What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
The people and animals I love, plus always in pursuit of beauty in the sky and in landscapes, even in the most unlikely of places. One of my first photos was the Milky Way over Picacho Peak, this grand cactus was next to a dilapidated gas station, but the gas station lit up the cactus without harming the sight of the Milky Way (too much anyway), it was a perfect balance. I think many photographers would pass that shot by because of the gas station. Most people when they see this photo think it is far away from civilization.
How did you first get interested in your mediums, and what draws you to it specifically?
Art, drawing and painting as early as I can remember. I had my first “one-man-show” at age 5, in Orofino, Idaho. The gallery was named Te-Wah-Poo after a band of the Nez Perce people. I was an only child, plus we moved a lot, so I would occupy my time drawing. Good thing there weren’t smart phones back then, I would have probably gotten mesmerized by that and never honed my skills. I painted the mural in my high school in Los Lunas, New Mexico, I painted signs for the library, drew pictures and logos for the school newspapers. I was always drawing. Then when I discovered music, I self taught myself on many instruments. Photography came much later. I wanted to study art and music of course in college, but my dad wouldn’t have any part of that, so I chose my next love astronomy and physics, since the degree was scientific I thought my dad would be happy… that was “better” but still unacceptable, it was too late though and I had already signed up. My parents wanted me to be a nurse or something. Instead I decided to work in radio and play music, and studying became less of a priority as well… I have to interview this rock star now… and look free concert tickets! Haley’s comet was the “comet of the century” and the thing to see when I was in college. Our class was at the telescope, and each student got to see it, I really wanted to, but being shy was the last person in line and it clouded over so I never got to see it, or take a photo. I was the only one who missed it, and it wasn’t not coming back in my lifetime. When the Comet Hale Bopp surprised us as the real comet of the century just over a decade later, I wanted to make up for missing the last comet of the century. I was no photographer and only had a camera my radio station production manager gave me because he couldn’t figure it out how to use it. It had a light leak, so every few pictures would be ruined on the film, it was also very old. My first roll of film on comet Hale Bopp was all bad due to light leak. I went up again to Sedona to get a nice back drop for the comet and the film advance lever broke off during the first shot and landed in the red sand and I couldn’t find it, so again turned away. I am starting to think I have a comet curse ha ha… I got the old Pentax repaired, it took 2 weeks though, and the comet was in its final stages. Went up to Sedona again, and although it was clear in Phoenix, the clouds were socked in up in Sedona. I said well I will just wait right here until the comet sets, maybe there will be a break in the clouds… there was! People couldn’t believe I got that shot, a true lesson in persistence. Some premier astrophotographers of the time, Dean Ketelsen and Bill and Sally Fletcher helped me get it printed out. To this day it remains my most successful photograph and my 1st!
Soon afterward I got excited about photography, and thought it would be even better to photograph stars of another kind, my favorite rock stars. I already got to interview so many in my radio days, this would be another facet. It was the band Kansas that gave me the opportunity. Plus, I needed the content for a fan site I made for Steve Walsh. https://www.stevewalshrocks.com/
Concert photography was never the same twice. Learning how to do that with all the low light situations, different lighting setups and far away to close seating arrangements made me a real photographer and improved my astrophotography as well.
When I released my own albums, I had just as much fun designing them as making the music.
What do you want your works to say to people?
I hope my art, music and photography and art causes people to ask more questions, and investigate the subject further. I will lay a modest tidbit out there with just enough information that can be interpreted in opposite ways and let people decide on their own the meaning. If it is interpreted on the optimistic side of the scale, then I know that’s my audience. That’s why I love astrophotography, it may look dark out there, but there is so much light to capture from the brightest sources in the universe.
Prefer to work in silence or with music?
Silence, because if music is involved I will only focus on that. Is the drummer rushing, doesn’t this song need a bridge? We have more distractions in our time than ever before. I think getting to silence is difficult, but necessary to create. Just like we start with a blank canvas, if there’s something already going on it certainly influences the outcome, and clouds over your true voice.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I have to pinch myself, as some of my favorite musical artists of all time have also been mentors and supportive to me. Richie Furay ordered the tracks on my Aquila album, Jock Bartley played on a tune with me and Rick and Mary Roberts came to a gig of mine to offer support, and they all offered up kind words about my works. Most of all though, Steve Walsh has not only inspired me but supported my work, they used my photography in his latest tour booklet in Germany, and in the last Kansas documentary. Steve also gave me the best advice, I told him I was stuck and couldn’t find a melody to my lyrics. He said, “It’s something you should feel and the music will just be there. You can do it. ” He’s right, every time I think I am stuck in art, music or photography, but make an effort to actually work on it and get ready, things do come. How could I ask for more support than that? I am truly blessed. I wrote a book to thank Steve in particular, link to it and all of my art here: https://www.laurielarson.net/