Based in Salem, Virginia, photographer Meg Umberger sees life as the endless, messy, beautiful process of the pursuit of happiness - and she lets us know how grateful she is to make a living from a craft she loves and lives for. Her passion to strive and progress stems from the wisdom her Mum imparted with her. When you view Meg’s work, you can’t help but to feel the warmth, and the tingling feeling of her passion for creativity.
1. What do making images mean to you?
Making art means everything to me. It’s being trusted by another human, often a stranger, to come into their comfort zone and visually explain the way you see them. I’m definitely NOT a jack of all trades, so I find much solace and comfort knowing that I have a craft, and that I am really in love with what I do to put food on the table. It means everything because I wake up each day and live my life doing what makes me happy. Not many people are afforded that kind of luxury.
2. What is life to you? What it should be?
Life is this messy beautiful process that we all interpret differently. For me, it’s the endless pursuit of happiness. It’s connection, drinking wine, adventure, cuddling my beautiful furbabies, loving those who matter, and above all learning to love myself.
3. There are a lot of professions out there - why be a photographer?
For as long as I can remember, I have always been intrigued by photography and art. My bedroom walls were consistently covered with Polaroids, disposable camera shoots, found art, and collages. My original interest was in graphic design, but I began playing heavily with photography and just fell in love. I enjoy so many mediums of art, but I love photography because it is the best tool I’ve ever possessed to translate the way I look at the world around me.
4. How much is your family an influence on the way you view life, see things?
Though she is more scientific than artistic, my mother has always pushed me to:
Never settle for the ordinary.
Not to get bogged down in a career that impedes my happiness.
Make jokes in times of doubt.
Live for myself above all else.
Try and find the beauty in everyone, even when they don’t see it in themselves.
I’m so grateful for everything she taught me, because it’s helped my social relationships as well as my ambition. I treat every single shoot as an opportunity and challenge to make someone feel really special and beautiful.
5. Are you creativity satisfied at the moment?
No! I never have been, and I probably never will be. I always want to grow and learn and improve my craft. That’s the agonizingly beautiful curse of art.
7. Have you had any mentors along the way?
I had some formal darkroom training in art school, but I am mostly self-taught. While I never had a personal mentor, I spent many sleepless nights drooling over the work of artists like Sam Hurd and Nessa K. Seeing the immense talent out there always inspires me to be more creative, brave, and a little weird when I can.
8. Is/Are there any project(s) you wish you could do - or might do?
Years ago, I began a project where I went to rural areas and photographed/interviewed locals such as truck stop waitresses, farmers, artisans, miners, and mechanics. One day if the funds/time allow, I’d love to pick back up on that journey.
I also occasionally dabble in some photography/scanner mashup art from time to time, and have been itching to build back on old showcases. You can visit my facebook album if you are curious about some former side projects of mine.
9. Do you shoot with your left or right eye?
10. If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Why?
I wouldn’t change any of it. Even the beginning when I had no clue what I was doing. Every mistake, triumph, and interaction has shaped the way my art has evolved. And while it’s a constant work in progress, it’s mine, and I love it.
Bonus Q: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?
Equipment and technique definitely are a huge part of the process... But so much of art is perspective, and individual perspective is the soul of a photo. You can have the best of the best equipment, but if you don’t have the eye or the passion, then you have a big expensive paperweight… Though my gear is wonderful, amazing, and the best set of tools I could currently ask for.
- Canon MK III
- Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART
- Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART
- Canon 85mm 1.2
- Canon 135mm 2.0
I began in darkroom, and while I will always cherish that chapter of my journey, I have come to love the flexibility and forgiveness of digital. The presets I use started once as a VSCO Portra 400 and have been tweaked endlessly since.