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Manuela Thames is a photographic artist based in Saint Paul, Minnesota where she lives with her husband and two teen boys. Born and raised in Germany, she moved to the US in 2004 after marrying her American husband. Shortly thereafter she began her photography journey after two life changing events happened within one year, the birth of her first son and the death of her brother.

Largely self-taught, Manuela uses various photographic techniques to explore themes around loss and grief, her personal experience with generational trauma, as well as the notions of belonging, connection and what it means to be human. Within that she continues to explore human ways of coping, the strength and beauty that evolves out of suffering and our common desire for healing and journey towards wholeness. Her work consists largely of black and white conceptual (self) portraits. In recent years, her work has turned its focus on giving new life to old vintage and family photographs through the use of multiple exposure techniques as well as the incorporation of mixed media.

Manuela’s photography has been described as contemplative, evocative, and cinematic and has been widely exhibited nationally as well as internationally. Her “Trauma” series won 1st place conceptual series of the year in the Monovisions Award in 2019, and in the same year she won the 13th Julia Margaret Cameron Award in the Self-Portrait Category. In addition, her work has been published online and in print in such places as Black and White Magazine, Sun Magazine, Dohdo Magazine and Shots Magazine. 



LACP Interviews Manuela Thames

LACP asks Manuela Thames ten questions about their background, career in and beliefs about photography.

Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?

Manuela Thames: I am a photo-based artist using various techniques to create conceptual work around themes of connection, belonging, home, and what it means to be human, as well as exploring the experience of grief and loss and the process towards healing and wholeness.

I also write, teach workshops, and have been mentoring students for several years now.

LACP: How long have you been photographing?

MT: I have been practicing photography for about 18 years. I have been interested and casually experimenting with photography and other artforms since I was a teenager but didn’t pursue photography seriously until much later, following two life-changing events that happened within one year: the death of my brother and the birth of my first son. Initially I began to express myself through self-portraiture and haven’t stopped creating ever since.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

MT: I am a largely self-taught photographer.

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

MT: I am not sure if there was a particular moment, but shortly after I started taking photographs, I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It differed greatly from my career and things that I had done or tried before. Creating became an urge from deep within that has never left me.

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

MT: Many times. Being a photographer, like any artist, comes with many challenges. The competition is fierce, and making a living from it is rare. You have to be able to embrace uncertainty, vulnerability and rejection, and when you get stuck in a creative rut, you have to overcome the nagging self doubt. But, this is who I am, and deep down I know that what I do is what I am meant to do. I keep going.

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

MT: I am sure I have, but it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to me compared to what I have gained. But if I had to mention one thing, the lack of stability and security is something that can be quite exhausting. And there are many aspects of being a photographer that have nothing to do with creativity, but I don’t think that’s a sacrifice. I think that’s part of life and any career you pursue. Being a photographer might be your passion, but at the end of the day, it takes hard work, commitment, discipline, and within that sacrifice like everything else.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

MT: So much, but most importantly, pursuing photography has given me a kind of joy, purpose, and fulfillment I didn’t know before. I have gained confidence and much more security within myself and in who I am, and I have gained many friends and made connections all over the world.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

MT: I teach a class on the limitless possibilities and various approaches of using multiple exposure in photography titled “Expand Your Vision For Creative Image Making Through The Use Of Multiple Exposure”.

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

MT: Creating connection and helping other artists in developing their vision. I didn’t think it would be at first, but teaching has honestly become the most rewarding part of my photography career.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

MT: Start creating. Be consistent. Don’t give up. Learn as much as you can. Embrace imperfection and failure.  Read Rick Rubin’s book “The Creative Act”.

My favorite quote of his:

“Your desire to create must be greater than your fear of it”