Sadie Culberson is a photographer and art director living in North Carolina with her husband and one year old son Elling. The delicate style visible in her work comes through in their home, where vintage meets modern in an effortless way. We spoke with Sadie about life in COVID-19 times, becoming a mother, and staying inspired.
Hello! First off, tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
I'm a photographer and new mother living in North Carolina. I've been trying to balance full-time work, living with my inlaws during COVID, and raising my one-year-old all while trying to stay sane. Haha.
What is your favorite morning ritual, has it changed at all in this “new normal”?
My favorite morning rituals are sleeping in without an alarm and having a homemade breakfast on the back porch. Mornings are less rushed during this time. I stare at the clock a little less and savor moments more.
How has your outlook changed during this time? Any new insights or perspective shifts?
Before COVID, I felt the need to constantly be on the go. It was rare for me to stay home all-day. The first month of quarantine felt like a relief, an excuse to really slow down without feeling guilty and I loved that. We were about to sign on a house the day before COVID hit - something I'm very grateful we didn't do. It's pushed our plans of finding a home back by almost a year, which both frustrates me and has taught me to be more easygoing. I'm someone who really likes to feel independent and accomplished and living in my in-law's dining room for ten months feels like the opposite of that. The time of changed plans has helped me see that I'm really okay wherever I am.
We are such fans of your work - from your photography to your art direction and set design, everything you create is so beautiful and inspiring. How did you get started on this path?
My work path has been very natural for me. My parents say I've been an artist since I was small with an eye for drawing, color, and arranging objects. My grandma would have me help her decorate her home when I was in elementary school and I adored having someone older trust me in that way. I saved up a lump sum from childhood till college for something that felt important to me and I ended up spending it on camera gear that I still use to this day, 8 years later. I have a B.A. in Psych and planned on becoming a therapist because I was scared to pursue a so-called 'unstable career' but I couldn't help it. While in school, I was shooting weddings on the weekends and after graduating I stepped into full time photo work. I became very exhausted and lost interest in photography two years ago, taking all of my work off of the internet and closing my business. That time away and then becoming a mother gave me a lot of clarity and has sparked an entirely new level of interest in my craft. In some ways, I feel like I am just now becoming a photographer starting from scratch and immersing myself in the art form.
What about your work continues to inspire you?
The way I enjoy taking photographs involves so many art forms in one - from mixing colors as my painting instructor taught me, to graphic design principles on the grid and what naturally feels like a good balance to the eye. Photography is organizing light, color, composition, and a mood that feels captivating to you. There are a million ways to arrange these and I'm convinced I'll be learning new ways to do it forever which deeply inspires me.
How do you approach decorating your home? How does that compare to your approach to designing your shoots?
I approach decorating my home exactly how I approach directing a shoot. I sit on the floor and visualize what I want to feel and how that could be communicated. I'll often write down scribbly notes with ideas. Then start gathering what I have to see how it all feels together. I let myself do whatever impulsively seems like a good idea then I step back and stare at it all together and arrange again, sit on the floor again, write down more notes about what's 'off' or what should be added to make it all feel complete. My spaces never look the same way longer than a couple of months, I am always shifting, building on old ideas, and reimagining what they could look like.
You recently moved from Nashville to North Carolina, tell us a little about the decision to move and how the transition has been.
I had my son in August 2019 and experienced some serious feeding issues with him that made living away from family seem impossible. The move back to North Carolina felt necessary for me to get through that time. Nashville was home for a year and I made some really wonderful friends but being back in North Carolina feels right. Becoming a parent made me want to settle down a bit more and be less all over the place like I normally was.
You have an adorable one year old son, what has been your favorite part of being a mother? The most surprising part?
My favorite part of being a mother is falling asleep cuddled up in a ball with my son. There's something so precious about little hands holding your shirt and baby snores. I love how babies force you to be present in the moment. The most surprising part is how completely consuming it is to be a parent. It takes everything out of you just to make it through the day. I have so much more appreciation for my parents now.
Fill in the blanks:
The coolest place I’ve ever woken up in is: On an air mattress floating in a lake.
The best cup of coffee/tea is at: Matcha at Maru Coffee in Los Angeles
A thing about mornings I’ll never get sick of is: Hearing the birds outside. Watching sunlight reflect on bedroom walls.
Photos by: Sadie Culberson