OUR HOMETOWN: Williams Lake photographer strives to capture moments, record history

Photographer Laureen Carruthers pictured with her miniature donkey. (Joel Gyselinck photo)Photographer Laureen Carruthers pictured with her miniature donkey. (Joel Gyselinck photo)
Laureen Carruthers photographyLaureen Carruthers photography
Laureen Carruthers photographyLaureen Carruthers photography
Laureen Carruthers photographyLaureen Carruthers photography
Laureen Carruthers photographyLaureen Carruthers photography
Laureen Carruthers photographyLaureen Carruthers photography
Laureen Carruthers photographyLaureen Carruthers photography

A visual storyteller from the time she was a teenager, Laureen Carruthers has been a professional photographer in Williams Lake for over 15 years.

Her love for photography began after she saw an enlarged photograph her high school art teacher, David Abbott, had taken of his daughters, which included Carruthers’ lifelong friend, Kelly Abbott. She recalled looking up at that photo and instantly knowing that she wanted to take photos of her own children like that one day.

Now, she photographs just about everything, from intimate portraits of mothers with their newly born babes to action-packed rodeo photos. Her photos are warm and authentic, capturing precious moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

When looking at her work, it’s as if you’ve walked into a memory and are now truly there. You can hear the rushing water as a fisherman carefully stabilizes himself against jagged rocks while holding out a net of fish. You feel the wind from the bride’s dress as her groom whisks her into the air.

Time stands still in a photograph, yet in her work, you see an entire story unfolding.

Carruthers is drawn to what’s real, and she “[tries] to capture that no matter what genre [she is] photographing.”

While she could never pick a favourite moment as a photographer, she cherishes being able to photograph children, like the photos of her own boys with her father who has since passed. Encapsulating moments like that is something she’ll never forget.

Carruthers opened her photo studio around 2012 after outgrowing her basement, where she was photographing families and newborns. Her studio allowed her more space, far superior lighting and the ability to grow her business into commercial work as well.

Outside of her studio, she’s built special connections with the Tsilhqot’in National Government, where she works for them on a contract basis. She loves all she’s learned about the First Nations culture and traditions, including “how the elders are treasured” and being able to photograph them, with “their faces [having] so much to tell.”

She also volunteers some of her time, where annually she photographs the Williams Lake Stampede and more recently the Williams Lake Stampeders hockey team. She was drawn to sports photography after her boys got into things like mountain biking and soccer. Some of her volunteer work is much harder but leaves bereaved parents with truly invaluable keepsakes – photos of their adored stillborn babies. Carruthers said, “this one is really hard to do, but I feel is so very important,” including trying to capture precious moments between family members who are in the process of losing a loved one.

“I want to take photos that will matter in years to come, be it for families, maybe history lessons… Things that will make a difference in people’s lives.”

As for the future, Carruthers said she will always continue to learn and would love to do more travel photography, allowing her to see and learn about more cultures. She believes that “life imitates art” and that “all of [her] work is because of who [she is] and how [she sees] things in the world. [Her] photos are just an extension of things [she sees and feels].”

Along with her high school art teacher, David Abbott, some of her influences include Sue Bryce, whom she saw in Seattle after she won a trip to see her, and Annie Leibovitz, whose lighting and art direction she studies. She’s also inspired by old movies and paintings.

As for her own advice for aspiring photographers, she encourages them to learn everything they can about light, and not to simply rely on Photoshop. Photography means “drawing with light,” and “knowing light is by far the most important element of a good photo,” Carruthers said.

While camera-shy herself, Carruthers encourages people to get photos of themselves taken because “they are the only keepsakes we have of moments that will never again happen. They are history… We all matter. We are all a story that needs to be told and remembered.”

Her work has been published many times. One of the highlights of her career was when she won a Canada-wide photo contest through Getty Images. She was flown out to Toronto where she accepted her award.

In her personal life, Laureen and her partner Joel Gyselinck, who also works as her second shooter at weddings, enjoy living on an acreage on the outskirts of the city. Their hobbies include gardening and caring for their growing mix of animals including chickens, miniature donkeys, a pony, a horse, one goose, a cat and their basset hounds.

Recently, she was nominated by an anonymous community member for a BC Small Business Award, which she says “is truly an honour. Receiving letters of support over the last few days has moved me to tears and really helped me realize just how much my work matters in people’s lives, and I honestly feel like this is enough. Winning would be awesome, but feeling the love and appreciation I have over this last week is really enough.”

While she would love to have less social media in her life, social media is a helpful avenue in her receiving business and sharing her work. Her website is www.laureencarruthersphotography.com. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook by searching Laureen Carruthers Photography.

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