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Behind the Camera: Laura Adai

Behind the Camera: Laura Adai

In this Behind the Camera, we have the pleasure of highlighting the work of photographer Laura Adai, who also happens to be one of the warmest souls you could ever hope to meet.

In Laura’s words, she is “a mom with a camera” who takes photos to keep a record of all the moments she cherishes. However, one look at her images will tell the story of a person with boundless curiosity and joy for all of life’s experiences. With an eye for macro photography and a passion for capturing the emotions behind each picture, Laura transports us. It makes no difference whether it is to a rocky, mountain outcrop standing firm between wispy clouds passing by or amongst the delicate stems of dried flowers in a sun-drenched bedroom.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Laura twice for this month’s features, as she also acted as a translator in our interview with her friend and neighbor Francesca Zoboli. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity in collaboration with her. Kinship + Craft does not have affiliate sponsor agreements with the brands mentioned in this interview and has not been paid to do so.

Please find examples of Laura’s photography at the bottom of this page, following her interview.

A self-portrait by Laura Adai. | Photograph courtesy of Laura Adai.
K+C — Hello Laura! Thank you for sharing your work with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to photography?

I never really considered myself a photographer, so if I had to describe myself I’d say I’m a mom with a camera. This is how I started, and I still am now that my two daughters are grown up. But, the main reason I started with photography is that I don’t have a good memory. Well, I have a very short memory, like Dory in Finding Nemo

I have learned to consider this aspect of my personality as lucky. It is impossible for me to go back with my mind to the sad events of life again and again, or to keep feeling negative thoughts about something or somebody. This helps me to be free from any sort of rancor or regret. I can live the present with no burden of the past. But, at the same time, or maybe because of this, I always had the need to fix all the beauty I see in life in my mind and heart.

When my first daughter was born this need became an urgency. I didn’t want to lose even the slightest detail of that wonder. More than ever, I felt the need to stop the moment, the light, the color, the smell, and the love that I was witnessing. So I started to collect pieces of those things. At that time, I also had little money, so I couldn’t afford to print hundreds of photographs, so I just shot without printing. I knew the memory was there forever, but it was more about living in the present than about building a past. It still is.

To take a picture for me is still magic. To keep the ephemeral forever, but most of all to steal the fast and ever-changing beauty from the rush of time — to slow down. 

K+C — A lot of your photographs get up close to the subject and seem to capture fleeting moments. Can you tell us about this approach?

A few years ago, I started to work as the photographer for a children’s summer camp on a farm. (This was before the pandemic stopped it.) That was perfect for me; again, a mom at work!

I witnessed and stole all the magic from that time: the smiles of children playing together, holding baby chicks in their hands, the wonder of discovering the beauty in a flower, or even a simple colorful leaf. The cute, funny, asymmetrical smile with the missing tooth, or a loving hand stroking a horse — nothing more than this. 

What I shoot is the light through the window curtain drawing lace on the floor for a moment, the golden curls of my daughter’s ponytail jumping up and down while running, the vulnerability and fragile essence of childhood, and most of all, beauty and love. 

It can be the fleeting glance between friends at a birthday party I was invited to, the special color combination of buildings in a town I am visiting, the clouds hiding the mountains, or the stained dish with pink paint colors of an artist. Paint that will be washed away in a minute, but looks beautiful to me. 

To me, life is a work of art in ephemeral details.

K+C — You also collaborate with your husband’s architecture studio for the visual documentation of projects. Does this collaboration make you gravitate towards other architectural subjects? 

My primary job is working with my husband in his architectural studio. In this context, I have the possibility to combine my love for beautiful images with his work. Architectural subjects were always interesting to me, even before this collaboration started. However, the main difference between this professional aspect of my photography and the more personal one is that architecture forces me into a wider perspective. I always notice the patterns, the colors, the texture of the surfaces, and the equilibrium between shapes and volumes more inside the global project. 

K+C — What do you enjoy about photographing artists and designers, such as Francesca Zoboli and Franco Nodo?

I am lucky to have friends that are artists. Francesca Zoboli and Franco Nodo are two of them. 

My fascination with details compels me to collect images of their work that focus on this. To me, the texture of the bronze and oxidized copper surface in Franco Nodo’s sculpture, or the light on the slightly wrinkled, thin sheets of paper in Francesca’s work, is as important as the work of art itself.

I have always been fascinated by Francesca’s atelier. It is full of colors, brushes, pieces of paper with the study of the patterns before the final work. I love the spots of color on the dishes that sometimes create a spontaneous work of art and witness the choices of tones and combinations of shades of the work in progress.

To be a friend of artists implies a very personal interpretation of their work. However, I would say that I see it through a lens that is influenced by my knowledge of their personality. It is a privilege and I love that.

In my experience, children and artists have the same beauty and courage of being always themselves. A work of art can be the window to their inner world and their vision. No filter, no social convention, and no mask. For me, this is the best part of photographing them: being allowed to get closer to their work with my camera is an invitation to meet their world.

K+C — For architectural projects, post-production edits are often necessary to show off the buildings or interiors. What role does editing play in your photography, whether it is an architectural subject or not?

Postproduction editing is a very important part of the job.

