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.

A Giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winners, Renee and Joe Powers!

Photography is so much more than f-stops, shutter speed and white balance. It’s about documenting your feelings, your relationships and your true selves at a given stage in your life. It’s about capturing what’s real, so that 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now, you and your family will have insight into who you really were at that time (side note—I just discovered a photo of my great, great grandfather from 1866. It’s such a treasure for our family. Just imagine how amazing it would have been if we could get more insight into his personality and relationships).

In my search to unlock honest, real moments with my couples and families, I’ve been taking a class on the Beloved concept by Jesh de Rox out of Canada. I’m working to adapt his concepts and field guide into my own approach, and I’m excited to start integrating it into my own work. Here’s how Jesh describes the concept:

“A beloved portrait session is not just a photo shoot, it’s a celebration of love and genuine communication. As beloved photographers, we want to make honest images that move people, that document these small moments that you cherish but perhaps sometimes forget. These images serve as a doorway to bring two people back to the beginning of their journey together. We invite couples to share a piece of themselves and capture valuable moments through the art of photography.”

Beloved Field Guide

In honor of Beloved, I’m giving away a complimentary session and framed 8×10 print to one couple. Any couple. Maybe you’ve been married for two years. Maybe you’ve been married for fifty.

To enter, just like Allie Siarto Photography on Facebook and post any photo of the two of you. Every additional “like” your image receives on Facebook gives you another entry into the random drawing. I’ll announce the winning couple on May 3.

Because my business is based in East Lansing, the winning shoot will take place in the Greater Lansing area.


A Memory Box

I’m smitten. When I was out in Vegas this past February for WPPI, a convention for professional photographers, I spent a lot of time walking the trade show floor looking for amazing products to offer my clients. One particular product that I kept coming back to was this custom image box. I love the sophistication of this box—the satin feel, the crisp magnetic close and the ribbon detail. I’m also a fan of flipping through the loose photos—it’s a nostalgic feeling to go through each image one by one.

I am SO excited to add this box with a set of proofs to my list of products for both weddings and lifestyle sessions. As much as I believe in having some form of digital images to share with friends online, the detail and color of professional prints just cannot be beat.

Memory box and spine

Memory box front by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographer

Memory book spine from mpixpro

Back of memory box by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographer

Memory box inside, created by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographer

Choose between a set of proofs (above) or a select number of mounted prints (below). These are mounted on 1/8″ matboard to provide an extra sturdy back ensure the longevity of the print.

Mounted Print by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographer

Close up of mounted print by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographer

Assortment of printed proofs from Allie Siarto, Lansing wedding photographer

Printed proofs by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographer

Self Portraits and the Power of Vulnerability

Remember when I told you that I was going to make an effort to take more self portraits? I’m finally trying to do just that. The more I can become familiar with the vulnerability of being in front of the camera, the better I connect from behind the camera. And ultimately, I’m learning that there’s a great power in vulnerability. In fact, if you can find 20 minutes to spare, I highly recommend this TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability. I find it absolutely fascinating.

Self Portraits by Allie Siarto, Lansing Wedding Photographers

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