Although she’s shot for Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, and been profiled on Goop and The Huffington Post, Aura photographer Christina Lonsdale does not brag about holding an MFA from some pretentious, overpriced art school. When asked about how, exactly, she landed the unique role she finds herself in today, she simply replies, “My parents met because a goat named Foxy Lady,” as if there’s nothing odd or unconventional about it. Naturally, we asked her to elaborate. The rest is too intriguing to paraphrase.
“My dad started a commune in New Mexico named Lorien, named after an elf village in Lord of the Rings,” says Lonsdale, the Portland-based visual artist who wanders the world with her roving, adaptable aura photography lab, popping up at art fairs, festivals, and the coolest-of-cool-girl events. “My Mom, who was hitchhiking with the goat, realized that catching rides with Foxy Lady was not efficient and went to my dad's commune to attempt to sell the goat. They ended up with two daughters and a goat herd.”
The daughter of a two-time commune-founding Jungian psychologist (dad) and a meditating, energy painting mom, Lionsdale was all but predestined to a free-spirited life of art, wanderlust, and mysticism. While there’s been no shortage of challenges along the way — getting laid off, her dog dying, breaking up with a boyfriend, having no money, and moving into a friend's basement all in two months — Lonsdale has found that sometimes the only way to charge forward is just by showing up. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” she says, reciting her favorite life advice from legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
For continued inspiration, the aura photographer to the “it girl” set, who goes by the alter ego Radiant Human, turns to travel, and a few of her idols. “I have to be creative so I keep my momentum up and I don't get homesick,” says Lonsdale, who has developed a tactic called “The secrets of home” to help her stay challenged, focused, and hungry on the road. “One of my secrets is to surround myself with who I call my ‘posse’ or my ‘backup,’ I have two brass frames that are joined by a hinge, so it opens like a book and can stand by itself on a nightstand or a desk. I print out photos of my heros doing human things and put them in these frames so I see it everyday. It helps me humanize my heros so that I can see that they eat, breathe, and heartache just like me.” Right now, she has Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo leaning against a wall in the sunshine. “I love both of these icons because they have used portraiture to change our way of looking at ourselves,” Lonsdale explains.
While her unearthly photography is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of human perception and enlightening those who seek a new, less definable, kind of self-exploration, Lonsdale herself has had to do a fair share of soul-searching. “At first, I felt like I needed to know and do everything,” she says, echoing the entrepreneurial spirit we’ve come to associate with more traditional professional spaces. “Now, I love the freedom and the exploration of learning from other people. This has been amazing because I can play to my strengths and outsource what I don't know how to do. This is empowering on two levels, I am supporting someone else in their dreams, and I am conserving my own energy for something I would rather do.” We guess one thing remains unchanged across all career realms: the importance of knowing your limits and delegating.