Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Focus On: Photoamato

The ignition of a lifetime passion can happen in such a way that we don't realize it until we're totally immersed in it, and there's no turning back. How many of us photographers started with an innocent interest in the magic of a picture that shaped a complete lifestyle or an artistic viewpoint?

My first question to this week's interview subject, Lisa, also known as Photoamato, was about her first experience with a camera. She was just hanging out with her dad, helping him take real-estate photos with an old Polaroid camera, and her own interest in photography began to take shape. "He would let me pull the picture out [of the camera], and shake it, because shaking made it develop faster (true? I don't know). Then magically, from nowhere, a photo would appear on a strange-smelling and strange-looking plastic square."

Lisa next received a Kodak 110 camera as a birthday gift. She "went crazy taking pictures, and burned through so much film" her parents would ration how much she could get. Next, Lisa took a photography class in high school where "developing our own photos in a darkroom was like nirvana to me. I fell in love." Years later, when Lisa's husband bought her first digital camera (an Olympus 2.1 megapixel point and shoot), her passion for photography rekindled and things started moving quickly for Lisa. "Here is where things turned, and one particular event led me to starting a business."

Unfurled Fern

Our chat turned to how Lisa hung her shingle as a professional photographer.

Ann: So....what was that particular event?

Lisa: Well, I'd gotten my friend's birthdate mixed up, and it came sooner than I expected. I didn't have a card for her, but I did have blank card stock and plenty of photo prints on hand. I attached one of my favorites to the card stock and created a handmade card. My friend loved it! She liked it so much she asked me to make several assorted cards she could use as notecards. Then one of her card recipients asked for an enlargement of the photo he'd received on his card, and my business just grew from there.

That was three years ago, and now I have my own small business. My passion for photography has spun itself into a passion that supports itself. I'm thrilled I've been able to take the opportunity to grow my hobby into a business while I'm still able to juggle the demands of my 'day job' and my family. It's proof that if you enjoy something enough, whether it's an art or craft or activity, people will take an interest in what you can provide or teach them. Turning your interests and ideas into a profitable business is not as hard as one might imagine. A little research and promotion will open the doors of opportunity.

A: Tell us about your professional photography business. What's your passion with it?

L: The 'professional' side of my business is weddings and portraiture. It's the most challenging, and it forces me to be creative. I have to bring out my people skills to get folks to be comfortable and natural in front of the camera. People are more likely to dislike having their picture taken than a flower or a tree does! It takes finesse, something I'm constantly fine-tuning. Being able to tap into my creative gut and ending up with a terrific session, beautiful photos and happy clients is such an amazing feeling. Almost like floating. Maybe that's where the 'cloud nine' saying comes from!

A: What brought you to Etsy?

L: I heard about Etsy through a message board that wasn't even art/craft related. Someone on the forum was talking about Etsy, and I had to go check it out. I was impressed with the bold, colorful and inviting front page. The sign-up process was simple, and from reading through Etsy's forums, I could feel a sense of community. After poking around through various shops, I signed up and have been an active shopkeeper ever since.

A: You've had strong sales of your photography. How are you an active shopkeeper?

L: I spend a lot of time in the Etsy forums participating in [conversation] threads. I try to be helpful to those who are new to Etsy or have questions I can answer. I've done a few wonderful trades and love the whole idea of it -- kind of like the good ol' days of trading a chicken for a sack of potatoes. I tried Twitter and became quickly frustrated, so I gave that up. I'm on Facebook, but it's mostly for personal connections. Occasionally, I'll post something new I've created or a particular photo I want to share. I have my shop and gallery url in my e-mail signature, in any forum profiles, and I'm working to get some articles about me published in a variety of outlets. Being featured in blogs has been a great help, too.

A: If you ever get stuck creatively, what strategies do you employ to move through it?

L: I get a lot of inspiration from looking at other photographers' works. When I'm feeling uninspired or stuck in a rut, I take a tour of wonderful images wherever I can find them -- it might be the incredible talent I find on Etsy, looking through images on Google, or flipping through a magazine. All these help to restore the muse within.

Lisa was born in Niagara Falls, New York and moved to Northern California when she was a teenager. "Even at that young age, I was in awe of the vast and diverse scenery in the Bay Area. I'm able to witness this area's many beautiful features -- everything from a ladybug resting on a sunflower petal to the power of a Pacific sunset. Everywhere I go, an opportunity to capture a truly breathtaking moment presents itself, whether it's the rugged peaks of the Sierras, the surreal Northern California coastline, or the opulent colors of wine country."

Lisa works full-time in her community's school district and her family includes her husband, two teenage sons and two rambunctious dogs. She spends as much time as possible outside, hiking with her camera.

She sums herself up quite nicely:

"I'm a self-taught photographer who has learned through exploration, self-challenge and trial and error. It's my privilege to share my view of the world through my images. From abstract and architectural to vast landscapes and intricate close-ups, my hope is to inspire everyone who views my work to look for beauty in everything that surrounds us.

Thank you, Lisa!

A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website, and say hello to her on her blog too.


Jen said...

Great interview - thanks for sharing :)

Lisa Amato said...

Thank you Ann, for spending time getting to 'know' me and for the wonderful interview! It was great fun and an honor!

Anonymous said...

What a great feature, and great photos!

KimberlyRose said...

beautiful photographs!! and great interview :)

Ann Wilkinson said...

i love my job!
thanks to you, lisa!

Fernando Pagán said...

You hare just so inspiring! Your photography is fabulous.

myan said...

great interview as usual ann!
beautiful photos! :)