The first time I picked up a camera, it was my mom’s Fujifilm that she got from Walmart. It was more than just your basic point-and-shoot, but it wasn’t even close to a professional camera. She got it to take pictures during vacations – it was a normal family camera. We had cats, dogs, and horses, and I loved them so much that I wanted pictures of them to keep forever. I don’t know what possessed me to get so involved with taking a photo, but I remember spending time thinking about how to stage it, how to compose it, and how to get the best lighting. I was seven years old!
The first photo that really stands out in my memory is of our cat, Cookie. He was a fat orange cat that loved to lounge around in the sun. I found him sleeping on a saddle we had in the house one day and thought it would make a great photo. So, I left him there, hung a blanket up behind him to shade him from the sun, and snapped some photos. The blanket was a sunset pinkish color with little images of horses galloping. There was no depth to the photo, but it was in focus. I submitted it to the Cibola County Fair and won first prize!
This ignited a fiery passion for photography. Between riding horses, writing in my journal, and taking photos, I was one zesty kid. I took tons of photos of my horses and the random objects around my house. I would take the camera to my mom and show her all the pictures that I loved. She, being the amazing mother she is, would get them printed for me.
By the time I got to high school, I was serious about it. I took a couple of college-level courses and took my friends’ senior portraits. I remember walking around our little tourist town taking photos of people, trees, and things in antique stores. I felt at peace behind the camera.
In college, I took more courses to better understand camera settings, lighting, and composition. I wanted to be an aerial photographer for the Air Force. I eventually took a different path and went to cosmetology school in Albuquerque, NM. I kept up photography on the side, doing product photography for a company that sold baskets and jewelry made in Africa. I photographed a couple of weddings and did sessions with models whose hair and makeup I did for my portfolio. I was dabbling in modeling at the time and ended up connecting with a group of photographers from around the world. We planned a trip through Colorado and New Mexico where I would be their subject. Looking back, it was probably a ridiculously dumb thing to do — I was an 18-year-old going on a trip with mostly men, all strangers, to remote locations to take photos for a week. Luckily, I returned home safely with some incredible memories … and a boyfriend.
You may have heard of this guy, Michael Bonocore. Hes’ an extremely successful photographer that has traveled all over the world. He’s done some outstanding things with his career in photography. While our relationship didn’t last long, he saw talent in my photography and taught me some of the most valuable lessons in the craft. He motivated me to keep learning and growing. We are still good friends and we have a way of reigniting passion for photography in each other.
After cosmetology school, I moved to Texas, where I went to nursing school after a couple of years of doing hair and bartending. My house was robbed and all of my photography gear was stolen. I gave it up for a couple of years until I had my son. I had to have a camera to take photos of him! So, I started again with a very simple Canon camera.
Eventually, I was taking senior portraits for my friends in nursing school. Then, I decided to make it a full-blown business. I designed a logo and built a website, started a Facebook page, and started booking actual clients. Three years later, I quit nursing and went full-time in photography.
The truth is, it’s hard to follow your passions when the world seems to be going in the opposite direction. It’s difficult to ignore the societal demands of getting a “normal” job out of college with a W-2 form and benefits. The conversation you have with yourself consists of things like, “Is it realistic,” “Am I good enough,” “Will I make enough money,” “How will I win over my competition”. It’s a constant barrage of doubt that has been ingrained in our heads our entire lives: “You won’t be successful if you don’t do it this way”. It’s an exhausting battle, but when I finally decided to give up the fight and just do what I want, I felt a visceral wave of relief and triumph. I quit fighting with myself and with society and decided to do what has been calling me since I was seven years old! It took me twenty-one years to finally do what I should have been doing all along. Twenty-one years of having a different answer every time someone asked me what I want to do with my life. Twenty-one years of resisting the pull of photography to do what I thought was expected of me. Finally, after becoming a Cosmetologist, an RN, and a Salesperson, trying to fit into boxes, I’m listening to my heart. I’m facing the fear of failure and pushing so hard to succeed that I feel euphoric. This is my choice, my life, my craft. I now know that I won’t look back on my life and regret not making the leap.
I’ve seen life through a lens since I was seven years old. The camera preserves memories, beauty, and time. It illuminates perspective and captures the wonder in life. From lounging cats to two people exchanging lifelong vows, I see life through a lens and I am so grateful for what I am able to capture.
Oct 4, 2021