Soldier Beetle, Cantharidae- Good Bugs
Miriam Wilkins' Parting Gifts

Carolyn Parker Photo Interview

This is an interview about my work hosted by photographer Camilla Emond.


Hi Carolyn,
Thank you for doing this interview today. I am a huge fan of your work and, of course, the lovely roses you share with us.

Where do you call home?
Lafayette, CA in the San Fransisco Bay Area.

How many years have you been a photographer?
Since 1990 when I visited Italy.

Did you go to school or are you self-taught?
Self-taught with an art and design background.

How do you describe your style?
Effulgent. Clean- I can't help it- one day I realized that everything I do or design has a clean look to it. It's not intentional- I'm actually sort of messy- it's in my cells.

How did you get started?
I proudly showed a friend of mine some 4x6's that I shot of rose arrangements. He said, "These are terrible, you should ask my dad for some tips." I was crushed and looked and looked at those pictures trying to figure out what he meant. I called his dad, who came over and told me I needed to use a tripod, because the images I wanted required f16 at a 1/2 or 1-second exposure (we're talking film here). He also showed me the effectiveness of shooting level with the subject. These simple tips led me on a path of constant experimentation and discovery.

Who or what inspires you?
Roses at every stage- all of life resides within them. They led me to this moment.

Five words that describe you? Passionate, exuberant, persistent, adaptable, awestruck.

Favorite photog? Victoria Pearson- she's a house and garden features photographer, whose work I've seen in many magazines. She captures the image with heart and magic.

What makes a photograph good? A clarity of intention.


Carolyn is an author too, and has two books published- tell us about them.

I have to answer this one in third person-
An ex fashion designer, with an art school background, and fondness for roses, finally has a chance to garden. The results inspire photography. After three years, her photography improves and she thinks all her efforts, in both gardening and photography, were meant for more than her own enjoyment. In the spring of 1990, she travels to Italy, with camera, and for two weeks blissfully photographs gardens etc . . . She audaciously thinks, I will do a book on Italy! (Hmmmm) When she returns home, her own garden is a blazing sea of bloom. She sees it with new eyes, and realizes that all her inspiration resides just outside her door.

She spends the spring of 1991 shooting every day in hopes of creating a portfolio to take to stock houses and publishers in New York, approaching them much the same as she did fashion contacts, in her previous career. With eleven appointments booked, off she goes. One stock house (FPG, now called Getty) contracted to represent her, and one publisher (Harry Abrams) asked her to send back a hundred slides to show editors.

Three months later, an Abrams editor calls asking,"How would you like to do a lush little book titled The Poetry of Roses, where you choose the poems and do all the photography?" (Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? Well it was not without major challenges {from the publishers end}, but she won't go there.) Our photographer said yes, of course, and spent a year on the project, falling even more in love with roses.

It was a thrill, when the book came out, obviously she wanted to do another, and so did her editor. She worked for months on one idea, and her editor handily rejected it. That was that? Well, for that publisher anyway. She worked on other ideas that didn't gel at all. Then one spring day, in the garden, an idea came for the next book, almost fully formed. She felt she had received an exquisite gift, and spent the next eight years working on R is for Rose.

When the book was finished, she realized she needed an agent to find a publisher. She spent 6 months (she kids you not) writing a non-fiction proposal. In only two months, she had a lovely agent, but it took two years to find a publisher! C'est la vie.

This is a long answer for a blog, but let me end this question with a few words about receiving the finished books for the first time. I'll use second person this time–

Imagine your creative, blood, sweat, joy, and tears (slides and manuscript) all wrapped up in a box, and placed in the mail. It goes off to the publisher, and your contract says they (the publisher) have all the design and decision making power. You don't even have input on the cover, or for that matter, the title. You hope, with all your heart, that it turns out to be a high quality book. The wait (about a year) is excruciating.

Thankfully, I was not disappointed
Gear at a glance:
Two canons- 20D and 30D- one wears an AF macro f 3.5, the other a basic 18-55 zoom. I have a big time Canon EW-8324-70 zoom, but it's heavy and should be used with a tripod. My first book was done with a 35mm Minolta SLR, and my second book with a Hassleblad. Before I went digital, I almost always used tripods. Now I can barely stand the thought of using one.

Favorite lens and why?
Macros are my favorite, because they act as an extension of me, taking me into secret realms of beauty and concentration- the outside world ceases to exist.

Something you are still learning? I hope I am ready to learn something every day. I'm also fearful of learning new things though. I have a video camera that I've had for three years, and never used, because I don't want to learn the technical aspects. Learning is a constant in today's world. In 1993, I had a friend type the manuscript for my first book- the learning curve from there to here- yikes! Yesterday, for the first time, I used the adapter that goes with my four-year-old macro.

If I wasn't a photographer/author I would be...
I won't even go there- I've been, am, so many things and enjoy being a photographer the most.

Two wishes?
One is too private, and the other I am embarrassed to say.

If you could have breakfast with someone, who would it be?

You Camilla, outside on a sunny, pleasantly cool morning in Montana, and after breakfast we would take a photo walk.

Advice for a newbie?
Study photographs that you admire- try and figure out how they were accomplished. Be ready to solve problems- adaptability in the moment is a must- try to make the next picture different and, or, better than the last. Love it all.

What is your favorite part of photography?
I have no favorite part, but I will say that the kind of photography that I do, with set-ups and all, is often exacting, grueling, and breathless. I'm thrilled that digital allows many shots because I am after the unknown quotient. Whether or not I achieve that, is not for me to say, but I am often overwhelmed by the scent of roses.

Thank you's been a pleasure.