Today marks 8 years since I began my journey as a full-time photographer. On one hand, it feels like yesterday when it all began and on the other hand it feels like I've been doing this my entire life. This "job" doesn't feel like work. (I guess that's what happens when you find a career that fills you with so much happiness and joy!)
In May of 2009, I was teaching Kindergarten. Looking back I can see that I was completely miserable. But as it goes, being human, you never really know how bad it is until that chapter has passed and you look back. I loved my students and their families, but I hated the politics that came with teaching. It was easy to unplug when I was with my students. I was always happy and fulfilled when I was teaching my babies. I loved the way their little minds worked and learned. However, I loathed all the paperwork, documentation, state standards, staffing issues... and let's face it: Dealing with miserable administrators and gossip destroys morale, your soul, and your drive to teach.
I had been searching for a job in another district for over a year, as were many other teachers I knew. We were all struggling to find open positions. After the holiday break in 2008, I decided that the current school year would be my last. With the urging of my mom and my best friend Amber, I decided to drum up some photography jobs over the next few months to make sure I had some extra money in the bank in case I didn't get another offer. I had been photographing friends, family and co-workers for a few years on the side so that I never had to teach summer school. I had a base of "clients" at the time, but wasn't even remotely aware of what was ahead of me. (I say "clients" because I had never EVER thought of them this way.)
Through a wild few weeks at the end of April 2009, I found myself without a contract renewal for the next year at the school I had been at for over 6 years. I also didn't have a job offer anywhere else. I also had plenty of photography jobs that I had booked and several weddings I had contracted coming up, but that was just to keep me afloat during the summer. On May 4th, 2009, I found myself in tears realizing that I could become unemployed in a matter of weeks. I went to bed that night scared of my future and terrified of what was around the corner.
I woke up the next morning feeling calm. I remember that the sun was shining so brightly that day. I took a deep breath and remembered I had a photo session booked that afternoon. I felt excited. I felt happy. I felt at peace.
After the photo shoot that day, I ran home and jumped on my computer. With $364 to my name, I went online and filed my paperwork with the State of Missouri and registered a fictitious name, filed for an LLC, a business license and a sales tax ID. I also signed up for my first of many photography workshops. I didn't look back. I wasn't scared... I was excited. I felt alive and happy. I knew, deep down in my soul, that I had to give this "photography thing" a try.
Within a matter of weeks, I had established Abbie Takes Pictures. I had one film camera and a whole lot of spunk. I also had no social media at my disposal because it wasn't mainstream yet. It was no easy task. That first year was terrifying. I fell on my face more times than I care to mention. But you know what? Those moments of fear and doubt made me who I am today. The entire journey did.
With all of that being how ATP got started, let's talk about where ATP is today:
As of May 5, 2017:
I say all of this not to boast. I say this because I'm proud. I spend each and every day doing something that I love. Yes, it's bonkers at times. Yes, it's more work than I've ever done in my entire life. But I'm happier than I've ever been. ATP has led me down a path that has made me proud of who I am. This is not something I've always felt. I still have days, moments (heck - even weeks!) where I struggle and don't feel at my best. I have to remind myself that I'm only human and that things won't always be hard. There are peaks and valleys in this life, right?
I would be remiss if I didn't take this blog post to mention how I survived the past 8 years of being a business owner. This path has been full of so many incredible people. From other photographers who took me under their wings (you know who you are), to wedding vendors that appreciate my art and share it with their prospective brides and grooms. I've had the honor and privilege to become friends and find a family with the tight network of photographers here in Saint Louis. I wouldn't have the skill set I do today if it wasn't for their open arms and willingness to share techniques and ideas.
I learned the power of sharing from these photographers - which led me to want to share the skills I learned over the years. I developed an intern program that brought me some of the most talented, hard working women I've ever known. Amber (who was there from the very beginning), Tyler, Cassidy, Bonnie, Elizabeth, Karissa, Danielle, Megan, Sara, Jen, Heather... I owe a lot of my business' success to these women.
Most importantly and most significantly, the joy and fulfillment I have comes from photographing the most incredible people on the face of this planet. The ATP Family is second to none. You guys are loving, hilarious, laid back, kind, and giving, welcoming people. The way you tell others about my work, the way you welcome me into your families, the way you love me like family... it's so humbling. I hope each and every one of you knows how much I appreciate and adore you.
I'll never know how I got so lucky, but I do know how grateful and proud I am of what Abbie Takes Pictures has become. Thank you all for your faith in ATP and taking a seat while traveling this journey with me. My humble gratitude for an amazing 8 years. Here's to a lifetime of more memories captured together!
Also - here's a photo that I feel truly captures how I feel about the past 8 years. LOL! (Photo taken by Spencer Pablo in San Diego, California. December 2016. And yes - this is a truly candid moment less than a second after I had been dive-bombed by a very large bird!)
This past Monday, I turned 32 years old. I wasn't dreading turning another year older, and in fact - I was looking forward to it. The older I get, the more I understand that I'm getting better with age. I'm learning more about myself every day, and really starting to understand what life is all about. It's not so bad, this "growing old" thing.
I saw this video today, and completely fell in love with it. I want to be like these women when I grow up. They remind me of my girlfriends and I. :)
I know one thing for sure: This whole "growing older" thing wouldn't be as much fun if I didn't have my best friend by my side. Amber and I have been BFF's for over 10 years now. We met in junior college, and got reacquainted a few years later, after we'd both moved back home from our universities. The rest is history. She's been by my side through everything. She was with me when I shot my first wedding 7 years ago, she was holding my hand the day I decided to stop teaching and move forward with my photography full time, and now she works for ATP as our Office Manager. She stands by my side, supports me, and really genuinely loves me and cares about me. She is what friendship is all about. (I know, I know -- I'm so sappy today!)
Considering it's been 10 years, and her and I only have some good "Facebook/shoot your own" photos together, I decided that I wanted to have some fun photos of her and I together for my birthday. With the amazing Bonnie Nichoalds (ATP Staff Photog) behind the lens, we had a blast.
(I just ADORE this "Besties" photo above... it has inspired a new session idea... so keep your eyes peeled!!)
We couldn't end the day without some silly photos to commemorate and celebrate another year of life and friendship. (These photos are SO FUN! Thanks, Bonnie, for the incredible idea!!)
A BIG THANKS to Trish at Salon Dacota (www.SalonDacota.com) for the hair and makeup!