Rita Thompson is one of those rare artists who proves to be as compassionate and insightful behind the camera as she is in front of it. With a keen eye and inherent understanding of her subjects, Rita has created a body of work that, while varying in content (from kids, to landscapes, to "New York Lifestyle"), shares an altogether unfaltering sincerity and authenticity that can be achieved only by the most seasoned of photographers. Beginning her stint in the creative industry as an Art Director before later transitioning over to photography, Rita's understanding of aesthic excellence undoubtedly proves second nature. A fascinating and exceptional artist, Rita took the time to chat with JMI about her life, creative trajectory, and the passion that drives her work.
JMI Reps: I find your backstory so incredibly fascinating. You have such an incredible eye and demonstrate a means of creative storytelling that's clearly innate...and yet, you weren't always a photographer. For those who don't know it, tell us a little bit about your story; how did you become a photographer?
Rita Thompson: I spent the majority of my career as an advertising art director working at agencies across the country, from NYC to Portland, Oregon to Austin to Dallas. I even had my own little ad shop in Jackson Hole for a bit. I always loved working with photographers and taking pictures, but when I had my first child, I found taking photos became really important to me. I had this strong need to document them, and through that I fell in love with photography.
JMI: What advantages would you say your background in advertising has given you? Did it alter your creative perspective at all?
RT: Having been on that side of the business, I understand what agency creatives and clients want to achieve. And I love the collaboration. Working on advertising projects feels very natural to me.
JMI: When you first started in the business, you put together a beautiful portfolio with a focus on children's photography. You've now expanded your work to include New York Lifestyle and Landscapes, as well...but what drew you to kid's photography from the beginning?
RT: I have never had the best memory, but I can visit any photograph of myself as a child and remember being there. So I photographed my children a lot, giving me peace that I could revisit those amazing and fleeting little moments any time I wanted to. My focus had been on children's photography because children have been my world, and I have been shooting my world.
JMI: Is there something in particular that you aim to capture within your kids work?
RT: I like to capture all aspects of being a kid in its truest essence, from the little happy triumps to the disappointing -- it's all equally awesome in my eyes.
JMI: There's a refreshing, unstaged element to your work that makes the captured scene feel and appear incredibly natural. What's your key to achieving that?
RT: My whole life - starting in childhood - I liked observing people. Now, I just observe with a camera in hand. When something grabs me or makes me smile, I shoot.
JMI: How would you say your work has evolved since you first started out as a photographer?
RT: I have lifted my camera off of my own life and onto the world around me.
JMI: Talk a little bit about the "New York Lifestyle" installment of your portfolio. This was such a novel and creative idea, and something that's not really been done before. How did you come up with this, and what's the message or feeling you try to convey through this body of work?
RT: I like to show what life is like living in this funny city...like tiny kids playing a soccer match right under the Western Hemisphere's tallest building. It's like this big, giant monster standing behind them constantly that they don't notice. Everything is out of proportion and extreme here, challenging New Yorkers to come up with creative ways of living or raising a family. It's fun to document.
JMI: Your landscapes are also incredibly beautiful, and very different from the rest of your work. What's your inspiration here?
RT: Being on this earth -- it's an amazing experience.
JMI: Moving forward, are there any other avenues you'd like to explore in photography? (Food, travel, interiors....)
RT: People and travel excite me. I also want to photograph Bill Cunningham for my "New York Lifestyle." I was extremely flattered that he put me on his New York Times style pages a couple of times, once going to a polo match on Governor's Island, and then another time riding a tandem bike with my daughter during NYC's Summer Streets; neither time did I see the legend himself!
JMI: Ok, last question, and less work-specific: if you could give yourself one piece of life advice, ten years ago, what would it be?
RT: "Rita of ten years ago...buy property in NYC!" (laughs) ...I've always trusted life to show us our path. I think, if anything, I am thankful that I was present these past ten years when life steered me towards photography, and that I married a man who has always supported and encouraged my passion for it.