Today I’m happy to introduce you to a wonderful photographer friend of mine, Julie Fisher McCarter. We met on Instagram last fall and, lucky for me, she lives nearby. I’ve had the pleasure of coffee dates with Julie during which we always have plenty to discuss. And recently, I was fortunate to take one of her expressive photography workshops. Though she and I have different photographic styles, we are quite in sync with the work and intention behind our images, and I relish that connection. I love her process and her way of being. Her soft, ethereal images hold a lightness and an invitation of space. I feel sure you’re going to enjoy her as much as I do…
Can you tell us a little about your background in photography?
I fell in love with photography at the age of 14, while on vacation in San Francisco. I distinctly remember the moment I created my first “favorite” image with my dad’s 35mm. I carefully framed the hills and trees, surrounding a section of the blue water. That image captured all the conflicted emotional themes of adolescence: freedom vs. confinement, safety vs. exploration, and connection vs. loneliness. On some level, it was on that vacation I realized that my life’s work would involve photography and the visual expression of emotion. I’m sure it’s no coincidence I that I found myself back in San Francisco five years later, studying photography at the Academy of Art.
When I decided to get my Master’s in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley and start my career as a therapist, photography took a back seat for several years. I soon realized that something essential was missing when photography wasn’t central in my life. When I relocated to Washington DC, I launched my career as a portrait photographer and have managed to happily keep one foot in each career ever since. As a professional photographer, I have had the privilege of working with amazing families and outstanding organizations – giving me the opportunity to exercise my creative muscle for a greater purpose. While my photographic focus had shifted largely to fine art photography, I continue to work as a portrait photographer for families, corporations and non-profits in the Washington DC area.
I understand, and rather like, the way your two career paths come together. Tell us more about that.
Since my early years, working as a case manager in mental health, I have used photography as a therapeutic tool with my clients. Therapeutic photography can be used to encourage client engagement in treatment, to facilitate personal reflection and build creative connection. When I opened my private practice, I did so with the intention to blend in expressive photography with the more traditional therapeutic tools I offer. Expressive photography as a personal practice often enhances my clients’ emotional growth, and it contributes to their finding a sense of balance in life. Essential wellness skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, self-expression, and perspective-taking can all be cultivated through the camera lens. I offer one-on-one sessions, weekly groups, and workshops for both teens and adults. This year, I plan to offer corporate wellness and professional development workshops as well.
When did you begin moving into the fine art, expressive work that you do now?
I’ve always done personal work along the way, however, in the past few years – having experienced significant grief with the loss of my parents – I’ve created much more space in my life to make images that are meaningful to me. It is from a place of necessity that I created my own personal practice of expressive photography, which has led to the development of my fine art portfolio. I’ve just started to show my work in local galleries and two of my pieces are currently in an exhibit in my hometown of New Orleans, called Recollections. You can also view my work here.
Can you share with us how mindfulness and intuition guide your photography?
In my practice of expressive photography, I always start from a state of mindfulness and allow myself to be led through the creative process by intuition. My most treasured images are created when the following four things interplay: a clear mind, an engaged heart, spiritual connection and a healthy dose of Mother Nature. In many ways, my expressive photography practice takes me somewhere new and leads me “home” at the same time. I create space to absolutely surrender to the present moment, allowing nature’s elements, my internal landscape, and the subject I’m photographing to come together to create an image.
You have a current body of work titled Sanctuary. Would you share thoughts on this body of work with us…the inspiration behind it, your process, your vision moving forward?
I started this project at a time when I was just facing the reality of my mother’s nearing death. Everything had changed, yet nothing had changed. I clearly remember the moment that the look of my images completely transformed into something new to me, they moved toward ethereal, blurred, soft, sun-bleached …and I just let them evolve. I decided to mark this visual chapter of my life in a project, working with objects relating to my childhood home, my family, and my ancestors. These objects are often photographed somewhat abstractly and always with an interplay of nature so that they become something else entirely. The place that this work has taken me, I call Sanctuary. Oddly, it’s not a place I can seek; it’s just a place that I tend to arrive.
Is there an artist whose work inspires you? Can you tell us a bit about the connection you feel between your work and theirs?
An artist that has always greatly inspired me is Andy Goldsworthy If you haven’t seen the film, “Rivers and Tides,” it’s a must-see. His work in nature is both profound and simple, with an endless interplay of contrasting elements that I find riveting. His artwork and his mindful, creative process give me a similar feeling of groundedness which I find when making my own work. I have heard him describe his artwork as a necessary part of his life, and I very much relate to that sentiment; the pull toward expressive creation is as essential in my life as breathing, sleeping, and eating.
You’re currently working on an e-course, Foundations of Expressive Photography. Would you like to share a bit about what that course will look like?
The e-course will be a four-week online experience with weekly lessons, guided audio practices, photo assignments and sharing via a private Facebook group. I plan to teach the foundations of my own expressive photography practice and introduce tools to support participants in the development of their own practice. All materials will be available for 60 days to allow folks to complete assignments at their own pace. I plan to have weekly “office hours” in the Facebook group to answer questions and interact with participants. The course will be launching on August 4th, 2017. To learn more about the workshop and to register, click here.
To celebrate the e-course roll-out, I’m also offering a free Instagram (@juliemccarter) #mindfulexpression photo challenge during the upcoming holiday weekend. Everyone who registers for my newsletter will receive a series of emails from July 1st-4th, each with a brief Mp3 guided mindfulness practice and an expressive photography prompt.
I hope to see some of you playing along with Julie’s photo challenge this weekend!