The adventure so far..

How Did I Get Here?

As I enter into my last semester of the photography program at NAIT, I can’t help but question how I got to this point. What moments and experiences in my life brought me to being a photographer? Pursuing photography as a career seems like a daydream that you contemplate chasing because “it’s my passion”. Don’t get me wrong, this is a large factor that drives my motivation to create a photography business, but in order for me to jump in with both feet, there needs to be more factors than just that.  Which leads me to the point of this blog, how on earth did I decide to go down this path?

I was that creative, mischievous, confident kid who had a set idea of how my life was going to be. In kindergarten, I would refuse to go to school in the morning so my punishment was to stay in my room until school was let out. In this time I would do puzzles while listening to the complete series of The Beatles music. I distinctly remember listening to Hey Jude while putting the pieces together of a puzzle of the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty and being able to block the outside world out my mind. I was so invested in what I was creating.

I was content with being kept in a small space with only music to fill my thoughts while creating an art piece with my hands. This is the introvert side of me that many are unaware of. This is the reason why I am completely satisfied with sitting at a computer screen, editing photos for hours on end while listening to beautiful music. There is this calmness that I encounter when I get lost in my work while being enthralled with the sound of music. 

You’re probably wondering how I came across my passion for taking photographs? If not, then don’t proceed reading. If so, continue on. 

When I was seven years old I received a tiny film camera from my great-aunt from Vancouver for my birthday. I was intrigued by taking photos of mirror selfies with the flash on, the outside of my house and beautiful portraits of whoever I could find around the house from a very flattering angle. I also did a wonderful series of before and after shots of rooms I would clean, just to emphasize the vast difference between the two. 

Once we moved closer to the city when I was twelve, I quickly developed close friendships with girls who lived on my street. Throughout the summers we would create music videos, have photoshoots in my backyard and make very creative short films in our free time. Being the one who owned all of the equipment, I was the videographer and photographer (almost) all of the time. It gave me the constant opportunity to figure out different ways to tell a story and it really pushed me creatively because I would come up with new ideas every week. We are talking filming at least two music videos a week, for a three month period with editing involved. It was a tough gig. 

(No photos will be inserted during this time period due to this being the time while Monica was going through her awkward phase.)

At the time I hadn’t realized I was opening myself up to being an artist. The thought of photography being an art never crossed my mind because I associated art with painting, drawing or pottery. A masterpiece you could physically create with moving around your hands in certain motions. A significant part of photography is the creative side. Whether it is getting inspired enough to go out, take a photo of a part of life that you feel strongly about, or allowing your mind to flow from idea to idea so you can tell a story in one single photograph. Being creative encourages you to ask yourself “why?” behind almost everything you do, because you crave that deeper meaning for what you’re doing. It welcomes you to express yourself in a way that words can not accomplish, which I have struggled with my whole life. Photography is an art and it is a paint brush for how I see life through my eyes. 

All great photographers start with nature photos am I right?

I had a teacher in grade eight who I really looked up to, he was so supportive and really made time to listen to his students which I thought was unreal. I had mentioned that I was into photography and his face lit up, he ran to his office and pulled out a Canon Rebel. He told me stories of his photography adventures and then offered me some lessons so I could get to know the camera better. I vaguely remember him teaching me about shallow depth of field (which I never fully understood until years later) and I became more and more comfortable with aperture, ISO and shutter speed. I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciate the time he put in to teaching me about the camera, and for being so enthusiastic about it. He was the main reason I purchased a DSLR in the future. 

Age fifteen came along, I bit the bullet and bought my first DSLR (I had no idea what that meant at the time but I continued calling it that to sound smart). Before that summer I had never photographed anyone besides for my neighbourhood friends and my family. My older sister Alicia saw potential in my skills and convinced me to do portrait sessions of her past high school friends whom I had never met before. Throughout the summer Alicia and I scheduled, shot and delivered to around 25 clients. Being a very shy person at the time, I did not talk much during the sessions (which is a significant part of being a photographer) because I was not used to directing or interacting with people who were much older than me. During the entire session Alicia would make small talk, direct them and bring up the mood. The odd time I would whisper something in her ear about the lighting or would say the odd word to the subject, but I kept fairly quiet and to myself while I was photographing. This gave me time to focus on my camera settings, the lighting and where the best angles were, but I was missing that connection with the subject. I craved that connection with the person right in front of me, but that voice in my head would hold me back from talking. Looking back it sounds so silly but when I was so shy it felt so uncomfortable to talk to strangers. 

This experience has taught me the importance of connecting and learning about the beautiful people I am capturing. I love hearing your story, what your likes and dislikes are, how you spend your time, who you value most in your life, and I try to incorporate that into my photographs. 

Alicia dedicated her time and energy into encouraging me to put myself out there. Her belief in me has impacted my journey with photography immensely. I doubt I would have thought about the possibility of pursuing photography after high school, I doubt I would have realized my strong passion for connecting with the people I am photographing, and I know that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for her determination and positivity. She is a huge part of why I continue on with my photography business and I will never be able to thank her enough for what she has done for me. 

After graduating from high school, I did not stress about figuring out what I wanted to go into, because I felt like I was too young to go into university that soon, so I took a year off. Near the beginning of January, I had started following a wedding photographer from Calgary on Instagram who I thought was so amazing. She made being a wedding photographer full time look appealing to me, which something that had never crossed my mind. Making a living off of photography? That’s possible? Not long after thinking about the possibility of making that my career path, I sent in my application form for the Photographic Technology program at NAIT. A couple months later I was accepted and I was on my way to my next adventure. 

I was blessed enough to have five couples hire me for capturing their wedding after completing my first year in the two year program. I hired my good friend Saul to second shoot all of the weddings and we made such an incredible team! It was so much more relaxed with him around and I didn’t have to worry about not getting an important shot because Saul was always on top of that. 

Meet Second shooter Saul.

As you’re walking through life, you feel lost at times or you lose sight of what you think you want, but the reality is that we don’t know where we are going or what is going to happen until it does. All we do know is that we have so many loved ones around us who support us through our struggles and love us whether we succeed or fail.One of main reasons why I keep pushing forward and living out this dream is because I know that God is on my side. Putting trust in Him has got me to this point. God has held my hand throughout my life and when my anxiety creeps in, God is helping me conquer it. It’s the people in your life and God, that impact the choices you make and help you shape who you are, so embrace that. I allowed myself to open up to new friendships even if it gave me all the anxiety in the world. Going out of my comfort zone has got me here, not letting fear control the choices I make got me here. Every session I shoot, whether it be one of my family members or a complete stranger, there is this voice in my head that thinks of all the reasons why I shouldn’t be doing this. It takes courage to say no to the voices in your head and I am so grateful God gave me the strength to deny my weaknesses and to keep pushing forward.

Thank you so much for stopping by and for reading about my life adventures!

Be sure to come back next week to see my first in home family session!

Monica Anne 

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