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in focus: erin wilson

Wow! I can’t believe it has been over six months since my last in focus interview. Time to remedy that but first let me review. The main reason why I do these interviews is to introduce you to some of the photographers from whom I gain inspiration and who have helped me in my learning journey. They may not be well-known and in fact, I prefer that they aren’t because it is easy to learn from the “celebrities” around us but the things we learn from our peers are just as valuable. Erin Wilson has been a regular reader of my blog. I have found pearls of wisdom in many of her comments so a few weeks ago I asked Erin to submit one photograph and then I sent her a series of questions, which she has now answered below. Her blog dedicated to photography can be found here and please check out her other blog “Biscotti Brain“.

In seven words or less, tell us why you selected this particular image to showcase?

Brings back great memories of a perfect moment.

Name a photographer whose work you admire. Imagine for a moment that you are this photographer. How would you critique your image?

This is a great question! And it would have been hard for me to answer, had I not had Ami Vitali critique my work at one point on the Lumen Dei photo workshop. I think that she would say the lighting is tricky. That I shouldn’t be afraid to move down and to the right and to recompose to make the image more about the migrant worker. That I should come back to this spot, and keep coming back at different times of day, to see it in different light. That I should settle in and spend time here. Make my way over to the migrant worker camp (out of the frame, to the left). Make friends. Listen. And when I’ve gained some trust, to approach the scene again. And she would be right.

I found working through this question to be really helpful. Looking at the photograph now, I’d approach it differently.  

You knit, write, and photograph. Is there anything common in these three creative interests?  

All three are about potential.  If you’re given a ball of yarn, a blank page, or an empty CF card, you can create anything.  You can go in any direction. Express wildly different visions each and every time. There is sometimes a lot of re-working required, but it is always worth the effort. And in the end, if you practice your skills, you can create something beautiful. That is an amazing thing to me.

Your blog roll is quite extensive. If you were to go on a Blog Diet, which two blogs would you keep on your plate and why?

Ouch!  Just two? Two besides yours, right? You play hard ball, Sabrina. I could do it if I didn’t have to give up Twitter.

The first to stay would be David duChemin’s Pixelated Image. I’d long had an interest in photography (and messed around with it a bit in high school and university), but it was David’s blog which put a fire under that interest. David is a great teacher, and consistently challenges all parts of this pursuit. The second to stay would be Heber Vega’s new blog.  This is a bit of a cheat, I realize (I’ve never been good at dieting!). Heber is posting an excellent series called 10.Q, so I’d have the benefit of reading his posts as well as hearing from other humanitarian photographers.  

What have you found to be your most effective approach to learning photography so far?

As much as I love blogs and books, and as much as I appreciate what I learned on Lumen Dei, I’d say the most effective approach to date has been getting out to shoot with the same two friends over the last couple years. I’ve had the benefit of watching them work and grow.  I’ve learned from each of their unique approaches to subjects. And I’ve always learned a lot in looking through the final images. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked through their images only to wonder if we were even in the same place. While we don’t get out as often as I’d like, I’ve come to value their opinions, trust their critique… and in abandoned buildings they’ve always got my back.

On your recent Lumen Dei photo workshop and tour, did you discover anything about yourself that changed your photography?

Definitely. In fact, I can say without hesitation that I discovered something on Lumen Dei that changed my life as well as my photography. Stare fear in the face; fear will blink first.  

Fear looks different for each of us. For me, it included taking a photography workshop with folks who were far more advanced than I at developing their craft, having my images projected on the wall for group critique, and having a photographer I highly admire look through my Lightroom catalogue (and not just the images I’d cherry-picked). Oh, and let’s not forget facing my fear of heights to photograph monasteries perched on the sides of mountains. Perhaps these things sound silly, but they were very real. Since Lumen Dei, I have a different approach to photography (and life). And I’m very grateful.

Do you make your own biscotti?

I used to make my own biscotti, before I gave up sugar a few months ago.  Biscotti are one of those foods that can completely spoil you.  Once you’ve eaten a really good, home-made version it’s pretty much impossible to eat commercially-made, cello-wrapped pucks.



  1. Erin Wilson
    March 22, 2010

    Sabrina, thank you again for the chance to do this. As I mentioned by email, it was a real learning experience to process through your questions. You have a real gift for posing insightful questions.

    Looking forward to much learning ahead here.

  2. Sabrina
    March 22, 2010

    Erin, words are putty in your hands and when they’re applied to this craft we both love, I learn something that moves me forward. The thanks goes to you for being so open to sharing and for a quote I’m always going to remember: “Stare fear in the face; fear will blink first”.

  3. David duChemin
    March 23, 2010

    I love this. Erin, you are an inspiration – I’ve seen you stare fear in the face and I know it’s not easy. But I love this idea of fear blinking first. Funny. I’ll travel with both of you again anytime. 🙂

  4. Kim
    March 23, 2010

    Great interview! Delightful Erin. Who is the most supportive friend when it comes to my own photography adventures in facing my fears 😉

  5. Dani
    March 24, 2010

    Wonderful interview! I really love the kind of exceptional questions you ask, Sabrina, and Erin’s answers are beautifully open and honest. Thank you so much for sharing, and I guess you know already that “Stare fear in the face; fear will blink first” is my new mantra 🙂

  6. Kel
    March 27, 2010

    “Stare fear in the face; fear will blink first”.

    when i grow up i wanna write like erin!


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