Elizabeth Rudge | Freelance Photographer
Hey everyone! Not gonna lie, I've been excited about this interview before I even had it confirmed. I'm so excited to be talking with photographer Elizabeth Rudge today on Watch Her Hustle. This woman. Wow. I was thrilled to work with Elizabeth on our SS18 Collection (check her awesome work here) and can't wait until our next collaboration. So, let's jump right in:
Poppyseed: Elizabeth! Welcome. Let's hear the story: how did you make the break from 9-5 job to being an entrepreneur?
Elizabeth Rudge: Hi! Thanks for having me! Well, I've never had a 9-5. Before I was a photographer I was a bartender, a cheese monger, I washed men's hair (when they had it) at a fancy men's shop in New Orleans, I made bouquets at a florist, I worked at a deli, pretty much anything that helped me pay rent, take vacations, and eat delicious foods. When I turned 30 I really missed having a creative outlet and knew it was something that was essential to who I was as a person. I moved out to Seattle to attend Seattle Central Creative Academy and pursue my dreams of being a photographer. 7 years later.. here we are.
PS: What projects are you working on right now?
ER: For the first time in 3 years I'm not pregnant or have a newborn attached to me, so it's nice to be in the throws of work again. I started in fashion but have recently pivoted my work towards kids fashion. I'm crushing so hard on the brands coming out of Spain right now. Kids fashion is very have a very exciting moment.
Although I love my commercial work, I'm most excited about my project with Shout Your Abortion. After the election I was feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Seemed everywhere I turned there was a group who needed help and attention. I'd love nothing more than to become a philanthropist, but unfortunately my bank account feels otherwise. What I do have is this service and talent and thought it might be best to put it to good use. I decided each year I would focus my lens on an issue that I personally connect with and wanted 2017 to be women's reproductive rights. I was introduced to Shout Your Abortion when they decided to make an art book on abortion. It was a match made in heaven. I've been traveling the country over the past few months taking portraits of women who have had abortions. It's been the most fulfilling project I've ever been on. It's not often that passion meets commissioned work. I've never felt more connected to women. I'll be biting my nails until I get to show this body of work in the fall when the book is released. My hope is this book helps to normalize abortion. To release those stigmas and shames of the past, and that every woman will always have free choice over her body. My daughters should have the same rights i did, no. They should have much much more.
PS: Whats the craziest shoot you've ever worked on?
ER: Gosh, I don't think I've ever been in deep crazy-land. One of the most essential tools of a photographer is to be able to think on their feet and adapt to anything. It's what makes it challenging and fun. When things go a little off track you quickly, and without the client knowing you're sh*tting your pants, move onto Plan B...or if the day is real rough Plan C...(if you go to the land of Plan C I suggest margaritas. Lots of margaritas.)
PS: As a fellow working mama, what advice would you have for mom's who are wanting to step out into being their own boss? What helps you with all the juggling?
ER: When I got pregnant with my first child I was truly scared for two reasons. My husband and I are both freelance photographers. I wasn't sure how this could logistically work. Our income from month to month is shaky. There's no guarantee when we will get paid (even after the work is completed), when another job will come through, or if this career can sustain itself for 20 years. I was afraid that having a child would push me away from my dreams, because "becoming a parent means you must become selfless". What I have learned is that this is the furthest thing from the truth. Becoming a mother did change my perspective, but for the best. It narrowed my focus. Before I was saying yes to just about anything. Now I have to be more picky. My time is precious. I am still learning the beauty of saying no free of guilt.
What helps me get through it is my partner. We don't have the luxury of having family around so it's definitely a juggling act making it all work. We have the girls in a wonderful school 3 days a week. It's great for them and it's great for us. Finding a place for them and knowing they are taken care of sets my mind at ease and I can focus on the work ahead free from distraction. The thing I hear the most is "how do you do it all?" My best advice is: If there is something you want in this world you set aside the time to make it happen. You will find a way.
PS: You recently moved from Seattle to Tacoma. How has that transition been? What would you say is attracting artists to Tacoma?
ER: Full disclosure: my husband and I were less than thrilled to make the move to Tacoma. We felt, as a lot of other artists do, that we were pushed out of Seattle. It just became completely unaffordable. We didn't want to move to the suburbs. We didn't want to leave our network and clients. We knew we wanted to stay urban and so we landed in Tacoma. Now, almost 3 years later I'm glad we did. The Tacoma community is welcoming, vibrant, and thriving. For the first time we were able to buy a home, get a gorgeous studio, and find an emerging creative community. We are thrilled to be a part of Tacoma rising. We can't wait to see how this city will transform over the coming years. The possibilities seem endless.
PS: Give us a quick rundown of an average day.
- 5am- hear baby cry. Pray they go back to sleep.
- 6:30am the kids start to wake up and demand multiple breakfasts. First pot of coffee (I usually forget to feed myself)
- 8:30am get the girls off to school or on non-school days get them into a project so I can quickly answer incoming emails from the east coast.
- second pot of coffee before opening my laptop
- 9-4:30 a freelance photographers life is different every day but looks a bit like this:
- 40% is answering emails/going to client meetings/marketing yourself
- 20% chasing down the money
- 15% is writing estimates, negotiating, rewriting estimates
- 13% pre production (picking up gear, getting props, paint, pre-lighting)
- 10% retouching
- 2% is taking photos
- 4:30pm - pick up the girls
- 5:30pm dinner together
- 6-8pm family time. I try really hard to turn phone off by this time in regards to clients. Some days are most successful than others.
- 8pm- time with my partner catching up on the day, brainstorming about projects, recapping the political craziness of the day, watching our "shows"
- 10pm asleep
PS: Watch Her Hustle is all about empowering women through community and inspiring stories like yours. What woman in your life has empowered you the most?
ER: My parents have empowered me the most. My mother taught me from the beginning to be your own woman, make your own money, be your own cheerleader.
I also feel very privileged to have a community of amazing women around me who are constantly pushing their own boundaries and reminding me that my voice matters. When your family is far away it is your friends who step in when your sitter cancels last minute and you have a big job, or you need someone to crack the champagne with you when a magazine cover arrives and it was entirely your vision, or tell you it's all gonna work out when you lose a client to another photographer. It can be overwhelming owning your own business, raising two kids, making time for your partner, and juggling your friends. But your friends are what make your life rich. There's nothing like an uninterrupted conversation over drinks with someone you truly connect with and reminds you exactly who you are. It's my necessary recharge. I always walk away feeling empowered.
PS: Finally, who is your favorite photographer?
ER: Elliot Erwitt and Sally Mann are perfection. I always respected photographers who captured every day life. I respect a sense of humor in photography. I live for "second reads".
Last thought: I look forward to the day when i get so excited and totally overthink my daughters senior portraits only to have her say " MOM! I don't want you to take them! Don't you know __________________(insert famous photographer)? Can't you call them and see if they can do it?
PS: Thanks so much Elizabeth for a glimpse into your life and for the words of wisdom. We love what your doing and can't wait to see what you tackle next! You can check out more of Elizabeth's work here, and of course on Instagram. Side note: if anyone is looking for a photographer...stop. You found her. As a former client, I hands down recommend Elizabeth. This women is on fire and we love Watching Her Hustle. Until next time. #WatchHerHustlewithPoppyseed