Summer in the West Coast of the United States is all about swimming, road tripping, and getting drunk with friends while watching the sunset. Seattle based photographer Lauren Max captures everyday life mixing film and digital shots to bring her more personal experiences to candid photographs. She combines this work with commercial and fashion photography, and more constructed projects with stylists and illustrators, keeping that chill mood throughout her work. We talked to Lauren about two of her most personal projects that involved a road trip to Grass Valley, California and embracing summer in Lake Washington and Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle
What’s your favorite thing about summer?
Seattle in the summer is really a magical thing. We go through about five to six months of dreariness and it can really wear on you, it just gets so monotonous. When summer rolls around, everyone comes out of their shell, and you start seeing people around that you haven’t seen in months. It is like we have all been hibernating bears, and start emerging out of our caves.
On the Road was shot in a road trip to Grass Valley, any favorite spots?
A lot of the photos in this series were taken on the Yuba River near the weed farm where we stayed. We spent a lot of time there, because it was in the high 90s at the time, and there was no air conditioning on the farm. We went to Reno for my friend Brendhan’s birthday, which was also a highlight. We started off with 40 oz. margaritas and walked around, exploring strange pockets of the city, did some gambling, drank some more, and then eventually crashed a Quinceañera.
How was it like to stay in that weed farm?
Staying on the farm was a bit odd, to say the least. It wasn't a huge operation, there was mainly just my friend, who we had gone there to visit, and an old hippie that called himself Sparrow Hawk who kept things interesting. They had to get up at the crack of dawn every day to water and maintain the plants. After those rounds were done, we’d head out to the river, and would usually come back after it had cooled down a bit and have dinner. In the evening they would do some more of the same maintenance and we’d usually stay up late afterwards drinking, listening to music, and hanging around a bonfire.
Both of these stories seem very personal. How do your friends perceive your photography?
A lot of my personal work is just documenting my friends and I on our adventures. I have never been good at keeping a diary, so this is my way of remembering things that happen in my life. I usually always have a point-and-shoot camera on hand, because you never know when something candid will need to be captured. My friends are used to me taking photos of them, and they usually remain pretty natural when the camera comes out. I think that they are, for the most part, happy to see what I’ve captured, and if there is something embarrassing or weird that comes out of it, we usually have a pretty good laugh about it.
You have photographed and travelled around the US extensively. What have you learned about American culture?
It has been interesting to see the diversity of landscapes and environment, and the ways that they affect how people live. I’ve been around the West Coast, and Southwest most often in my travels, and those areas continue to blow my mind – places like Big Sur, California and Jerome, Arizona especially. In the city, we get so caught up with a fast-paced environment, and when you travel out, you see that people live a seemingly more meaningful and relaxed way of life when they are surrounded by the beauty of nature, or perhaps that is just my perception because it’s what I long for.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I have been working on a pretty large commercial assignment, it involves shooting independent businesses and their owners around the Seattle area. It has been pretty interesting to meet and interact with so many diverse clients, many of whom I know, and others I am new to. It’s been good to rediscover my city, especially in the neighborhoods that I frequent less often, or hardly at all.\
What’s your strategy to keep doing personal work when you get caught up in large commercial assignments?
I find that I am always working on personal stuff by just keeping my camera on me wherever I go. I shoot things on the fly constantly. My bigger personal projects involving series of photos may have to take a halt for the moment if the commercial gigs are taking up a lot of my time.
See more of Lauren’s work here.Article By: Laura Rodriguez Castro.