Using her Gifts for Good: An Interview with Photographer, Writer and Humanitarian Lois Spatz
Adjusting the “lens”
When you combine talent, precision, empathy, and a gift for storytelling you will comprehend how powerful these attributes can be bestowed in one particular individual, hence I present to you: Lois Spatz. I promise that you will not just be reading a typical, traditional interview article, but you will be transported by the candor and beauty of this one person. Let’s begin our interview.
AW: Why Photography? What made you want to be in this profession and dabble in this “art”?
LS: I have been obsessed with photography since I was a young girl.
But my career as a photographer actually came later in life. I began my career in publishing as a writer, after I moved to Wellington in 2003. It was literally a series of divine events that led me to the path of being a published photographer and writer and took me out of my comfort zone I’d been in for the past six years of being a full-time mom and housewife. (Lois leans back in the chair, relaxed and ready to tell her story.)
I had always taken photos of my kids, family and friends but I began picking up my camera more seriously when my oldest son Shawn started playing football for the WCFL. I would take photos of him and other players, write captions and send them to the Palm Beach Post. The editor at that time loved my photos and would publish them on an almost weekly basis. It was a few months later I got a call from that editor asking me if I would like to take over a column called “Roads West” about the happenings in the Western Communities of Palm Beach County. And so it began.
I got to write about businesses, people, places, schools or events happening in Royal Palm Beach and Wellington. I took pictures and wrote many articles. Around 2006, as the newspaper business began shrinking, I took a job with the Town-Crier and Wellington The Magazine. I continued writing and photographing the people and places in the western communities.I spent over a year there covering everything from politicians to preschools. After that, I continued writing for many local publications including the Sun Sentinel Forum and Palms West Monthly and doing some photography on the side. The work intertwined perfectly with my life as a mother and wife, allowing me freedom and flexibility while still giving me a creative outlet.
It was sometime during 2006 while covering an event for Town Crier, I met Krista Martinelli and her daughter Stella. Krista and I really hit it off and eventually she asked me to work with her for Around Wellington. The rest is history, 14 years later and you can actually search my name on the website aroundwellington.com and see many of my articles and photos that I’ve done for AW throughout the years.
With many of my photographs now being published, my quest to learn more led me to taking workshops, I also watched a lot of online videos, studied other photographers and volunteered with the Palm Beach Photographic Centre. I spent time as an apprentice learning the technical aspects of photography firsthand, carrying equipment and tagging along with several talented shutterbugs. Working for Around Wellington and various other publications allowed me many opportunities to meet so many people that wanted me to take their photos “on the side” that in 2013, I decided to start my own business, LS PHOTOS & PR Services LLC.
AW: How is your photography “lens” different than other photographers?
LS: Because of all the charity events I covered starting out, I found a niche and a way to give back to the community working with the non-profit sector. My first big client was Susan G. Komen South Florida where I spent almost 8 years, covering The Race for the Cure and all of their functions and fundraising events throughout each year.
Keeping my rates low while doing what I loved, was a wonderful way for me to give back, (my paternal grandmother died of breast cancer). I continued to give in this way and sometimes even volunteered my skills helping many other non-profits such as the American Cancer Foundation, Palm Health Foundation, Kids Cancer Foundation, Danny and Ron’s Rescue and (my favorite event of the year) The Great Charity Challenge.
Another thing that may set me apart is my continued efforts to be a “master of natural light” which I do believe everyone looks better in natural light.
I view things in a way that I tend to focus more on the inner beauty of my subjects, bringing out what is on the inside rather than just focusing on what is on the outside. Which I know is totally the opposite of what we are “trained” to do. Working for so many years with so many kinds of people has really gifted me a better ability to make people feel comfortable, while showing them in their best light. And the real blessing for me is that many of my clients through the years have turned into acquaintances and friendships I truly cherish.
AW: Please share a few projects that you feel have moved or shaped you.
LS: The first thing that comes to my mind is my work for the past five years with Fidelity Investments Great Charity Challenge® and working with the Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin.
GCC (gcc.coth.com)is an annual event held during the Winter Equestrian Festival that raises over a million dollars for at least 30 local Palm Beach County charities, some of which are located in Wellington. It is the most concerted effort I’ve ever seen, meeting the direct needs of so many. My work with Anne Caroline has both inspired me and brought me to tears many times seeing what an impact it has on our community and in our world and watching her work so hard to make such a significant and impactful change in this world.
But (Lois says with a gentle smile), it’s more about the “people” and not so much the “projects” that continue to create such an impact on my life. I am blessed to meet the most kind-hearted, community-oriented, selfless people I have ever met in all of my life.
AW: How has the pandemic affected your Photography business?
LS: Because of the quarantine, I really wasn’t taking photos of people for some time and instead really focused on myself, my family and fostered more of my creativity. It gave me time to step back and really evaluate what is most important to me. It also pushed me to explore more of my “arts” side, taking photos of things I wanted to rather than what others asked from me.
AW: What is something that very few people know about you?
LS: Being able to give back in the community is very important to me, especially working with children. I spent many years working with my son’s schools, meeting many of the school’s photography needs. This gave me the opportunity to serve while spending time with my children, volunteering my time taking photos for so many things from marching band to the high school marketing program, sporting events, curriculum fairs, proms, competitions and any photo the teachers or principals asked me to take. This also gave me the opportunity to know all of my kids’ friends and teachers and to this day it is really what I am most grateful for in my time as a photographer.
AW: Tell us about your family.
