My sister would always want to come hike with me, but she never understood why I would say no. In truth, it was my alone time with my dogs, me, and my camera.  I could be out there for hours and just let my imagination take me everywhere. But don’t get me wrong, I still love hanging out with friends, I just couldn’t do it all the time.”   When she’s not out with friends, you’ll find her editing her photos and eating a bar of chocolate, which vies for the top spot with her obsession with photography.

british photographer

We discussed how photography contributes to her everyday life.  While she doesn’t take photos every day, she does look at photos every day, and loves seeing what other people come up with. “I love looking at photos and trying to imagine I’m in the photographer’s head to try to understand what they were thinking and how they must have felt when they took the photos.”  Lizzy’s style is a collaboration of landscapes and portraits all together in one photo. She loves having beautiful landscapes and people in that landscape, showing the interactions that people can have with nature.

Lizzy’s proudest moments have been showing people around her favorite locations because so many people aren’t as fortunate to have the kinds of locations she has. “It makes me proud that I have these beautiful places so close to me in British Columbia,” Lizzy says.  Her favorite location is probably Alouette Lake. “I just love how the mountains come straight down. It’s a huge lake that you can see straight across and has huge snowy and green mountains in the distance. In the morning you can see the reflections of the mountains in the lake. I could spend all my time sitting around and staring at that lake.”

Besides her beloved British Columbia, travelling has played a huge part in her work “because the world has so much to offer and so many beautiful landscapes.” Some of her favorite places are Yellowstone National Park and Scotland. But her dream location is Iceland. One of Lizzy’s dreams is to go live there for a year and explore the glaciers and ice chunks and volcanoes. The absence of trees makes it very different from where she lives, and what photographer wouldn’t want to see the northern lights?  

Talking about amazing sights led me to ask her about the craziest photo shoot she can remember.  Here’s her story. “One morning my friend and I woke up at 5am to ride our bikes to a small mountain with the intention of doing a photo shoot at sunrise. It was still dark out when we started riding. Suddenly, the trail was blocked off by caution tape and warning signs telling us of high bear activity in the area. My friend and I asked ourselves what was the worst that could happen since we had never had a problem with this before. However, sure enough, five minutes later a shadow jumped in front of us less than ten feet away, causing my friend and me to crash our bikes into one another. Thankfully for us the bear was more scared than we were, and proceeded to jump back into the woods. I remember hoping that there was only the one bear, but we ended up encountering three more. 

“We were quite shaken up by that point and really didn’t want to see any more bears so we started singing loudly in the hopes that they would know that we were coming. Our singing must have been horrible enough, since no other bears came out along the remainder of our journey. We definitely learned a lesson that day; that we should probably be warier of caution signs!”

Lizzy told me that she is very happy. “I’m currently in a good place in my life and I feel as if I’m confident in the direction I’m going. I have a great range of photographer friends from Flickr and I’ve had opportunities to travel. I believe my life is headed in a very good direction. My family is very supportive and I couldn’t be happier or more blessed with the family that I have.”

We talked digital vs. film. Lizzy admits to not having used film that much because with digital it’s so easy to take tons of photos and chose the best ones from a shoot.  She does see how film can be enjoyable though and thinks it would be fun to shoot more film. “I think it’s great how people can capture things with one photo as opposed to a few hundred digital ones.” 

mountains

Lizzy’s advice to aspiring photographers is to go out and not come home until you take a photo that you like. “It’s taken me about six years to get to where I am now. That’s from constantly forcing myself to take the photos. Don’t ever give up, keep pushing yourself. ” When asked who she looks up to, Lizzy said “As cheesy as it sounds it would be God. I love capturing God’s creation, taking photos out in nature, knowing that God is always with me.”  In reference to photographers that have influenced her work, Lizzy cited Randy P. Martin on Flickr as a great inspiration.

Lizzy’s plan for the future is to save up and travel as much as she can. “I don’t really know what the future will bring me so I’m sort of just taking it one small step at a time.” Lizzy fears what might happen if her passions don’t take her where she wants to go since she would love to pursue photography full time.

 Want To Learn More Photography?

If you’re interested in learning more about a specific photography subject or idea, shoot me a message on Instagram or contact me via email moreyspellman@gmail.com I’m always happy to answer additional questions or comments.

Morey Spellman is a Los Angeles based fashion photographer. 
His work combines a love for beautiful light, authentic beauty, and natural scenery.