Recently I received a phone call from a longtime client to schedule her daughter’s high school senior portraits. I made the appointment, hung up the phone, and immediately started to cry—like, ugly cry. I cried because when she was about to hang up, my client said, “Oh, Mary, can you believe we are now the parents of a high school senior? I mean, you were there the day we got married. You photographed my maternity portraits and almost every highlight of Emme’s life. And now you will photograph her senior pictures. We are so honored to have you in our lives, and Emme would not have any other person do this.”
I cried because in that one phone call she validated exactly why I am a photographer. I cried because she values these portraits the same way I value my own family’s portraits. And I cried because of the overwhelming gratitude I felt toward her and so many other people who have given me these moments of appreciation that fill my heart and reinforce my life’s journey.
I didn’t know I would become a professional photographer. Honestly, it was very low on my list of when-I-grow-up options. I never thought I was artistic or creative, and owning a small business was last on my list of career aspiration. I envisioned myself in a high-power law firm or super-glamorous corporation somewhere. My personal journey was a long winding path full of discoveries that led me to true fulfillment.
"I cannot imagine where I would be without photography, and not for the reasons you may think."Mary Fisk-Taylor
As I planned my self-portrait for this column, I gathered images to fill the background. I wanted to stand with the loves of my life who encouraged and molded me into the person I’ve become. My portrait background is created entirely of the portraits, snapshots, and images of those I honor and love, those I have cherished and lost.
As photographers we follow our clients from behind the lens of our camera as they journey through their own lives. They get married, have children, experience their family landscape, grow and change, and we’re there to document their milestones and celebrations. Second to my family, being a visual historian to the clients I serve has been one of the most honorable things I’ve had the privilege to do. Photography has been a consistent ribbon of road on my decades-long journey, leading me to where I am today. I cannot imagine where I would be without photography, and not for the reasons you may think. I’m still not sure if I was born to be a photographer, but I’m very sure that my love of pictures and the art of creating them have developed me into the wife, mother, woman, and photographer I’ve become.
My personal photography journey has given me more than I can put into words. Photography has given me a career that allows me to spend my days creating and designing beautiful artwork to grace the interiors of my clients’ homes. The artwork I create captures the most important moments in people’s lives; I deliver some of their most cherished heirlooms. It has given me a life as a small-business owner, constantly balancing the right-brain and left-brain strengths needed to operate a sustainable and profitable studio. Being a photographer has ensured that my own family has beautiful portraits and artwork celebrating all of life’s milestones and celebrations, and we get to enjoy those images every single day.
Photography has also given me PPA, an organization, a group, a community, a photography family. PPA has given me the most amazing friends and mentors, and the chance to grow as a photographer, student, teacher, and leader. PPA is much more than a stop along the way; it’s a consistent part of the ride. I am honored to stand with this community of artists, photographers, and small-business owners, and I’m grateful for the journey.
Stay well and be kind to yourself.
Mary Fisk-Taylor is the co-owner of Hayes & Fisk Photography in Richmond, Virginia.