LS: I’ve been married to my husband David for 25 years and we have two amazing sons Shawn and Eaven, 24 and 20. They work hard to be successful and are happy in life and this makes me very proud. I am crazy about my dog and love to walk every morning or ride my bike through the dirt roads of Wellington.
AW: I noticed from your Facebook and Instagram pages that you are a hug fan of horses. What is this obsession with horses?
LS: I was not born into nor do I live an equestrian lifestyle, so I guess it does seem unusual how obsessed I am with horses. Here is the reality: As a young girl I suffered abuse and would close my eyes and visualize myself riding Black Beauty in a mountain somewhere. It was a way for me to survive. I would also beg my aunt’s friend to draw me pictures of horses. It was a comfort watching her draw flowing manes and Friesian faces. Horses were a way of healing for me and to this day, being in the presence of horses soothes something in my soul that nothing else can.
In life I believe there is no such thing as coincidences and from being a little girl who survived by dreaming of horses, I now live in what is known as the equestrian capital of the world; the irony does not escape me. My photography career has allowed me to photograph everything equestrian from show jumping, dressage, polo to portraits of incredible equestrian souls and their horses. In fact, where I live is literally a connecting road from the Wellington suburbs to the million dollar “farms” where I walk and ride my bike among riders and horses every day, allowing me even a little more healing each time.
AW: Tell me about your involvement with the Wellington Arts Society.
LS: A few years ago, a diagnosed voice disorder sent me in a different direction, and I decided I wanted to pursue photography as an art. When I first moved to Wellington, I lived down the street from one of the founders of WAS, Corinne Ingerman. I would always take photos of her for the Town Crier at different events and she would always tell me, one day you need to join us. So, in 2017 when I learned that one of my friends from the old Ishnala neighborhood was now the president, I decided to give it a try. It was through the many talented and generous artists I met there that I learned the difference between a picture and how to create an image that moves people. Interpretation of art is really more about self-expression that evokes emotion, not just taking a photo documenting a time, place or person. Before the pandemic I got to be part of WAS Art for Kids and to bring art to the children at Palms West and Kids Cancer Foundation with Carolina King. WAS continues to bring supplies and donations to the hospital for the children, and Carolina even started her own outreach program called Arts for Smiles that gives art and school supplies to children in need in Palm Beach County. I was blessed to be able to help her for some time.
AW: What has been the most exciting experience that you have ever photographed? Also, the most painful?
LS: One of the most exciting events ever was when the former President Barack Obama was first campaigning and speaking in Lake Worth, Florida. I was in the Press core area with Krista Martinelli and this young, African American boy beside us asked Obama, “Do you think one day I could be president?” Obama answered him saying that yes, one day he could be President and that is why he himself was working so hard to pave the way for others.
Some of the painful memories come from times I felt insecure or that my talent was not up to par with my clients. It made me always work harder to be better though. However, in the big picture I am my harshest critic. I also feel sad when I find out someone, I took photos of has passed away, whether it was a cancer patient or someone else I met in the community.
What I realize from this is that photos are so important to the people who are left behind. A portrait allows grieving friends and family a tangible way to remember a loved one forever. I have always taken that part of it as acknowledging my photography as a gift from God that I am able to share with others.
“Gifts for Good”
At the end of the interview Lois talked about giving back to the community again and how she believed that life was about making life better for others. I left the interview that day with a renewed belief in the goodness of mankind and the motivation to be a better person. I felt like I had met someone whose “lens” was so focused that she could bring out the best in just about anyone. I look forward to reading her book in the near future and know you will too!
AW: Where can people view your photography?
LS: On my website: Loisspatz.com, my Facebook Page @loisspatzphotos, Instagram @LOISSP and search aroundwellington.com “Lois Spatz.” You will see some of my work from the very beginning, (when I used to shoot in Auto mode with half frame cameras and kit lenses.
AW: Are you working on anything special at the moment?
LS: After 16 years of photography, maybe it took a pandemic to bring more of the writer out from inside me and I’ve decided to dedicate some time to writing a book. So going forward, I am going to be more selective and pick projects that will allow me more time to write. Honestly, since I was 15 years old, I have wanted to write a book about surviving abuse and all of my challenges growing up. Now that I’ve raised children and found some success and happiness it is my dream to share my journey with the world through words and, of course, always through photos and maybe inspire or help someone who is struggling.
AW: Who is your greatest role model and how have they fed your love for photography?
LS: I am a longtime fan of the famous photog Annie Leibowitz because her photos seem to literally look into her subject’s soul. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting and working with so many talented photographers that have inspired me such as Deborah Kalas, Dannielle Judd, Lauren Lenko, Shane Shrogi and Jennifer Walker.
My greatest role model is Oprah, her strength and surviving horrific abuse to become such a spiritual successful and powerful woman speaks to my heart and her light has led the way for so many. Watching her talk show every day for so many years changed my way of thinking about what I can achieve in this lifetime.
Years ago, I was able to meet extended family in Chicago I had never known and learned that my Great, Great Grandfather was one of Chicago’s greatest original photographers – B.P. Higgins, who photographed everything from portraits to events to architecture. I also learned that my Great Aunt Sarah Higgins was one of the original masters of colorizing Black and White photography. Sarah was a brave and revolutionary photographer and pioneer of her time. My uncle Frank shared a picture with me of her in knickers, long socks and a vest (unheard of for a woman in the 1920’s) with her leg up on a stack of suitcases – she was smoking a pipe.
Learning later in life about my ancestors was the missing piece of my mystery of life’s puzzle. While it certainly explained my intense obsession with photography, it confirmed for me that the art of photography and telling a story are the very essence of who I am and are truly in my blood.