Beloved Dan’s Papers photographer Barbara Lassen will have her first exhibition at North Fork Chocolate Co. starting Friday, May 14 from 5–7 p.m. along with chef and painter Steve Amaral. Lassen talks about her lifelong love of photography and more.
How did you first get started in photography?
My love of photography began when I was a teenager and my parents bought me my first camera. I joined the school newspaper and yearbook club in high school and loved photojournalism and taking candids. I enrolled in photography courses in high school and continued with my passion in college. I minored in fine arts and although I took varied courses, from calligraphy to pottery to painting, I always felt the most passionate about photography. In college, we didn’t have digital cameras so we had to learn the mechanics of using a camera, lighting techniques and developing the film. Watching my photographs come to life as they developed was so exciting to me. There is something so beautiful about black and white photography, and I focused on creating images that looked magical in black and white.
Talk about your artistic process.
When I have an assignment to cover, or if I am developing a photo series, I plan a great deal. I envision the final product I am looking to achieve and work backwards. What do I need to make the process as seamless as possible? I research the subject, location, angles that work best for the shoot, etc. I think about camera gear, lighting, props, clothing the subject wears, having a backup plan for a backup plan, food that is in season, plating options for food, backdrops, etc. A checklist helps me make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I then walk through the process from start to finish and look at the shoot through my eyes and the eyes of the client. I communicate with the client to ensure we are on the same page. If I’m working with a chef, we discuss timing the food for the shot, how it plates best and what the customer will see with their eyes when they look at the photo. Does the photo make you want to eat the food and buy the cookbook or go to that restaurant? If I’m photographing children and families, we work around nap times and feedings and allow for a great deal of flexibility. I always have a change of clothes in my car just in case, as I learned during my first newborn session that a change of clothing is a good idea as I got soaked! If I am going to shoot on location, I typically do a dry run prior to the day of the shoot to check what time of day has the best lighting, make sure the area we are shooting in is safe and aesthetically pleasing.
All of this planning allows me to fully relax and enjoy the day of the shoot. I lay out all of my items at least a day before the shoot and arrive early to my location. Even with all of the planning, you have to be able to work on the fly and be flexible. I go with the flow and find that the best shoots are when the client is relaxed. I love to add my own creative flair at the shoot and in post production to create my final vision.
What inspires you as a photographer?
I have so many things that inspire me. Everything I look at is framed in my mind for a potential photo. I love angles and lighting, facial expressions, food, action and life. All of the beauty that surrounds us inspires me to capture it and share it with others. I am inspired by my mentors that I look up to and find ways to challenge myself by working out of my comfort zone. Watching tutorials on how to grow as a photographer inspires me to keep honing my skills.
How has your photography style changed over the years?
My style has changed a lot. As I grew as a photographer and my skills developed, my style developed. I would say that some of the best advice I have received has been out in the field when I work with the photographers I admire. I study A LOT and constantly watch YouTube videos and tutorials on lighting, using software for post production and editing styles. My style continues to change and grow as I am introduced to new techniques or when I try new things. I also find that when I mentor others, I am inspired when I speak with those new to the field. Seeing things through the eyes of others influences me as a photographer. Speaking with my clients or learning more about the location or event I’m photographing provides me with information to help me capture something very special. I love Long Island and find something new every time I am out and about. We are truly blessed to be surrounded by such beauty.
What are your favorite spots on the East End to photograph?
My favorite spots to photograph on the East End are Montauk, Sag Harbor and anywhere with a beach like Cupsogue or Sagg Main. Villages and architecture offer character which is fun to photograph. East Hampton is so quaint. I like to park by Guild Hall and photograph the churches, historical buildings and gardens and then walk throughout town photographing things that catch my eye. The North Fork has become a fast favorite of many, and I will drive to Greenport, photographing along the way there. After Greenport I take the ferry to Shelter Island and then Sag Harbor, capturing all that is beautiful to me.
Tell us about your show at North Fork Chocolate.
I’m very excited for our show at North Fork Chocolate! It’s my first show and something that has been on my bucket list. I currently have seven pieces on display that are available for purchase. I’ll have additional pieces displayed the night of the show. The wall art pieces are canvas wraps, acrylic and metal prints depicting nature and landscaping scenes, food photography and scenes from around the East End. My wall art and prints are available for purchase. Chef Amaral will be showing his paintings and serving light sweet and savory nibbles and beverages. He will be on site whittling walking sticks as well.
For more information, visit northforkchocolate.com.