Those truly lucky in life don’t ever have to choose their career. Their career will choose them. Whether she knew it at the time or not, Laura Gooley’s draw towards photography would eventually put her on a path to online sales, art shows, and gallery showings. And it all began in Erie, PA with a blue and yellow Fisher-Price film camera. Laura was drawn to the art of finding unique angles and compositions at an early age, and as she grew, that ability grew with her.
“Throughout the years I gravitated towards photography and art classes in both grade school and high school, so naturally I felt I had to pursue this passion,” said Gooley. “I moved down near Pittsburgh to attend Oakbridge Academy of Arts to further my study in Photography.”
Two life-highlights came out of Laura’s time at Oakbridge Academy of Arts. The first was an associate degree in photography and the second was a newborn daughter. And just like that, photography went from abstract and mystical to adorable and capturing memories. As time went on, photography began to take a backseat to life and more importantly, to her daughter. “I found myself not looking at things like I used to … not noticing delicate branches in the reflection of windows, or seeing landscapes in the dreamlike way I used to,” Gooley stated. “And that was ok, because she was my main subject in all aspects of life.”
However, once an artist, always an artist and Laura eventually found herself working with other like-minded people. She worked in galleries and with other photographers. Eventually she found herself drawn to custom frame making. Then, in 2013, her son was born and suddenly Laura’s photography spark was reignited.
“I started looking at everything as potential photographs again,” Gooley said. “So I bought a small point and shoot digital camera, and started playing around with it, even though it was hard at first since my prior experience consisted with film. I quickly decided to upgrade to a professional camera.”
It’s easy to think that the switch from film to digital would allow a photographer even more leeway and creative freedom in post production, but with Laura that is not necessarily always the case. “As far as editing, I have this thing where I cannot stand to be in front of a computer for longer than 5-10 minutes,” stated Gooley. “So I keep my editing quick and easy since I already know what I want each picture to express in the end. Many photos - even with the enlarged moon and stars - are done in less then 10 minutes. I don't overthink it; it's more of getting the filter just right to match what I see in my mind to make it reality. When I see something that moves me, I really try to take the time to study the angles, look for the best composition and figure out in that moment how I want to express the feeling that I feel in the photo through a filter.”
When you check out Laura’s work on Etsy (www.etsy.com/shop/CopperTwigGallery), her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CopperTwigGallery/), or @thecoppertwig on Instagram, you’ll find a uniquely fun-loving young woman with a very apparent fascination for trees. To hear Laura describe why trees are such a focal point for her showcases one of the many reasons that her mind views the world on a different level than most. “I honestly have loved trees since I was a child; they have always been something I am drawn to in a way I am not sure I can explain … I find them hauntingly beautiful, mysterious and amazing … each one unique and captivating in their own way.”
She also professes to love landscapes, flowers and plants. “But as far as flowers go, I have seen a million photos of them, but I have never seen a personality appear when I look at them. So when I take pictures of flowers, I try to release that beauty from within, and show you that personality.”
It’s very easy to see “a million photos” these days with all the different online photo showcasing platforms. When asked if she thought it was harder today to stand out and be seen, Laura responded, “I definitely see the amazing advance in smartphones and how awesome and easy it is to take fantastic photos. I have found it's actually the opposite as far as being hard to stand out. I believe my photography is super unique since they are scenes that I see in my mind when I look at a landscape, combined with the feeling I feel at that moment.”
The Erie, PA landscape has noticeably impacted Laura’s artwork. A city built on the foundations of manufacturing, steel, and coal; Erie has a grit and toughness about it that is very unique. So it isn’t surprising to hear Laura talk about how growing up in Erie gave her a unique perspective on her photography. “I absolutely believe that my surroundings impact the tone within my art. I think that If I lived in California I’m guessing my photos would be more colorful and happier. And it's not at all that Erie is not a happy place, because it is, just way more towards a gloomy happy than a sunny California happy,” she stated with a laugh. “But I find my darker dreamlike depictions from living here seem to be more accepted. Even my floral photos tend to lean towards ghostly and gloomy.”
If you’re looking to see Laura’s work in person, the place to do it in the near future will be at Ellicottville’s Fall Festival this October 7-8. It’s an opportunity to showcase her skills that she is very excited about. “I absolutely believe these shows help me gain exposure, for example last summer I did Discover Presque Isle, which was a 3-day event that went extremely well so I signed up again this year and had a bunch of repeat people from last year, and their friends … that time I did get pretty emotional. I am absolutely humbled by this whole experience …. everyday. Sales from all my shows surpass my expectations each time. Each show I do exposes me to another person and/or organization who invites me to do another show. It's truly amazing.”
Laura doesn’t just specialize in photography. She also has honed her jewelry making skills. In fact, the name of her business, The Copper Twig, is a combination of her love of trees with a metal that she has always been captivated by. Look for The Copper Twig booth at Ellicottville’s Fall Festival and check out what this up-and-coming artist from Erie has to offer.
Laura’s art isn’t her full time job … yet. But she has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. With pieces in numerous galleries and a growing list of shows that she is participating in, the future is looking luminous for The Copper Twig.