Olli Ella Folk | Meet Claire Roeth
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do...
How did you first get into photography, and then turn it from a hobby into a career?
Twelve years ago I was working a job I hated in real estate, not making much, and got a small bonus. I put the money in an envelope and wrote “bicycle” across it, intending to spend it on a bike. But in a twist of fate I got an email from a woman who had one Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy left in the litter asking if I was interested. So I spent the money on a puppy and what was left on a super basic DSLR camera so I could take photos of my puppy. Before long, co-workers began asking if I would take photos of their dogs, and then those people would ask if I would photograph their weddings, and then their children, and so it went.
Over the last decade I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons about running a business, existing in the photo world, and juggling work and being a mama. The beautiful thing about the way I started out, though, is that for me it’s always been about capturing the spark of my subject — my own dog, initially, but then so, so much more. My aesthetic has definitely changed and been refined over the years, but the heart of what I do really hasn’t changed since that original impulse to buy a camera so I could capture the essence of that puppy. That dog, Roux, whose nickname, Rouxby, is the namesake of my company, is still my constant companion and falls asleep every night tucked into bed next to my eldest daughter.
What's your favourite thing about photographing families and children?
Ahh, children are magic to photograph! They’re not trying to be anything other than who they are in their beautiful little hearts. They’re not trying to look a certain way. Instead of focusing on the way their image will be presented to the rest of the world, they’re just actually living the moment. I think that, in a nutshell, is the magic of childhood. Whether I’m photographing portraits of a family or shooting for a brand, this magic is the thing I want every image to communicate.
Taking photos of little ones can be a tricky task - what are your tips for capturing the perfect moment?
I have a few go-to ways of encouraging connection or thoughtfulness (“What colour are your mama’s eyes? Does your daddy have teeth? Is there a bird in the sky?”), but the truth is I don’t really use tricks. That magical quality of childhood doesn’t really require any. Mostly, I just like to let children be themselves because the truth is that the moments they make on their own are far more magical than anything I could contrive.
Where is your favourite place in the world (and why)?
Oof, this one is tough. I’m a bit of a nomad so I have connections to so many different places in different ways. But one of the first places that comes to mind is my Dad’s house. He lives in the mountains of Southern Colorado, a town so small it barely qualifies as a town (just a post office, gas station, and a bar). His house is soaked with light, very secluded, and full of treasures he and his girlfriend have collected over the years and around the world. When my girls and I go there in the summer we spend mornings hiking, afternoons in the creek that runs through the property, rinse off under the outdoor shower in the late sun, and eat meals full of home-grown vegetables.