THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF HEATHER BRANDT OF MELE B. PHOTOGRAPHY
When someone asks about my journey in photography, so many thoughts flood my mind. It’s hard, to sum up, a journey that has not only become a big part of my identity but one that only exists because of where I’ve been and who I am beneath the surface of what everyone else sees. This part of my life and my reasons for starting this journey only began because of where I’ve been.
Growing up we had a small broken down barn that sat in our backyard underneath the hanging limbs from old trees. It had no purpose except for being a good spot to hide when we’d play outside.
One day, while watching the movie “Where the heart is” my Mama told me that she’d love to turn that old barn into a dark room like those people used to develop film in, and we could do that together.
That was the first time I had ever even thought about photography. I was 12 years old. A little over a year later my brother passed away. He was 16 months old. I think a lot of her dreams got buried with him. So the old barn stayed empty. And we didn’t talk much about those things anymore.
Back then, we didn’t have many pictures of my brother. Or maybe it just never feels like there are ever enough photos to keep someone’s memory alive. The pictures I did have left, I cherish.
That is the point in my life when photography stole my heart.
Years went by and I fell in love and became a young mom and wife, and though my love for writing and photography only grew as I started my own family, being so young, we were just trying desperately to make ends meet. There just wasn’t a lot of time for me to even think about what I wanted. Not even to eat, much less what kind of career I wanted one day. So I held onto the hope that one day I would at least have a camera to take pictures of these beautiful lives we created.
With every new milestone, every toothy grin, and dirty face, my heart desperately needed to capture it all. In 2011 I got my first point and shoot camera for Christmas. I was over the moon about this camera because it was during a time when we had to save for “extra wants”. So It meant that much more to me. I used that camera for everything. I would dress my three girls up and take them outside and lay on the ground and turn that thing to get sideways angles…I mean, I was a Pho. Tog. Ra. Pher. Haha!
(And that, my friends, is the part of the story when my kids developed their photographer’s child syndrome!! )
I wanted every picture of them I could get. Even the snotty nose and crying ones. Because, to me, photographs give us a split second flashback of remembering a time, a face, the sounds and emotions that were etched into those precious moments. Moments that fade when our memories do, without the reminder through a photograph.
And grief taught me there’s never too many pictures of the little moments.
Fast forward a few years and I got my first DSLR for Christmas from my husband. I cried. He was just as excited to give it to me as I was getting it! It was a special moment. I read the manual for hours determined to at least look like I knew what I was doing.
So there I was. Me, my camera and my kit lens thinking I could do something great RIGHT then. This camera would make me a “pro”. Ha. I was terrible. Still. But I was trying.
I practiced every day. I asked anyone that would let me, to take their pictures. I would have run all my gas out of my car just to see if I could capture something that they would love. Everyone was always so kind and told me that they loved their pictures. I would sometimes ask for honest feedback and think I was tough enough to take it. I was wrong haha. It would hurt my feelings for a minute, but from that came growth.
I watched hours of shooting and editing tutorials. Literally, until my eyes felt like they were going to pop out.
In 2015 I hesitantly started putting my work out on social media, and got a lot of encouragement from a few great people, to start a business, to Give my hobby a name, and put myself out there. So in the year 2017, I did.
This same question of “why” I do what I do came to mind when I chose my name. MeLe B. Photography. Of all of the things that make me, me, my kids are by far the happiest parts of my story.
They are my reasons for pushing so hard. They are my daily motivation to be someone that they’re proud to call mom. They are my ultimate why. McKinley, Emily, Lauren, Everly, and Benjamin Ryker. So I used their initials from their first names, in birth order, for my name as a reminder that they’re the reason I didn’t give up.
My journey has been nothing short of an amazing learning curve. A chance to use my courage, and create art that can be felt as well as loved.
I so desperately just want people to be able to feel something when they look at my work. I want them to see my thoughts, my heart, my interpretation of the moment visually in front of them. To feel the unspoken words and emotions that were handcrafted into every hour I spend creating and editing.
I want everyone to have beautiful photos of the snippets of their stories in life, but I don’t want to stop there. I want them to dream of everything they could imagine and for me to be able to bring it to life through art. I want that because I want my children and everyone else to know that despite any circumstances, they can dream big, and one day, it just might come true.
“Emotions can’t always be summed up into words. So, for me, a photograph, my art, can speak a thousand words when my heart can’t find the right words to adequately use on its own. “
This article was featured in Summerana Magazine | November 2019 issue