2019 brings celebration of 10 years as a professional studio. But my love for the medium started much earlier - this is the story of my/our studio's photography journey.
I was born to be an artist. I have a big imagination. Being a "lonely child", as I use to say, I kept myself entertained. BTW... I wasn't lonely.. I was an "only" child but misunderstood the adults around me LOL! I get my talents from my da, he designs and builds beautiful buildings. I remember as a small child in southern California taking drawing lessons from Disney illustrators, going to ceramics classes, getting crafty, and loving art supply shops. My grandparents would take me to art galleries along the strip of Long Beach; my grandmother's favorite was a terrifying wax museum. I still can't do wax museums - talk about getting the heebiegeebies - nooo thanks. I was inspired by the other artists though, there were several photo-realistic marine artists who I admired. They mixed art and animals, as a little girl nothing could be better.
I was in 5th or 6th grade when I was handed my first camera. I don't remember the brand, but it was little, gray, and filled with my first roll of film. I used that camera for years and spent countless rolls of 35mm film. I don't remember what I took pictures of, more than likely animals, but it launched my love for photography. In my high school years my dad bought us a brand new digital camera. It was a Canon with 5-whole-megapixles and 2 lenses. I would run around our farm taking photos of the horses, cats, dogs, flowers, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! It helped me develop my eye for compositions and exposure. At horse shows I would shoot between my events which taught me how to photograph fast moving objects and use the different settings. At this time, I still never considered photography as a career option. It wasn't until after I had met Josh, dates, married, and bought our first house in Calhoun, that I considered "doing" photography, still not as a job but as a hobbyist making a couple bucks on the side.
Around the winter of 2006, I found a little ad in the back of a magazine for the New York Institute of Photography. It was for a hands-on, 2 year course with a focus in portraiture; Josh encouraged me to sign up and go for it. I remember the excitement of getting my first assignment box. The basics it taught through the program laid the foundation of what I do today.
In 2007 we had moved back to Adairsville into a cute loft, but soon after I lost my day job. This is when Josh encouraged me to pursue photography as a career. We started kicking our little studio off the ground, slowly with a meek website an small portfolio of 4x6 prints in a leather photo album. I carried it everywhere. Our landlord allowed us to put a small display in the window of the empty shop below us. Eventually that store front would become our first studio in 2009. It was 2000 square feet of 1 window wall, 3 brick walls and wood floors - wide. open. emptiness. I was only allowed to use holes already in the walls to hang samples and wasn't allowed to build walls because the floors were original to the 1800s. It was difficult, eclectic, a bit overwhelming, but Josh and I made it work for 3 years. At this time I photographed everything: portraits, weddings, boudoir, engagements, family, hs seniors, teens, baby, food, kids, dogs, still lifes, literally EVERYTHING. I was doing lot of learning of what I wanted to focus on and what needed to be referred to someone else. During this time I met my first mentor, Louis. He pushed me to join the PPA - little did I realize what a valuable investment that $300/year membership would turn into over the next decade.
As our business refined over the years, we moved the studio 4 more times. We next moved into another loft where we lived in the back and worked in the front. It was tiny compared to our first space, just 400sqft of work space. Most of our sessions had to be shot on location. This made us introduce a new way of presenting the photos during the ordering appointments. It's a system we still use today. This was the first time I had a several clients in a row write a check to me for more than $1K. It was a moment of realizing I COULD do this consistently, I could help put food on our table and a roof over our heads with photography, and my work was valuable and worth it. At the end of 2013 we moved into a Victorian home and, again, the studio came with us. About half of my sessions moved back inside. I started focusing on more traditional portraiture and learning the techniques. Later in 2014 I booked my first speaking program in Springfield, MO. This is where I met my 2nd and current mentor, Cary. Because of him, my PPA membership added new levels of value - international leveled print competition entered my life as did the goals of earning my PPA photographic degrees.
At the end of 2015 the Victorian home was sold by the landlords and we were forced to move yet again. This time we split the studio and our home into two locations. I narrowed my focus even more to in studio on elaborate designer sets. I started traveling much more to teaching other photographers at conferences around the country. I started crafting my change to my now signature style of black and white portraiture. We leased this location for a couple of years before finding and buying our house where we could bring the studio back home.
On December 20, 2017 we closed on our home. Eleven days later our lease ended on the retail space and our home and studio became one once again. We had barely moved in when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in March 2018. I went from walking to pretty much not. I lost control over the left side of my body over a few days; what started out as being dizzy took a turn for much worse. My symptoms landed me in the hospital for 7 days. After 8 MRIs, EEG, EKG, xrays, brain scans, lumbar puncture, nearly 50 vials of blood tested, and 5 days of heavy IV steroids, the doctors were able to get me a little control back.
To be diagnosed with an medical issue that is well known to hold people back, cause sever nerve pain and depression, it's given me a new breath of air to fight for my art. Between brain scans and being poked by the neuros, Josh and I made a new plan for the studio - there really are no sick days for the small business owner. The diagnosis has given me the opportunity to start from scratch with the education and skill sets I have. I say yes to the clients and ideas I want to photograph and the confidence to refer out the ideas that don't fit my style. I have started saying no to going outside for photoshoots if I can do the shoot in my creative space. My clients and I don't have to worry about cold, wind, sun, bugs, photobombers in public. If it's raining I know I will still have a great session and make beautiful art for my people. I've sold many of my elaborate sets and props over the year to simplify my style to focus on what matters - the people of my art. Their stories, their emotions, their character - that's what important in a photograph, that's what is going to be loved generations down the road.
My new little home studio is only a 12x18' spare room. It's the smallest I've had but I've learned over the years that is all I really need to create the portraits I want to. In this little room I have completed my first PPA Degree - my Photographic Craftsman. I'll earn my Master Photographer in it as well. Several of my Georgia Photographer of Year competition images were shot in this space, and a majority of the images on this website were created in that little room too.