Our sixty seventh interview in this new series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Susan Latty from Sydney, Australia. You may know her work from her popular Instagram account @pause.and.breathe. This is a truly beautiful interview, in many ways, it’s a life story, which will grip you, potentially make you cry (it did me) but also uplift your spirit and leave you proudly grateful and changed by the experience. I am so pleased I contacted Susan Latty and she agreed to take part in this interview, I recognise her spirit, I have felt it in one other in my lifetime, enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarni, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør, Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu and myself, go here.
All images ©Susan Latty
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
I don’t remember any particular career ambition as a child. From an early age I loved to draw and spend time in the garden.
I always wanted to please and do my absolute best so I worked very hard at school. This drive towards perfectionism brought recognition and good results but it was a curse. It was often exhausting and a recipe for anxiety and disappointment. I have learned, particularly in the last twenty years, to savour the journey, not the end, and have been able to modify (mostly) this behaviour. My creative work is a daily journey I love. Recognising the need for change was a turning point.
I worked in a photo developing lab during the Christmas holidays when I was about 15. I had to help sort the negatives and photos ready to return to the customer. I remember thinking it was a fine line between efficiency and chaos.
Private or State school?
I was schooled in the Catholic system. My primary school was local and I loved it but I never felt I belonged at my more exclusive high school. Mum had attended this school and my parents had to work incredibly hard to pay the fees. I wanted to finish school in Year 11 but the Head of the Art School I wanted to attend after school encouraged me to complete my schooling before beginning there. My last year of high school was actually my happiest.
University or work?
My adult life has taken many twists and turns. Attending the National Art School majoring in painting immediately after finishing high school was the best thing that I could have done. It opened my eyes to such diverse ways of thinking and consequently choice.
That was followed by, amongst other things, working in a municipal children’s library, studying Mandarin at university for a year after travelling to China twice in the ‘70s, studying calligraphy and lettering design over many years and running a freelance business for 18 years, studying landscape design and working in that industry and working part time in administration in a state high school.
I retired at the end of last year. All these things were intertwined with my role as a mother which was central to my life and my great love of gardens. I have always created gardens wherever I have lived.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I don’t have a mentor although I draw inspiration and wisdom from many people. Growing up, my mother was very loving but overly dominant and protective. As I became older, I could recognise the source of Mum’s choices as love but it taught me many things that I didn’t want to repeat with my own children.
I have great support from my beloved husband and daughter and have many extraordinary friends who each bring something unique and precious to my life. All these people inspire my creativity and encourage its expression. My 5 year old granddaughter has coined the word ‘editating’ to describe my work on my iPad….. quite insightful as it is definitely a cross between editing and meditating for me! Creatively I also draw great inspiration from Oriental art.
How physically fit are you?
I love to keep fit and see maintaining good health as a priority. I walk each day, attend Pilates classes, work hard in the garden and cycle occasionally. Eating nutritious food, finding quiet time and getting plenty of sleep are also important. Living in a peaceful loving environment nurtures my sense of calm. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, feeling relaxed and happy is a daily gift. This in turn supports my physical health.
Ambition or Talent – What matters more to success?
I guess this depends on how you define success. Success for me is about allowing myself to enjoy the creative journey and growing as an individual in the process. By quieting my inner critic and following my creative instincts, I am able to respond to and celebrate the rhythm of my days while processing and expressing emotions. Finding my own authentic voice and maintaining the courage to believe it has worth is success to me.
How politically committed are you?
I am politically aware, stay informed and try hard to live in accordance with issues I feel strongly about. However I don’t like the aggression and rudeness that often accompanies political debates and protests. Feeling strongly about an issue does not warrant treating other people badly.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
Nothing I can think of. I feel so fortunate to live a safe and comfortable life.
What is your biggest extravagance?
Travel. Such a joy and privilege to experience other cultures and such diverse beauty.
In which places are you happiest?
At home, in a garden or the bush, by the water. Beauty, stillness. I don’t like wind.
What ambitions do you still have?
To continue enjoying the journey! Like many other artists, I have often doubted my worth creatively but currently I am just happy making my art. Every day I spend some time working creatively and I value the engagement and mindfulness this process offers. I am continually seeking to learn new techniques and approaches to editing images, either through e courses or my own experimentation and I enjoy pushing the boundaries while still maintaining my authenticity. I have recently begun studying photopolymer intaglio printing and am excited to see where that leads me. I also enjoy painting with watercolours and would like to combine that with both image making and printmaking.
What drives you on?
Creative expression is such an integral part of my life. Whether it’s cooking, gardening, sewing or making art, it feeds my spirit and my mind and in turn my general wellbeing. Mobile art is a wonderfully accessible avenue for creativity. The daily process involves observation, spontaneity and engagement in the moment which encourages responses both creatively and emotionally. This mindfulness promotes joy, self awareness and gratitude for life. This is what drives me on.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
My daughters – I am so proud of them. My younger daughter Catherine died when she was ten but lived with joy, humour, determination and courage. My elder daughter, Elizabeth, shows kindness and respect to herself and others, is resilient and takes responsibility for her actions. She is a loving mother, partner and friend and a constant joy for me.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
Self centeredness, lack of kindness or consideration for others….. it takes so little effort to be thoughtful.
If your twenty year old self could see you now – what would she think?
She would see a woman with self awareness and a strong sense of priorities who shows kindness and consideration to others and also to herself. She would be delighted to see me thriving, creating and happy in my life. She would be proud that I am gentler with myself and no longer feel diminished through comparison with others.
What object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
The sadness of losing my daughter will always be tucked in my heart.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Climate change and respecting each other’s differences.
Do you believe in the afterlife?
I have an open mind. It makes sense to me that what we see is just a fraction of what exists. Energy doesn’t cease to exist, it changes. I believe our essence, our love, continues. No matter what, we should live our life with love.
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