Interview: Laura Sills

"Laura Sills is an operations nerd by day and a photographer and graphic designer at all other hours. While she started her photography journey in film and loved the darkroom in college, she has switched focus over to digital in the last few years with a renewed energy for capturing the city she calls home - New York. She's always had an eye for photography (and has almost always had a camera in hand), but the purpose and intention behind her work has evolved over the last year. Her style is probably best described as romantic, which has really resonated with a lot of New Yorkers and New York lovers throughout the pandemic. Her instinct to document the city and her surroundings took on a whole new meaning throughout 2020 as she explored an eerily empty yet somehow increasingly resilient city."

Follow Laura on Instagram @lauraskills
Find more of Laura's work at

Sure Thing: 
So - you're from NY right? If so, where from originally and where do you currently reside?

Laura:  I was actually born in Buffalo, but I grew up in Indiana and spent my high school and college years in South Carolina. I moved up to NY a few months after I graduated college (really on a whim) and have been here since. I’m currently in Brooklyn and absolutely love it.

 Sheesh all around the East Coast. Does being born in Buffalo make you part of Bills Mafia?

 Haha, it sure does. I lived in Indy in the Peyton Manning years so I was a Colts fan for a long time, but my football loyalty has always truly been with the Bills Mafia

 That's great - at least you're not a Jets fan. Scrolling down your feed on instagram, I feel like you've always had a creative eye, even before it looked like you started taking photo seriously. Did any of the places you lived influence this? I was always in love with NYC since I grew up on Long Island so when I eventually moved into the city I was like a kid in a candy store with photography, but I'm always curious about people from outside of NY and how they got into it. (I've tried taking street photos in smaller cities / towns and it's notttttt easy whatsoever).

 My biggest influence as a kid with photography was my mom. She took amazing photos of my brothers and me playing in the house and just being kids, and then once we got into more organized sports her images always really stood out. So she definitely gave me the eye for it, and the inherent instinct to document moments and stories and things around me and sort of see the world in photos.

I came to NYC for the first time on a field trip when I was 15 and it was exactly what you said - kid in a candy store. I had a brick of a digital camera and like 5 disposable cameras and just couldn’t stop. It really solidified my love for photography in a whole new way and after that my only real goal was moving up here.

Woah incredible. It's wild that NYC has that sort of pull on people - I totally get it. Do you remember what your first digital camera was? Assuming a point & shoot type deal?

I can’t remember what the one I brought here was, I can see it in my head but don’t remember the brand. The first one I really loved though was a Sony cyber shot. It was so reliable in every situation and I just remember loving how night photos turned out. Got some really cool long exposure type effects with the flash at parties that killed on MySpace 😂

Oh man shoutout to long exposures. I actually just used that long exposure flash method while shooting a wedding reception last summer and it was pretty sick. Definitely appreciate that more than the 500 tri-pod photographers who are always on the Manhattan Bridge shooting long exposures. Are you still shooting on a Sony?

Haha - agreed. I took that long exposure from the bridge once and was like alright, moving on.  And yes, very happily loyal to my Sony Alpha. I wanted something lighter for walking around the city and just carrying in general and couldn’t be happier with the Sony line up.  Briefly strayed to Canon in college but it didn’t do me any huge favors.

Awesome - as a Canon guy I can't hate on this as I recently picked up a little RX1000 VII (I think that's what it's called) to carry around in my pocket. I feel like I can usually tell from someone's photos what brand they shoot with and especially if they're digital or film BUT your style, specifically your editing style is super unique with your purple hues. Was there anything that inspired you to edit shifting towards these colors?

Interestingly I haven’t really thought about how it started, but I guess I can trace it back to a shoot I did with my boss back in February. It was the first time I’d used the 70-200 and I was, again, a kid in a candy store. I hadn’t been that excited about photos that I’d taken in years, so I spent a lot more time editing and playing around with them because I was just so in awe of what I could do with that lens. We got a really beautiful orange and purple sunset on the roof of the 1 Hotel in Brooklyn and I just sort of let the photos guide me that way to bring out those colors (they happen to be the brand colors of the company). After that I started intentionally shooting more in that time of day and kept being drawn to that color palette. My feelings towards this city are so unshakably romantic even when I’m miserable, so I think it’s just my natural rose colored glasses outlook on this place being represented in my images.

