Editor’s note: We were struck by the genuine quality of Megan’s midwestern-themed photography and her aptness at portrait work so we invited her to become a featured photographer. We’re proud to have her as a member of our Talenthouse community.
Megan Oteri is a writer and a poet as well as a photographer, and uses her photography to show the world how much she loves Wyoming. “Wyoming has my heart. I love the texture of the people, landscape, and animals. It is so easy to take beautiful photos of such beautiful subjects. I love Wyoming’s wide open spaces and endless sky. There is no other place like it on Earth.”
Meg moved to Wyoming at the age of 15. Although she now resides in North Carolina, she remains a rodeo enthusiast and continues to dedicate her art to the Cowboy State. “I love taking photos of The West, Wyoming, cowboys, cowgirls, horses, livestock, rodeo, people, and nature.”
TH: How would you categorize your work? Would you consider it “Americana” in any way?
Meg: Yes, I would consider my work Americana, especially the photos in my Talenthouse portfolio, as most of them are from Wyoming. I love to take portraits of cowboys, cowgirls, and animals.
I believe each wrinkle is a story; each face a collection.
TH: What do you think makes a photographer good?
Megan: I think a good photographer listens. They listen to their muse and how the world around them speaks to them directly—through music, fashion, art, beauty, people, nature. There is no magic formula for what makes a great photograph, but what usually precedes a great photograph is a moment where the photographer is the artist, recognizing beauty or truth at a precise moment and acting on it.
To sum it up: I think good photographers listen to the visual language of life.
TH: What got you interested in photography?
Megan: I was always the kid who was doing a bit of dreaming you could say – this dreaming was the creative process.
I was always an observer, not necessarily with a camera at first, but certainly with my eyes. I watched how people interacted, especially in new situations. I moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming when I was 15. I believe the juxtaposition of growing up in an urban setting, such as Chicago, made this change quite a parallel world for me.
I had a little Vivitar in college that I enjoyed using. It was in 1997 when I remember the intense feeling of wanting to capture a moment and feeling disappointed I couldn’t. It was a blurry Vivitar photo of Paul Newman.
I think these kinds of moments are mental photographs for me. I try to tell a story with each photograph, but it is not necessarily on purpose. I take a lot of photos and sometimes it is magic. I took a lot of photos with my Pentax 35 mm camera when I was first learning how to use a camera. Most of the photos in my Talenthouse portfolio were taken with old school black and white film. I like being able to manipulate the camera physically and when the eye of my heart says I have the image in focus – that is when I click.
TH: Do you have a photograph you’re most proud of?
Megan: My photograph of Willie Nelson in concert. I took this photo at Cheyenne Frontier Days during a night show. I also love the photos, “Psalms 91:4″ and “Bull Rider with Gloves” because they are behind the scenes – moments that give the viewer a window into a different world (in this case, rodeo).
TH: Could you describe your creative process?
Megan: Choppy. I am a mom to a toddler and I create when I can. I am typing this as my son sleeps on my chest. I go about the creative process in spurts. When muse calls, I try to answer every time. She tends not to leave a call back number or voicemail, so I try to act on it when I am inspired to create.
I am very creative at night. If I could, I would stay up all night to write and create.
TH: Where do you want your career to be in a year? In five years?
Megan: In a year, I want to have my photos organized for my book on Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and Western Celebration, as I have an archive of thousands of photos, dating back from 2001 – 2005, as well as from 2009. I also would like to have a book proposal prepared and sent to agents and publishers. I am also thinking about self-publishing this photo essay book. I know I have something here, as these photos have been stolen repeatedly on the internet.
In five years, I want to be the go-to-gal for intimate rodeo and Western lifestyle photographs. I also would like to be a journalist with my own TV segment where I interview cowboys, cowgirls, country musicians and people. I want to have my memoir on attachment parenting and motherhood published this year, as I wrote it in graduate school and am shopping it around to literary agents. I am working on a historic food memoir right now about my great-grandmother’s bakery and kitchen, which is in the research stages. I have started a blog about this project, The Evanston Community Kitchen.
TH: How do you keep yourself motivated?
Megan: This is a tough question. Motivation is not something you can purchase at the store. It is something that comes and goes. I have learned to let go and not white knuckle things so much anymore. If it is meant to be, it will be. Somethings just take time. And time-outs from the creative process are essential to living a balanced life.
TH: What’s the best advice someone ever gave you?
Megan: “Remember to water where you stand.” It is important to grow where you are in the present moment. A former soccer coach of mine from high school told me that. He has a beautiful garden he cares for, which is a couple blocks from my parents’ house.
TH: How did you hear about Talenthouse?
Megan: Not really sure. I just stumbled on it. It is a great community of creatives and artists. I really think that artists are special people with special circumstances. Often, artists have struggled with something and their art is how they express it. Beneath every artist, is a scar that never quite healed.
TH: What advice would you like to pass on to our community?
Megan: Keep creating. Hope. Wish. Dream. Be. I wish I had something wise to say about how to get your big break, but that is not why we truly create, is it? Creating is our payment.