Gatsby

He was their first baby. He was their oldest, their furriest, their tamest. He was with them through moves around the country, and babies, and so many adventures. He was robust, and energetic, and so very good.

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Until he wasn’t. Until one day he started to unravel at the seams and he couldn’t be put back together. They knew the time had come to say goodbye. They knew that the days with Gatsby were numbered and the moments left were precious ones. They knew this was the end that all pet-owners have to face at one time or another.

You may know how this feels. Maybe you have lost a pet in the past? As a fellow dog owner I have seen more than one of my furry babies pass away. I still miss them dearly.

In search of a great photographer, Gatsby’s owner Erik contacted SmugMug, a local company that knows great photos and amazing photographers. SmugMug is a photo and website hosting service and their headquarters are located close to Erik’s home. Many of SmugMug’s employees are photographers or photo enthusiasts. SmugMug reached out to me and that is how I met Gatsby, and his family.  Erik and I talked, and laughed, and I felt Erik’s sadness over his dog’s impending death pulse through the telephone as we set up a photo shoot for the very next evening.

Gatsby was everything they told me he was. Gentle, and loyal. Adoring to his masters and with the children he was as sweet as could be. He had soulful eyes that made you feel like he was talking to you when you looked at him, speaking volumes through those chocolate brown eyes.

We laughed and played in the evening sunshine that day, and for a moment we could forget that this was one of his last evenings. For that hour the sun shone down, and Gasby snuck in licks on his Mom and Dad’s faces, and the kids giggled and patted him. It was a gift. An evening spent watching a family be in in the present soaking up each other and giving thanks for the years they had been given with their dog. Moments like that don’t happen every day, and if you are lucky, you are invited to witness them very few times in your life. I feel honored that I was that witness.

The same day I delivered these photos to this dear family, sweet Gatsby passed away. Their two small children will grow not really remembering this dog of their youth but I am hopeful that these photos will cement in all of their minds this day in the sunshine that they played with their dog before he had to leave.

Rest in peace sweet Gatsby.

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14 Years in the Making.

Very few people are given the chance to live their dream. Life is cruel that way. But if you find the thing in life that brings you joy, and challenges you, and fills you with passion…you should run, not walk, towards it and never look back.

13 years ago I picked up my first professional camera. I would love to say that I knew in that instant that I would be a great photographer but that would be a lie. All I knew at the time was that I loved photographs, I loved people, and I loved unraveling the mystery of this camera. With every click of that camera I discovered things. Most photos I captured then were failures with only brief shining instances of success, but something inside me wouldn’t let me quit when I failed over and over again. I toiled over that camera for years. I struggled to learn editing programs, and lighting techniques, and fought for the confidence to direct people into poses. I stayed up late at night watching You-Tube videos on how to use Photoshop. I bought my first lens, and then my second. I attended photography workshops, and asked friends to let me borrow their babies for practice shoots, and I invested in props. I lived, ate, and breathed photography those first few years.

It really is true that you don’t choose the things you love, they choose you. I never intended to be a professional photographer. But as time passed the love of capturing photos of my family and my friend’s families spread. Passion like that cannot be contained, it is like ripples in a pond. And my ripples could no longer be contained in the small circle of my loved ones. They pushed outward, bringing me every day to more people who loved my work and wanted me to be a part of their photos.

When I actually did finally allow myself to say “I am a professional photographer”, suddenly doors opened. Opportunities were presented. I said “yes” to everything. I took every job, big or small. I had finally found my wings and I wanted to see where they would take me. It was such an adventure in those middle years, pushing myself creatively and trying new things. I photographed birthday parties, and weddings, and head shots, and newborns. I worked on corporate campaigns, and magazine covers. I photographed anyone and everything…

…And I started to dream bigger. Dream about what I wanted my future in photography to look like.

You see, I am never content to sit still and continue the status quo. I push. I’m never more happy than when I am growing and working towards that next goal. It’s how I live my life and in my business that translates to constantly asking myself “How am I becoming a better photographer?”.

So I started to dream about the studio I wanted to create. One that provided the quality of images I have cultivated over the years but with a beautiful and finessed package. I wanted to open doors for other photographers by offering mentoring and associate photographer programs. I wanted to create a more streamlined process for my clients by redesigning my branding and moving to studio software. I wanted to become more creatively available for artistic passion projects. I wanted to speed up delivery times by outsourcing some of my editing and administrative work.

It took quite a bit for this dream to become a reality, and it was not an easy progression. I am learning that my business will never be “finished”. There will always be something to update, edit, revamp, delegate, or rethink… but that is what I love about what I do. There is no finish line. I will always be looking for that next exciting goal and wondering what I can do to be better.

I have often thought “What if I fall out of love with photography?”. It is a thought that held me back in the beginning. I worried about putting too many hours and too much money into something I wasn’t sure if I would stick with. But at the end of the day, it chose me. I am living the dream I couldn’t have even imagined all those years ago.

I am done looking back. There is only the future and the next goal on the horizon.