Welcome Back

April 22, 2019

Photo by Kyla Fear

If it seems like the last few years have been full of life changes for me, it’s because they have. When I set out to become a photographer it wasn’t originally part of any of my plans. However, one thing led to the next and then I became a photographer. For the first several years owning a business the journey was all about learning as much as I could about photography, making myself a better business owner, and focusing on the business itself. Things grew and changed until business was steady, I had learned more than I thought possible and I was ready for more. That’s when business spread into many ventures for me. It went from photographing to specializing in only weddings. Then it went from weddings into specifically offbeat weddings. I began to teach, blog, and educate other photographers and business owners about the things I’d learned. I spoke at conferences. One single business grew into something that had many branches and businesses. My network of fellow photographers and entrepreneurs became an integral part of daily life.

It still seemed like there was more to come. Isn’t there always more? In my journey through the photography industry I did find one thing that kept holding me back. For some reason I always felt especially different. I think we all feel that way sometimes. It was clear to me at conferences and photography events that I was the odd one out. I thought maybe it was the circle I was in at the time. There were an awful lot of folks who were particularly religious. Not sharing in those beliefs definitely made me feel out of place at certain events.

If I’m brutally honest there was one particular incident that happened to me that cemented these feelings of otherness. I was speaking at a conference. They needed my headshot for a bulletin board outside the room I’d be in. I sent them my latest headshot. At the time I was specializing in costumed or themed offbeat weddings. Naturally, I had costumed headshots done. It was part of my brand and it brought a lot of delight to my clients. I sent the headshot to the company. They came back saying it didn’t really fit their aesthetic. The aesthetic for their other speakers tended to be slim and white. The women had long hair. There were no visible tattoos showing. They weren’t wearing costumes. It was pretty clear that different wasn’t welcome and that I had been right all along. This particular community wasn’t the community where I fit. I struggled with my feelings from this incident and hit the books.

Anytime I need to do some thinking or organizing I break it down in composition notebooks. I needed to figure out where I belonged in this big photography industry. I knew I had something of value to offer, but to who and where? That led me to a part of my journey where my businesses went through another change. More ideas came and went. Some were a huge success and others weren’t. That incident led me to open Rock Your Weird in 2015. I thought it could be a place where I’d welcome other people like me. People who didn’t fit the typical mold. Where people could learn and lead without constantly feeling othered in certain spaces.

Something still wasn’t right though. It wasn’t the ultimate answer to what I was going through and where things would lead me. Eventually, I started to bring my efforts to diversify the industry into my business even more. I learned (and am still always learning) more about representing marginalized communities in my photography work. Learning and changing my business to prioritize on these things fulfilled a need in me that I hadn’t identified before that moment. It felt like that’s where my journey was leading me and at that time I was confident that was my only path. I shut down Rock Your Weird and a lot of other external projects

Low and behold that wasn’t the end of that particular journey. As I went through pregnancy last year and began my autism diagnosis I also started teaching third grade. So it just seemed like a fresh start once 2019 started. I wanted a place to talk about all these new things in life, being a woman with autism, a teacher, an entrepreneur…

To make a long story short, I’m looking forward to rambling away about autistic experiences, teaching, photography, entreprenurship, parenting and more.

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