My mom was always really good about documenting our lives with photographs.
She'd buy the most vibrant Kodak film and snap shots of my sister and I in matching polka dotted outfits and swimming pool shenanigans. We would go with her to the local Safeway to pick up the yellow Kodak envelope, and, peeling back the paper flap, I would swoon at the oozing vibrant colors that practically burst off the prints. Everything looked so BEAUTIFUL. Wildflowers were illuminated by the sunshine, my father's expression caught amidst a thoughtful book was telling. Everything just lifted off the page. I was sold.
I dabbled in photography from that point on. Messing around with my mom's old sony and even stepping in to the daring and elegant world of black & white from time to time.
But photography is a hard business. And I knew that. Anyone who asks me today will hear that if you don't love and live and breathe this, you'd be better off to keep it as an enjoyable hobby. The blood sweat and tears of it all can turn a camera-hungry amateur into a bitter photo retiree.
Long story short I wound up at the Seattle Creative Academy, spoken of in high regard in these parts and with a two year waiting list to get in, I was itching to get started.
I spent two years sweating and crying and working my little tush off in the incredibly intense program. I learned lighting, composition, how to work in a studio, how to actually use all of the settings on my camera. I learned how to shoot product (watches, jewelry, perfume, etc), people (fashion, lifestyle, portraiture), places and food. Food, it turned out, was what spoke to me.
Some people, understandably, find it funny. My husband for example. He supports me and encourages me fully but to spend hours upon hours staring at one cookie through the lens, trying to make the cookie "speak," sounds painstakingly tedious to him and, I'm sure, laughable to many other people. But I find sheer and utter joy here.
Though it was beyond excruciating and required 150% of my time, In school I gained the skills and knowledge that gave me the confidence to go out there as a professional. I will always be thankful for that.
On the night of my birthday, which came at the half-way point in school, my wonderful husband (then-boyfriend) planted an all-too-important seed in my path when he gifted me two books for my birthday. I wasn't familiar with either of them but not only did he hit the nail on the head present-wise, he picked two of the most influential and inspiring things to my journey in photography.
One was this book by Clare Barboza. Clare became a mentor and friend to me. Teaching me, showing me, making me feel valued and important, including me in thoughtful discussions and letting me sneak a peak at client relations on shoots. I will never forget the first time I assisted her, how she asked me what I thought of the photographs she was taking, and how she let me pick some of the props and then said "that was the EXACT fork I would have picked!" and how utterly overcome with sheer elation I was in that moment. It makes me laugh now how something so little had such an effect on me. But it really did! It made the world of difference, and Clare knew that.
I still get to assist Clare and through Clare I've met another incredibly influential woman in my life, Julie Hopper. Julie is the most talented food stylist and caring person. From the moment I met these women I felt so accepted, so comfortable and so taken in. To get to see them still and be in the studio with them is a continual source of fun and inspiration for me.
At this same time I began assisting for another, equally talented and kind photographer Charity Burggraaff. Charity has a kind and gentle way about her and has spent much of her time nurturing me and sharing generous insight and knowledge. Her constant remembering of me and bringing me in to beneficial situations is a thing I'm blessed to have. Suffice to say we are currently having a blast working on a new cookbook in the studio! (Plenty more on that in my Instagram feed).
And that's where I sit as we speak. A few years in to the vibrant industry of professional photographers, working and pleased to be so. I've spent some time working in large studios, assisting on high-production shoots and, in the last few years, shooting cookbooks. Plenty has led here and plenty more is to come. A few tidbits I learned along the way:
1. "Talent" isn't so much a god given gift as it is endless hours of hard work and practice. The most "talented" photographers I know are the hardest workers and have invested the most time. It may appear effortless and natural on the outside but chances are that person spent years perfecting their style/method/art.
2. Be nice to everyone. It can't be said enough. You never know when that annoying but harmless kid in class who sits next to you and blows their nose constantly will one day be the Senior Art Buyer of a major advertising firm and will, no doubt, remember how you treated him/her way back when.
3. Reach out. The most valuable things I gained as a student came from the mentors I had. None of these mentors came to me. Find someone you love and admire and aspire to and tell them so. Tell them you'll assist them and scrub floors and wash dishes. And then do!
4. Work Hard. Put plain and simple there's just no substitute for good old fashioned hard work.
5. Do your own thing. This is a hard one. And while I may preach it I have trouble practicing it myself. It's all too easy to get caught up in the person/style of the moment and want to boot everything you know and love. DON'T! Not only do these trends wash by in an instant, your left with nothing but ultra-dated looking work you can't show for anything. And, most importantly, you abandoned your own look and style that was true to you.
6. Don't give up. It takes time. Sometimes, it takes what feels like a long time. I still wonder when it's going to let up and get easier but the reality is, it's a process that never really ends. But, it is a challenging, colorful and exciting one.