The small Spanish town of Teruel turns into a 13th-century medieval city every February. For three days, its people wear medieval clothes and celebrate two lovers for a festival called Las Bodas de Isabel de Segura.
“Here, you can take your camera and be free,” the director of the festival said to Lori Needleman.
Documenting the festival, its people and its events was a special experience, Needleman said.
Needleman, an American photographer and blogger, is working on a project called “10 Años España,” which documents her 10 years living in Spain through photography. Prior to moving to Spain, Needleman took photography and writing classes through UCLA’s continuing education program for four years.
The Daily Bruin’s Gail Acosta spoke with Needleman about her journey to become a photographer, her current project and her advice for aspiring bloggers and photographers.
Daily Bruin: Did you always want to become a photographer? Was it always a dream of yours?
Lori Needleman: Ever since I was in high school, absolutely. It was one of the most important things in my life back then. I got a camera during high school and then I started taking photos after that. When I went to Boston University, I ended up taking something safe – it was in the College of Communications. I did advertising and marketing. I did a minor in photography.
DB: Why did you decide to take the safe route instead of majoring in photography?
LN: It’s definitely a battle that every artist faces. I have always wanted stability … I kind of fluctuated between entertainment, working for casting director and agents. When I was in Los Angeles, it kind of got to a point where I was talking with an executive at an entertainment company and he looked me right in the eye and asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” and I said “Photography.” Then that was when I took my first class at UCLA and I never looked back.
DB: What was the most valuable lesson you learned as a student photographer at UCLA?
LN: You also need to learn the importance of technology. I think that while you’re in school, it’s important to learn all you can about that aspect as well as learning about marketing. I think one of the most difficult parts of being a photographer is being able to figure out exactly how you’re going to market yourself in a very saturated marketplace. Marketing includes publicity, social media, creating your own style and how you’re actually going to be able to sell that.
DB: Are you currently working on any projects?
LN: I’m working toward 10 years of being here in Spain in a few years. I’m working on a project that’s 10 Años (or 10 years) España. I want to sort of focus on the small city where I live here in Spain … Being able to be part of the community here has really been such an exceptional experience because I’ve documented things that we in America have never seen … I’m hoping to release in two years.
DB: What do you think is the most challenging part about being a photographer?
LN: I think sacrifice. I think that you dedicate an immense amount of time working on just one particular project. You need to really focus and develop that project in a way that you may not be aware at the beginning how it evolves.
As I started here, I just started documenting a lot of events and people that I had come in contact with. Through time, I realized more what my project was going to be so a lot of time, a lot of dedication, a lot of editing, a lot of blogging, a lot of uploading to websites, a lot of perseverance. You have to just continue working and not give up on your projects.
DB: What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers or writers in general?
LN: The first thing is I would take classes. I would make sure you dedicate time to practicing and then create a portfolio of your writing whether it’s your own personal website or pieces that you might do in school. From there, you need to do a lot of legwork. You need to start emailing editors and telling them of your own interest to write. The second most important thing I think is to create an online presence. Make sure that what you’re putting out there is visually stimulating because your identity is what is your calling card nowadays.