This Is What It's All About

One evening, I noticed a lengthy email from a photography student who expressed a need to talk with me soon. I discovered that she is an aspiring wedding photographer who admires my work, and wanted to interview me for a 5-10 page essay assignment. Immediately I felt honored and said yes! We set up a Skype call and talked for an hour, answering questions and having a wonderful time getting to know each other. About a week later, she sent me the essay she wrote and I MELTED. I've never had anyone write about my personal life or thoughts before, or why it is I was inspired to be a photographer. So I decided to share Grace Thomas's essay with all of you in hopes that you'll get something from it yourself. She touches on a subject that all young minds think about before entering college and deciding where to go with their life.

It is TRULY an amazing feeling when you know that you've inspired someone. Not everyone gets to know. We all go through our day-to-day lives inspiring and impacting others, but often times we are not told. I'm happy to have this essay to remind me on the challenging days of working towards my dreams. Thank you Grace for inspiring and impacting me, I am honored to be a small part of your journey!

By Grace Thomas

How many people can honestly say that they love doing what they are doing in life, whether that be their job, schooling, or even social life?  According to the Gallup 2013 State of the American Workplace Report of over 150,000 participants, just thirty percent of Americans actually enjoy their choice of workplace. Does that mean the remaining seventy percent of America is building someone’s garage carelessly or getting someone else's breakfast order wrong because it’s a Monday morning? What if we could imagine a Monday morning where people enjoyed getting up and going to work because they loved what they did? 

“If you want to do something and it’s not happening, figure out why it’s not and do something to change it,” said Ashley Davis; a photographer who finds herself to be adventurous, carefree spirited, humble, and encouraging of others. With light brown curly hair, bright eyes, and a glow about her, Ashley Davis is a passionate young woman who puts her full self into her photography. While getting to know Ashley through our two hour Skype call, I saw myself and I can only hope to accomplish what she has accomplished by the age of twenty-five. Ashley found her calling in life and she works hard to keep moving forward.

How does one figure out what their calling is? In most states at least fifty percent of college students are undecided and the average college student changes their major three times while in college according to a New York Times article. 

I changed my major from English Education to photography on the first day of school because it wasn’t until the end of high school when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. Similarly, Ashley Davis obtained an Associates of Fine Arts degree but did not realize until later into her years at Kankakee Community College that photography was what she wanted to do. During these later years at Kankakee Community College, Ashley’s brother (a graphic designer as well as a logo and website creator) introduced her to Photoshop. “I’ve always loved photography and painting. Photoshop was a way to put the two together,” Ashley remarked as she reflected on her first photoshop project. She’d spent three days combining five different images she’d taken to create an artistic photograph composite and she fell in love with the art. 

"I love enhancing photographs with a painterly, fine art style. There's so much beauty all around us and I believe it's important that we appreciate it and share it with others," says Ashley.

Between using the camera her parents bought her when she was eighteen non-stop and this new-found outlet of Photoshop, Ashley had found her passion for photography. For some people like Ashley, it’s a single deciding moment or even a combination of a few moments that presents them with their life’s calling and for others that moment never seems to appear. 

After finding one's calling what do they do with it? A few years after the experience with her brother, Ashley Davis is now a self-made photographer currently based in Charlottesville, Virginia who has taught herself everything she knows using the resources she has found around her. She watched has taught herself everything about the camera settings like the F-stop, shutter speeds, aperture, lighting, and more. She watched successful photographers sharing exactly what they do in business and photography on an online course called CreativeLive. Loving what you do ensures that you will work hard at it and has the potential of being the most rewarding thing you'll ever do. This drive and determination to better oneself is what it takes to start a business like she has so incredibly done. It is very rewarding for her as she is now running her photography business full time and has recently become engaged to her fiancé, Jimmy. They both share a love of photography and it is actually what brought them together at first. He now supports her in everything she does and has his own entrepreneurial business himself. Having this strong connection with someone who shares your passion only pushes you farther in your goals and aspirations in life as well as it makes it more enjoyable when you can do what you love with the person you love. 

"The greatest piece of advice I could give to someone starting out would be to be genuine and unique. When you figure out your passion, find something that’s different about your work. That difference is what makes it desirable to those who also like your style. Be creative. Be you." - Ashley

Ashley encourages everyone to find their style and stay true to themselves no matter what they’re doing, whether that be designing their own clothing line or washing tables at a local restaurant. This uniqueness is what will set each of us apart from the other candidates. Once we start being ourselves and being original we place a higher value on ourselves as well. This not only applies to photography work but also to us as individuals. Finding our passion and giving it one-hundred percent of ourselves are two totally different things. It takes time, learning, and hard work. Her country upbringing has helped push her to work hard and stay true to herself. She would tell you that even after you achieve your goals, there is always work to continue keeping them.

Becoming a working businesswoman was not the end of the road for Ashley. She is always continually learning and looking for new things to take her photography to the next level. Her business would not grow if she was not constantly learning and expanding her horizons. This includes taking risks and trusting in God to help bring her closer to her goals. Photography is a constantly changing environment and it is hard to stay up with it.

“Don’t compare yourself to others.” Ashley says that this is often the most damaging thing an artist or photographer could. "With so many possibilities with the internet, it is easy to find ourselves overwhelmed in what feels like a saturated market."

“Don’t worry about others. Be yourself and be genuine in everything you do.” and that is how Ashley lives her life. It is seen in the way she talks, the way she carries herself, and the way she views the world around her. Her dad is her biggest influencer because of his big heart that cares and loves others. Ashley didn’t really have words to describe him, but the joy that lit up her face when she talked about him told me that she felt the same way about her dad as I did mine. My dad’s a pastor and therefore, can be quite the talker, but he is also a quiet thinker. He can get along with anyone and doesn’t have a judging bone in his body. 

Ashley and I have a lot in common actually. It is amazing to talk to someone you admire and hope to be someday and see a lot of similarities. I think it takes a certain kind of person to be a self-started photographer. For Ashley, it is the joy of capturing moments that her clients can look back on for years to come, and re-live those memories they love so much. Weddings are Ashley’s favorite, as they are mine too. Each person, each event, each day is important to her and she gives it her all and she is rewarded generously with happy clients who love the photos she takes. 

Like Ashley, making a difference in the lives of others does not always require a degree, a perfect figure, or fancy words. It requires a genuine heart for what you do. This is the kind of passion Ashley Davis puts into every moment of her day as a photographer. Looking at photography through Ashley’s eyes not only reminded me of myself but also of the little things we do every day. Like Ashley, I am very detail oriented and every little thing I do is a reflection of me. Do everything with a smile and “change what needs to be changed so that you can do what you want to do."