We’re always hooked on those who have found their passion and are completely taken up in it. If they then manage to turn their passion into a career, they deserve our full respect. Susanna Risser, the founder of the successful Instagram channel @ladycascades, is one of those people. Seven years ago, she started photography – today, it is her job. And she manages it – all while being a mom to little twin boys – with flying colors. In today’s interview, we got to ask Susanna about her photography, her motherhood and the advantages of social media for her job. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we did!
Susanna, you’re an amazing photographer. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your professional career? When and how did you start being interested in photography and how did it become your profession?
On your website, you say that photography is a form of self-expression. What is important to you when taking pictures, what do you look for in an image and which message do you want your photographs to convey?
I tend to be a moody photographer as you can clearly see in my images. I used to suffer greatly with depression and my photos in a way were a reflection of what I was feeling inside. It’s funny when people read that because I’m actually quite outgoing and a very positive person. My moody, dark images are a way to reflect what I have gone through or what I came from. Images that move you, captivate you and that you can feel, is what I find most relatable. I want my audience to feel something when they see my images. I want them to know there is a story behind it, and it’s so much more than what they see, but what they feel.
Together with Christine Farmer, you started the Abide Photo Retreat. Can you tell us what it is exactly, what people you’re trying to reach with it and what the goal of each retreat is?
Christine is super talented and we have such a wonderful connection. Together on one of our little road trips in Oregon, the discussion came up of orchestrating a workshop together. But the word workshop didn’t resonate with either of us. Workshop sounds like, well, work! Especially coming from two moms of multiple children with careers! It just sounded like it would be exhausting. But a retreat,… who doesn’t want to do a retreat!?
And it is exactly just that: because our aim is inspiration and the absorption of knowledge through rest, not work. There is a crucial need for rest we all hold as artists. We need to take time away from the demands of being a business owner. We need to take time away from the outside world. We need to take time to remember who we are and what drives us as creators.
The entire weekend is devoted to rekindling passion and inspiration. It’s our hope that these women will leave feeling awakened, encouraged and filled. Not to mention we have an incredible chef preparing our food! And it’s out in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful lake in a gorgeous newly-built cabin. We really look forward to it!
Has there been one specific photograph or photoshoot that you will always remember because you think it was exceptional? Do you have any dreams of what kind of picture you’d like to take or shooting you’d like to do?
I feel like every shoot I’ve done is my favorite, ha! I’m not about stiff, posed and stagnant poses because it’s not authentic. Give me the real. Show me what makes your heart beat. I’m about capturing the raw, the mundane beautiful messy life you have. Because it’s stunning. Family lifestyle shoots are my favorite. I love kids. GIVE ME ALL THE KIDS! But one thing that I would love to tap into is more birth photography. It doesn’t get much more emotional than that. #DREAMS
You’re not only a photographer but also a mother of twin boys. We believe that can be challenging at times – juggling career and family. How did your life change after having kids, what kind of an experience has it been for you? Do you have any advice for mothers that are trying to have both a job they’re passionate about while also being a great mom as you are?
Being a mother is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. To us. My husband and I didn’t get there as easy as it does for some people. I took us a while. But when God decided that it was time, it was perfect. It is the single most hardest job that a person can do. It’s exhausting, robs you of all the energy you possess. You hold the world on your shoulders and your job never ends. You don’t have freedom anymore. But it’s the only thing your heart desires. You wouldn’t trade it for the entire universe.
Finding a balance between being a mama and a full-time artist wasn’t easy. But we developed a strict routine and agenda that allows me to shift my brain from mom mode to work mode. From four months old we had a strict bedtime routine. Since that age, my boys have gone to bed at 6:30. After they go down, I work. Whether I am in the field shooting, or on my laptop editing. I work from the time they go down to about 11 o’clock at night. But I do this so I can be present with my kids while they are awake. I’m sure things will change as they get older but this is what works best for us in this season.
My advice for any working mom is to try to find time for yourself and for your spouse (if you have one). Don’t neglect the relationships in your life. Work should always come 3rd or 4th. But even if it’s 4th or 5th on your list, always give it your all!
Due to your great photos, your Instagram account is very successful. Has social media had an impact on your job or the people you reach?
Without the success of my Instagram following, I don’t think I would be as known. I know I’d be the same artist with the same visions and dreams but as far as how widespread my clients have become, I definitely credit my large Instagram following. It has allowed me to travel, be part of incredible events and collaborations with some huge brands (Gap, UppaBaby, Traeger Grills, Clekinc, Fount Leather, Ona bags and so many more). I’m thankful for the abundance of opportunity and people I’ve reached through this outlet. I feel very, very blessed and hope I can use my Instagram as a visual gateway of inspiration to other artists, mothers and creatives out there.
I only hope to use it for good and encourage others in their trade. How could I not use it as something positive? I try my best to be as relatable and transparent as possible. I don’t think any of us should hide our true colors on the inside. Art is about self-expression and Instagram is a huge outlet for creativity. I feel fortunate to live in a country that allows me to be as expressive as I want without it being illegal. That sounds strange, but it’s true. We have voices and we are allowed to use them. Freedom isn’t free. But living in America, we have a lot of freedom. I think we all have some serious blessings to count, don’t ya think?
Do you follow a certain strategy on social media or do you just use it rather randomly to share your photographs?
I have a few strategies. But even though I know the ins and outs of social media, I think my biggest and best form of advice is to just post what you want to post, when you want to post it and don’t worry about what others think or how many likes you’re going to get. It’s silly, really. Be true to yourself, always. Do your best not to compare either. Comparison is the thief of joy. Let your inner self shine for all to see. After all, no one is you and that is your super power ;).
We thank Susanna for the time she took to show us more about what Lady Cascades is made of. Her art of photography is truly stunning and we hope that many more will hire her to capture some of the most raw moments of their lives.
*numbers current at time of writing