11 Questions with Mandy Glinsbockel, photographer

Mandy Glinsbockel is an award winning documentary and portrait photographer from British Columbia, Canada. She is driven by storytelling with a focus upon women's social issues and their stories of  challenges and triumphs against changing cultural and economic circumstances. We had the privilege of featuring her work in our Wednesday photoessay here.

What are you listening to/reading/watching at the moment?

I often listen to podcast & radio apps while I edit photos. The weekly podcast I never miss is Dear Sugar, co‐hosted by Cheryl Strayed & Steve Almond. If I’m not listening to that, I usually have Hayhouse Radio (Radio for your Soul) turned on. I also love listening to Jennifer Grace, who currently has a show called Get Unstuck & Make Shift Happen on Empower Radio. I was a student of Jennifer’s coaching classes last year, and with her support, made huge strides forward with my work & goals at a pivotal time.  

As far as reading, the book I’m currently moving through is The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. This  book has been calling out to me for awhile, but it hasn’t felt like the right time to pick it up until recently. A deep exploration of the inner self, this book is a beautiful examination of our relationship between our thoughts, our emotions, and the question of, “Who am ‘I’ in all of this?”  

What I watch swings in phases from the side of serious documentaries over to light, ‘feel-good’ fiction. Currently, I’ve been watching episodes of Grace & Frankie, a sweet and funny series on Netflix that makes me laugh, and completely lightens my spirit when things are feeling heavy.      

Describe your life in 3 sentences:

I am an optimist, a traveller, a seeker.    

I am driven by emotion, my desire for connection and to contribute to the bigger picture.    

The world is big, beautiful, complicated, and each day I feel more capable of doing my part to bring a bit more love to it, and to myself.   

What's the biggest challenge you've overcome?

I honestly think the biggest challenge I’ve overcome is my own internal challenge of feeling ‘not good enough’ in the pursuit of my work. I’m sure this is something every artist, perhaps every human being battles at some point. In 2012, I left behind my 9‐5 job to travel to Kenya for 6 months. I had already been working as a photographer for a few years at this point, but wanted to take the leap to commit fully to documentary work. Within 2 months of being in Kenya, many of my planned projects fell through in a myriad of ways, and I returned to Canada after only 3 months, feeling like I had failed in my endeavors. It all left me in a state of questioning if I was really cut out to do the work I had felt so sure about. I stayed in a place of questioning my capability for 3 years while I settled into more local editorial work, and it wasn’t until 2015 that I took the leap to work abroad again for 7 months in Nepal and Sri Lanka. I can now look back at my experience in Kenya as one of my biggest tests, and lessons in self‐accountability, adaptability, and not giving up.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? 

“You don’t find your projects. Your projects find you.”

Jessica Dimmock, documentary filmmaker, said these words while on a panel at the 2014 Photo Plus Expo I attended in New York, and it gave me chills. I realised that I had been pushing so hard to ‘find my next project’, and her words made me realise that there was a bigger picture at hand, and that I needed to let go of the idea that I had to be the shaper of every detail... that I could step back, stay curious, and trust that I would recognise my next project when we came upon one another. And I did.  

“Follow your heart. Be yourself.”

It’s the cliché phrase we all read and were told as children, but there’s honestly never been anything that feels like a truer road to happiness or fulfilment. I will always strive to be a living example of these words.

 

What do you consider your biggest failure?

I consider my biggest failure to be the same as the biggest challenge I’ve overcome, and that is my trip to Kenya in 2012. It’s a hard lesson to accept, the first time we take a huge leap or professional risk and don’t feel like the results align at all with our expectations. But again, I don’t quite see this as a failure from where I stand now. I see it as an experience I had to go through to understand more about the potential challenges and nature of the kind of work I’ve chosen to do. That experience humbled me, prepared me for everything that has come after it.   

What do you consider your biggest success?

I’ve had many moments where I’ve felt successful, but I don’t think there’s any one thing I consider to stand out above all else. I feel proud of the photography I produced & contributions I made during my recent 6 months in Nepal. My work assisted a number of organisations in visually communicating their initiatives to the world, and highlighting the stories of those their programs are helping. I also feel proud of my personal contributions for a local family I met and developed a close relationship with while I was working in Kathmandu. It felt really fulfilling to be able to assist members of the family both in finding employment and in establishing a school sponsorship for their youngest child.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by the resilience I witness in the women I’ve photographed throughout Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Kenya. To see the   challenges these women face, and to know they continue to move forward each day amidst economic, physical, emotional and societal circumstances that make my own problems look so small in comparison. This is what motivates and inspires me to work harder, to grow. I’m also so inspired by the work I see others doing to contribute to positive global change in any capacity. When I witness the impact & contributions others are making, it inspires me to dream a bit bigger and to work towards widening my own impact.  

What would you do with your last day on Earth - (logistics no object)?

I would gather all my family members, my love, my dearest friends, and every person I have ever photographed together. We would spend the day on the water, either on a sailboat or sitting on the shore by the ocean and we would spend the entire day talking, singing, laughing, sharing stories, just connecting and being with one another.

Who are your dream dinner party guests?

Stephanie Sinclair, Lynsey Addario, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert and Melinda Gates. All of these women fascinate and inspire me in the work they are doing. 

What's number one on your bucket list?

I’m not sure that I have a ‘number one’ - I’m currently focusing on gallery applications and seeking opportunities to share images of women I photographed in post-earthquake Nepal on a physical platform, to incorporate fundraising for their continued empowerment and education based initiatives. I would love to return to Nepal and continue my photographic work there, and working throughout Indonesia has always been on my bucket list as well.

Tell us one thing that might surprise us:

I’m an avid lover of Disney movies, and will still tear up every time I watch 'The Little Mermaid, ‘Beauty & the Beast’ or ‘Aladdin’.

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