I am so stoked for this interview today, you guys. Doubtless, if you hang around the YA twitter and blogosphere (and, I mean you’re here, so…), you have seen the amazing work of Margot Wood floating around. Margot, who dubs herself the Real Fauxtographer, creates some seriously gorgeous photos inspired by YA novels and they are absolutely amazing. The added bonus here is, of course, that we get visual representations of some of our favorite books!
Anyway, I fangirl over these photos pretty much any time she creates a new one and, when I asked, Margot was kind enough to answer a few question about her work!
Jen: Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not reading YA/taking photos inspired by YA? What was your photography work like before starting the series?
Margot: By night (and weekends), you may know me The Real Fauxtographer – sometimes masked crusader of the photographic world, taking photos inspired by young adult novels. By day, most people just know me as Margot Wood – occasional tweeter and Community Manager of a certain awesome online book community.
When not reading, working, planning or taking fauxtos you can generally find me at the Peter Pan bakery in Brooklyn eating donuts, playing soccer or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.
Before the YA series was started, a lot of my photographic work was focused on urban decay. Before the series, I would just wander in NYC trying to find interesting graffiti or unique landmarks that most people in the city wouldn’t even notice. Most of my photos were pretty unfocused before I started my series. I remember feeling really disappointed whenever I would come home from one of my walks without any good shots. It took me a few years to figure out and accept that I am just not much of a “spur of the moment” or “street” photographer. I am definitely a conceptual photog. I like to come up with ideas and plan them out ahead of time. So when I came up with this series, you can imagine how happy and excited I was that I had finally found something I could truly say was original and call my own.
Jen: What was the first photo you did for your YA series and what about that book made you think “this would make a great photo? How did the project grow from there?
Margot: The first photo I did for the series was The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. The idea for a photo slowly materialized while I was reading that book. There wasn’t a particular scene that stood out, it was mostly Carrie’s writing style and tone that gave me this. . . feeling. You could say it gave me the feels. The creepy, slightly on edge but still enticed feels. I knew I wanted to be able to capture on camera the same feeling and tone Carrie wrote that book with as best as I could. The original photo (the one in my head) looks nothing like the one I achieved, mostly because I don’t have access to a professional lighting studio or makeup department, but one day I will redo that photo and make it exactly how I envisioned.
After I put that photo up, I figured I would go back to doing urban landscape photography, but it was through the encouragement of a few people on Twitter and my good friend Kristan Hoffman (www.kristanhoffman.com) that I decided to try creating photos for a few other books. After about three shots, I decided I would aim for 10…then 15….and now, well, now I’m just seeing how long and how far I can keep going with this before I either get a coffee table book published, or until I get tired doing it – which I don’t see happening anytime in the near future.
Jen: Do you have a favorite photo from your series? A least favorite? And why do they stand that way in your mind?
Margot: Don’t make me choooose! There are certainly a few that stand out in my mind as being favorites because they are the most visually arresting and most accurate to the book or characters from the book. Those would have to be Across the Universe, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Tiger Lily.
As for a least favorite that’s tough to say because I refuse to post any photos if they aren’t exactly what I want, but my least favorite is probably Graffiti Moon. I absolutely love that book but the photo uses a editing technique called cross-process….non-photo people would know that process as Instagram. To me, the Graffiti Moon photo looks too much like something you’d see on Instagram and as such, to me, it is not as good as the others. While I still like that photo, I just prefer that my work reflect the time I put into it, rather than look like something I took on my phone and then uploaded to an app. If I had taken and posted that photo about 4 years ago people would have been amazed by the depth of colors and the editing style, but now that style is so overdone, I don’t think anyone was impressed.
Jen: I may or may not use Instagram more than is strictly necessary, but it at least impressed me.
Which photo was the most FUN to do?
Margot: Definitely the Beauty Queens photo. I got the whole Wood family involved with that one. The lovely ladies putting up with 40 degree weather in that shot are my sisters and my younger cousin. My mother made the sashes and my Dad helped my pick the location. It was a team effort that involved lots of smeared makeup, hair teasing and laughing as confused people walked by us on the beach.
Jen: My book club and I actually almost did a (much poorer) photoshoot like this based on Beauty Queens! Thank you for saving us the trouble ;)
What is your favorite part of the process: location scouting, shooting, editing… or something else entirely?
Margot: The best part is coming up with the ideas, so reading the books and then tossing around various ideas until I land on one that is challenging but also within the realm of accomplishing.
Location scouting would be my favorite but I have really limited options in NYC. I don’t have a car and I don’t know the surrounding towns well enough to even know where to begin looking for locations. A lot of my photos are done in Cincinnati, where I’m from, because I know the city much better and it has a lot to offer in terms of different kinds of settings. NYC doesn’t provide much except for cityscapes.
But really, editing is my favorite part. When I’m actually shooting, I know exactly how I plan on editing the photo, so really I’m just photographing in a way that I can achieve what I want during the editing process. While editing, that’s when I get the play with the photos and really see the magic.
Jen: On average: How long do you think you spend on each photo between ALL of the steps in the process?
Margot: The entire process from reading the book, coming up with the concept, shooting and editing? That varies and lately it’s been getting much longer – mostly because my ideas are getting much grander. The quickest I’ve ever done the entire process was with Don’t Breathe A Word. That whole process was a few days from reading the book to posting the final photo online. The longest it’s taken me to achieve a photo was with Cinder. I kept going back and forth on what I wanted to do with that photo and then how I was going to create a realistic cyborg and then this and then that and then this and then that. I read that book in January but didn’t take the photo until October.
Jen: I can see where it would be difficult to work Cinder out, but I think you did a wonderful job.
Is there a book that you really want to create a photo for, but haven’t hit upon an idea that you like just yet? And/or a location you want to use, but haven’t “met” the right book yet?
Margot: Yes to both! For the book but no idea has materialized yet is Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I adored that book and some very obvious images came to mind when I read it, but none that gave me that “I gotta do this photo” spark. That might be one of those books I re-read in a year or two and see what comes to mind then.
Location – I had planned a trip to the Canadian Rockies this winter and so I went about the whole fauxto thing backwards. I knew exactly where I was going & what the landscape would be like I just needed to find the right book to match it. While that trip never happened, I imagine I’ll be doing the same thing again for any and all upcoming trips this year.
Jen: Oh, I bet photos with that kind of backdrop would be B-E-A-U-tiful.
Can we get a sneak peek into your photo plans? What’s coming up next? (If you don’t want to really reveal anything, clues would be fine, haha)
Margot: Here’s a list of the books I am 99.9% doing photos for so far in 2013:
Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Blood Red Road by Moira Young (I want to go to the desert for this one!)
Here’s a short list of books I haven’t yet read but am pretty sure I’ll want to do photos for:
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (yes, I know it’s absurd I haven’t read this)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
As for next “big” project after this series? Well…I do have sooper sekret plans, but I’ll give you just a taste. A YA novel that I shall co-write with an established author where something happens in the plot and half-way through the narrative, it switches from words and text to images…I can’t say more!
Jen: Ack, I see a few on that list that I’m already chomping at the bit for (I’d do the *cough* insert-title-here thing, but honestly I’d be here “coughing” for a while)! And I’m definitely intrigued about those “sooper sekret plans.”
Thank you so much for stopping by, Margot!
Margot: Thanks for having me!!!
Readers, you can find Margot on her