When I was 20 (about 30 years ago) I attended a school of ‘traditional’ editorial illustration. Soon after, I started working in a studio as the assistant to a children’s book illustrator. Later, I worked as an illustrator for greetings cards, and when the world of editorial images started to shift from ‘real drawing’ to digital painting I had to learn to use a digital brush in a natural way.

People now take digital images for granted, but when it all started (and I was there), it was not so simple. My mindset was built on a very practical approach, but in the end, this helped me to think of the new medium in the traditional way. I think it was a plus. 

Photoshop became my new traditional brush. I think I did not use it in the way it was meant to be used, but in a way that served me better.

This technical and visual background became the basis of my job when I started to approach the world of architectural illustration with my husband. In my architectural visualizations, I use photoshop starting from a technical drawing, but with a more illustrative intent.

As I learned about editing possibilities, I realized it was perfect for helping me to make my pictures, both architectural and personal, more ‘true.’ They could be more similar to the feeling of that moment and convey the exact feeling of what I saw when I took the picture. And, for the concerns of architectural illustration, it could be more similar to the idea that was behind the project. It is about revealing the intention.

K+C — What tools do you find most helpful in this process?

Photoshop is the tool I use for editing architectural photos or for drawing architectural illustrations. It allows me to modify the shape when it is needed, for example, the line of perspective and in the case of illustration to create and draw the image from scratch.

However, Lightroom is the software I use to edit photos without changing anything in them except the light and colors. It is the magic wand that brings the feeling back to the picture. I often crop my pictures when I edit them. I sometimes think that photography is more about what you leave outside the frame than what is in it.

As my personal images are often close-up, I leave out everything that was not the subject of my vision to guide the attention to the intention. And, even in a close-up image, I am more interested in the balance of colors and light than in the sharpness of the details.

I often read criticism about the use of postproduction and editing in photography, about the idea that the edited picture is fake. But I think, for me, it is the opposite. I think that when the final picture is not what you saw, or the feeling you got from it while watching and shooting, then that is the fake image, regardless of whether it is edited or not.

Anyway, I don’t think that there can be a ‘non-edited photograph.’ The ‘impersonal’ and objective photo is an illusion. When you shoot, you are making a choice and a choice is always personal. You choose the frame, the angle, the settings, and the subject. You choose what to include in your shot and what will remain outside the frame, therefore you are already editing.

K+C — What do you usually edit in your photographs?

Like the words in a poem or the notes in music, light and colors are your alphabets to communicate. So editing the light is the most important part. When I shoot, I often use a very wide aperture that will generate an image with the focus only on the true subject I intended. It’s also always in a raw format, so that the image I get is the best I can have and nothing will be lost — not one detail and not one shade of color.

I never take photos in jpg because this will ‘edit’ the image inside the camera, fixing the camera settings in a compression mode that forces you to make a definitive choice before shooting. As you change the framing, all the settings must be changed, so sometimes this will make you lose the magical moment. However, you cannot afford it, especially while photographing children. 

Furthermore, jpg images have limited shades of color, while shooting in raw will allow you to choose the right tone for your image because no color shade is lost. In raw mode, there is no loss of quality, so you still have a quality picture when you crop the frame (also in close-up). 

I prefer not to describe, but to evoke, so sometimes the picture is almost abstract because of the close-up and the context disappears. For me, detail is not about having all the visual information, but all the shades of the mood at the moment. I sometimes prefer blurred and hazy images, out of focus with little information about the context, but with a lot of information about the atmosphere.

K+C — What are your future plans for photography?

I think I am going to go on taking pictures whenever I can and whenever I am asked to. I’m still planning on building my website to have a personal place to tell my story. Children photography, for sure, is my first love, but I love traveling and collecting pieces of impressions from the places I go — a journal of the trips I took and will take in the future. For now, it is a work in progress. 

K+C — Thank you so much for sharing your work with us, Laura!

Here is some of Laura’s work from behind the camera!

Nature of one of Laura’s favorite subjects, but she also prepares images for her husband’s architecture firm and enjoys photographing children. Incidentally, one of her daughters became a photographer, too — making it a family interest. | Photographed by Laura Adai.
Laura often chooses to get close to a subject and focus on textural details. In this particular image, the top of the mushroom and its delicate sides are the focus. Nevertheless, the mood of the surrounding forest is still present, even if it is out of focus. In her words: “You do not see the surrounding wood, but you can feel it.” | Photographed by Laura Adai.
When she can, Laura likes to share her in three-image groupings, and this particular photograph is part of one such grouping. Together, the images catch the nimble bouncing of a bird on a branch. | Photographed by Laura Adai.
The grassy hillside and murky fog set the mood of this photograph. | Photographed by Laura Adai.
Grouped images also share Laura’s experience of walking through nature, and the sights she encounters along her way. | Photographed by Laura Adai.
Photographed by Laura Adai.
This particular photograph of Lunaria annua (also known as an Honesty, Silver Dollar, or Money Plant) is one of Laura’s favorites. It illustrates her idea of an “evocative image.” | Photographed by Laura Adai.
Laura describes, “sometimes the picture is almost abstract because of the close-up and the context disappears.” | Photographed by Laura Adai.

Interested in more Behind the Camera features? Click here for an interview with Texas, USA based photographer Buff Strickland, or here with German artist Clemens Baldszun-Marsh.
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