Unraveled Expert Artist Interview | Cally Neal, UEA

We are stoked to welcome Cally Neal as an Unraveled Expert Artist. We absolutely loved getting to know her in this interview and truly appreciate her presence and leadership within the Academy. Her work is vibrant and full of light and we have fallen in love with her overall energy and zest. Welcome home Cally.

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Here is Cally Neal, Unraveled…

What inspires your art?

I have so much in my life to be inspire by. I have been married for 16 years, have two beautiful children and I come from a big obnoxious loving family. I should say I find inspiration in them, and I do, However my fuel for creativity is my personal struggle with depression. Wow what an uplifting way to open up an interview right? Stay with me, I promise it's not all doom and gloom. I don't hide my struggle and for the first time in my life I am not ashamed of my struggle. In fact, I embrace it because it truly is the reason I do what I do. I have suffered from .....scratch that..... I have thrived despite of my depression for most of my adult life and probably a lot of my childhood. In all these years the one place that I could always escape to when I'm having a rough time is my art. If you lined up all my work from all my years behind the camera ( and it's many) I can tell by the quality of my work where I was at in my personal journey through depression. When I am in a funk.....I am a creating fool! Luckily my photography is the one area of my life that isn't affected by my depression....except that one time....but I'll address that in another question :) I hide from depression in my work. It's my safe place because I truly know that's something I am good at. When all else is crumbling around me I KNOW I am ok right here.....so that's where I stay. I take up residency behind my camera and that's ok. I find that after a low point, I can look back on my work and say "holy shit girl, you learned how to X,Y,Z" So I embrace what life has given me here because it makes me better in spite of myself.

What do you shoot with?

My camera is the Canon 6D and my favorite lenses are the Sigma 15mm fisheye (give me all the blue skies and starburts), the Canon 35 mm 1.4 and the Canon 135mm 2.0.

What other ways do you express your creativity?

I was handed the privilege of being born into a creatively talented family. My mom and dad both sing and play guitar. My mom is also an artist. I have one brother who sings, 1 brother who plays guitar and another who is an air brush artist and plays guitar. My baby sister is talented in telling every one she has no talent at all....and we have yet to see one :) I was blessed with my mom's artistic eye and her voice. We LOVE to sing. I feel like Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Dan Fogleberg make up the playlist of my childhood. I can still hear the brief needle scratch on the vinyl when she'd replay the songs over and over. I tend express myself through singing and writing. I am a lover of musical instruments and melodic voices. I love singer/songwriters.....which I why I have very little attraction to today's music. Give me natural harmonies any day over auto tune!

How do you destress at the end of the day?

A hot cup of tea and The Unraveled Academy. Seriously, I LOVE what you all have created with this academy. The genuine desire to inspire us and provide a wide variety of content is so refreshing and much appreciated. I will grab myself a cup of Sweet & Spicy tea from Good Earth....I may or may not add some whipped vodka and I dive into the courses. I just want to learn.

What kind of music do you listen to while editing?

Anything I can sing to. My family especially loves when the songs are way out of my high end range and I go for it anyway. I like to think of it as pushing my limits. My tastes in music vary drastically. I love everything from Metallica to Vilvadi, but my soul lives in folk music. I don't want to be told a story, I want you to sing it to me. My editing playlist will include The Indigo Girls, The Lumineers, Gordon Lightfoot, Brandi Carlile, Allison Krauss, Mumford and Sons and The Wailin Jennys. Just let me sing with you.

What is your favorite book?

I made it a goal a few years back to read 12 classic novels; one for each month of the year. It ended up taking me 2 years to get through all 12 because I needed to reference the dictionary every 5 sentences. We have gone so far downhill in the way we speak today that we can't even understand proper English. I am in love with Charles Dickens but it is amazing how a person can write so exquisitely and leave me so confused at the same time. I would have to say that Great Expectations and David Copperfield compete for top spot. Both are very lengthy and if there's one thing I hate is a really good short story....I want to stay in it for a while. They also plunged me into a sea of so many strange and beautiful characters. They depth that he gives each one of his characters is so intriguing. I have a few more Charles Dickens novels on my "book"et list.

Name one movie that inspires you?

Embrace. Embrace. Embrace. I can't love this movie enough. It's a movie I found on Netflix about battling body image. This is something I have struggled with as long as I can remember and this movie truly changed my life. I recommend it to every one. I have watched it over and over and over again.

How do you handle self-doubt or creative slumps? 

I have a lot of self doubt in a lot of areas. Am I a good wife? Am I doing enough for my kids? Was I shitty daughter? Am I still a shitty daughter? Probably. Am I a good enough employee? It's part o life. If you never question yourself, how do you ever find anything to improve upon? With my photography, I am confident. Not always in what I am producing but in my ability to produce. I may not look like so and so but I can if I want to. I think the key for me is finding work I like, comparing it to my own and then finding ways to achieve what I like about that other work. And I don't mean I want to take a photo of my child that looks just like that. I look at the photos or body of work and ask myself "why am I attracted to this? What is is telling me? What are the elements I love about it? What am I feeling? " Then I figure out how to incorporate my findings into my own work. My lighting in my home isn't like yours. My front yard isn't like yours and my children are not like yours. So I will never try to make my images look like yours. But I WILL work to invoke the emotion I feel when I look at others. And if it's technical....I just ask "hey how'd you do that?" I also enjoy a good challenge. Freelens for a whole week. Shoot only indoors for 3 days. Shoot at f11 exclusively for a week. Seriously.....f11 is hard!

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

The most difficult part of my journey was going through PPD with my daughter, not picking up my camera for a year and realizing I needed to step back from the business part of photography. I have folders upon folders in my hard drive. Since I am a daily shooter, my years literally have thousands of photos in them.....except one. There is one year that has maybe 100 photos and that's being generous. It was the year after my daughter was born. I know now that had I suffered from PPD but had no idea what was going on at the time. It was the only time in my life when even photography couldn't evoke emotions in me. I had nothing to offer anyone. I was completely disconnected. My marriage suffered, the children suffered, friendships, work; you name it. I had zero emotional connection to anything or anyone. I survived and that was it. I did not lay in bed crying all day. I worked, I took care of my kids, etc. But I literally felt nothing. When I look back at that folder, it literally crushes me. Not only was I robbed of the first year with my daughter on an emotional level but now I have few memories as well. I still feel pangs of bitterness over that but I just don't visit that folder often. I knew I needed to get healthy so I put my business aside so I could concentrate on me and them. It was a tough time but I am glad to say that 4 years later I am in such a magical relationship with my kids and I cherish every moment. Even the ones where I'm losing my shit and threatening to sell them to the gypsies. If I can offer any piece of advice to new moms.....if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Say something, to someone so that you don't end up with an empty folder in your life.

Who is one of your favorite photographers?

I guess I should drop names Ansel or Annie or Sally. They are truly amazing artists but I just can't say that I admire them more than the photographers currently in the industry today. It can be a brutal industry at times especially with social media pressures. So if you are out there shooting and learning and posting and shooting again, I admire you! It can be intimidating and being so vulnerable in this world of comparison is truly badass. Whether you are going up against the competition to pay your bills or documenting a life for your future generations to look back on, you are killing it and I am proud of you. So in the end, my favorite artist is you :)

Sarah DriscollComment