Lara Jo Regan: A Strange and Beautiful Journey

All Photos by Lara Jo Regan

As an award-winning photojournalist, Lara Jo Regan traveled widely on assignment for magazines like Time, Newsweek, and LIFE to document riots, slices of Americana, and some of the nation's poorest families. Her mother, a former socialite, once remarked, "You should settle down and concentrate on one thing--like getting a dog and photographing it," to which her daughter replied, "Mom, it'll never happen!"

Four women prepare to sleep in their only bed in this image entitled "Fallen Angels," from Regan's "The Uncounted" series.

Ironically, however, this is just what did happen to Regan, who has reinvented her career several times throughout her 15+ years of sharing her vision with the world. Today, her favorite muse--an adorable, chameleon-like dog named Mr. Winkle--graces popular calendars, children's books and greeting cards that she photographs.

A Personal Point of View
"I'm hoping that for the rest of my life, I can do projects that I really want to do," Regan commented at her Los Angeles home recently. She emphasizes that a photographer must take risks and have a unique point of view in order to make it in this competitive industry. "Some photographers can do assignment work and get well-known, but that's difficult." Regan acknowledges that "The turning point came for me when I decided to do these personal projects."

Another significant point about Regan's work is how diverse it's been throughout her career. She says she loves the challenge of trying to master different types of photography, such as humor, conceptual portraiture and photojournalism, and feels that it keeps her work fresh. "Photography is not only about the subject, it's about your point of view and passion," she points out.

"Appalacia," one of the photos in Regan's "Uncounted" series.

"Lots of people think that becoming a photographer is glamorous, but it's really hard work to make good pictures," she notes. "I've seen quite a few assistants come and go when they see what it really takes."

Originally from Philadelphia, Regan first learned to love photography at age 15 while on vacation. "I was chaperoning my grandmother on a trip to Hawaii, and discovered I had a need to record what I saw and share it." At the time, she says, she was very shy, and found that picture-taking was a great outlet for sharing her vision. After she returned from her trip, she had the pictures developed and discovered that "some turned out pretty cool."

This experience inspired Regan to take classes at a local photography store, and she read all she could about taking pictures. "I even highlighted the tech tips in Photographic," she recalls. She also got a job at Dairy Queen to save money to buy her first 35mm SLR. For the remainder of her high school years, Regan took pictures for the school paper and for local newspapers.

Regan was awarded with the World Press Photo of the Year in 2000 for this image of a poverty-stricken Mexican family living in Texas.

After graduation, she attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she studied a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, theatre arts and literature. Both her parents, she says, loved the arts and in turn, she learned to appreciate it early on. "My parents were intellectual and sparked heated debates--it was a good foundation for becoming a photojournalist." Because she was shy and more of an observer of life, she notes, "My mind became developed as a commentator."

In her photography seminars, Regan advises, "The best way to take good pictures is to develop your mind. It's best to become an interesting person--read a lot, look at artwork, sit back and observe human behavior." She's mostly a self-taught photographer.