By Asia Sheppard
Sally Gupton is a prominent and extraordinary photographer from Winston-Salem. I got to catch up with her at her cozy and welcoming office downtown. Sally is just like the vibrant photos that she shoots: charismatic, elegant, and engaging.
Sally is a native of Winston-Salem and is the hardworking mother of three boys. “Being a mother has really put my life into perspective, making me want to be my best and do better things in this world. They are a huge inspiration for everything I do,” said Sally. She stays active. She loves the outdoors, backpacking, kayaking, and traveling. She is also a writer (as you can see on her beautiful photography blog). “I blog photography experiences of all of the people I meet and come across.” She interestingly, has a degree in biotechnology. “I studied science before I started my photography business which was wonderful but I kept getting laid off because of grants so that led me into photography.”
Photography has always been a part of her life. “I grew up with a mother who always had a camera in her hand. She was not a professional. She just loved it. Through experiencing that with her I learned all about manual settings, composition, and I was always one of her subjects. It was a really big part of our relationship and our lives.” From growing up with photography it got integrated into her life. When she had her first child she was obsessed with capturing his life and through that she got better at the art. “People started telling me that I was getting really good at it. They started asking me to do pictures for them and I got request to do weddings. This was 19 years ago and I honestly would have never thought that it would turn into a business. I just did it because I love it,” Sally explained. Over time this led into her doing it more often than not. She got a good grasp on doing business and it snowballed into her successful business.
Sally considers herself a “lifestyle portrait” artist. “Lifestyle is people’s way of living. It’s their personal style ranging from how they spend their time together as a family to their personal style (clothing/home). For example with a family photo shoot. If they like to spend their time at the beach I want to incorporate that into the photo shoot. It tells the story of how they live their life and who they are. It is very self expressive,” Sally explained. Her style is contemporary but not very traditional. “It is not your traditional sit and pose. I like to keep things moving. There is nothing wrong with a beautiful portrait but when people are doing what they love you get genuine expressions. Like when I shoot children, parents get true expressions from their kids instead of a cheesy smile. I think that’s important.” She thinks it is essential when she is shooting to incorporate the five senses and movement. “You have to be able to capture the emotion and a 360 degree angle. The picture should tell a story and make you feel like you are there.”
When it comes to shooting the type of camera that is used is essential. “When I started out I did not know the power of a camera and they were not as advanced as they are now,” said Sally. She started out shooting film and as things transitioned into digital she got a grasp on it. “Film is beautiful and there is no way to replicate it. I reluctantly got into shooting digital. The overhead is little to nothing with digital versus film.” Her first camera was just a simple digital camera. “It was just a little Nikon D70 or something. It was just a $300 camera but I worked it for all it had. I grew my business and portfolio with that camera. I eventually outgrew it because as I learned manual settings and what the camera was capable of I needed more of an advanced camera that allowed me more creative space.” According to Sally you do not necessarily need that big and expensive camera to come out with good prints. “I think you can do beautiful work with a mediocre camera. Your camera doesn’t limit you as an artist. You can do amazing things. Just as a professional I think the more you shoot you kind of grow into the bigger cameras.” She also thinks that you are not defined by your camera. Having an expensive camera does not make you a professional. It is the person behind the camera that makes the great art.
When it comes to an artist having a “favorite artist” they usually find that they are their own. It is not conceit but more of a finding your own way as an artist. “When I first started I had a lot of artist I admired and I got to the point where I had to quit looking because I would just subconsciously copy them all the time. I had to break away from other artist and just be my own person. But I do admire Barbara Uil. She juggles being a mother, has an amazing business model and is a remarkable artist. I really admire her writing and her pictures,” said Sally.
She loves having her business based in Winston Salem. “Business in Winston Salem has been great. It’s my hometown! It means a lot to me to be here and to be a part of this art community. Over time as I have gotten to know families and been a part of their lives year after year from shooting their weddings to their babies and its just been amazing. “It’s so meaningful to be such an integrated part of the town where I grew up and now I get to share it with my children. Not to mention how well my photography business has been embraced.”
Whenever an artist is asked what their favorite piece is, it usually is something very personal and with Sally it truly is. “I was a surrogate; I had a baby for a couple. I’m not ever in front of the camera and I allowed myself to be documented through that journey. On the flip coin of that, I have gotten to document her life since she’s been here. I was documented before she arrived and now I’ve been documenting her life and that’s been an amazing experience and story to tell that I am directly involved with. I’ve been given the blessing to still be a part of her life and to be able to photograph her.”
All in all Sally Gupton is fascinating. She has an ongoing travel documentary. Once a year she takes a trip to another country to photograph and document a different culture. If you want to get the opportunity to work with her she has mini sessions this month and it is an opportunity not to be passed up! “I am doing what I love,” Sally says and by looking at her captivating photography you can tell.