My name is Elise. I’m a portrait photographer and I own Illuminated Anchor.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get a little deeper.
I picked up a camera at 16 or 17, what’s the difference? I learned dark room techniques in two trimesters in high school and really loved it. I *think* I took Photography II twice because I loved it so. I remember having to ask my dad to buy me a camera for class. We were a financially poor family in comparison to many of the families who had children that attended my school (which was a LOT — our class alone was 1200 strong). I tried so hard to convince my dad to purchase that camera for me. This day and age, I have no recollection as to what that camera was, but it was fancier than my family could afford and more than I needed at that moment. My dad bought me a $200 film camera that I still have today. I am forever grateful for it and pay him back for it in countless photos of his grandkids.
Fast forward through high school and my lost late teen years, when I didn’t have enough money for film, let alone car insurance and dinners (thank god for working at a restaurant) 7 days a week. There was zero significance to me about photography other than the fact that I had really enjoyed it in high school And that I had a cheap point-and-shoot camera to my name. Let’s continue fast forwarding a bit longer into my mid-twenties when I finally had a camera back in hand.
It was 2009. I lived in Kentucky and was finishing up my Army career. I was also celebrating my first anniversary with my husband and simultaneously returning from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. Yes, we married, quite literally, days before we left; it’s been 9 years since then (!party!). Since the year had gone by minimally spending while also collecting hazardous pay and whatever else they paid us in combat zones, it was time for me to make a purchase I’d enjoy for myself (aside from paying off my third car I’d have owned by now — thank you Iraq and Afghanistan deployment money!). It wasn’t more than a month upon returning that I had Purchased a nice DSLR in-full. The “big” cameras that people call them these days.
Around 2 1/2 years later, I started taking photos for other people. I gave away five free sessions and took a small handful of our shoots before leaving Kentucky. My pictures weren’t great, and looked like a dime-a-dozen other starter photographers’ photos.
Having moved around and been quite juvenile in real technique and personal style in photography, I didn’t book many shoots. I was lost in looking at what others were doing and not figuring out what I liked. In 2011, I enrolled in the Art Institute for Bachelors of Science in Photography.
In 2011, we were living in Georgia. I also had my first child that year. I got lots of practice with him and many of my assignments contained photos of him. I worked on homework online, at nights for two-plus years with nothing more than a 2-week break for Christmas and New Years both years. In 2012, my second child was born and we shortly moved to Washington.
My computer crashed Just before leaving Georgia and with my husband overseas for a year, and two kids under two, there was no way I was returning to school. The move alone required me to withdraw due to the lengthy process it was to buy our first home.
My camera time then consisted of photos documenting my children’s everyday lives and, since I was now “home” again (meaning Washington), also documenting time with my family I hadn’t had in almost a decade. That was a brutal year on me, emotionally. However, by then, I’d learned a lot about photography as a practice, manual mode, lighting, design composition, etc. 2013 was a great year for me artistically.
Spring of 2014 came and we moved again. From then until the unforseeable future we’d live in Texas. My youngest started growing older and photography as a business started to come off the back burner a little bit. As soon as I was ready to make the shift, we were preparing for our third child. After a year long hault, I decided I wanted to move forward with it anyways.
That’s where I am now. I’m currently back in school and actively pursuing photography as my passion.
Along my journey, I’d discovered much about who I wanted to be as an artist. I learned that photographing other people’s kids wasn’t where my passion was. I learned that photographing families was okay, and still not my passion. I tried newborns, and only “successfully” shot one: my third child. I shot women by themselves and loved that. I loved seeing the beauty of women feeling good about themselves. I shot couples and also loved that. It wasn’t until recently that I’d figured out why I loved what I photographed.
I also photograph because I hate losing my memories. There. I said it. In 2009, I had a concussion overseas that led to TBI. It was really meaningful to me to be able to look at photographs and be able to recall emotions, to recall events, to recall love. Love that was present in my marriage (remember I was failing as a business so it was mostly my family I photographed), and love that was present between a mother and her kids, a father and his kids, showered over them alone, and that was important for me to recall through photos.
My life had gone inside-out and upside-down, my life had exploded with love I didn’t know could be felt; my life had been high and, like I will never hide, it had been low. For all of this, I celebrate love in my marriage. I forever cherish the love we’ve had, our current state, and our future together. I forever cherish the love we have for our kids.
It is these facts that make me passionate about celebrating love in my heart and photographing them. I want to look at them and recall how I felt, how I loved, how I looked, how we were.
I assume you have a love you are passionate about, too.
I look at people and see how precious they are and ache to photograph them. They’re everywhere. The ache is always present, always felt. It is here where I drive myself forward. I want you to be able to read my story and say, “I want that, too”. I want you to be able to recall memories in your life through photographs. They’re important for me, and for my children to have. I really feel like photographs are important for you, too.
…”I want that, too”.
25 August 2017 // A college graduate!! Whoop!
October 2017 // Winner of Best in Show Portfolio, nationwide, for Summer Quarter graduates (I BEAT OUT 33 OTHER STUDENTS FOR THIS!). I was invited to guest speak at the presentation ceremony where I totally nailed my speech!
January 2018 // A portion of my final portfolio is on publication in the Art Institutes website! See it, and the article I wrote, HERE!