We had the good fortune of connecting with Lara Solanki and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lara, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
The awareness for work life balance didn’t quite come naturally to me at first. In my late 20’s I made the choice to end my full time salary job to becoming a full time freelance Unit Stills Photographer for film and television. Back then, I felt like if I wasn’t spending every minute thinking about or doing something that made me feel productive, then I wasn’t working hard enough. Over the years, I realized that all I was doing was burning myself out and not enjoying the life I thought a freelance life could provide. While it wasn’t an easy journey to get to where I am today, I feel that now more than ever I have the most control over how I balance out work and life. It sounds cliche, but you really have to love what you do. There was a time during my freelance career where I questioned if I really wanted to continue working as a stills photographer- the hours were harsh, and the quality of jobs were just not where I wanted them to be. I stuck with it but I allowed myself to explore other career options, both within photography and outside of photography. Keeping my cost of living low and making certain sacrifices was key to be able to have that freedom to search outside of myself and within. I did A LOT of personal exploring to figure out what is it that I really wanted (from life and having a career), how I wanted my life to go (and how career played alongside it), and where I wanted to see myself in 1 to 5 to 10 years. Today I continue to work as a Unit Stills Photographer but now I’m loving every single job that comes my way and the feeling of dissatisfaction is minimal. I can’t say everything is perfect as I still have difficult days and days that I look forward to giving myself some time off, but compared to where I was even just 5 years ago, I’ve come a long way! I’ve even been able to create time to pursue yet another one of my passions for learning how to use art as a healing modality. My advice to anyone is to give yourself the time to learn more about yourself and be honest about what you want out of life. Find ways to love new things and find ways to empower yourself. A little personal growth can go a long way in creating balance.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m totally a right brained personality- I make my decisions intuitively but I recognize the need for the logical left brain when needed! I currently work as a Photographer for film and television but I think what makes me different is that I still have a passion to do more than just work the dream job. Working in tv and film is fun, exciting, and pays the bills. But there’s a part of me that knows that I can do more. I’m constantly inspired and in awe when I see art that is expressive and has that certain quality that transcends being what it is. Art is healing and I’ve embarked on a new journey to help others heal through making art. I will continue to love working as a photographer but I know that planting the seeds now to create a healing practice using art will become a bigger reality later on. I’m currently in a training program and I am constantly learning and growing and fulfilling my passion to help others do the same.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The first place I would start is the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. I LOVE the entire collection of art there. It’s not huge so all my favorite pieces can be seen in a few hours. I love the European artists on the main floor from Degas’ Little Dancer girl sculpture to paintings by Van Gogh and Cezanne. And going down below to the lower level literally feels like you’re descending into a cavernous time warp with the Southeast Sculpture and Painting collection. I always feel completely immersed into another world surrounded by the larger than life sculptures of Buddhas and Hindu gods. I would then proceed to take my friend to eat at (presuming Covid doesn’t exist anymore) a number of spots that feature seasonal and artisanal foods such as Four Cafe (Eagle Rock), Lemon Poppy Kitchen (Eagle Rock), Little Flower Cafe (Pasadena), and the classic Casa Bianca pizza (Eagle Rock)- I live in Eagle Rock so I am partial to all the local spots. I would also have to take them to Cafe 86 in Pasadena for the Ube truffles- Ube is a Filipino purple yam used to make desserts. I love taking the metro for casual outings and in the past I created a scavenger hunt for my husband and my anniversary one year. It involved hopping on the metro Gold Line in Highland Park- it is the cutest little station with craftsman homes surrounding it. I had us get off in Chinatown to find specific Chinese herbs and teas then hop back on and get off in Little Tokyo to find the largest green onion we could find (inside joke) but we also got mochi, rice balls and other fun Japanese konbini foods to take with us for the rest of the day. The Arts District is a short walk from the Little Tokyo station so I arranged to check out some cute art galleries (I also happened to have one of my photography pieces on display so we went to check it out again). We then hopped back on the metro making our way to the Blue Line to take it all the way to Santa Monica for the first time. It was a new line back then and I wanted to see what it was like. It was getting late in the day and the goal at that point was to have just made it all the way to the ocean by metro! We stayed to watch the sunset a bit before making our way back home. We had bought an all day ticket to make hopping on and off easier. There are so many more things we could have done and places to eat but for a single day it was perfect. I also have alternating yearly memberships to different botanical gardens like The Arboretum or Descanso Gardens. If someone is truly new to Los Angeles, I would take them to The Huntington Garden and Library which is really amazing for the variety of displays like their Bonsai Garden and to see the prehistoric forests of trees that are like dinosaurs. For a more casual walk, I like the Arboretum for the peacocks that roam around you or Descanso Gardens in the early spring for the amazing Camellia forest. When the camellias bloom it is magical.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to my fellow Unit Still Photographers who know exactly what it’s like in our little world of Set Photography. Being able to vent and share stories that nobody else would really understand can really help shake off the frustrations! It’s also impossible to grow as a Unit Photographer without learning from others so big thanks to my colleagues who are willing to share their experiences so we can all learn from each other. Thanks to Covid, I was able to dive into a few personal projects and make “thoughts” into a reality. I’ve always wanted a community centered art studio where people can come to make art with the purpose of finding some healing through the process. I found courses by Whitney Freya and I’m now a coach in training and loving every second of its experience.

Website: www.thestillsninja.com
Instagram: @larasolanki
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/lara-solanki-996a8bb
Other: My art healing practice will have a live website coming soon!

Image Credits
Rollence Patugan, Tyler Golden, Craig Keefer, Spencer Brennan

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