Callie Lipkin: Meditation On Film

Veteran photographer is an "optimist who appreciates the entire ride."

Is March over already?! ADC’s Photography Month has been a blast, and we couldn’t be happier to have been showcasing photographers and their work to the world. Whether they’re professionals with a lifetime of experience, newcomers just starting out in the photography game, or designers or other creatives that just so happen to have a camera handy on the weekends, these ADC Members have a passion for getting behind the lens and capturing something special. 

Our next featured ADC Member is a Chicago-based 20+ year veteran photographer whose work shines a spotlight on “the narrative of life.”

Processed with VSCOcam with q1 presetCALLIE LIPKIN
Chicago, IL



How old were you when you became interested in photography? How did that interest come about, and how was it fostered?

I was 18. I had dabbled before that, but I really connected with it right after my high school graduation. I studied art abroad in China the summer after graduating high school. The experience really brought things into focus for me, made everything very real. I decided pretty quickly after that to become a photojournalist. I gave myself a year, and if I didn’t like it after that I was going to move on. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Do you remember the earliest photograph you ever took?

Everything I shot in China. I felt like I was capturing the moon. It was complete culture shock.

What type of photography would you say is your specialty, and how did it come to be your specialty?

My photography is constantly evolving. I specialize in photographing people and my work is very much a reflection of my personality and intellect.

Define your photographic style in a single sentence.

I depict the narrative of life; some clients want to showcase the peaks, others find humor in the valleys — I am an optimist who appreciates the entire ride.

What’s your favorite camera to shoot with? What’s so awesome about it?

I am not super geeked on cameras. I am most comfortable shooting with whatever my current model is, and these days it’s the Canon 5DMKiii. My process is more about observing, directing and capturing people than technical trickery.

What is the hardest part about being a photographer? Any advice on how to overcome that challenge?

Convincing people to pay for photography in a world where images are overabundant and practically free is always a challenge. Some clients don’t need to pay for photography, so my advice is only focus your attention on the buyers who are really looking to collaborate with a professional. Specialize in something that your neighbors can’t learn to do in an afternoon. Every time the general public steps up their photography game, the pros need to follow suit.

“Specialize in something that your neighbors can’t learn to do in an afternoon. Every time the general public steps up their photography game, the pros need to follow suit.”

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

My current passion is working on a series called Dad Time. The project is partly inspired by my husband and his role as primary caregiver for our two young sons, aged 3 and 4. It is also a self-portrait of parenting from the viewpoint of the sole working parent — a role that used to be more dad territory, but that is shifting as more women opt to work and more men choose to take a break from their own careers and stay at home to raise their young children.

The images within the Dad Time series are glimpses into an everyday dad world, ranging from more formal portraiture to strictly reportage to more conceptually based. I am always inspired by my surroundings, and there is a whole lot of media about parenting out there that is mostly aimed at women and mothers. Moms have a lot of pressure to conform to a specific ideology. How long are you breast feeding? Did you have a natural birth? Are you co-sleeping, attachment parenting, making your own organic baby food? Do you plan on home schooling? Are you going to quit your job? No one asks these questions of Dads — which makes them an ideal subject for a wide range of parenting moments and concepts.

What would be your dream client/project/collaboration?

Any client that approaches me with a clear end goal in mind and allows me to drive the production style is a dream project. Working with great creative is a plus!

Nowadays everyone has ‘cameras’ in their pockets and Instagram on their phones. How has this changed the photography game? How has this changed your photography game?

It keeps me sharp. I have started putting new images out on Instagram daily — mostly personal projects, those little everyday moments and iPhoneography, which didn’t have much of a home in my portfolio before. I think as a photographer, it’s important to be in touch with how photography is being used by everyone. The current mood has really been a great motivation to shoot constantly regardless of gear, to share something personal and find something amazing everyday.

“So, you’re a photographer?” What’s the strangest question you’ve received when someone learned you are a photographer?

“Do you shoot nudes? Can you shoot me nude?”

What are your other creative outlets and sources of inspiration?

I love movies — I get tremendously inspired by seeing what can be accomplished with a film production budget. Music is also a great source of inspiration.

Fill in the blank: “When I’m not shooting, I am…”

“…I am usually thinking about new photography projects.”

“Photography is like meditation for me. I am completely present when I am shooting. It’s what I’ve been doing for over 20 years now, and I cannot envision a life without it.”

Which professional photographers do you look up to, whether from afar or as mentors?

In school I was an enormous Sebastião Salgado fan and I usually devour any kind of compelling social documentary work. I was also drawn to Cindy Sherman’s conceptual self-portraits. I fall in love easily with all kinds photography. I recently learned of Tyler Shields on creative And I just saw an amazing exhibition of Larry Sultan’s work at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I always enjoy Alec Soth’s work and blog. Honestly, there are too many people doing amazing work to choose even a handful of influences. The stronger an artist’s point of view is, the more compelling I find the work.

When all is said and done, what is it about being a photographer that gets you up in the morning and drives your passion?

Photography is like meditation for me. I am completely present when I am shooting. It’s what I’ve been doing for over 20 years now, and I cannot envision a life without it.

Photography Month takes place throughout March, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!