Gemma Hart Ingalls

How to combine a fulfilling, forward-moving career with the continual desire to retreat; it’s a feeling we think about often, and a “balance” that remains in constant evolution. It’s no wonder we’re drawn to women who seek the same things: Gemma Hart Ingalls is one-half a photographing duo (with her husband Andrew Ingalls), but when she’s not behind the lens, she can be found between Brooklyn and Vermont, where they live in a building on the same rural property she grew up on. Here, a conversation on giving up control, finding self-confidence, and reconnecting with rhythm.

Can you share more about your background and upbringing?
I grew up on a 50 acre farm in rural southern Vermont, in a family of four girls. Both my parents were artists: my mother was a ceramicist, my father a furniture maker. They taught and studied yoga, and were vegetarians. There were always people living with us communally on the farm. There was a large shared garden, a platform for yoga in the field, a teepee (in which someone lived); the chicken coop was converted into a living space, as was the attic of the old farmhouse. In 1996 I moved to New York to study photography at Parsons and writing at The New School, and have been based in New York since then.
My husband and I began to renovate a building on the same farm of my Vermont childhood four years ago. What was originally going to be a simple crash pad for weekend ski trips metamorphasized into the creation of a space in which we expressed our shared aesthetic, and truly felt at home. We were the architects and the general contractors. My father was the primary builder, and applied his fine woodworking craftsmanship to every inch of the house. The combination of all of these things, plus the birth of our first son, created a long timeline for finishing the house, and it’s still a work in progress. As photographers, we are constantly on the road. When we are in Brooklyn, we are often busy with shoots, office work, and social engagements. Vermont for us is a place to slow down and reconnect with a rhythm dictated by nature rather than work.
You are an avid traveler and explorer — what has been the best place you’ve gone in the last year? What destinations are on your list to visit next?
Last spring we drove from California to Austin, Texas with our two young children, and re-discovered a love for the Southwest. We hiked through Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park in Utah, and stayed at Amangiri, which was definitely the most luxurious and architecturally inspiring hotel destination. We loved the peace and remoteness of Dunton Hot Springs in northern Colorado. And Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch outside Santa Fe are always beautiful places to reflect and take pictures.
We are currently planning a trip to Scandinavia this July. We will visit Copenhagen, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland. We have been loving, where you swap homes with creative people from around the world. A family from Copenhagen stayed in our apartment in Brooklyn and we will visit their homes in Copenhagen and Sweden on this summer trip.

Gemma wears TEWA SQUARE NECK DRESS in cream
What cities are you most inspired by?
For me, Rome is the most beautiful city in the world, in light, architecture, patina, and mood. I spent some time there alone during college and have never stopped being romanced by it. Last summer I fell in love with the lights of Paris again. Tokyo is a city I feel I have so much to learn from, and is at the top of my list to return to. Some of my most memorable and exquisitely-prepared meals have been enjoyed there. San Francisco inspires me with its amazing food and restaurant scene. And the canyons of Los Angeles have recently been calling us as a potential new home base.
What have been some of the biggest turning points in your career?
My career has taken shape through the continual support of a handful of photo editors and art buyers, a consistent commitment to our work, (both personal and commercial), and some old-fashioned luck. I found that having children freed me in some ways. It helped me prioritize my work without being caught up in the minutia of what everyone else was doing (i didn’t have time!) Children put life and time in a new realm of perspective, where everything is constantly changing and in motion. You have to give up so much control, and that can be liberating.
"Children put life and time in a new realm of perspective, where everything is constantly changing and in motion. You have to give up so much control, and that can be liberating."
Can you share a favorite personal mantra or quotation?
This is a Kundalini farewell song that we used to close our morning sadhana with when I was a child. It stayed with me over the years, was recited at my wedding, and I sing it now to my own children. I find the sentiment both comforting and inspiring:
May the long time sun

Shine upon you,

All love surround you,

And the pure light within you

Guide your way on.

Do you have a hard time turning off your work? Working for yourself, how do you separate your work life from your personal/family life?
Because my husband and I work together, we often find ourselves discussing work. For us, work is enjoyable, and intertwined in our personal and family life, so it is not an issue. We often end up shooting the food we are about to eat, or documenting a family trip or walk. For me, it is important to take time away from work (as well as household chores, errands, screens, and all of those things which clutter up days ) to spend focused time with my children. Being present with them in the moment, as their two-and four-year-old imaginations light up, is a true pleasure and gift, and it is so easily overlooked if I am distracted.
When do you do your best thinking?
Walking in the woods. Looking at the waves. Early in the morning. Nighttime car rides. Any time and place I have to myself (this is rare!)
Describe a personal ritual.
Gardening to me has always felt like a ritual. I try to plant a vegetable garden in Vermont each year, no matter how busy I am. There is something elemental and satisfying about turning over the soil, feeding it, planting the seeds, weeding, harvesting. The simple feeling of being on my knees digging in the dirt with the sun on my head feels complete to me.
How do you spend the first 10 minutes of your day?
In bed with my two babies Isabel and Oliver, and my babe Andrew. Then, a strong pot of black tea with milk and honey.

What are some of your favorite things to cook this time of year?
Salads! One of my favorites incorporates late winter citrus from California and the first of the baby greens. 
Blood Orange Salad
Layer on a flat platter, in this order: A spicy baby green, either arugula, watercress, or mustard Sunchokes, peeled and mandolined into thin rounds Fennel, mandolined Blood oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds Top with pistachios, Meyer lemon juice, good olive oil, coarse black pepper, and Maldon sea salt
Is there anything you fear?
Turbulence. Mental Illness. Global Warming. War. Loss of compassion.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty stems from a consistency in thought and vision, and self-confidence in the expression of those things.
What most captivates your attention?
The visual world. Light. Gardens. My children. Cooking. Yoga. Traveling to an unknown place.

Photography by ANDREW INGALLS | Interview by LEIGH PATTERSON