When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future. -Dian Fossey
November 02, 2018 4:39PM
When I was really little, I didn’t know the word photographer. Even though I loved having a camera in my hands, I didn’t fully understand what that meant or would mean for me. I used to talk about how I was going to be a famous National Geographic “camera-ist” instead. This was back before digital, when shooting in film was expensive but exhilarating (honestly, it’s still both). I still have decades old undeveloped film lying around my house because my parents didn’t want to spend the money on developing it when I was younger.
It took my parents years to accept and support my passion for photography. Eventually, through a show called Caitlin’s Way about a troubled teen who uses photography as a creative outlet for her problems. Seeing someone just a little bit older than I was pursuing a passion I desperately wanted to pursue finally convinced my parents that it was normal enough to allow.
Like Caitlin, I was able to use my photography as an escape and a way of processing feelings I wasn’t old enough to understand and shouldn’t have been forced to experience. It allowed me the opportunity to explore the outdoors, another intense passion of mine. These two “hobbies” quickly became obsessions that guided my life.
I loved experimenting with my camera outdoors! But I wasn’t overly concerned with technique. I was criticized for my lack of technical skill or knowledge, including by members of my own family, but it wasn’t enough to deter me. I was in love with trees and birds and bugs! I couldn’t get enough of snapping a photo of every little bit of nature that I saw and I was willing to put in the effort to teach myself how to get the shots I wanted.
It took me years of reading camera manuals and a ton of trial and error to get the hang of it, but by 2009 I had decided I wanted to turn my passion into a profession. I did this by working with local models who were also just starting out. My studio, Salem Street Productions was my official turning point. I started by setting up a space in our living room (in our apartment on Salem Street) for using as a makeshift studio when clients wanted an indoor studio space. But my main focus was doing location shoots. I was far more interested in natural light and beautiful scenery than a plain backdrop and artificial light.
I did that for a while before realizing it just wasn’t satisfying my creativity so I once again switched my focus and began doing several art shows, focusing on themes that were meaningful to me. This I absolutely loved. It allowed me to explore a variety of issues in themes I chose, work with models that I knew and trusted and considered friends, and head outdoors for additional inspiration whenever I felt like it. I tackled topics such as the representation of femininity, female strength (of all species), and results of sexual violence. It was a great outlet for my creativity and the more I pursued the artistic nature of my photography, the more I gravitated back towards nature.
I’d dabbled with the idea of getting back into nature photography for a while. But the final decision was made when in May of 2014, my beloved kitty of fourteen years died of kidney failure. Growing up in an abusive environment had left me with often debilitating depression, suicidal feelings, and PTSD. She was one of the few wonderful things about my life and made life seem worth sticking around for. Losing her was the hardest thing I have ever been through. Four years later and I am far from over losing her and doubt completely moving on will ever be a possibility. It was an event that forced me to reevaluate so many things in my life.
Even while I was earning money as a portrait photographer, I would do wildlife photography as a way of relaxing and reconnecting with nature. Losing Baby made me realize that I needed to refocus my life and follow my heart. I was worried I wouldn’t make as much money as a wildlife photographer, but I also knew that it’s where my passion was.
I want my photography to mirror my priorities. To make sure this always stays true, I focus on wildlife, environmental, and social justice efforts as a photographer. I show people the beauty of this world, the way that beauty is being compromised, and the people fighting to make this world a better place. My goal is to use my academic background and photographic experience to promote worthy causes. And soon, I’ll be taking this all one step further by mentoring others to give them the best possible opportunity for doing the same!
I hope you enjoy reading my blog and I hope you love viewing the photos as much as I’ve loved taking them!