Our seventy fifth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Lynette Sheppard from Hawaii, United States. This is an astounding interview, told with verve and insight amongst images that will stay with you, long after you have had your fill. 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, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe), John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune and myself, go here.
All images ©Lynette Sheppard
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
It was more desire than ambition – I wanted to be a writer. My parents convinced me that it was a dream, not a vocation.
I come from a very artistic family and was sure that I was the only non-creative one. When I was 10 years old, I finally just let go during art class and wound up as the winner in our grade. My drawing of flowers was in the school gallery for a month. At the time, I thought it was just a fluke.
I waited tables in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel to make money for college. I was very shy in high school and it really helped me learn to engage with people. Oddly, I made more money waiting tables than I initially did as a critical care registered nurse after college. Thankfully, nurses were eventually paid more.
Private or State school?
I spent my first three years in a private Catholic school. I came home one afternoon and announced that I wanted to be a nun. My father turned to my mother and said “Public school, that child, next year.” After that, I attended public school. My final year of high school, I attended an experimental high school catering to kids that self-identified as “evening” people. Classes were held from 4 pm until 10 pm. I believe that I learned more that year than the previous 11 years – because the teachers had no constraints and were able to teach as they wished. It was illuminating – I often wonder how education might be different if teachers were able to have more control over curriculum. The experiment was so successful that the school became permanent. (We had the highest cumulative grade point average of the six high schools in the city.) Alas, the teachers were subject to state rules and regulations, and the curriculum matched every other high school.
University or Work?
I went to nursing school. I loved nursing and did feel it was a calling. Until it wasn’t. By the time I had suffered a couple of episodes of burnout, I had discovered photography. I became passionate about it as an art form and went back to school at San Francisco Art Institute. People asked me why I chose that school – was it because Minor White was associated with it? Actually, while that may have factored in – when I first visited the campus, I was captivated by the smell – a combination of oil paint, clay, and developer. It smelled like creativity to me.
Who was or is still your mentor?
Whew. There are so many. My husband Dewitt Jones was and still is my artistic playmate. Jack Fulton at the San Francisco Art Institute encouraged and inspired me in countless ways. Jack Davis is a dear friend and my mentor in all things geeky. My iPhone art students inspire me daily.
How physically fit are you?
Pretty fit (for my age….). I dance hula which is more aerobic than it sounds, believe me. I walk and play golf. I lift weights and do light yoga. Once in a while, I paddle a kayak or canoe.
Ambition or talent: What matters more to success?
Again, I would say Desire is the most important motivator. My definition of success is different now than it once was. Finding new expressions artistically is more important to me than recognition. As long as I experience creativity anew each day, I feel successful.
How politically committed are you?
Very! And I hope some of my art reflects that. I feel that climate change is the biggest threat we face just now – I approach my art relating to that in two ways – 1. head-on with images reflecting where we are headed and 2. Beautiful shots that help us fall in love with and wish to protect our world.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I can’t think of a single thing. I am more in the mode of jettisoning “stuff” and simplifying at this stage of life. (I’m 64.)
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Books. I would rather give up food than books. And I LOVE to eat, so that tells you something.
In what places are you happiest?
Home in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe.
What ambitions do you still have?
I have begun writing fiction and aim to finish a book of short, short stories about “The Secret Hearts of Women” and a novel. The learning curve is steep but I am enjoying every minute.
What drives you on?
Creativity and the beauty of the natural world.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Cultivating solitude and finding my spiritual center. Although it’s a process, not a finished goal.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
When they are not present. Come back and see me when you can truly be with me.
If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would she think?
“Wow, you just make art and read books all the time? Don’t you get bored?”
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
The gold ID bracelet my sister nurses gave me when I left Mercy Hospital in Chicago to move back home to the West.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Waking up to the reality of Climate Change and acting before it is too late.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I absolutely do. I recently told a dear friend that there are times when I can almost remember previous lives. Maybe they are daydreams or wishes but I don’t think so. Guess I’ll find out someday, hopefully not too soon. I enjoy this life.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
10 absolutely! I love my spouse more everyday, my creativity is blossoming, my kids and grandkids are healthy and happy, and I have wonderful friends. Second Adulthood really agrees with me.
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