From Disaster, A Career

©Hayes & Fisk Photography

When I was preparing for my wedding day over 26 years ago, having great photography was my No. 1 priority. There were few studios in my hometown, so I logically chose the one our local wedding magazine had declared the best.

On the day of my bridal portrait session, I was so anxious about having to be in front of the camera that I burst into tears and ruined my makeup. I was a total wreck, and my mom was losing patience. I felt ugly and just knew I wouldn’t be happy with the photographs that hadn’t even been taken yet. Little did I know this session would change the course of my life—because that was the day that I met Jamie Hayes, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API.

What luck that this was the photographer the studio had assigned to me. To this day, I’m in awe of his ability to make people feel beautiful and special when they’re in front of his camera, which is exactly what he did for me that day. He boosted my morale and self-confidence as he complimented my dress and flowers, telling me how great I looked. As he gently guided me through the session I realized I was actually having fun. He made me believe I had the most gorgeous gown he’d ever seen and that I was the prettiest, funniest, luckiest bride ever. I loved the images he made of me. Jamie helped me see the difference between pictures and professional photography.

“‘Do you know anyone looking for some part-time work?’ he asked. ‘Me!’ I exclaimed.“

Mary Fisk-Taylor

For our wedding ceremony, I booked the most expensive package, which included Jamie as my photographer. Imagine my dismay on my wedding day when I opened my hotel room door to find a large, sweaty man in an ill-fitting suit. I stared at him and blurted out, “Who are you? Where is Jamie?” I was the victim of a classic bait-and-switch. “Something came up,” I was told. My stomach sank. 

It bothered me a bit that this photographer’s name, Daryl, was the same as my soon-to-be husband’s. But what truly reeked of disaster was seeing him drunk at my reception. He left in a cab. My hopes of a beautiful album died, but I learned so many lessons from this experience.

Two years later, when my husband and I learned we were having a baby, I called the studio where Jamie had worked. He was no longer there, but as fate would have it, I found him in the most unlikely way. Stopped at a traffic light on my way to a doctor’s appointment, I noticed a tiny brick house with a black mailbox that had “Hayes” imprinted on it. Jamie had just opened his own studio.

After our daughter was born, Jamie took beautiful portraits of her for almost a year. When Alexandra was about nine months old, we were at the studio ordering prints, and I asked when I should expect her six-month portraits to be ready. The poor guy just looked at me and started apologizing. Business had taken off so quickly that he was incredibly behind. “Do you know anyone looking for some part-time work?” he asked. “Me!” I exclaimed.

“I didn’t mean to become a full-time photographer and small business owner, but when I look back at my family history and how photographs have played such an important part of my life, it makes sense.”

Mary Fisk-Taylor

Twenty-five years later, and I’m still here. After the first year, Jamie and I became full partners in the business. After the second year, I started second shooting at weddings. And by year four, I had my PPA master of photography and craftsman degrees.

I didn’t mean to become a full-time photographer and small business owner, but when I look back at my family history and how photographs have played such an important part of my life, it makes sense.

Starting out as a second shooter at weddings was perfect for me. Because of my own poor wedding photography experience, it’s important to me to make sure every couple is over the moon in love with their pictures. Soon my brides started returning because they were expecting a baby. It became exciting to know that, maybe one day, these mothers would be sitting at their kitchen table with grandchildren going through albums and photographs I’d had the honor to capture that would be treasured for generations. 

Mary Fisk-Taylor is the co-owner of Hayes & Fisk Photography in Richmond, Virginia.