Meet Em Scott, one of my nearest and dearest friends who also happens to be an incredible photographer with an affinity for vintage clothing. Em and I met a little over five years ago through photography friends. She and I instantly connected over our shared admiration for clothing, photography and that we were both about to become mothers for the first time. She’s been through the good and the bad moments with me as we navigate how to raise children—never allowing anything to get in the way of our ambition to be creative, loving and hard-working moms. Em just celebrated one year of having her own online vintage clothing shop, Encourage Vintage. The fusion of her two passions—vintage and film photography—are the perfect marriage for incredible storytelling for sustainable fashion. Since becoming friends, she’s fueled my love of film photography and I was curious to find out more about how she got into it and why it’s important to her.
What made you want to be a photographer?
I think it was my mom. She took thousands of 35mm photos and I looked through them all as a child and young adult, looking for her. She died when I was two and while I don’t have memories that I remember of her, I have so many of her images. It feels like the next best thing. This was how she looked at the world. Also, after I graduated from college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I loved art. I realized this may be a way for me to connect with people and possibly get paid a little to do that. It’s been the best of both worlds.
How do you stand out creatively as a photographer in this day in age?
Everyone is a photographer these days, which I think is a great thing in many ways. Everyone appreciates what I do and loves to talk about it. But I think that to be a photographer that stands apart from the crowd is the same thing that makes an artist stand apart, which is having a point of view—finding a way to clearly communicate how to see the world we all live in and trying to find the best way to tell that story. For me, that is shooting film. It translates my love for nostalgia and it brings a softness, a love, for its subject. It smooths out all our rough edges, it makes everything more beautiful. What is important to me is to tell a story that shows someone in their most graceful light, because I am seeking the beauty in everyone at all times. Film does that too in a way. It makes even the mundane seem extraordinarily beautiful.
What is creativity to you? Do you consider yourself to be creative? Why or why not?
Creativity to me is trying new things—experimenting and changing and growing. I consider myself to be a creative in that I cannot help but analyze what I’ve done and usually find the flaws. But this pushes me to change, find new ways to do it.
Em’s inspiration – her mother
You have a love for film photography. How did that begin?
It comes back again to my mom. She had an old Pentax k1000 and took photos of bands she loved, places she visited, and when she had me, hundreds of photos of me. It was her passion. I have all the old drugstore development orders she placed for prints, reprints—she had to write the frame number on them, her address and phone number for every roll. It must have taken her so much time to take all these images and then find ways to share them with the people she loved, but she did it over and over again. I find that same drive within me but I think it’s fueled by how much I love the images when they come back to me, and that’s something I never experienced until I started to receive film back from my lab. I had been shooting digital for about 5 years when I started to shoot film on our trips and I was so in love with how those images came back to me—it was like finally what I FELT was coming through in the images. There was a softness and a beauty that felt like a good memory to me. It really snowballed from there.
Where do you get inspired?
I am inspired by other artists, and I especially love painters. The best day for me to be inspired would be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I also am inspired by fashion—a collection of clothes down a runway or shown in an amazing magazine editorial. I think what a good fashion collection and SF MOMA have in common is color and shape.
If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like?
I think it would taste like a really good apricot. Sweet but not TOO sweet. A tiny bit of tartness.
What is your favorite color? What color describes you?
Right now, I am really into lilac. It feels very fresh to me. I think it could also describe me because it is kind of a version of a moody blue. I can be emotional and introspective, but I’m also energized by good people and beautiful places and I think lilac fits in all those boxes.
I was craving a slower, more intentional approach to photography, and that resulted in finding new subjects. I think the thing about doubt is to figure out where it’s coming from. Sometimes it can be productive, and sometimes, if it’s just comparison, it means just shutting down Instagram or Pinterest and creating something for myself instead.
Do you think that creativity involves putting your heart and soul into your work? Or is it more like letting your mind flow freely to witness the surprising results of your actions?
