When Laura Wagoner’s son wanted to dress up as Harry Potter for a “character day” at school, she wasn’t planning on capturing a winning photograph from the event. “We were just having fun,” she says with a laugh. “My son was Harry, my daughter was Hermione Granger, and my little one was Draco Malfoy.”
Avid fans of the series by J.K. Rowling, her three kids were thrilled to portray their favorite characters. Wagoner did individual photographs of them, but this shot of her son immediately caught her eye, prompting her to enter it into the Minnesota Professional Photographer Association and Twin City Professional Photographer Association competitions, where she won the prestigious Sunset Print Award.
Wagoner has been photographing for years, ever since she took a class in 11th grade. “I knew I wanted to do something with art,” she says, “and after I took that class I just knew that was it.” She completed another five years of training and ultimately opened her own studio.
Her specialty is portraiture of children. “I just have always loved kids,” she says. “They’re amazing to work with and always in awe of things. I just love capturing the innocence.” She often enters these close-up portraits as her competition pieces because she feels they best portray the character of the subject.
Competitions are a key part of her self-development as a photographer. While she initially found the experience nerve-wracking, she says the learning process eventually out-weighs the butterflies. She also saw a huge change in success after she got her certification. “It made me think and relearn things,” she says. “I grew so much in just a couple years.”
She draws her inspiration from the “old masters” of art. “These last few competitions I’ve been trying to do something like Da Vinci or Rembrandt,” she says. “I just love that style, so I have arts books that I go through.”
For her, photography is a form of fine art. Using these master artists as muses, she combines multiple technical elements of editing to create the elegant, slightly surreal feel of her images, such as “The Chosen One.” Her soft-toned style of editing is reflected in her winning portrait. “The tones that are in this image – I love that type” she says. She’s also partial to a painted effect in editing, though taking the image is still her favorite part of the process.
Whether she’s photographing her son or another subject, photography allows Wagoner to showcase them through her artistic lens, drawing the viewers into highly detailed, expressive portraits.
“There wasn’t a specific moment I realized my passion for photography,” she says. “There was just something about it … I’ve always seen the world differently.”