Let’s Start Here…

Forgive me as I wax sentimental here, but with the New Year approaching, I’ve been doing some serious soul searching about how I ended up here at this juncture in my life and why it is that I do what I do. And truthfully, an integral part of this self-reflection has been putting pen to paper and reflecting on the beginning of my journey as a photographer.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, here’s the highlight reel as seen on Twitter: I’m “a mom, wife, and photographer who LOVES love, chocolate, beer, and Mark Twain quotes.” Yeah, I guess that pretty much sums it up. (For those of you who DO know me personally, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my highlight reel – leave me a comment!)  (And there’s a little more here, if you’re interested.)

Anyhoo…as a kid, I had a “HATE” relationship with the camera. I’m the oldest of three daughters, the oldest grandkid, and seemingly without fail somebody ALWAYS had their camera trained on me. I became a pro at ducking out of the frame in the last moment and at sporting cheesy grins and silly faces. I consciously decided that I would NOT sacrifice “living” my moments at the expense of trying to capture them on film, and sadly I made it through my college years and young adulthood without many pictures to remind me of all the fun I had, all the people I knew, and all the memories I made.

In July 2006, I married my wonderful husband Kirk, and as we pored over our wedding proofs, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I could SO do this! And I’d even think to get a picture of the bride’s gorgeously hand-beaded train and heirloom cathedral-length Belgian lace veil!” In December of that same year, we discovered that we were expecting our first child. I felt a stirring in my soul — just a little tug — telling me the time was coming that we’d need to pull out that dusty old Kodak EasyShare. And I listened…kind of. Julia, born August 2007, was an oft photographed infant, but I refused to become a card-carrying member of the “Mama-razzi.” Then along came Madeleine in January 2009. A week after her birth, I broke my elbow, had surgery to repair the break, and sustained considerable nerve damage rendering my right hand virtually useless. Our family was supposed to move halfway across the country in February, chasing Kirk’s career, but with this complication we had to postpone our move. I was devastated, frustrated, and one evening, in a moment of raw emotion and self-pity over my gimpy hand that we didn’t know for sure would heal, the difficulties I was having adjusting to mothering a toddler AND a newborn, and the upheaval in our marriage as a result of all these changes, I cried to Kirk, “How am I ever going to be able to be a wedding photographer if I can’t use my hand?!?” It was the first time I’d ever given a voice to this hidden dream of mine, and as the days passed and we adjusted to our new “normal,” we didn’t talk about it again.

Flash forward a year and a half, we were nearly settled in our new home in Annapolis, Maryland, my hand was (mostly) healed, our daughters were getting sweeter every day, and Kirk and I were working harder than we’d ever worked to try to make ends meet. His job as an AV producer had him working 10-12 hour days and travelling what seemed like more often than not; my job in the non-profit sector had me leaving the house most days before the girls woke up and returning home just in time to tuck them into bed most nights. We were burning the proverbial candle at both ends, and something had to give. After a couple of very intense counseling sessions (marriage and individual), it became clear that the first thing that had to give was MY job, because the alternative was going to be that our marriage would crack irreparably. During one of my individual counseling sessions, my therapist very wisely asked me, “Who are you? What makes you tick?” That question marked a turning point in my life, because in that moment, I didn’t have an answer for him. Here I was, 32 years old and so burned out that I couldn’t answer the simplest, most fundamental question about who I am. We spent nearly the entire session searching for the answer to that question. I remember him saying, “Come on…you must know what it is that you’re passionate about — what really just gets you going.” And I couldn’t for the life of me answer him. It took two whole days of contemplating the answer, and this is what I finally came up with: I am creative, I love drama, and I love the craft of storytelling. And I didn’t really want to be a manager at a non-profit association…I want to create. I want to tell other people’s stories. And I want to tell those stories with beautiful pictures. The gig was up. That little voice inside nagging me about doing a better job of telling our daughters’ stories with our camera…that voice that out of nowhere in a moment of pure honesty said “I want to be a wedding photographer”…that voice — MY voice — was finally ready to be heard.

So in July 2010, we decided to make a huge leap of faith. I resigned from my very wonderful (but draining) job, and we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Annapolis and return to my old stomping grounds in Central Illinois, where life is loads more affordable, where we have tons of supportive family and hands to help us raise our two precious girls, and where I could begin chasing my dream and setting a positive example for the girls of what leading a “full” life looks like. After all, shouldn’t every child get the opportunity to grow up knowing that you don’t have to be a Disney Princess to make your “Dreams Come True?”

And that folks, is how this crazy adventure started. Not sure where it’s going to take us, but I do know it’s been a worthwhile ride so far!


(Up Next: New Year’s Resolutions…ay yi yi!)

2 Responses to “Let’s Start Here…”

  1. Kelsey says:

    You are such an elegant, relatable storyteller. This is not only clear in your writing, as it is here; it is what makes your photographs so beautiful. You know your audience; and more importantly, your subjects become a part of you. You internalize everything that you experience, and you make a remarkable effort to see the world through others’ eyes. And as for your highlight reel — I could not think of a more accurate description. Thanks for this post. It was, to say the least, very inspiring.

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