Do you ever get that question, you know the one that asks about how you knew what you wanted to do and when? It's the type of question that kinda stumps you. The one that makes you think way back to when you were a kid or in high school when you were just figuring things out.
For me, I get this question a lot...
”When did you start photography and how did you know?” and usually my answer is ”I've always wanted to be a photographer, I just didn't know it.” There was no defining moment that made me realize I wanted to do this type of work for a living. I didn't wake up one day and knew I wanted to be a photographer and certainly didn't think that I could do it. There were a lot of self-doubts and over time those doubts faded away.
I remember sitting in my high-school counselor's office, and her asking what school I wanted to go to and what my plans were for a career. I told her I wasn't going to a four-year and her jaw dropped. "Why not? School is extremely important! What's your plan?" At the time I didn't know, all I knew is that I had a knack for taking pictures and loved the creative process. I guess you could say that was a defining moment for me when I realized I wasn't like most people in high-school. I didn't have the urge to live the college lifestyle, I wanted to work, and I wanted to continue figuring things out with my photography. It was hard hearing about everyone else's plan to go to college and what career they were aiming for, while there I was, just an artist trying to stay true to what she felt. I admit, not knowing or having a plan when it seemed like everyone else did was scary and made me feel like an outcast.
While I wasn't a bad student I struggled in school, I was a very hands-on learner and the system just wasn't made for people like me. It wasn't that I was dumb but I just didn't think like everyone else. I got distracted easily, focused more on things I loved like creative writing and natural sciences where I could feel and see what was being taught, I was team captain of the track team, but I struggled severely in math. It was mathematics where I developed anxiety. I couldn't take a test without having my heart feel like it was beating out of my chest and felt my body shiver as I held back tears. I felt so stupid! Why couldn't I be like everyone else who could understand the material? Why did I feel so out of place and inept?
I wanted so badly to be like everyone else and that's when I took to photography. After school, I would grab my little FujiFilm point-and-shoot and wander for hours in my neighborhood. Taking pictures of plants, insects, random toilets in the alley, and anything that grabbed my attention. It was my stress relief, my outlet for my anxiety. I took horrible self-portraits and eventually found myself scanning through Vogue and Harper's Bazar looking at photographs, admiring the talent it took to create such brilliant images. As I said before, there was no defining moment but there was a process in which I fell in love with photography. It healed my soul and reminded me that I simply had other talents others didn't.
After high-school I enrolled at Mesa Community College where I explored my options. I loved music, so I enrolled in choir for two years, took music history, and attempted to learn piano, that last one wasn't so successful. I did track and field during that time as well, where Monique Henderson, a two-time gold medalist, was my coach. She asked me to shoot her wedding and engagement photos. She could have hired anyone, could have had the most talented photographer shoot those important moments but she didn't, she trusted me to do the job. It was an opportunity and a memory I'll always be grateful for because it reminded me that I had something to give.
It was also during that time when I started modeling. I had attended a meetup to learn more about photography but when we found out that the model had cancelled I was asked to fill in. I wouldn’t know how much that small opportunity would change my life until later.
As I rolled into my third year I transferred to City Community College where I started taking photography classes. I learned how to shoot and develop film and spent hours in the darkroom trying different developing techniques and shot roll after roll of film. At City they had studios and I took a lighting class with Professor King. A man who always intrigued me with his stories of how they shot commercial work on film, his life in Colorado, and how much the industry had changed. He peaked my curiosity about lighting techniques and enabled me to think outside of the box while emphasizing the importance of professionalism on set. It was a class that allowed me to explore the versatility of light and I found myself spending as much time in the studio as possible. Teaching myself how to use different lighting modifiers, what a fill card was, how to pose people, the difference between soft and hard lighting. It was a time where I was actually excelling at school, I had finally found my niche.
Eventually I stopped taking photography classes and fell in love with business. It took one business communications class with Professor Muschette to realize that this is what I needed to focus on when it came to my degree. Professor Muschette was a powerful woman who spoke barely above a whisper. For some odd reason, I wanted to excel in her class, she had a way of speaking that inspired you and made you commit to bettering yourself. She taught me how to speak with confidence, make a plan that made sense, and made me realize that I had something called tenacity. A trait that I never knew I had. I was determined to make photography my life, I just wasn't sure how I was going to make it happen.
During those last two years at City, I started working with modeling agencies, it was a goal that I wanted to accomplish but I knew I needed to up my game. No Ties was the first agency that gave me a chance, it was with Waverly and makeup artist Stephanie, and now that I look back on it I'm kinda flabbergasted that they decided to work with me. It was my first beauty shoot and I barely had any experience with editing skin on that level. However, it was my first glimpse into work that excited me, the type of artistry that reminded me of flipping through magazines just years before.
After that shoot I really started to ramp up my photography and my modeling. I wanted to immerse myself in what I loved doing. I started submitting my work to magazines, worked with more agencies, and constantly found myself shooting. The more I shot the better my work got and new opportunities started to open up. I eventually graduated with a Associates Degree in Business Management and started working for a photo studio right after.
Fasttrack to today and here I am, working as a photographer full-time and feeling thankful that I trusted myself enough to continue with my dreams. Being an artist isn't easy, especially when everyone is trying to be one. I thank God everyday for giving me the confidence and endurance to continue doing what I love and for opening up opportunities I didn't know existed. I'm thankful for the incredible make up artists, hair stylists, agencies, wardrobe stylists, models, photographers, and client's who have helped take my work to the next level.