We had the good fortune of connecting with Madeline Tolle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Madeline, what are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by the small moments of beauty in daily life. The world is so heavy, especially lately, but there is still tons of beauty and magic to be found all around us. It might be the way the light hits a street sign in a particular way, or a dog sticking it’s head out of a driver’s side door, or even just a particularly gorgeous flower, those are the things that stop me in my tracks and makes me forget about all the bad stuff. These little moments are what I try to capture in my photography, whether it’s in my personal work or part of an assignment.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Whenever I used to show my work with editors or mentors, the feedback was always something along the lines of, “you need to find your voice. Do the work that feels most like you.” I don’t think I’m completely there yet in finding what my work truly looks like, but I’m certainly the closest I’ve ever been. I’m really proud that I have a consistent and strong visual language, that I think is unique to me. I sometimes fall victim to trends, or imposter syndrome, but I definitely get better every day. I recently released a longterm personal project called “The Ontogenesis of the American Blue Jean,” which was a project that aimed to follow the life cycle of denim from it’s origins in the American Gold Rush, to the cotton farm, to the factory, to modern brands, and even the repair shops. It uses fashion and blue jeans as the lens, but it’s really about climate change and consumerism. I produced and self funded the entire project and photographed it over the past year or so. Coronavirus put the project on hold for now, but I’m looking forward to picking it back up once we’re able to travel safely again. I don’t think there’s any photographer that would say making a living in photography is easy. I work my tail off, and every other photographer I know does as well. If I’m not making pictures, I’m making plans to go make pictures, or sending emails, or strategizing a marketing campaign. I’m trying to find more balance lately, but I still struggle to turn my work brain off sometimes. I’m really excited about pushing my work into new directions as we emerge out of this pandemic. I’m looking forward to focusing on stories that are centered in the intersection of The American Dream, Climate Change, and Design.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I take every visitor to Malibu, no matter what. Leo Carillo State Park is my favorite. To know me, is to know that I hate cooking and groceries, and I live almost entirely on vegetarian burritos. My favorite is at My Taco in Highland Park. There’s also a truck that sits in the carwash parking lot at York and Ave 53 that is great. It is the best burrito $6 can buy (cash only.) I really like to go for a morning hike at Debs Park. I could watch the little turtles for hours. The Arroyo Seco trail in Pasadena is also pretty special. I love that the trail is big and wide and goes right under beautiful massive bridges. I won’t tell you which flea market is my favorite, but I love the flea markets in and around LA. If I could go to one every weekend, I’d be in heaven. I’m obsessed with books, so Arcana Books is without a doubt my favorite store in the city. And the LA public library downtown is absolutely magical.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m really fortunate in that I have about 5 or so very close friends that are always there for me, no matter what. I have a great family too, but the friends really have helped me get where I am in my career. Some are in the photo industry and kind of mentor me. Some of them aren’t in the creative industry at all, but are able to listen and serve as a sounding board. Even though I’m a freelancer, it’s almost like I have my own little executive board in my friendships.