Brand Story Challenge
On the surface, I take pictures—I capture memories. But what I really do is create moments, and capture intimacy. I am a photographer, but that requires me to be a choreographer, set designer, director, stand-up comedian, therapist, investigative journalist, and diplomat. People let me into their lives, trust me with family drama; in return, I offer them a glimpse of their life from an outside perspective. I am fascinated with relationships and how that plays out in front of a camera. My greatest challenge, and therefore my greatest satisfaction, comes from finding that moment that breaks through the poses and staged affection, to candid emotion and movement. I bear witness to exactly where someone is at this moment on their journey, and I return it to them with great hope they see what I saw. The Pinterest look is nice, but my favorite part of my job is the story, the photos that aren’t “framers.” #brandstorychallenge #day1
My business and my life changed when I shot my first wedding. Well, that was when my business crystallized, when I knew I could do it. My catalyst spans years—can it span years? Or does that just mean I’m lazy and unfocused?—and this summer is my phoenix. If you would indulge me for a moment:
2012. I marry a Marine, who hates my island paradise. I tell him I am not doing family while he galavants all over the world, having all the fun. So he gets out of the Marine Corps and I resign my lucrative, stable position in the corporate world. We get set to leave the island in November. I find out I’m pregnant in September. Our plan—our actual PLAN, y’all—was to head to Illinois and stay with my parents for a little while, until we found a place to live and he found a job. When we met, I told him my dream was to stay home and raise my kids, the way my momma did. He fully supported that idea. In Hawaii, I was already taking photos, passionate about it, but I will be very honest and say that I would have NEVER left the job I loved to pursue photography full time. But there I was, no longer employed, so a photography business idea was born. We got to Illinois at the start of winter, and my parents live way out in the country, so I was isolated. Hubby got a contracting job overseas so I just stayed with my parents until the baby was born. My sister-in-law, Cheryl, was born and raised in the area, and she believed in me, so she used her network to refer me to my first clients out there. It was her niece’s wedding, and Kassie took a chance on me. I loved it. I saw that I had a place in that field, saw that I was not just another SAHM looking for something to do. But…I let the momentum from that gig slip away. I had a baby at home. My husband was working full time and in school full time. Then I got pregnant again, didn’t want to build a clientele if we were planning to move (we were), continued to find clients here and there. You name it, I had the excuse. There was no urgency, no direction. We were not depending on my income, so I dabbled. Second baby was born, and circumstances led me to a lovely person named Brooke, who is a photographer and knows the ropes and the area. She invited me into a few online professional groups, local and national, and I cannot overstate how much I learned. I actually cringe when I consider how cavalier I was about the business side of this business. So I learned and got ready to launch a website and form an LLC and be amazing. Then we bought a house that needed renovation. Then my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Then she died. December 23, 2015. Six weeks. I thought we had more time. Fast forward to 2017, because I don’t really remember 2016. It’s a void of late night tears on the couch and days spent in a fog of taking care of my almost 3-year-old and 1-year-old. Spring of 2017 came, and like magic, the fog lifted. The pain didn’t go anywhere, but the fog was gone. I started exercising, stopped drinking, prepared for the 18-month mark. Then it came, and went, and so began my phoenix summer. Just like that. Not forced, and not how I would have labeled it--until now. A summer of considering where I am headed and setting goals for myself and thinking about how I was going to improve myself, personally and professionally. The kids are 2 and 4 now, and my husband finishes his coursework for his Bachelor’s at the end of August. This whole identity crisis—I left my sexy job and sexier adult hometown and got married and had kids and my friends were scattered—everything that made me ME, was put into sharp focus when Lauren died. It didn’t make it go away. It almost made it worse. Lauren lived with me there, she encouraged my photography, she witnessed my transition into motherhood. She also was my childhood, my foundation. I don’t know how to tell my story without my family—even as an adult. So my entire narrative changed. I floundered, drifted through life. I know my blessings, I promise. I am a firm believer in the bright side. I feel like my mantra could be something about missed opportunities, but I love my life the way it is now, with one notable exception of grief. A certain admin mentioned to me that this seemed like the perfect time, and I can’t really argue with him. The time is now. #brandstorychallenge #day2
Who is your audience? Why should they care about you and your work?
My answer: My audience is quirky. They get the joke. They are fun. Adventurous. Part practical, part whimsy. They are open-minded and they are stubborn, and yes it is possible to be both. They are kind—even the ones who have conversations at their kitchen table that one should only have at their kitchen table. They are industrious and driven and optimistic. They are tough and resilient. Chances are (very good) that they like alcohol, though it is by no means a prerequisite. They have a joie de vivre and a je n’ais sais quois. On that note, they are often bilingual. They have traveled, although they have moved back home. Family; that is all. They are Cajun and Midwestern and Hawaiian and Kama’aiana and Army and Marine. They are artists and scientists and philosophers and mommas and leaders and utility players. You want them on your team in the zombie apocalypse. They show up. They stay. They dance. They are FLAVOR. They are you.
And you should care about me and my work because I am those things, too—so I know they matter. I also know it’s ok. Whatever “it” is? It’s ok. I know that love doesn’t always look the same from one couple to the next. I know that your mom drives you bat shit crazy, but I will capture the moment you two genuinely hug at your rehearsal dinner. I know that you might not frame the photo of your now boyfriend/future husband helping your grandpa up the hill at your brother’s wedding, but you should have it. I know that you may not feel good about the way you look right now, but your daughter thinks you hung the moon and stars and still had the energy to sing her a lullabye, so she looks at you like that. I know you should see it. I will talk your mom into letting me take the picture of you in your ball cap your Senior year, with your chain wallet hanging out of your pocket. I happen to know that even if it annoys her right now, she will love it next year, or maybe even when she gets the print—because it’s YOU. I will also force you to take a smiling picture, and yes, you must wear the button down, because…well, she’s your mom. And she knows things. Plus, she’s probably paying. (See? Practical. And whimsy.) If you are pregnant and do not look like Gisele Bundchen….actually, that is so ok. We can collectively hate and love Gisele, then capture your Mother Earthiness for all your posterity. As a friend once told me—take the photo. Share them to FB or do not, but take them. One day your kids will want them. #brandstorychallenge #day3