This blog entry was originally published in March of 2019. An update appears at the end.
The first time I can remember being interested in photography, I was very young, probably around 8 or 9. I vividly remember my parents' Kodak Instamatic camera and being fascinated by the flash cubes. I wasn't allowed to play with it if there was film in it - film cost money and you couldn't waste a shot - but when it was empty I would walk around the house and take photos that never existed. It didn't matter though, there was just something about pressing that shutter.
When I got a little older, I got a camera of my own for Christmas - a Kodak Slimline - and it was quite the upgrade. This one even had a built in flash! I remember taking it with me on a family vacation to Niagara Falls that summer because I recall using tree branches to frame my subject, a tip I had read in the owner's manual that came with my camera. If I can ever find that photo, it's definitely getting framed and hung on my wall because even though I didn't realize it at the time, it was very significant. It was one of the first photos I took with purpose.
When I got a little older I got an Ansel Adams calendar as a gift. It had a different landscape photo for each month, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. That's when I fell in love with black & white photography and I am still obsessed with it to this day. As I got older my interest grew, and I even took a few classes as a teenager. People told me I had an eye for photography. But growing up in a blue collar household, I was encouraged to pursue something more "practical". I graduated high school, got an office job, met my husband and raised a family. I always worked part-time to help out with finances, but I never had a career. I sold my 35mm Minolta Maxxum camera that he'd bought me when we were dating. It was hard for me to part with, even though I hadn't used it in years. But we needed the money, I don't remember what for. Probably diapers.
Fast forward a lifetime or two: the kids grew up. I changed jobs a few times. And though I was grateful to have a job, I just could not imagine staying where I was for the next phase of my life. I wanted to find something I actually enjoyed doing, but what? How could I possibly start something new at my age? I didn't want to trade one unfulfilling job for another, and I was too dependent on the extra income to just quit. Then a friend who'd gone through something similar convinced me to take a leap of faith, because ultimately being happy is far more important than having more material things in my life. I quit my job and tried going back to school, but my heart just wasn't in it. I felt a bit lost. My kids didn't need me as much anymore and now I had no job and no clue what to do with the rest of my life.
Then one day during a trip to my parents' cabin in the mountains, my sister suggested that I borrow her fancy new DSLR and go for a drive. At first I was reluctant, I hadn't picked up a real camera in many years. Cameras had gone digital and I had no clue how to use it. But I was bored and it was a beautiful morning, so I went on a drive, alone. I saw some beautiful rock formations along the river just down the road, so I pulled over and took out my sister's camera. I barely knew how to turn it on and I could only use Auto mode, and suddenly I felt like an 8 year old girl again. I didn't know what I was doing, but I was fascinated. There was just something about pressing that shutter. I started to look around for things to photograph, and I came across some tiny rock sculptures that someone had made and left behind for others to enjoy. One particular sculpture was in the shape of a rectangle with a hole in the middle, and another smaller sculpture was just behind it, If I got down to ground level, I could make a picture of the smaller sculpture framed by the larger one. I made that photo with purpose, just like I had a lifetime ago in Niagara Falls.
I went home and ordered a DSLR the very next week. And the rest, as they say, is history.
UPDATE: January 27, 2021
I'm looking back, reflecting on everything I've accomplished since this was written and I am feeling so grateful and beyond blessed to be where I am today. I bought that first camera on August 7, 2017 and didn't have a clue how to use it. I didn't know the first thing about photography. I had to learn everything from exposure to composition to lighting, and the millions of other things that make up this amazing art form that has become my whole world.
I started by going to the University of YouTube to learn how to operate my camera and figure out what all the buttons were for (I learned a ton from Jared Polin). Once I started down that rabbit hole, a whole new world opened up. I watched videos, joined Facebook groups, and scoured the internet learning everything I could about photography. I'd never been so eager to learn anything in my entire life. I spent every spare minute just soaking up all the information I could find and then trying out what I had learned.
I started recruiting my kids to let me photograph them, and then their friends started asking me to take their photos as well. I loved doing it and it was a fun way for me to spend time with my teenage girls and their friends. Once those photos started to get noticed on Facebook I began getting requests from other people, and before I knew it I had accidentally started a business.
I sit here now - just a little over 3 years after purchasing my first camera - as an official Click Pro Master Photographer with a full time photography business and I could not be more proud. I never used to understand the phrase "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life", but I do now.
I LOVE going to work. If you've ever worked with me, you know I hardly ever stick to a time frame. I overshoot. I cannot stop myself. I've left client sessions apologizing for taking up so much of their time (I've gotten better with this. I know most people don't want to model for photos for as long as I want to take them). But this is part of what makes me a good photographer. I am passionate about what I do and I am committed to delivering the best possible images for my clients. Because as much as I want you to love your photos, I need to love them as well. I just can't do it any other way.
Want to know more? Contact me today and let's talk!
Tracy is a family, newborn, & fine art photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities in Pennsylvania including: Greensburg, Latrobe, Irwin, North Huntingdon, Ligonier, Penn Township, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Monroeville, Penn-Trafford, Squirrel Hill, Wexford, Murrysville, and beyond.