With over two decades of incredible projects and even more time behind the lens, Waltham-based Cheryl Clegg has a unique approach to her career. She managed to balance her striving business with raising five children on a daily basis and even was able to fit in this insightful interview with Production Paradise to discuss where she’s at and where she’s headed.
Production Paradise: Originally being from New Jersey and being based in Boston for so many years, what was the incentive to move to Waltham?
Cheryl Clegg: I moved to Boston the day after I graduated from RIT. I didn’t have a job or a place to live but I was ready for my next adventure. My home base was in the Boston Seaport area for many years. As the Seaport began to change and transform into the hi-rise office and condo buildings, the affordable space I was in was not so affordable anymore. I found a much smaller space, closer to home in my Waltham location. Most of my projects take me offsite, but having a dedicated studio space gives me a place to hang my hat and a place to “create.”
Production Paradise: You have an impressive portfolio of portraits with some familiar faces. What are you looking to capture in the individual when taking their picture?
Cheryl Clegg: I look to capture the emotion and the sense of the person in all of my portraits. I want my subjects to look at the photographs of themselves and say, “that’s me.”
Production Paradise: When it comes to your conceptual photography, when do you usually visualise the final product? Is it before, during, after the shoot or a combination of all three?
Cheryl Clegg: When it comes to my conceptual photography, I would say, all three and then some. I do have a vision for my conceptual work before I pick up the camera and before I edit the photos, but I can’t say that my previsualisation always materialises in the final edit. Once I shoot, and then spend hours editing, there is the magic of the unknown that happens. I never really know what the photo will look like until I am done (and then sometimes I go back weeks later and tweak something).
Production Paradise: With a vast array of work ranging from sports to conceptual photography, did it ever cross your mind to specialise in one area specifically?
Cheryl Clegg: I like to think I specialise in “creating visual stories.” Sometimes the storyline involves just one photo, other times a series of photos. Every baseball/football/soccer game has a story to go with it. Every portrait has a story of emotion and expression, giving us an insight into who that person is. The conceptual work also has a story- most of which comes from the imagination of the viewer.
Production Paradise: Your portfolios are wrapped up amazingly with moving commissions from over the years. Are there ones in particular that are closer to your heart than others? Why these?
Cheryl Clegg: My commissions have varied over the years and each one holds a special place for me. There are the non-profits I have done work for, hopefully helping their cause/mission. There are the clients that have been hiring me for decades that are like family. The clients who didn’t really want their photo taken, but walked out happy with what we created. The clients that hired me either just before or just after I had one of my five kids, validating that I could continue to run a business and have a family. I could just go on and on, going through years learning life lessons with a camera in my hand.
Production Paradise: If you could take your creativity to the next step without fear of failure or rejection, what would you do next?
Cheryl Clegg: Hmm….this is a tough question. I think that part of the creative process involves failure, rejection and a certain amount of fear. I can’t say every creative idea I have had has been successful, but maybe the idea of not being successful is what pushed me to the next step. Rejection is not something any of us really want, but it is part of life and we need to learn to move forward from it. I think there is always a certain amount of fear in the unknown – but again, we need to learn to overcome fear and move forward.
So, back to the question…time will tell!
Production Paradise: How have your children inspired you?
Cheryl Clegg: My children have been in front of the camera since day one and continue to inspire me every day. In my efforts to photograph life along the way and to capture their childhood I have been able to incorporate them in my work (and not just for my photo albums). They have appeared in magazines, ads, billboards, packaging, book covers, and galleries. There is something special about seeing your kids (even adult kids) in print; it never gets old.
My only daughter (in high school now) is the subject of my ongoing conceptual series. She is the timeless figure in my fictional landscapes. She is an outlet of my creativity for me to push the boundaries of my work.
My oldest son has picked up the “shutterbug gene.” I take pride in looking at his work (@easy.mac on Instagram), and how he sees the world. He is always trying something new, mixing things up, inspiring me to do the same. I have another son (still in high school) who is a whiz at Photoshop and has been for years. He amazes me with how he puts together composites, how fast he works and his knowledge of the software.
As my children have gotten older, they are still a force and supporters of my work, motivating me every day to keep doing what I love.