My photo shoots are rarely very planned out, and I am often surprised by directions they go and photos that return from that. But I also think some of my best work is when I am invested with my heart and soul into the subject—one reason why I try to photograph my friends and family as much as possible. The connections there result in my favorite photographs, and I do think the freedom I have when I’m shooting for them is what drives me to test and try new things and it results in more creative photos.
Were you ever discouraged? If so, how did it it affect your creativity?
I have to fight through discouragement all the time—I think that’s part of being an introspective, deep thinker. I constantly want to do more or achieve more than I currently am doing. This definitely affects my creativity negatively. I have to find ways to move through this and usually it’s just finding a new thing to work on that inspires me to keep me pushing forward.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Part of what works for me is allowing myself to do different things as a creative person. Sometimes if I’m just photographing too much, I have to give myself the space to do some styling, or work on my vintage clothing shop, or paint. I think mixing in different ways to be creative helps me come back to my photography with new eyes and a fresh heart.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I was at a place a few years ago with my wedding photography, which is what I started doing first as a photographer. I was seeing other wedding images coming from my friends and thinking that I was possibly not the best wedding photographer. I tried to sit with that for a long time and what I came to realize was not that I wasn’t able to be the best wedding photographer, it was that my passion was refocusing on photographing other things. I was craving a slower, more intentional approach to photography, and that resulted in finding new subjects. I think the thing about doubt is to figure out where it’s coming from. Sometimes it can be productive, and sometimes, if it’s just comparison, it means just shutting down Instagram or Pinterest and creating something for myself instead.
If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
There’s a song that’s really important to me by Hillsong and it’s called Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). It’s about a story in the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples is called to walk on the water by Jesus himself. And it touches on how hard it is for us to step into something unknown. I feel that tension and I struggle with fear, but it reminds me that there is a greater force in the universe taking care of us. I don’t need to have everything figured out. I am not in control. I just have to step out and trust that I’m going to be held up even in impossible circumstances.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I think it is both. I feel like my creativity is always there but I definitely have to tap into it. Sometimes it means getting into nature or turning off the noise (social media, emails). I have to nurture that part of me. It’s also tied into getting enough rest and taking care of myself, too. When I’m not taking care of myself, there’s no way for me to be creative.
What kind of things do you do to get your “creative juices” flowing?
I need time and space to be creative—sometimes it looks like going out for a few hours and wandering around a thrift shop or just being out in San Francisco. I get inspired by seeing new places and people.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
Usually, I just step away and do something else so that it can return to me when I’m ready.
How do you measure success?
If I’m happy with the work that I’m doing, that’s all I want right now.
How do you usually start with a new collection? Do you have a creative process?
I don’t have a specific creative process, but I am inspired by things and people and clothing, so usually once all of that comes together at the right time, then everything starts to flow from there.
Most treasured item you own?
It’s an ice cream scooper from the cottage at Belle River. The wooden handle is so smooth and worn. It just feels like my family history in a nutshell. I think about how many scoops of ice cream this scooper must have scooped.
Let’s talk about Belle River. Why does this special place fuel your creativity?
I think it’s a mix of what draws out my happiest self—being by the water, being with family, being surrounded by history. All of those things lift me out of the ordinary day to day and get me inspired by the bigger things in life.
You capture people in their true essence. How do you get that to happen?
I’m not sure how that happens. I think I try my best to let people be who they are without judgment. I’m sure part of why they feel like they can do that is that I have no reservations about sharing all my junk with anyone who will listen. I am not perfect, so I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to be either.
If you could go back to Belle River today, how do you imagine it would look? Feel? Smell?
I think that the cottage has been torn down, but part of what it felt and smelled like would still be the same—the lake, the wildflowers growing along the train tracks, the farm across the road. The cabin was always an earthy-smelling place and I think that was part of what grounded me there.
How are creativity and home tied together?
My home needs to be a place that feels safe and that inspires me. When it’s chaotic, I can’t focus. Sometimes, I spend a lot of time putting things away. I don’t necessarily need it to be clean, but I like it to be tidy. It gives my brain space to breathe.
“What’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does.” —Hagrid
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” —Roald Dahl