Ginia Worrell is a wedding, portrait and fine art photographer in Greenville, SC. She and I were introduced by a mutual friend while we were all in art school–she at Greenville Tech, I at Winthrop University. We became fast friends and kept up throughout and after school, bonding over our love for photography, cats, the South, and beautiful stationary. I’ve always been inspired by her immense kindness and care towards others, which exudes itself in her images and portraits. She isn’t afraid to use the camera to connect with others, as well as explore difficult or close-to-the-heart topics. Her portraits are always sensitive and humanizing, somehow lifting out the inner beauty and integrity of her subjects, whether friends, family, or clients. When I started this project Ginia was one of the first people I spoke to about it, and the first person I shot and interviewed. She was more than gracious as I figured out the kinks of working with my cameras and recording for the first time, and tried different imagery and locations as I worked through what I wanted the series to look like. I’m always nervous shooting photographers who take pictures of other people for a living, but she made it easy to capture her quiet curiosity and strength.
As I drove down for our first shoot, I noticed on the map a large green area with a state park, that I had never noticed before. Neither of us had been to Lake Conestee, but Ginia was more than willing to meet me on an adventure, and we couldn’t have been more amazed by the stretches of dying grasses and twisted trees that we found there. For our second shoot, I wanted to use flowers from her garden but it was too late in the season, so we found what we could with a little help from her neighbors’ yards.
What part did photography play in your life growing up?
“I had family that worked at the Kodak factory in NY, because I’m from upstate NY, so we had Kodak things from the 1950s, and Brownies, but no one used them, it was just something we had lying around. I got a Barbie camera when I was little, and I just fell in love with taking photos of everything at that age, moved from that camera to disposables, and then worked my way up to digital cameras, and film cameras in high school. Junior/senior year in high school I began photographing people outside of school, portraits, and I did my first wedding when I was 17, and took film photography at the career center in Pickens, and really fell in love with it then and decided that that’s what I wanted to do.”
What do you tend to shoot?
“Shooting my family is what I like most, on film, with an attached flash. I would say environmental portraits, and home life, is where I thrive…it has the most meaning to me. At this point my family ignores me, they’re used to me clunking around with medium format and sometimes large format cameras. They don’t mind, and every holiday there’s always me taking photos, so they’re used to it. With my fine art, it’s a way for me to almost, deal with family situations, by photographing them. So, I guess it’s kind of a cathartic way to work around situations that make me anxious, is by putting the camera in between myself and them, and photographing them. So photography, in that sense, is a way for me to deal with things. But I’m also a people person, despite how shy I am. So I like meeting people and photographing them and seeing what their stories are, with wedding photography.”
How do you balance commercial vs fine art photography, and would you do anything else as a job?
“I would like to think that I’m a fine art photographer, but I do commercial work because it pays my bills. But it’s not something that makes me feel fulfilled or like I’m accomplishing anything, not like the fine art does. It’s a difficult line to straddle, and I’m constantly teetering over which one I am currently, especially now that it’s wedding season…I think about that a lot, when people ask if I have a plan B. I did go to school for a period of time to be a teacher, and then I realized that I didn’t want to do that. And I’ve interned at florist shops before. So maybe still something in the wedding industry. Maybe teaching photo—I think teaching photo, that’s what I would do.”
Whose work has inspired you?
“Sally Mann, of course, like every film photographer is inspired by her…this summer I went to a conference in VA where I got to hear Doug Dubois, he photographed his family with large format, super beautiful work, I think he did it over the course of ten years. And then Chris Verene, his work is incredible, it’s all medium format with attached flash, and that’s kind of what honed in that particular look for me, his work was the first time I saw it like that, and we kind of rigged my Yashica with the flash so that I could hold it with both hands. One day I’d hope to meet him, probably not, but I hope so. ”