We were 10 years old, fishing frogs out of the pond in her back yard when my best friend, Carrie spontaneously announced that she could see me being a photographer when we grew up. I scooped up another frog and laughed at the randomness of her proclamation. Ten years later, I found myself switching my major from journalism to image arts at The University of Guelph-Humber. You see, I knew I wanted to tell stories for a living, but I had to get my hands dirty to figure out that I prefer telling stories in a visual format, with a camera rather than a pen.
Today, this love of storytelling has morphed into a passion for making people feel good about themselves through the power of a portraiture. Back in my fourth year at school, my thesis project was about how women’s sense of self esteem is often negatively affected by advertising and fashion photography. I know that seems obvious now, but in 2006 it was pretty groundbreaking stuff. Self expression is important. I believe that a portrait should do more than document a person’s features, it should give you a glimpse of their soul, and capture a moment of truth and beauty. A good portrait makes you feel good about yourself. Its a strange universal truth.
About the same time I figured out that I was meant to be a photographer after all, I was also struggling to deal with a diagnosis of 4 separate digestive disorders. Having been “pleasantly plump” all throughout my childhood despite a healthy diet of homegrown meat and veggies, and constant dance classes, I had finally accepted that I would have to learn to live with my squishy, hourglass figure. Then, in university I suddenly went from a size 14 to a size 4. I was the only kid living in residence that lost weight and got money back from the campus meal plan. Of course my system wasn’t empty, my doctors had me taking meds literally 14 times a day. There was nothing healthy about it, I just couldn’t keep any nutrients in my body. I still had to make it to classes, photo shoots, and weekend adventures, so I avoided food altogether whenever possible for nearly 4 years. I was also working as a nature interpreter at the Humber Arboretum and I didn’t have a car, so I spent 6-8 hours a day hiking. I ended up with a degree in applied media studies and a diploma in creative photography, and a fatigued wreak of a body. I recall falling over from fatigue and dizziness while walking home after school one evening, and only gathering the energy to get up and get home when I realized it was getting dark. I was finally skinny. But it didn’t make me happy the way I had always imagined it would.
After my four year education in Toronto, I came back to my hometown and got a place with two of my oldest and dearest friends, as well as a boyfriend, Todd. I also registered my business, Emily Beatty Imagery, to ensure that I wouldn’t give up on my long term goals of becoming a successful professional photographer. After the stress of university, being at home with my loved ones and practicing photography and bartending to pay the bills was a welcome change, and little by little, my appetite and the weight crept back. But you know what? I didn’t really mind. The ups and downs of my dress size and the love of a good man have taught me that being confident in your body, expressing your unique traits and living joyfully are the things that make a person beautiful.
I remember being a kid, and in the impetuous way of a child asked my mom something to the effect of, “Hey mom, even though I know you’re fit, your legs and your bum are much thicker than the rest of your body. Doesn’t that bother you?” Her answer was perfect, because I remember it to this day. She told me, “I’m grateful my legs are strong and they allow me to get around and do my job as a nurse and take care of my family.” Having grown up a bit, and accepted that my body is imperfect, I now know that its much more fulfilling to enjoy the capabilities of the body you have, rather than lament the qualities it lacks. When you feel good about the body you’re in, you have the confidence to reach for your dreams, and ultimately that is what makes a person attractive to others.
I know that its my calling to help people celebrate their unique qualities and capture joyful moments through unique, heartfelt portrait and wedding photography experiences. Can I just mention here that just last week a bride sent me a thank you card that literally included the words, “You were a dream.” Nothing feels better than hearing from a client how happy their new pictures make them, and how they devote time every day to look at their images and reminisce about the time they were taken.
Think back to when you got your high school yearbooks. What’s the first thing EVERYBODY does? They check the index to find all the pages where their picture appears. I don’t care who you are, everybody is happy to see themselves looking natural and looking good in a photo. Its just a fact of human nature. For some reason, as social creatures we care about the way we present ourselves to others. I’m super excited to spend the rest of my days creating fun, fresh photos that make all different kinds of people feel good about being themselves.
I also really enjoy working with young adults, and I regularly visit a local high school photography classroom to inspire the grade 11 students. I also routinely work with the Cambridge YWCA to teach groups of girls in our community about body image issues, how Photoshop works, and how to create their own photography and mixed media art. The school program we’ve developed won awards last year. I’m so grateful to have found a career path that allows me to pursue my interests, meet all kinds of different people, and fill my working hours with a huge variety of fulfilling experiences.
Thanks for taking the time to find out why I’m so passionate about my work as a portrait and wedding photographer. Have a great day!