Discovering the Why: Why I’m a Photographer

About this post: On this blog, I usually communicate through my photos and include very few words. This particular post is an exercise in language. As I said in my last post, I’m taking a course on the “Beloved” photography approach, which pushes photographers to strive to capture authentic moments and connections between people. Our latest assignment from Sarah and Chris Rhoads challenges us to publicly answer one question: why are you a photographer?

Allie Siarto Self Portrait

In brief.

I photograph people. My husband asks me why I don’t photograph more landscapes. I don’t prefer landscapes, because landscapes can’t make me feel the way people can. Landscapes can’t express emotions like people can, and they rarely make me laugh like people do. Plus, I’ve yet to have a landscape thank me for capturing it’s true nature.

The backstory.

Most people can pinpoint an experience in their lives that has changed who they are forever. Honestly, most people can identify a number of these experiences as each of us makes our own way down a unique path. I’m sure you could list a handful.

I’ve had a few experiences myself.

When I was eight, my family went through a very difficult experience—one that changed each of our lives forever. My youngest brother, Patrick, was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease, Leukodystrophy, that would leave him bound to a wheelchair and incredibly dependent on the help of others.

Each of the four children in my family had a one in four chance of being born with this genetic disease. I was born third. Patrick was fourth.

I still get emotional when I think about this simple twist of fate. I’m lucky. I’m healthy. Nothing is stopping me from pursuing my dreams, traveling the world and taking a few risks along the way. How can I waste this opportunity? How can any of us waste it, really?

When I moved to Chicago to pursue my dream career in 2007, I just couldn’t find satisfaction. I thought working for a huge company in a huge high rise in a huge city would be a dream come true, but the truth was, I was playing a role. Deep down, I was stiffling my authentic self—trying to be the person that I thought others would want me to be. Sure, it wasn’t all bad, but there was always a nagging in my gut that told me something wasn’t right.

And so I took a leap of faith.

I started a small business with my husband and a good friend in 2009, and with that kick of courage to strike out on my own, I finally found the nerve to become a photographer. Yes, I had been a photographer. I had the passion, the experience, the technical skills—I had even photographed a wedding at that point—but I was somehow ashamed to say the words, “I am a photographer,” as though someone might tell me otherwise. As it turns out, declaring a dream publicly is the first step toward making it real.

And so here I am.

So selfishly, I’m a photographer because it gives me so much satisfaction to meet new people—to capture their experiences, and to know that they really love and appreciate the final product. I get to laugh with them, cry with them, feel the rush of excitement with them and help them relive some of their happiest moments. And most importantly, it makes me feel alive. I’m happy. I’m myself. And I know that I’m living a life that I can be proud of.

I think Patrick would agree.


  1. I think you’re a great writer, but what I love about your photography is that you somehow do succeed at telling stories and emotions through your photos, which is actually pretty rare. I can feel you in the photos (or I guess what I perceive as you, since I don’t know you that well :), but not at the risk of the subjects you photograph. Anyway, props to you. I enjoyed reading the why.

  2. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with! Beautiful work, by the way 🙂

  3. Ahh, perhaps you should use words more in your blog posts they are truly beautiful words. Wonderful post here. Plus, amazing photo of you! Loving all the blue hues.

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