This big news comes with a bit of a long story…
I’m going to tell you about the future of Aurora Photography and where it is I am planning to go with the business, but first I’m going to have to tell you how it was I got there. Forgive me if I’m a little long winded I tend to be and this is personal.
I guess the short story is that I am making some big changes to how things are done here. In February I came into the studio to find it flooded with water, and after examining the damage decided I was done with the studio and that I was moving back into my home with my business, but that was only the beginning of the changes I would make.
I’m not sure exactly when I got this ship turned sideways but I did. As the business began to grow I organically gravitated toward my work with women, seniors and weddings and when things were booming the most was when I was working in my element. Somehow in the midst of getting divorced and moving back to my hometown I landed in a beautiful downtown storefront and tried to really make a go of being a “downtown studio”.
We really had a lot of fun decorating the window and participating in all the fun events that The Chamber of Commerce puts on, but I felt a bit like a hamster in a wheel, always running to keep up, keep it changing and I think somewhere along the way I started to realize I wasn’t feeling inspired anymore. I was enjoying what I was doing but I wasn’t feeling challenged by what I was doing and perhaps more importantly, I was not paying myself appropriately for the amount of time I put in. I honestly might have made more money flipping burgers.
I feel a little like I just picked up my head one day and realized the universe around me had begun to spin out of control. Terrible things were happening to wonderful people I care for. I had already photographed my friend and classmate saying her last goodbyes to her 6 yr. old daughter, photographed another classmates family only 6 weeks before he and his wife lost their 14month old to cancer. Within days I got news that the son of my friend’s son had been in a terrible accident and the decisions had been reached to remove life support. I was already acutely aware of how lucky I am to come home to my beautiful healthy children. Before I could catch my breath there was a December morning when my living room became a gathering spot for other mothers to hover around the news, cry, worry and wait for any sort of information about what was going on. As our kids sat safely in lockdown their classrooms, only 6 miles down the road the most unimaginable tragedy was unfolding. After what seemed like ages and ages finally there was going to be some information, our kids would be released from lockdown and allowed to take the busses home or we could come and pick them up… The kids got home and told us all about their day, being in lockdown, they praised their teachers and told us they weren’t really that scared because their teachers kept them busy. Still in shock, we put the kids to bed and sat down again before the news, there it was – this big huge number you never ever imagined could be true. In an instant the world was changed for anyone with grade school children. Every mother across the country felt a deep ache in her heart and a sense of innocence was lost. In the hours that followed I think I just went totally numb and felt an overwhelming need to do something. I kept myself busy trying to do what I could to help the people closest to me who needed my help. If I could do nothing else, I could be a shoulder to lean on. So with two other really great Bethel hometown folks and an assortment of other helpers, we put together an impromptu vigil. We prayed together, we sang together, we were doing the only thing we could do – we were showing we cared. I spent several nights after that visiting Sandy Hook in the wee hours of the morning saying prayers, lighting candles, even singing carols. I don’t know how to explain how profoundly this hit me, I did not directly know any of the families involved, but my friends did, my clients did. Only a few days later I sat through my daughter’s school Holiday chorus concert, where the children were all wearing these beautiful green and white ribbons in their hair to honor the lives lost at SHES. Watching my 1st grader sing beautiful holiday tunes, I had a hard time not letting my eyes fill with tears as I waited to accompany my girlfriend to a funeral for a sweet little boy who was her daughter’s friend. Later that week I would attend another, to accompany another friend to another beautiful little boy’s celebration of life services.
The snow started to come down and as the weeks passed I was contacted by a friend and asked if I could do some family portraits for her sister-in-law who had just been diagnosed with cancer. I of course said yes, and over the next 5 months I had the pleasure of getting to know one of the coolest ladies around. Trista and I hit it off immediately she was a sassy, spunky, tell it like it is and do what you want kind of girl. My kind of girl. We exchanged messages and several times tried to make pictures with the kids happen, but the cancer was aggressive and seemed to make it impossible for her to plan anything. In May after many unsuccessful attempts to do anything she invited me up to spend an evening hanging out with her in her hospital room. Trista’s cancer had spread into her spine and she was back in the hospital because they simply could not control her pain at home. In my head I really felt that this was not a good sign but hoping for the best and believing that if anyone could beat all the odds it was Trista. I continued to shake my pom poms and say my prayers. I am not sure why Trista touched me so deeply, if it was because she reminded me so much of myself in her general outlook on life, or whether it was because she was a mom. I spent many nights weeping for the pain she was facing, for the thought of being in her shoes. I cannot even begin to fathom what it is like to know you will not be there for your children for milestones, to know you have a limited amount of time left to say all the things you need to say. I still can’t even type this without the tears falling over.
Stay with me here, we’re almost there.
In June of this year I spent a morning kicked out of my house due to a gas leak without my car and with the dog. As I sat on the patio at my local haunt waiting for news I could go home I read my Facebook stream filled with news that a fellow photographer had gone missing and help was needed to search for him. Upon returning home I messaged to find out what I could bring to help. I grabbed some food, made about 20 PB&J sandwiches and drove up to New Milford to help them look. We searched that day and the next, and even again the two days after that. One of our kind was missing, he was a father and a husband and expecting a 3rd child with his wife. Sadly, that family lost a great man and our industry lost a great photographer.
