Arden Wray

"I think this is a really powerful time for the world. So much is happening and so many people are tuned in, feeling angry and active, feeling a need for change. It's not something that can be ignored anymore and the internet is an incredible tool for democratizing access to information, expression, and involvement."

 Self Portrait /  Arden Wray

Self Portrait /  Arden Wray

What is your name & what are you about?

My name is Arden Clare Wray. I'm a photographer who tries to make honest, intimate portraits of interesting folks and places.

Where do you live?

Right now I'm based in Toronto, Canada, where I grew up. I spend a lot of time in Brooklyn and in the Catskills, and as much as I can on the road traveling. My family is working to restore and run a hundred-year-old inn near Woodstock, NY called Foxfire Mountain House. We're set to open this summer, so I'm often down there playing with paints and tiles and special vintage pieces to fill it with. 

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I don't know how I'd describe it with words - I know what I like when I see it and I know what keeps coming out! Maybe I can list some of my favourite adjectives, and maybe some might apply to my visual tastes and tendencies: soft, sweet, wild, true, honest, earnest, quiet.

"Feminine energy is about the kinship and sisterhood that exists on some level between all women. A powerful unspoken shared experience - a certain incalculable blend of warmth and strength."

 An image from Arden's "FAMILY" Series, 2014 

An image from Arden's "FAMILY" Series, 2014 

How did you find yourself on the path you’re on now? What made you interested in becoming a photographer?

I think my path is still winding and changing all the time, and I am just trying to stay open to its turns and hold on tight.The thing that I love most about photography, if that is an okay way to approach this question, is the feeling of making something which feels like a true document of someone, or some moment, or some place. It is a little bit of magic to me. And a good photograph can be like an x-ray. It can go deeper and truer than what that moment even felt like right in it, on the surface as you were living it. 

What kind of conditions do you work best in? What is a normal photoshoot like for you? Any rituals?

I'm best one on one with someone, usually in their home or another intimate, private space. I don't like to work in studio ever if I can help it, I don't like to bring in too much gear or too many other people, and I like to make sure the space feels really safe. I use available light. Basically, I keep things natural and easy. I shoot lots quickly. I like to talk throughout to whoever I'm working with, maybe have a coffee or a glass of wine. Nothing too formal, as much as possible depending on the situation. I'm not sure about rituals - maybe I have some I'm not even aware of that the people I've photographed could speak to better than I could. I know I must make really weird physical poses when I'm shooting, because any time anyone has released "behind the scenes" photos from a shoot I'm horrified by my contorted yoga moves and bizarre deep squats.

 Arden Wray

Arden Wray

What is the story behind Boots & Pine?

I started Boots & Pine in a time when I was working a really physically tiring full-time job on my feet and found I wasn't making any new photography work. I was so tired by the end of my days or on the weekends that months went by with me barely even touching my camera. And it had started to make me feel very sad, and very alienated from myself. So, I decided to make a project that was what I wished I was shooting and treat it like a job - at first I was shooting every weekend, sometimes both days multiple times. The first year or so I was very diligent about posting a new profile every Thursday morning. That's slipped now, but the process of always having a new shoot ahead and fresh new pictures was really, really wonderful for me and brought me into a much more positive, creative place than I had been in ever before.

And in terms of a mission for the project, I wanted to shine a light on these wonderful women I kept meeting and whose work I would fall in love with, and try to show them as their best most magical, inspiring selves. Supporting handmade and independent businesses and artists is very important to me personally, and so Boots & Pine is an extension of those beliefs as well.

Outside of photography, what are some of your other interests?

Maybe they don't quite count as interests, but some things I really love are exploring + adventures, reading - poetry especially lately, watching Netflix in the bath with a big glass of red wine, keeping the windows open while it's raining outside, daydreaming about the future of Foxfire and all the magic things that will happen there, hunting for vintage treasures, small fat animals, swimming in lakes and rivers in the summertime, sleeping beside warm-bodied boys, walking around listening to music, eating breakfast all the time, making wonky bowls and things out of clay.

What does feminine energy mean to you and how do you use it in your life / work ?

I think feminine energy is about the kinship and sisterhood that exists on some level between all women. There is a powerful unspoken shared experience and understanding that can be tapped into - a certain incalculable blend of warmth and strength. I guess this enters my work and life in the relationships I have with women and how centrally important they are to me, and how greatly they impact my sense of who I am in the world. I love to photograph women more than anything else, and I seek to create photographs which show women as their truest, most beautiful selves. At least that is how I want my subjects to feel when they look at them.

"I really put a lot of stock in the power of thought and intention. I try not to dwell on negativity and to actively surround myself with positive, ambitious, kind people. I practice gratitude - I say thank you for my blessings, count them out."

 Photograph by Arden Wray 

Photograph by Arden Wray 

Are you spiritual? Do you meditate? Have any kind of practice that you're involved in? What do you do to maintain your own well-being? 

I don't subscribe to any sort of specific spiritual practice, but yes I would certainly describe myself as being a spiritual person. I really put a lot of stock in the power of thought and intention. I try not to dwell on negativity and to actively surround myself with positive, ambitious, kind people. I practice gratitude - I say thank you for my blessings, count them out. I know I am a massively lucky person. I believe in wishes and good energy and the power of the universe. I love astrology. I have my tarot read from time to time. I'm superstitious. I find a lot of strength and clarity in reading - poetry, essays, sometimes even just quotes. I seek out powerful words to refocus my thoughts and worries around.

Who are some of your role models? Who and what inspires you?

I'm constantly inspired by all the strong, kind, creative women in my life. My mother and grandmothers, my aunt Britt, my friends, the women I photograph for Boots & Pine. I'm in awe of their strength to be true to themselves and to fight the fear of change, to embrace "yes."

 Photograph by Arden Wray 

Photograph by Arden Wray 

Do you have a mantra or piece of advice you try to live your life by? 

I think of two things very often. The first is Wild Geese by Mary Oliver - 

"You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."

And the second is a Cat Stevens lyric that has been my mother's advice to me countless times in my life in many different kinds of situations - "you can make it all true and you can make it undo." 

Illustration by Phoebe Wahl

What are some of your intentions for the year 2015?

To stay true to myself and what feels right for me always. I don't want to get so bogged down with day-to-day worries and hum-drums that I lose focus of the big picture - which is sparkly and bright and ever-expanding. To do the right thing by others always - big or small. To keep adventuring. To be kind, brave, true, open, and forever wild.

 How do you feel about where the planet’s at now in 2015? Are you optimistic about the future?

I think this is a really powerful time for the world. So much is happening and so many people are tuned in, feeling angry and active, feeling a need for change. It's not something that can be ignored anymore and the internet is an incredible tool for democratizing access to information, expression, and involvement. There was a great piece by Rebecca Solnit I read recently about some of these things -- I would recommend it. I believe there's a shift at play on a large scale which is evidenced by all the triggers we see manifesting in these major events - Occupy Wall Street, the adoption of identifying with "Feminism" by the masses, Ferguson and all that surrounds. These things are all connected and they speak to massive change at every level. This time is about questioning power, opening up channels for connection and change. So I feel very optimistic about the future. 

 Photograph by Arden Wray 

Photograph by Arden Wray