texasmonthly.com: How did you end up becoming a photographer? Was it hard to break into the industry?
Sarah Wilson: I have always been interested in art, but it wasn’t until I took a summer photography class when I was fourteen that I really became interested in photography specifically. I went on to major in photo at New York University, and after graduation, I assisted several photographers to learn more about the craft and the industry. The lessons I’ve learned from these professional relationships have been invaluable and have given me a head start in my professional career.
Breaking into the industry has been difficult—it’s a never-ending process. You’ve got to have a hard shell.
texasmonthly.com: Do you have a signature style?
SW: I would consider my style to be a mixture of formal environmental portraiture and photojournalism.
texasmonthly.com: What are your favorite things to photograph? Why?
SW: I like to photograph people even though portraiture is, for myself, the most challenging form of photography. It sometimes takes a lot of guts to walk up to a total stranger and ask him to open up to you. I guess I am just curious about people, and I want to know more about them. When I take someone’s portrait, I feel that I am honoring him and calling attention to his distinctive qualities.
texasmonthly.com: How did you end up taking the pictures of Brooklyn Pope for the June issue of Texas Monthly?
SW: I knew that I was going to be in Austin for a couple of weeks, so I called [photography editor] Leslie Baldwin and [creative director] Scott Dadich in the art department and told them I was going to be in town. They called back and said they had found an assignment for me to do while I was in Texas.
texasmonthly.com: What kind of direction did Texas Monthly creative director Scott Dadich give you before the shoot?
SW: Scott gave me a general wish list of what subject matter they wanted to have covered, but he gave me only a basic structure. He also said that they wanted the whole shoot to be done in black and white. Other than that, he set me free to shoot the story in my own style, with my own decisions about lighting and composition. Texas Monthly is well known as a magazine that hires photographers to shoot gripping human interest stories and gives the photographer the freedom to shoot in his or her own style. The images are then presented in a tasteful, beautifully designed manner. This is rare in the magazine world.
texasmonthly.com: What was it like photographing Brooklyn Pope?
SW: Brooklyn was at times very shy and at times animated and proud. She is an excellent basketball player, and she is only going to get better. There are a lot of people watching her right now, and they are expecting her to have a tremendous career. That’s a lot of pressure at such a young age, but I believe that she has the strength to push through. She’s a great girl, and she has an extremely supportive family. I wish her well.
texasmonthly.com: How long did it take to complete the photo shoot?
SW: About three and a half hours.
texasmonthly.com: How do you pick the poses?
SW: I always come to a shoot with some preconceived ideas for shots, but everything usually changes when I actually meet the person I am going to photograph. I usually just wait for her to make a pose that seems comfortable or genuine to her personality, and I often ask her to repeat it.
texasmonthly.com: How do you capture a person’s personality through a photograph?
SW: I like to carry on conversations with the subject while I shoot so that I can start to understand what she is really about. I ask a lot of questions about careers, kids, hobbies. When people see that I am genuinely interested in their lives, they start to open up to me and my camera.
texasmonthly.com: Did you decide which photographs would make it into the magazine?
SW: I made a loose edit, but the art department made the final decisions about which images would make it into the magazine.
texasmonthly.com: What is the most important thing to remember when taking a photograph?
SW: Respect your subject.