How I turned photography from a hobby to a career.
I have been working as a professional photographer in Winnipeg, MB since 2013- and feel pretty darn lucky to have the title ‘photographer’ behind my name. I had always thought that this second career of mine just kind of happened. The reality is, paying attention to my gut and following my interests is what actually got me here. That, a lot of hard work in getting myself out there (amid so many amazing photographers), and bigger decisions (such as focusing on photography education rather than doing a Masters degree in Nursing), that have helped me intentionally land myself here. To me that’s the luck I have created for myself.
Why am I photographer?
The simple answer:
When people see themselves and feel proud, I love that I can create a tangible experience of that.
Freezing time into art is such an amazing concept; its a true gift to the future, and to ourselves.
Seeing snippets of nature let’s us experience the beauty that is sometimes lost in the background while we live in, rather that experience
I like the process of shooting, and then creating
I love making photographs that are cool to look at. It makes me feel productive, accomplished and proud.
Here’s how it happened.
Art and creativity are wound deeply in my soul. I come upon it honestly- my aunt and cousin are amazing artists . On the other side of my family, my grandfather and and momma have made many amazing photographs. As a kid, I went to art camp and loved it. We tie dyed, learned to screen print, and did pottery (if something like this exists adults, please let me know). Like most children of the 80’s, my first memory of photography was using a Polaroid camera to photograph my pets. This eventually morphed into a disposable camera, then to a Kodak Ektralite film camera. I would bring one of those along on school field trips, and to Camp Stephens to photograph anyone who would let me. As I got a bit older, I found myself admiring photos in National Geographic and more locally, Mountain Equipment Co-op. Not only did I want to be in those photos, I wanted to make those photos.
After high school, I found myself conflicted decide what to do with myself. At that point in my life, my dream job was jungle wildlife photographer. This was problematic for a few reasons, like, living in the Prairies and not having a camera. I started to take courses at the University of Manitoba and was really interested in sociology, food sciences, and randomly computer science which eventually lead me to the Faculty of Nursing. I had my eye set on working in Public Health, specifically with communicable diseases. Little did I know (as we never do), that decision would ultimately lead me explore my career in photography (I’ll explain that more soon).
Shortly after graduating, I was gifted a Canon Rebel film camera by my dad. Having my Nursing degree under my belt, I decided that travelling to South East Asia with my bestie was the plan for the next while. We got settled into teaching jobs a teaching jobs in Tapei, Taiwan and spent the rest of the time exploring a brand new part of the world. It was around this time that I started to understand the true value of photography. Nothing- no trinket, souvenir or actual memories would be as precious as the images that I could bring home from this adventure. I needed to find a way to capture the essence of the sights, smells and beauty that we were experiencing. I went to a local bookstore and bought an amazing book about manual photography and hauled it around with me for the next 6 months. It was confusing and I was worried that my photos wouldn’t turn out.…so, I did what any 24 year old would have done and put the film camera away and use my point and shoot camera for the rest of the trip. I don’t have many regrets in life, but those photos could have been soooo beautiful!
When I came back home I started working at a Street Nurse in Wininpeg, a job that I absolutely fell in love with. The people, that amazing stories and lesson after lesson about life and resiliency kept me there for over a decade. For 11 years, I had a small handful of close co-workers who I spent up to 8 hours a day with in a van driving the streets of Winnipeg. As nurses and outreach workers, we are privy to very personal parts of people lives- and as many people know, holding space for heavy information for years can be challenging. Searching for a creative outlet, I decided to take that film camera and learn how to use it. That film camera that was gifted to me a fewa years back always felt like a little parrot on my shoulder waiting for me to learn how to use it.
So- I signed up for a basic course a the Prairie View School of Photography and was hooked. Starting out in photography for me was a bit like starting out as a nurse. In healthcare new practitioners often see the disease and not necessarily the patient as a whole,-that same thing can happen with a camera. I was determined to keep learning, so that course turned into another, and another, and then a wildlife photography course in Costa Rica. Soon, friends were asking me to document them and their families. I started to photographing bodybuilders, yogis and second shooting for a wedding photographers. And in 2013, I shot my first solo wedding. I kind of really dislike the term ‘fill my cup’, a lot, but photography does that for me. I soon found that no matter what I was photographing, I was feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride.
I can often see my own joy in photos I have made over the years. In 2016 I left the Street Nursing job that I loved so much to crate more space for my business. On my last night on the street, my decade long co-worker and biggest encourager photographed me. While I was waiting for him to get the camera ready, I was standing outside chatting with a with a few long term clients. I turned around and asked him if hew was ready to take the photo and he told me that he already got the shot. I wan’t convinced, so he took a few more and away we went. I had no idea in that moment how important it was. It was also the exact moment that I let one part of my life go to focus on my passion. The person who took at photo is no longer with us, and that photograph reminds me of laughing with him, my love for that job, and the people who I got to spend hours and hours of my life with. The power of photography is strong, friends, and that is start of how this business turned from a hobby to a career.
The coolest thing about photographs are that they don’t need to be technically perfect to be meaningful. One of my favourite things is watching my clients post their photos online. Where I choose technically correct photographs to display, their choices are almost always moment driven photos that mean something to them. That’s why they hire me, and I am proud to be able to give them something meaningful.