GUEST 4 | The Art of Improv with Laura Yurs


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Laura Yurs

on The Art of Improv

Our guest this week is Laura Yurs an Indianapolis based photographer who’s love of wandering, witnessing and searching is evident in the beautifully poetic moments she captures as she photographs the environment of our everydays. Her works are a vision of the simple connections to be made with each other as the city streets are navigated.

   Crosswalk   Laura Yurs

Crosswalk Laura Yurs

What does working improvisationally mean to you?  How would you define the ‘Art of Improv’? 

Working improvisationally to me, means being fluid and adapting as you create.  Being able to adapt to the impulses you feel as you create...to the changes in your environment....to adapt to the thoughts and feelings that arise.

 Have you always worked improvisationally?  

I suppose so...I've never really considered it.  With street photography, it's almost entirely improvisational because it's entirely made up of what I see or what/who walks into the frame.  With portrait photography, I still feel it's improvisational.  You can have the perfect setup for portrait work, but the individual or family that your working with brings their own spirit, personality, etc into the frame.  It could be something that happened on the way to the shoot and/or it could be something that they reveal as you're in that vulnerable space together.  ...the light is always shifting and sometimes what you have planned changes entirely because the light is better elsewhere.

Do you work improvisationally, consciously, intentionally?  If so, how do you begin?  If not, how do you find yourself getting there? 

I work improvisationally, consciously, and intentionally!  With photography, I often begin intentionally.  I might travel to a certain location.  I might go at a specific time of day because I have an idea.  I'm conscious and observant in the space...maybe looking for someone with a cool hat...maybe looking for a couple...someone on a bike...etc.  Once I get to the location, I might find that the light is better a block away.  OR I might run into something more interesting on my way there.  I was once driving around downtown Indy when I came across of clown car.....with clowns piling out of it!!  BEST EVER.  I mostly try to be in the moment and look for the light.  I know that sounds so cheesy, but it's truly how it works for me.  Look for good light....look for good architecture....wait.  OR go into a crowd and really notice people.  I fall in love with humanity a little each time I'm out with my camera.  Bus stops are FABULOUS places to watch people.  Everyone is coming and going...stories everywhere.  And for more formal events, it's really still mostly the same.  You can be shooting a wedding and lose yourself in the crowd.  Or with a family photo shoot.... 

   Muse   Laura Yurs

Muse Laura Yurs

How often do you work with improvisation?  

I'd say I primarily work with improvisation.  The only time it doesn't feel improvisational is when I'm making head shots.  It's not something I do very often and it's mostly pretty clear cut and defined.  

Please share a bit about your process.  Do you have methods to getting started?  Do you have tricks to getting unstuck?  Do you have motivators to finishing up?

...hmmm....in terms of tricks for getting unstuck....I usually try one of a few things: switch up cameras, switch up lenses, try a new roll of film (switch to color from bw or vice versa), look at other photographer's work that I admire, maybe take a course.  OR put the camera down and walk away....  this used to scare me.  Now I see it as my head and heart needing something else....took me awhile to embrace it.  Maybe that something else is reading or music or oil pastels or sewing or ????  Go immerse yourself in whatever is calling your attention.  Sometimes you just need to refill your soul elsewhere.  I always, always come back to the camera.  Always.  

Where do you find inspiration?  How do you use it? 

Truthfully, everywhere.  I watch the light...again, I know that sounds cheesy, but I do.  And that inspires me to shoot all kinds of things.  Also, I'm really inspired by people in relation to spaces, particularly architecture.  I'm always struck by how a building can make you FEEL and if you wait patiently....a person will walk into that space and you just feel your heart skip.  So, a lot of times I go to a city...downtown....and I walk and watch.  I look for light and good lines...and I wait.  

   Through the Looking Glass   Laura Yurs

Through the Looking Glass Laura Yurs

What advice would you give to someone interested in trying to work improvisationally.  Can you share some good advice that you received that helped you become more comfortable this way?  

Well, mostly I just think it's really important to be aware.  Be observant and pay attention to what MOVES YOU...pay attention to what attracts your eye and your heart.  ...and then act on it before you stop to think.  I took a Masterclass with Joel Meyerowitz recently and it was one of the best experiences I've had!  Stop thinking...just shoot what thrills you!  ...you could say....Stop thinking just CREATE what thrills you!  Your portfolio will change over time...I think it's important to give ourselves that freedom.  

How would you finish the sentence, ‘What if, . . .?’  

What if we could silence the fear and the critical voice inside!

What are reading, listening to, watching, or any other inspirational obsessions you would like to share?  

I'm reading The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante.  I'm reading From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.K. Konigsburg & A Fall for Friendship by Megan Atwood with my kids.  I'm back in a John Coltrane mood on Pandora after a hearty round of Taylor Swift with my daughter.  I'm in the middle of a personal growth, identity, & style class with Stasia's Style School.  Podcasts...you just turned me onto The Jealous Curator, but I also enjoy Making Light.  And I just bought a ton of film to take to NYC in a few weeks....  I've been away from the camera for a bit and I feel it calling me.  

Thank you Laura for sharing your work and your thoughts on improv, I am uplifted by these moments that inspire you and thankful to know more about where they come from.  You can learn more about Laura and her work on her website and here as a featured artist on Viewfinders and check out her out on Instagram.


If you would like to be featured on The Art of Improv please contact me!  I would love to hear how improvisation impacts your art making process.