Sue Sonnenberg Unraveled: An Interview.

Sue Sonnenberg of Roots to Willows Photography is a fine art and creative photographer based out of Southern, CA. Her work is quirky, off-beat, and entrancing, to say the least. She admits that she has always loved the challenge of connecting with weird items (such as trash- ha!) and making art out of them. This all started when she was a young girl, collecting items she found on the streets of NY to create with. Sue is truly an artist who marches to her own beat and we are her biggest fans.


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Here she is, unraveled...

What inspires your art? I’ve always been inspired by the overlooked and tossed away. I love breathing in new life to things people don’t pay attention to. Showing the world how to see things around them with child-like wonder leaves me endlessly inspired. People will always call me and tell me they found some trash on the side of a road or that the power lines they saw reminded them of angels or toy soldiers because of me. That makes me feel insane but also insanely happy.

What do you shoot with? Camera body and favorite lens? I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III. My favorite lenses are my Sigma 35 art for creative work or my 70-200 for the fly on the wall feel with amazing bokeh for clients allowing them to play and be themselves without my lens in their face. 

What other ways do you express your creativity? I love to create with whatever I have on hand. It’s turned me into somewhat of a hoarder of weird things. I keep packing peanuts and paper and things normal people would toss if it sparks an idea in me. I used to draw and often say I will one day compose the two together in a series.  I sing any chance I get (not well) when no one is listening and make up the words since I have a terrible memory does that count too? 

How do you de-stress at the end of the day? My top 2 go-tos to de stress are long drives to nowhere with the windows down, wind on my face and music up or sometimes sit still in perfect silence parked down a dead end dusty road. Otherwise you can find me in my tub with candles and bath bombs. I do my best thinking around water. I wrote an entire book in my bathtub. 

What kind of music do you listen to while editing? I love Ben Harper! There’s something about his voice that connects me to another place and allows my mind to rest. Sometimes a song inspired a session to begin with and I listen to it while I edit or want to pull from the feelings it brings me. 

What is your favorite book? I once received a sign copy from Hulu of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale so after finding my work on IG. I’m not sure anything could top that. I love writing but don’t read often unless it’s books of quotes. I live for quotes! 

Name one movie that inspires you. Not the movie in itself but I loved this part of American Beauty where he films a plastic bag floating in the wind and talks about how there’s so much beauty in this world that goes unnoticed. It’s stuck with me. Normally movies mean nap time for me lol. 

How do you handle self-doubt or creative slumps? “The only way is through” is something I always say. I force myself, no excuses. When I’m feeling down I take a drive and find a tree that reflects my emotions. I search for the ugliest tree I can find and take photos of it. Often I will sketch things or trace the hair on the wall of my shower and see what it looks like to me then mimic it with my camera and “real life”. I’m always reminding myself that my work is my voice and I choose to sing even though I may be out of tune. We all have a story to tell and if we can share it and connect with someone who may need our message than nothing else matters to me. 

What has been the most difficult part of your creative journey? The hardest part of my journey is realizing that everything I want out of this life is up to me. I create my own destiny and that scares he crap out of me. I’ve lived amongst hard times and feel a comfort in failure that I’m not ready to give up entirely. My hardest struggle lives within myself but I’m going through it. 

Who is one of your favorite photographers? I adore Brooke Shade for all that she is and the messages she speaks. Her story is beautiful and giving and she tells it so well.