Featured Member: Spencer Lum

As the founder of industry blog Ground Glass, co-founder of this collective, and owner of 5 West Studios, Spencer is a guy who takes his work seriously. He’s a firm believer in the idea that taking pictures isn’t just preservation, but discovery – a way to see more in the world and in yourself. As far as he’s concerned, that’s about as good a superpower as you’re going to get in this life, so you may as well milk it for all its worth.

See more of Spencer’s work at www.5weststudios.com or read his musings at www.ground-glass.com.

Why did you become a photographer?
At first? Really just to find a creative outlet. I didn’t have any larger aspirations at the time, and in a lot of ways, I think that’s always the best place to be – doing the activity for what it is. I just wanted to make something pleasing and nice that put some of my creative gray matter to use. What I found along the way and what kept my going is wholly different – photography is this incredible way to help sort out what the world is, and in doing so, see your place in it. More than anything, I think what drives me now is the connection it creates between me and my subjects.

Who are a few of your favorite photographers?
This is such a hard question – too many people to list, and so little time! Not to mention my list is always in flux. In no particular order, some of the names would include Sophie Calle, Rinko Kawauchi, David Eggleston, Alec Soth, Bruce Davidson, Waker Evans, Nan Goldin, Noboyushi Araki. Insofar as my wedding work goes, I think Nan Goldin has been the most influential. There’s just something so intimate and human to her early work – as if all the layers were just stripped away, leaving nothing but the subject.

What’s your creative process?
Umm…dive right in? I suppose I should be more disciplined, but, if anything, it probably is just that. Going into the middle of something, and letting myself figure things out. I spend a lot of time thinking and researching, but, at the end of the day, I find that when I get to attached to what I look at, I start to copy it. So I try my hardest, sometimes more successfully and others less, to force myself to let go of everything, and see what’s in front of me, and trust that all that stuff I’ve done ahead of time will somehow work its way into the mix in some sort of subconscious way. You don’t want it to take control of the moment.

What’s it like to run a business blog and a consumer blog? Namely, you run the industry blog Ground Glass along with your wedding business.
Having Ground Glass has been a blessing. I really had no idea where I wanted it to go and what I wanted it to be when I started out. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done the Brooklyn Collective with Kirra without it. Not just because of the connections it made, but, really, because it let me see a lot more possibility than I saw in photography and business before I started it, and I wanted to share that with others. Sometimes, pulling double duty, and now triple duty with the collective moving full steam ahead is overwhelming. But at the end of the day, that’s how I like it. Dive right in, and figure it out, right?

Where do you find creative inspiration?
Everywhere. Everything. I think the structure and nature of thought can follow similar patterns across many disciplines. I used to do a little programming as a hobby, and very often, I found it would influence my ideas for photography. The same goes for other things I’ve done – from writing Haiku to meditating. All of it has had a noticeable effect on the way I take my pictures.

Three words that define your style?
Intimate, personal, explorative.



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