The Photographer Project: Marni Rothschild Durlach

Portrait by Diana Deaver

What’s your birthdate?   August 2nd (you don’t need the year, right??? Ha!)

When did you first pick up a camera?  Tell me about that.  When did you know you had a talent for photography?  Natural talent or learned process?

I was drawn to photography in elementary school. After playing with a polaroid and convincing my parents I really wanted to stick with it, I got an SLR in 6th grade and spent the next summer in my basement setting up backdrops and still lives. I studied art and art history in college at James Madison and got an MFA in Photography at VCU. I knew I would go down this path from a really young age…Photography is my only skill!  I thought briefly about being a vet because I love animals so much but blood makes me dizzy. 

What do you love to photograph?  Light and love. Things you can’t fake. 

Who are some of your photographer icons and/or mentors?    Arnold Newman for his ability to compress an entire personality into one frame.  Irving Penn for the way he conveyed exquisite beauty in the ordinary and extraordinary.  Annie Leibowitz for everything, but especially her early, gritty work with Rolling Stone and her amazing compilation “Women.” Rodney Smith for his balance of whimsy and sophistication. Aaron Siskind for his striking studies of texture and negative space. 

You get to have dinner with 3 other people, alive or deceased.  With whom would you dine?  What would you ask them?    Arnold Newman, Sally Mann and John Dolan. I want the dirt on the craziest things they’ve seen and heard during their long and celebrated careers in the business. 

Do you know when you have a spectacular shot, or does that come about in the editing process?  I know it when I click the shutter. I suppose the process is more emotional than technical for me. 

What makes you feel connected to your subject?   We talk! The whole time I shoot I ask questions and listen to them talk about their background, their families, travels, anything that we might have in common. When I shoot film I have to reload the camera and there’s definitely some down time when I do that. I love the moments in between rolls when the subject can relax with no camera focused on them, you can literally see their shoulders relax and it makes a big difference in the outcome. Or that might be from the champagne I bring. 

What are your thoughts on editing?  Like it or abhor it?  Do it yourself?   Definitely abhor it. That’s one of the reasons I shoot film, so I don’t have to sit in front of my computer tweaking skin tones. I have a local editor for my digital wedding pictures but I edit my smaller portrait sessions if I have time. 

Is there any genre of photography that you’d like to explore further?   I’d like to do a series on wooden boats and classic yachts. Any excuse to be closer to the water.  

What’s on your photographic bucket list?   I’m going to Cumberland Island for spring break and I’ve always wanted to shoot the wild horses there. I’d really love to shoot the America’s Cup one day, too. 

What inspires you?   Beauty in the everyday and anything genuine. 

How would you handle a difference of opinion with a client?   Fortunately, in 16 years of shooting weddings I’ve had fewer than I can count on one hand. But first I would diplomatically encourage them to consider another perspective. If that’s not effective I would find a solution that makes everybody feel satisfied. 

What advice would you give an up and coming photographer?   Always take time to make art for yourself. 

Are you involved in any kind of continuing education or professional groups?   I attend the Engage! conferences every few years and I take workshops when I need to recharge. I’ve taken some in Maine and I’ve done one through Musea called “the Gathering” that was so inspiring in New York two years ago. And though it’s not a formal group, locally there are a few photographers that I get together with regularly and we always bounce ideas around and vent! I’m also a member of NPS and PPA. 

What makes you feel loved?   When my husband cooks me a meal after a shoot.

What are your favorite conditions/lighting/circumstances to shoot?   Anywhere in Charleston, especially at high tide. The light coming off the water is always so beautiful. 

What are your social media handles?

Instagram: @marnipictures

FB: @marnipictures

Website: marnipictures.com

What makes you feel pretty?  A good lip. And lots of photoshopping. I kid. Kind of. Not kidding at all. 

Do you have any other thoughts or things to say about your profession?   Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. Even when I’m achingly sore from a long wedding or laying out albums until the wee hours it’s so satisfying to know that I’m creating and preserving moments that people will remember for the rest of their lives. 

Photo by Alice Keeney

Candid courtesy of Marni Rothschild Durlach

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