I’ve heard this quote often in my adult life and I never believed it to be true. Work will always feel like work even if you enjoy it, right? This is what I thought until I found photography. I get it now! I have to pinch myself that this is my job and I get to wake up and do it every day. It truly is a joy! Although I have been taking clients for 3+ years I have never introduced myself or how I stumbled into finding this passion. I recently moved back to NC and re-branded my photography business and feel like this is the perfect time to tell the story of my journey into photography. While technically I started like most women my age (I got a nice camera after the birth of my second child) it is events from my childhood, my education and early work experiences that make my journey a little different. All of my experiences pre-photography laid the perfect foundation for a career more fulfilling than I could ever imagine.
I have loved art, design and drawing for as long as I can remember. As a child I always had a sketch pad and pencils or markers. I would draw on road trips and really any chance I could get. Art was my thing and I thought I would grow up to be an animator for Disney (I was really shooting for the stars, ha). Some of my favorite artist are Chuck Close, Richard Estes and Norman Rockwell. I love the first two for their photo realism (It amazes me how they can re-create a photograph to perfection), and I love Norman Rockwell for his use of color and how he can tell an entire story in one image. I also love how looking at any of his work you are immediately transported back in time.
Speaking of time, it is always something that has taken my breath away. The passing of time hits me like a punch in the stomach and it has since I was small. I remember while in elementary school stumbling across some photographs of my 2nd birthday party. I sat and stared at them in awe. I loved seeing how the sun was shining that day, and the way my mother looked and how our house had no furniture in the living room. I wanted more than anything to be able to go back to that time and be a fly on the wall. I knew the closest I would ever come to traveling back in time was through photographs. Time and history continued to be something that intrigued and interested me. I even competed in the National History Competition in 7th grade (nerd alert). I’m not sure why I’m including this here except that I think it’s a big part of why I love photography and photographs and how they are our only ticket to a past time.
After high school I completed a Bachelor’s degree in digital media from East Tennessee State University where I learned Photoshop and other adobe creative software. I also studied art and learned foundational components like composition and color theory. I decided to further my education with a post-graduate degree in fashion design from Parsons School of Design in New York City. After graduation I loved working as a fashion designer, but I became homesick and I did not want to stay in the city. This is when my entrepreneur spirit kicked in. My roommate from Parsons and I decided we would start our own clothing line. She lived in Cincinnati and I was happy to move there and use my fashion degree outside of New York and LA. We had some great success with our business including having our items sold in the local Macys, designing a private label for a large company and being featured on the Today Show. At the end of five years we were still struggling to pay ourselves and were both ready to move on and start families. We dissolved our business and I got a job as a project manager at a branding agency in downtown Cincinnati. I enjoyed this time learning about branding and digital strategy, but man I missed creating something of my own more than I thought I would.
While working in Cincinnati I became pregnant with my oldest and we decided it was best for me to stay home with her. I LOVED my new role as a mother, but I still felt like I was missing something creative. I did some freelance graphic work and a few commissioned art pieces during this time, but they did not fulfill me. I would often ask myself “if I could do anything everyday what would l do?” I had no idea how to answer this question and it frustrated and saddened me. I even prayed about it often asking God to open a door.
A year and a half later we had our second baby girl and right before she was born in January 2016 I got my first DSLR for Christmas. I figured it was a reasonable thing to have when starting a family to document big moments moving forward. I remember playing around with it and thinking that I would never figure out how to use this thing. Well that could not have been further from the truth. It all clicked (no pun intended)! I was hooked and I devoured everything I could about photography. I read about it while I nursed my baby and when I could not sleep at night. I started watching videos and following other photographers whose work I loved, and I photographed someone or something every single day. I documented my girls doing anything and everything. This was it! I found my thing. The thing I had always been searching for. The thing I loved doing and could do every day without fail. Every experience I had leading up to finding photography was the perfect stepping stone. The art and design classes, the education in digital media and digital art, learning about styling for camera, and my desire to create beautiful things. Photography was the perfect combination of all of it. It was also the perfect way for me to stop time. I could capture the most precious and fleeting moments of life and turn them into a work of art. My heart was so full
As soon as I found family photography I knew I wanted to share it with others. I was terrified to put myself out there, but I wanted to capture those fleeting motherhood moments for other mothers. I wanted to take photos of them and the people they love most and turn them into unforgettable artwork. It is a joy and a privilege to get to do this job and it truly does not feel like I am working, even on the toughest days.
If you read all of this then you are the real MVP!
I am excited this week to share another photographer from across the world with you! Melissa Gray-Peters is a North London Family Photographer! Her work is gorgeous and she is sharing about photo locations in the winter!
Valerie Eidson is an award winning Asheville Family Photographer specializing in motherhood, families, newborns and children.