Portfolio Review: Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin


I had the privilege of taking Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin’s film photography class my freshman year at LMU. As a teacher I think she’s fantastic. As a photographer I think she’s fascinating. Check her work out here. 


Any photographer has the ability to manipulate a shot to their liking, whether it is before or after the exposure. But that isn’t the feeling I get when seeing these photos. Kathleen’s  images always capture a remarkably honest look at people doing everyday things in their lives. And when the photos are staged, she lets us know, as you’ll read below.


By far my favorite images come from the Xiang Sha Wan series. These photos were taken at an event Kathleen was invited to in the Inner Mongolia region of China. The event was designed exclusively for photography – as Kathleen puts it, “the moments were already decided.” Instead of focusing on staged sights and performances, many photos are of fellow attendees. Even photos of the hired performers show them in candid moments, rather than on stage. By avoiding these planned shots, she gives us a far more authentic look at a fabricated photo event.


Take this photo for example. Even without a caption we can tell by the crop of this man’s head that he wanted some form of privacy. The fact that he does not even have a camera in hand is also a curious sign. According to Kathleen,  “There was a military general engaged in photographic enjoyment. He had a personal assistant who carried his equipment and water.”


My favorite (staged) photograph was of these camels running down the sand dunes.

“My camera was not suited for this kind of photography. I was not suited for this kind of photography ” says Kathleen.

Yet the images she takes are fascinating nonetheless.



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