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My Photography Journey

My photography journey began at age 10 when my parents gave me a Polaroid for Christmas.  I had always been captivated by images, especially old ones.  I loved the stories they told.  The most compelling ones drew me into the story and I would imagine myself as one of the characters in the images.  There was something intriguing about those color-faded and B&W photos.  The expressionless faces of the people; the old cars and houses; and the sceneries that had long since changed all fed my imagination. 

Photo by Denise Benson Photography

During my "gap years" between college and law school, I worked as a portrait photographer.  I learned little about the technical aspect of photography but a lot about creativity in positioning subjects and props, the importance of lighting, and shooting from different angles.  Perhaps most importantly, I learned about the emotional connection that people have to images.  It was not uncommon to do a multi-generational family shoot, or a shoot with a terminally ill child, only to learn that a loved one shortly thereafter passed away.  There was also the joy of photographing newborns and then watching the parents squeal with delight at seeing their babies' images!

In spite of satisfied customers and compliments on my photography skills, I did not seriously consider a career in photography.  I was committed to having a "real" career as an attorney and so I left the studio and started working at the local library while attending law school.

During my law school years, I discovered the convenience of disposable cameras. I used them for every occasion.  I upgraded to a 35mm Canon years later when my best friend asked me to serve as a bridesmaid at her wedding.  I packed a ton of color and B&W film (along with bridesmaid dresses, jewelry, and wedding gifts) and headed to Sweden for the Big Day.

On another visit to Sweden, my best friend persuaded me to go digital.  She assured me that I would not want to go back to film.  She was right.  Her husband loaned me his digital camera for a weekend trip to Tallinn, Estonia.  The digital was much easier than my 35mm and fun to use.  I also liked its compact size.  Plus, it took amazing pictures. So it was goodbye film, hello digital!

My best friend Karlena on her wedding day. Pictures were taken with my Canon 35mm.

As I traded up cameras and started building a portfolio, friends and strangers suggested that I turn this hobby into a career. Many were amazed that I had never taken a photography course.  A friend asked what my "secret" was.  I could only answer that love to tell stories through my images and that I want people to imagine themselves as being part of those stories and come away convinced that they were. 

I was hesitant to take my photography to the next level because I was concerned that my passion would wane if it became just another job.  Undoubtedly things will change.  My work will be subject to others' opinions and criticism.  I may sometimes have to yield my vision to that of the client.  And there might be days when I just plain won't much love what I do.  But I'll keep my passion.