Traci Lester, Unraveled | An Interview

Traci is an emotive family photographer located in High Point, NC- primarily focusing on the beauty and light in motherhood. She strives to remind us of the power in the small moments that we have all become numb to through her images, and loves the challenge of capturing beauty in the ordinary. Motivated by her two sons, Traci never gave up on her dream of being a full time photographer. Her number one affirmation is, “I never want to tell my sons that I used to be…....” . Hopefully, through her, they will see that following your heart through life is the best thing you could ever choose to do.

Traci is one of the teachers of Empowering Women of Color Through Photography alongside Toni Black, J’aime Davis and Chinelle Rojas. This is a ground-breaking MasterCourse that aspires to break down the stereotypes and misconceptions behind women of color in life and business, educate the public, as well as inspire and empower all people to connect, support and validate one another on their creative journeys, despite their race or color. Students will not only learn history but they will learn how to be inclusive in their business model, expose for different skin tones, and shoot what matters most.

Click HERE to join our tribe and take this Master Course.

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What inspires your art?

You know, I actually don’t have an answer for that. I never do.

All I know is that I have this burning feeling inside of me, screaming at me to “take the picture”. When I try to stop I can’t, and when I try to give up..the voice gets louder. I just made my life easier and listened to my heart, for once. When I look at an image I take, I can see into the person- effortlessly. That has to mean something, right?

What do you shoot with? Camera body and favorite lens?

For my personal work i primarily shoot with a Nikon D750 and a 50mm 1.8.

As far as my favorite, I would have to say I am in love with the 50mm the most. I know it’s a super popular lens, but I seriously love the focal length for my work! 35mm would be a close second.

Shooting a lot of small kids, and finding movement in my images calls for something a bit wider and I think the 50mm and 35mm are just right for what I do.

What other ways do you express your creativity?

Honestly, social media is another creative outlet for me!

It all started with MySpace, sitting up late coding and manipulating how my layout looked...not knowing I could've used that knowledge to be rich LOL. Making hearts fall from my profile status and making a Drake song play when you visit my page. I am so specific and proud about my Instagram, and it’s all Tom’s fault!

How do you de-stress at the end of the day?

De-stressing to me is finishing up my work. I sleep so peacefully when I finish things up that have been hovering over my head. I live with my entire family, and feeling all that energy buzzing around me makes it very hard to work steadily. I think about my work all day, knowing I can’t start on it until finally siitting down and really getting a lot of work done is the best feeling! It just works that way for me! I am actually typing this at 4:52am….I ain’t lyin’!

What kind of music do you listen to while editing?

I actually listen to Podcasts! I catch up on the latest Unraveled Interview, or listen to the gossip and current events on the Breakfast Club or The Read. Keeps me young, lol.

Fun Fact!: I have this weird thing where i always need background noise, and it needs to be somebody talking. I grew up spending lots of time with family in West Virginia and my uncle always had a police scanner thing turned on. I can hear him now saying “Gail, somebody done got in a fist fight over in Long Branch!” Even now, with all the advancements, he still keeps that old radio on.

It never turned off, so once you were there for a while, your brain would kind of tune it out. Now, as an adult, I can’t sleep without it. Weird.

What is your favorite book?

I can’t tell you anything from any book I’ve ever read, or any movie I’ve ever watched. About a month after I read a book, it’s like I’ve never read it.

Name one movie that inspires you.

See previous question, lol. I love a good documentary though!

How do you handle self-doubt or creative slumps?

Discipline, perseverance. Even if it gets to the point where I cry. I will allow myself the tears, while simultaneously reminding myself that it’s just a phase. I remember the last slump, and notice how I came out of it which helps me keep pushing.

For self doubt, I keep an album of every blog feature, heartfelt comment, words of encouragement, ANYTHING positive about my journey. I can honestly say that looking through all those screenshots does the trick every single time.

What has been the most difficult part of your creative journey?

Knowing that not everybody will get it, or see what I see. Sometimes I just want to grab people by the face and say, “DO YOU KNOW HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS IS? SHE IS LITERALLY CREATING A LIFE!” … It can be hard when you see soooo deep into our existence, and can’t share that same sight with others- who are only looking at the surface. Being understood by other creatives really saves my sanity most days, and holds off my frustrations a lot.

Who is one of your favorite photographers?

(@maximushka) Maxim Vakhovskiy. First of all, he captured some of the most beautiful portraits of me and my son, during a time when I was moving through life on autopilot without even knowing who I was. His images made me face myself in a way that I had never done before. For the first time in my life, I saw myself as a woman and most importantly -as a Mother. The unconventional way in which he captures women with their children is AMAZING and breathtaking...I could literally write a love song about his work. Besides his work, seeing him in real life, actually photographing so distinctly and with such purpose inspired me beyond words. You can see our images on his Instagram, along with so many other beautiful, powerful ass women.

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