Taylor Says Stop Sucking
Taylor Slater is a triple threat. Her visual arts aptitude covers splotches of paint, videography, and photography. Her dad, never mind who he is, gave her her first Polaroid camera, which sent her on her way. That way was on display The Montauk Beach House at her first ever exhibition of photography, “One Ocean — Seven Strawless Seas” with work benefitting Lonely Whale.
We got to chatting with the Southern Florida native her about her dreams of a strawless sea, photography as art, and what airport doesn’t make the grade.
What’s the last photo you took on your phone?
Taylor Slater: Let’s see. Oh, gosh I’m scared. It was a lighthouse. It’s the Montauk Lighthouse and it’s the sunrise this morning.
How did you find Montauk? When did you first come?
TS: I came last year with one of my friends. Her family lives here, and we stayed with her aunt and uncle. They took us everywhere. I had no idea this place existed. I thought in New York, New York City is pretty much it. When I came here, I was like, “Wait this is three hours away from the city. This is crazy. It’s beautiful. And there’s cliffs on the beach, I’m coming here every weekend.”
You find out that one person bought a piece of your art and it’s now hanging out up in their house. What person in the world would you totally geek out and nerd over and go, “What? Are you kidding me?”
TS: That’s such a hard question. Oh, this is so cheesy. Probably Harry Styles. I was a huge One Direction fan.
Best airport, worst airport.
TS: Oh, Honolulu by far. The airport is outside and it looks like you can just walk in and just get on a plane. Honolulu’s the best one.
TS: Fort Lauderdale. That’s by far the worst one and it’s usually my home base. There’s no good food, it’s not fun. You just have to sit at your gate and that’s it.
Way to throw it under the bus.
TS: Yeah, sorry Fort Lauderdale.
Okay, so Dr. Sylvia Earle is an 82-year-old marine biologist. She’s credited by people like Al Gore, and Barack Obama, and she’s this incredible scientist, ocean explorer, maven. She’s not on Instagram, but she is incredible. But her legacy when she leaves the earth is basically she founded these things called Hope Spots, where basically, she has made parts of underwater, like, national parks. That didn’t exist before, and she greatly helped do that. So, not to set expectations too high, but when you are 82, what do you want to be remembered for?
TS: I think what you do is super important. And I want to make sure that everything I do has a lasting impact. But also, I think the most important thing is how you make people feel. So, I try to focus on people in everything I do. So yeah, the environment is so important, taking care of the environment, but what is it doing for people and how is it making them feel? I mean, the world revolves around the ocean, and so it’s important for people to take care of the ocean because it takes care of the people. When people think about me, [I want them to think], “Oh, she really cared about me and cared about how I was doing and she really loved people.”
How did you connect with Lonely Whale? How did that come about?
TS: I had heard about their strawless campaign before, I just didn’t realize it stemmed from them. So this hashtag, “stop sucking,” that’s how I found them. And then I just thought everything that they’re doing is so crazy. They’re impacting so many people—celebrities are like hashtagging all their stuff—and it’s just cool that they grabbed onto that. They’re actually doing things, so that’s why I really love them. Not only is going strawless a trend, but it’s also actually changing the world.
Where’s that photo going? What’s it for? What does it mean?
Okay, we hand you our keys to the gallery and we’re like, “Here you go. We’ll be back in three months. Here’s a blank check, whatever, go out and curate.” What other artists, photographers, painters, whoever you want, are you putting in that gallery with your stuff? So opening night we walk back in and you go, “Dude, this is who we have.” And you have … who else is involved?
TS: There’s a lot of photographers that I look up to, but I would want to invite people that are actually trying to do something with it, not just posting a photo but like, okay, where’s that photo going? What’s it for? What does it mean? You know? Why are you doing that?
So, do you know who Chris Burkhard is?
TS: I was going to say him, yeah.
Okay. So Chris talked with us a lot about why people take photographs and stuff and basically you’re taking that photo because you want to remember that moment for some particular reason. It’s like, okay I’m taking this photo right now because I want to remember me and my friends … yeah, this feeling right? So how do you … how does that feeling and hopefully carry over … yeah, exactly yeah.
TS: Yeah, exactly. It’s funny you said his name because he was like one of the first few that popped in my head. That’s so important. For me, when I take photos and paint, that’s what I want to transfer. I want the emotion that I’m feeling when I’m painting it to carry on through the image. And it’s funny because this random woman direct messaged me on Instagram and she was like, “Wow, this photo makes me feel like so at peace.” And I was like, “That’s exactly what I’m trying to say here.” And it was the coolest moment for me because I was like, okay maybe something is happening when I’m posting a photo.
OAHU, HAWAII – Taylor Slater
What band or music or song are playing in the background when you’re painting or editing photos or editing whatever it might be?
TS: Okay. My first choice is Ben Howard, all his music. Tame Impala and…I listen to so much music it’s so hard. When I want to go hard on the editing it’s usually Kendrick Lamar.
You seem to split your time between Hawaii, New York, and Florida. How would each of these places influence or collectively influence your focus with your camera and your paintings?
TS: Well, Florida is where I grew up. So I figured out everything there. I figured out that I love photography there. I figured out that I can paint there. Everything that I do happened there, that’s the first time I did it. And Florida is where my family lives. It just means a lot to me. I grew up on the beach, Fort Lauderdale, by the pier. So the beach has always inspired me and the ocean is like home to me. When someone says the beach, I think of home because that’s where I grew up.
And then New York has been awesome. I’ve lived there for two years. New York has helped a lot with photography, I shoot everything there. it’s really challenged me business-wise with photography.
Hawaii is totally different than New York City. But Hawaii inspires all my paintings. Last summer was the first time I went to Hawaii since I was four, and I was so excited. I wanted to go there so bad and when I went on that trip inspired me so much and I started painting. I used to paint in high school, but never with resin. So it was my first time painting with resin a year ago.
TS: Well, it’s crazy how things have worked out, because I went through a period of this weird, sad few months. So, when I went to Hawaii, it changed my life. I came back to my senses and found myself again and that’s when I started painting. And painting has helped me stay on a good track and stay positive. I paint the places that make me the happiest. Light and peace and happiness—that’s what Hawaii brought to me and that’s what home brings to me too. It’s pretty crazy that it’s only been a year and I’m here doing this right now. If I had never gone through that period of sadness, I would’ve never been here. Everything happens for a reason, everything bad turns into something beautiful eventually.