Telling your story is often one of the hardest things to do, and I realized most of you haven’t heard mine! You might’ve heard the short version that I moved from Indiana to Atlanta, went to an art school in Rhode Island, and moved to Charleston to start my photography business. If you’re curious to learn more about my story and what you don’t know about me (plus see some embarrassing early photos I took), keep scrolling!
My Start in Photography
As a kid I took photos on disposable cameras and eagerly waited for the prints at Walmart or CVS. One summer while I was in middle school, I mowed the lawn every week to save up money to buy my first DSLR Nikon camera. I had a few point-and-shoot cameras (my first literally had two megapixels!), but I wanted something with more control and better quality. My friends thought I was ridiculous (but awesome) for carrying around this massive, fancy camera. I took A LOT of pictures of flowers and my dog, but I was totally proud of them. You guys, I thought this photo of people watching football against a sunset was the COOLEST PHOTO EVER. At least I was enthusiastic, right? You better believe I uploaded all of these immediately to Flickr. And yes, my Flickr still exists.
Moving Sucks but it Changed Everything
Right before I started high school, my family moved from Indiana to Atlanta, Georgia. I hated leaving my friends and the home I grew up in, but our move ended up being the best thing that could have happened. I ended up taking three years of photography classes at my new high school. My teacher Mr. Greenway was a devotee of film photography, and he didn’t teach us any digital methods. I finally learned what the heck I was actually doing with my camera. Plus, working in the darkroom is pure magic; it’s incredibly hands-on and creative. If you haven’t worked in a darkroom before, I’d suggest taking a workshop at Redux in Charleston!
When it came time to apply to college, art schools became the clear choice, even though I didn’t think I was “artsy” enough. Mr. Greenway had gone to an art school called Rhode Island School of Design (RISD, pronounced Riz-dee) for painting. RISD is the most competitive art school in the country, to some considered the Harvard of art schools. Intimidating, much!? RISD required three drawings for their application, and I had absolutely NO clue how to draw. Eventually I got over my fear of drawing, submitted a portfolio of mostly photography and graphic design, and I got accepted! If I hadn’t moved to Atlanta, I probably would’ve never gone to RISD, so I’m so glad we did!
Art School is Weird but Awesome
I was terrified to go to art school so far away from home, but I quickly realized that this weird place was awesome and these fellow artists were my people! Every freshman at RISD takes 7-hour foundation classes in drawing, 3D design, and 2D design. I built a chair out of cardboard and made charcoal drawings with Crisco. These classes taught me to think in a totally different way. During my winter semester, I chose to take a photography class (big surprise). My teacher taught us how to use a medium format film camera called a Hasselblad, a beautiful Swedish camera that I’m still dying to own one day. I fell in love with the photography department, and I declared photography as my major.
My last three years at RISD were all about photography. Photography classes were five-hour critique based studios; we’d work on projects throughout the week and pin them up on the wall for everyone to comment on. It’s terrifying to be so vulnerable, but the art of critique is so valuable in my life now. I learned to let others’ comments improve my work, not ding my confidence. My artistic influences (Brian Ulrich, Lauren Greenfield, and Sofia Coppola, to name a few) were a major influence on the photos I produced in school, which were largely themed around femininity, consumerism, and desire. I had a real life gallery show to wrap up my senior thesis in RISD’s Red Eye Gallery.
Starting My Business in Charleston
A photography internship in Charleston eventually led me to move here and start my own business. During a summer off from RISD, I worked at Charleston magazine, photographing events, products, and portraits. Seeing my work published in a glossy magazine rocked my world. The editorial and commercial side of photography piqued my interest more than RISD’s conceptual-focused photography curriculum. I made some great contacts, fell in love with Charleston, and planned to move here after I graduated. RISD offered one business class for photographers, and I used everything I learned in that class to start my own business in Charleston. I spent the first year assisting other photographers, and eventually worked with my first real client. From there, I felt more confident to network and take on more clients.
Starting my own business right out of college was a huge risk, but I was up for the challenge (thanks mom and dad for being up for the challenge, too)! If anyone was obsessed with American Girl dolls as I was, you’ll remember their line of crafty books you could buy at Barnes and Noble. I had one called Money Makers growing up, and I was obsessed. with. it. Clearly I was meant to start a business. Being an entrepreneur is hardly easy, but I would never give it up. I keep working hard, following what I love doing, and making connections with other women entrepreneurs.
These days I love working with my creative clients. I work with women entrepreneurs, bloggers, content creators, event hosts, and artists. It’s incredibly fulfilling to give people beautiful photos of their creative work to use in their portfolios and on social media. I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes my clients and me!