Emily, let’s start at the beginning, where did you grow up?
I was born in Ukiah, north of San Francisco, but we moved to Santa Barbara shortly after, so that’s where I grew up.
And after moving around a bit, you're back there right?
Yeah, I lived in Los Angeles for about eight years after graduating college, but two years ago I decided to move back to Santa Barbara. I have a cute, California “bungalow” style house near the park that used to be the living quarters for people that worked at the old Union Hotel. The house has a lot of old details. I have always loved living in places with character. There are a lot of windows and it’s surrounded by very California vegetation. I have felt really inspired here since the first day I moved in, and I am reminded of that each time I get to come home to it. My previous chalet was a Victorian mansion that was probably haunted, built in the late 1800s in Angelino Heights across from Dodger Stadium.
How did you get started in photography?
Visuals and storytelling have been part of my dance and film background and so I think the spark was always there. I took a photography class freshman year of high school and I loved that. I would come back to the camera as a way of getting outside and making something. After college I got a digital camera and that made things easier/cheaper and I found I would go out and walk around cities and take photos. I took a lot of pictures. I had started to develop a strong tone to the photos and got a lot of good response but there were never any people in the photos. People totally scared me.
Then I started photographing ballet, and photographing people changed everything. That’s where I found what I had been looking for and what I got back from that was so much more immediate than writing and trying to create people in my head. I think I’ve learned a lot from photography and I hope some day that will find its way back to writing in some form.
Photography had been something that was going well and writing was much more difficult for me. I could feel that my focus was shifting towards photography but I wanted to do everything. I was a fan of the sport of cycling and I wanted to write a film that was located around early cycling history and I wanted to get a tone for the film and I decided to go photograph it. I was really happy with how that turned out and those photos got noticed. From there I built contacts and jobs came in and ultimately enough things came together than have kept me involved in cycling for four years and photography has become my primary focus.
Who was the first cyclist you photographed?
I shot the 2011 Tour of California with credentials and I think the first person I took a photo of was Andy Schleck. It was at least the first picture of a cyclist I took and liked. I shot 4 days of ToC and it was different then, there were a lot less people shooting cycling. I knew that what I was getting wasn't what other people were getting and to a degree I thought I was failing because of that and then I looked at the images all together and there was such a strong tone between because they had come from what was interesting to me. That's one of the only times since then that I've shot completely how I want and whatever I want and I still like those pictures for that. That set of, I think, 32-40 images got seen by a few people and I started working embedded with the Bontrager Team (now Axeon) in the following season. Those kids on that team all are now in the pro tour and it felt like I moved up with them.
"The ultimate goal is for the photo to feel like a cinema film still from a movie you haven’t seen but are now intrigued by."