Such a good answer. I think I saw you first through a post Whalebone featured you in, but then I saw you've been part of the New York or Nowhere project (congrats) and they've included you and your prints in their campaign. I feel like your work is ideal for a brand such as NYON who pushes a love for New York mentality - with the romantic editing style you have, along with the iconic landscapes you shoot. Was any of that done intentionally for this purpose; to partner on more brand focused projects? I've never taken any classes on color theory, but I feel like that class you would say your style is perfect for a collab with NYON.

Honestly nothing I’ve really done this year has been with intention or purpose other than to survive mentally and it’s crazy to me that somehow that’s ended up jump starting a career. I started shooting the empty city in early April because it was an excuse to go outside and because I wanted some iconic shots with no people in them because when will any of us ever get that chance again, you know? It’s like a weird dream come true in the worst possible scenario which is an irony that I’ll be trying to unravel for years and years.

A couple empty city photos started to gain some traction and I started to focus on growing my account just to see where I could take it, and then Liz from NYON (and the @newyorkcity account) reached out to repost one of my protest photos from June after George Floyd’s memorial in Brooklyn. 
That photo went sort of IG-viral and she and I kept in touch after that about my other work and how it really represents this love for this city that so many of us have but isn’t often portrayed in “street photography” or photos that tourists want to capture or whatever.

Woah wait - Is the start of this when you really started taking photo seriously, or really finding a groove in it?

Really when I started finding a groove in it and investing in equipment that could help me get the types of shots I wanted. I went to a magnet school in high school and majored in film and did fine arts in college so I could be in the darkroom, so I’ve been into photography for a long time I just sort of avoided digital as long as I could because I was sad that film was dying. The last two years I’ve really picked it back up with more serious interest.

Well it seems that it’s really working out. Before I let you go, two more questions. Actually three. What’s your favorite NY location to shoot, what’s your dream location to shoot and do you have any photo or life goals for 2021?

My favorite location changes every couple weeks as I evolve and explore more, but my go to this year that never fails has been the ferries. I loved practicing with some people in my frames (safely, outside) and how fast things move so I could start thinking quicker about what shots I wanted and keep exercising that muscle. My dream location is probably Greece. The white buildings on the coast and blue water are shots I’ve always wanted to take and I think I’d get really creative with the windows and narrow streets.
And my photo goal for 2021 WAS to shoot the NBA all star game in Indianapolis, but that got bumped, so we’ll see. Generally I’d like to find a way into sports photography in some way, but specifically basketball. Outside of that, I actually just accepted a new job a few days ago so I’m really excited to build something new with a new team and learn and grow as a leader.

Wow congrats on the new gig and super good point about the ferries. I feel like they offer such unique perspectives to the city. Sports photo would be fun - does that come from inspiration from your mom? And what’s your dream team to shoot for?

Thank you! Yeah, ferries weren’t something I used as a primary source of transportation until this year for some reason so I’m glad I started.

And yes, definitely comes from my mom and whole family in general. Sports in Indiana is a huge thing, from basketball to football to the Indy 500, my parents were really great about giving us the history and telling really great stories. The Pacers in the 90’s are the real reason I love sports (my room was decorated with Pacers memorabilia and I wore my Reggie Miller jersey in elementary school pictures) so I think I’d have to say the Pacers, although I love the team the Nets are building and I like the Barclays Center atmosphere so I wouldn’t say no to staying close to home right now either. I’d love to follow a specific player for a year too, I think that level of documentation of a season is really special and is a story I’d love to tell. Like imagine following Luka Doncic right now!

Luka is the man, and he’s someone that everybody seems to love. Even though us New Yorkers have a strong feeling should I say about Reggie 😅. Really great story you have and it’s funny how family, passion and places all tie together in the photo world; things just seem to work out that way and I’m for sure happy it’s panning out for you. Appreciate you taking the time to chat - sorry if it went on a little long but I think everything tied together too well. Hope ya have a safe and fun New Year. 🥳🙏🏻🍻

Thanks so much for thinking of me! It’s been so fun to connect with other photographers this year as it’s been so much easier to spot each other while we’re out shooting. I’m happy to have found my way into this community this year and see what happens as the city opens back up.  Hope you have a safe and fun New Year too!!