I always say I never thought I'd be a photographer, and it's true, mostly. I suppose there were hints, like the fact that I just loved having a disposable camera at all times in elementary school, or that photography contest I entered in third grade, or all of the time I spent with my sisters and girl friends dressing up and taking photos in costume (not embarrassing at all), or the fact that I asked for a camera for my 16th birthday. Oh, and the "Clickin' Chicks" photography club my bestie and I started (and made up the membership of) in fourth or fifth grade. Ha! But really, it was a fun, very unserious hobby.
Then college came, and being that I never considered myself an artsy person, and that I was thinking primarily about the money I could make with my degree, artsy sorts of degrees weren't even in my peripheral vision. I knew quite a few art majors, and loved their talent and quirkiness and creativity - but never felt any draw that direction. Instead, I settled on computer science, because there were always going to be jobs in that field, and they made good money, and I was good at it when not everyone could be. It was hard, sure; but I did well in it, got a great internship, finished college in three years, and landed a job in Pittsburgh, PA before graduation was even over because Justin and I were getting married immediately afterward and taking off for him to go to grad school.
And suddenly I had everything I'd set out to do - the diploma, the good grades, the well paying job. With an awesome husband, but no friends, a brand new city and state, and hardly a shred of joy in the job I'd worked so hard to get. I was as depressed as I'd ever been. Outside of work, taking photos still was just 'taking photos' but was a stress relief during a sad time - Justin and I explored our new city constantly and documented all of it: the steel mills and old factories, busy train tracks near our tiny home above a garage, the dozens upon dozens of bridges, the changing seasons, the old, quiet cemetery on a hill nearby where deer ran through at sunset, the trips we took together as a young married couple. As the months passed, we made dear, wonderful friends, I made peace with my job and found a great sense of accomplishment in it even if I didn't love it, and before our second anniversary we were parents and I was using my camera to document our sweet Adelaide. Still, I was just 'taking photos,' but the photos were really so much more - they were memories, and a hobby I had grown to truly enjoy.
Two and a half years after Adelaide was born, we were freshly back in California from Texas (all of our moves are a story for a different time). Our second, Parker, was due in a matter of weeks, SoCal housing costs were even higher than they'd been a couple years before, I'd quit my programming job just a year before, and there was no question in our minds that I needed to go back to work for us to survive. But since leaving programming, I had no intention of going back, and in my third trimester it was nearly impossible to find a job anyway. Thus began a time of intense soul-searching and dreaming and scheming about what on earth I was supposed to do next, and what I could do that wouldn't require me to put my almost two children in daycare.
It seemed too foolish at first to actually entertain, but the idea that maybe, possibly, I could contribute enough money to our family by taking pictures kept on hanging around. And after a while, it started to take root. I'd never taken a photography class and knew nothing beyond my very, very lacking hobbyist 'skills' - but I thought, I like taking pictures, and if I could get a computer science degree, why couldn't I teach myself photography? And with a borrowed camera, and countless hours spent reading and practicing and learning as I waited for Parker to arrive, I stopped 'taking pictures' - and I became a photographer.
Of course it wasn't really that simple. It was hard. It truly was a foolish idea to dive into a completely new skillset and start a business right as I had my second baby (a fiesty, needy baby, if I may add). It was incredibly stressful and certainly not the sanest option; but I wanted it so desperately. I held tightly to the dream that someday I'd have a job I loved and that I'd never go back to programming and that I'd be able to help us afford life in our expensive hometown without being away from my babies all the time. And a few years later, this dream is where I'm at - not rich, not a famous photographer, but working from home, at a job I truly, truly love, always near my now three children (can't forget chubby, happy Leo!), living now in Idaho and in a city we love and can grow deep roots in, and contributing to our family just how we need.
'Living the dream' is a pretty silly phrase; life with three kids can be chaos, owning a business is wonderful yet also difficult in many ways, working from home is insanity some days, and the internal and external pressures that come with an art-related field are something I never expected (to my college art-major friends, I now completely understand your countless all-nighters before projects were due). But this actually is one dream I had, born out of so much discouragement and frustration, built in hope and also necessity - and I am incredibly blessed to be living it.
Maybe my journey to photography is sort of what it's like if you marry your childhood friend - you never expected it or even considered it, but one day, it became clear there was something special, and then it was the most natural thing in the world. I still find it just as enjoyable and cathartic as I did back in Pittsburgh when it was a distraction from my loneliness. But now, it's so much better.
The wonderful people I meet, the love I witness, the beauty of life's big milestones and tiny moments that I get to capture - I treasure these things. I am not sure my clients will ever truly know how deeply it fills me to capture their newborn's perfect skin and tiny toes, or the joining of their two lives as one forever, or their enduring love and their children's personalities taking shape. I may not be saving the world, but I am preserving the sweetest memories, and saving the moments that make our world and our lives rich.
Thanks for reading, friends. I hope you'll consider letting me take your photos. XOXO.