Something happened to me while we were out there looking, talking with our colleagues, hiking into the wood line with complete strangers even. I realized that I had lost my way; I was becoming a passenger on this ride instead of the driver. I realized I was taking a tremendous amount of time away from my family, time I could be spending doing homework with my kids, or crafting or even just snuggling and watching television, all to try and grow this business into something I wasn’t even excited about anymore. I didn’t really know what was next but during my time in the woods I decided that I owed it to my family to make some changes. It was time to realize I was a hamster and step off the wheel.
Just as I struggled to find my footing after all of this, Trista left us, leaving behind her three beautiful amazing children, a loving family and more friends than anyone could possibly imagine. I stood in the church at her celebration of life, surrounded by so many faces I know from so many other places in my life. It’s amazing how connected our little town is.
I think it was right about then that I decided I was officially broken. I notified the Team of my thoughts, feelings and of my intentions. I had reached a crossroads and something had to give. I think I talked it out with my husband and best friend for a few days before I gave the team notice that I was in effect shutting it down and switching gears. I have been fighting for the dream of a larger studio where we could work as a cooperative, and while I love the girls so dearly that it still makes my eyes well up to admit it… We were collectively treading water, and exhausting ourselves to try and be all things to all people. The girls are more than just part of the team, they are my family, so it was hard to make the decision and felt a little like ripping out my own heart. The beautiful thing about them being family is that they all totally understood and supported my decision to simplify and streamline the business. They have always been and imagine will always be amongst my biggest cheerleaders.
Saying out loud that I was just spent and that we were simply staying stuck in the same place sucked. I have to own that this is my business and I was letting it run me instead of running it.
So here we are back around to this ship of mine, and where I’m sailing it.
I’m not quitting, that’s just not my style. I am however going to scale back, concentrate on the work that I enjoy most, and put my focus back on the road in front of me.
With all the people in my life I’ve watched suffer terrible crushing losses this year, I did a lot of soul searching, sometimes in the quiet of my mind and sometimes out loud. I asked one day in a Facebook post:
“If I asked you what your definition of a successful life was, what would you tell me and would you consider yourself successful?”
As I answered my own question I had a bit of a life changing realization. I can honestly say that I am already personally successful beyond my wildest dreams.
I am happily married to my best friend in the world, I have two amazingly beautiful, bright, funny, caring little girls and we all have our health. I have the most amazing family and friends; I really truly am blessed to have a wealth of really great people who surround me, even if we don’t get to see each other very often. I also shared that I feel that my gift or talent in life is to help others, and to affect change. I am lucky enough to have had people share with me that I have truly affected their lives in a positive way. I really truly believe that one person can make a difference and I am forever on a quest to be a ripple in the pond, to do more, to be more.
Ok that’s great so now we know I need to make a big change and that I am on a personal crusade to make the world a better place, what does one have to do with the other?
I feel like I’m at my best when I make someone feel beautiful, especially someone who really doesn’t always feel that way. I think we are all beautiful – it’s just about being the kind of person who knows how to see the beauty in others. For as long as I have been photographing anything at the professional level I’ve been photographing women. There is just something incredible that happens when a woman feels beautiful, it’s like all the planets align and when a woman feels beautiful, magic is possible. When someone walks out of one of my sessions, feeling inches taller and walking on air, that’s my gold medal right there.
The changes have already begun, but rather officially I’m going to put my concentration on my work with women Glamour and Boudoir work as well as getting back to doing a few more of my own weddings and even doing some associate shooting for some other photographers. I really enjoy weddings but I’m really not interested in editing 30 weddings a year. I would like to spend more time enjoying my kids while they still care to spend time with their mom, and I’d like to enjoy more evenings and weekends with my family.
What does this mean if I’ve been photographing your family and your children? I will not be turning away any of my old clients, but I will not be focusing my business toward children, families and babies so my availability for these kinds of sessions will be limited. I love all my clients, some of you have been with me since the very beginning, I would love to continue to watch your families grow. I plan to continue to offer my popular Chalkboard Sessions in the fall as well as Fall Family Portraits, but it’s likely those will be the only times of year you see me promoting Children or Family work.
I am a bit melancholy about saying goodbye to the old aurora photography, and yet I am embracing this opportunity to be reborn, to start over again at the beginning, from a better place in my life, with so much more knowledge about what I want to do and maybe who I want to be, should I happen to grow up. Some days it creeps over me and it feels like failure, and then I remind myself that it is our failures that teach us the greatest lessons. The failure would be to continue to do something that didn’t fulfill me.
““You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it fearlessly.”
I said a whole lot there and then said very little all at the same time huh?
I’m just a lady who’s always trying to be my greatest self, some days that is easier than others. Now you know my story, I hope you get to tell me yours over coffee while we are planning the session where I get to make you feel your most beautiful. Making you feel beautiful is what makes me feel successful.
In the end it’s not how much money I made but how I loved that I will be remembered for!