Most of you know that I’m a high school French teacher in addition to running a part-time wedding and portrait photography business. I’ve been at Northglenn High School for the last five years. I’ve coached volleyball, ran numerous clubs, and was recently elected to be the department chair of World Languages. It has been an incredible experience, to say the least. I am so utterly grateful to have met + connected with so many amazing students + staff members.
Back when I started my career in education in 2009, I thought that teaching was it for me. I envisioned myself thirty years down the road, all crotchety + gray, teaching kids how to say “I hate cats” in French. I had never really been good at anything before, and French was the first thing I was really good at. My French teacher from high school played a very influential role for me as a teenager, and ultimately I wanted to end up like her: the cool language teacher who lets the kids watch “Joe Dirt” en français.
I loved teaching so much during those first few years. Everything was new + fresh, and it hadn’t been jaded yet. It was the epicenter of my existence. I remember the very first test I ever gave to my students in second-hour French I. They bombed it…hard. After school, I drove home in my ultra-shitty 2000 Ford Focus, cried my eyes out, and ate a whole large pizza on my own. It was never “just a job” to me. It was a lifestyle, a badge I proudly wore. I really loved meeting new people and hearing them ask, “So what do you do?” Because it was so, so cool to say: “I’m a teacher”.
But, outside of teaching + speaking French, I hadn’t really quite found a hobby at the time. I spent the majority of my free moments grading papers, planning lessons, and chaperoning high school dances. Teaching engulfed my life.
Enter Brandon Gossard (or as I like to call him, Princess Brandy). We had been friends in college and reconnected during my first year of teaching. I noticed he had started a new hobby: photography. It was neat to follow his Flickr account and see all these sweet photos that he was taking. I remember thinking, “How did he get the background all blurry like that?!”
So one day, we went on what would come to be known as a “photo safari”. It was mostly for us to hang out and catch up, but it turned into this all-day photo-fest that started with us doodling around downtown Denver and ended with us taking jumpy pictures into the pool at my old apartment. Instantly, during the span of that day, I was enamored with my little Canon Rebel XSi.
After that first safari, my interest in photography exploded. Brandon and I were going on our photo safaris non-stop. We experimented with night photos and extended exposures. We made funky stop-motion videos. We went to Mt. Rushmore + Yellowstone just for fun. It was a blast.
Soon, it morphed into more than just taking photos of flowers, or rocks on the side of the street, or each other jumping off of things. Once I began to post more and more to my personal Facebook page, people started asking about other photography services. I had no idea how to take a picture of a person, but I wanted to learn + practice as much as I could so I began photographing people.
Jes + Mark were the first, when they asked me to do their engagement photos and eventually shoot their wedding in Durango. They were and still are the flagship couple for me. I never could have done it without them, without their unwavering faith in my abilities. I owe them so, so much.
During the first few years of my photography hobby, I did all that I could here and there — family photos, newborn photos, and any and all weddings I could get my hands on. Somehow, I booked two weddings my first year, despite having no experience with shooting weddings at all. It was exhilarating. I had so much to learn and it was just so. much. fun.
The second year brought me four more weddings. In the third year, I took on fifteen couples. This year I have twenty-six weddings, and I even have a few booked for 2015. Which leads me to the real reason I’m writing this post.
After the conclusion of this semester at Northglenn High School, I will be leaving education. I will no longer be a full-time French teacher and union representative. Instead, I will be transitioning into a full-time career as a wedding and portrait photographer. While I am so sad to leave my cherished students, I know that this is the right thing for me to do. I simply can no longer continue to work two full-time jobs, especially as my business is expanding faster than I thought it ever would.
It has been a really great five years as a teacher. I will miss laughing with my students every day. I will miss playing Taboo with them and watching silly Nicolas Cage videos on YouTube. I will still substitute teach here and there, and hopefully I’ll run into some past students when I’m filling in at Northglenn.
At the end of the day, if I could have kept going at Northglenn while still doing photography on the side, I would in a heartbeat. This was a really tough decision for me, but there is only so much time we have on this earth. It pains me to let go of such a huge part of my life. But…
Life is short.
I want to have a family some day. I want to read more books, cook a bitchin dinner every night, go to yoga every day. I just can’t do all that I dream to do with two full-time jobs.
Photography is my passion. I wake up in the morning and immediately think about which photos I’m going to edit for the day, or the wedding coming up this weekend, or a styled shoot concept for the summer. The endless creativity keeps me energized day in and day out, and I can’t wait to devote all of my time to photographing weddings and portraits, starting this summer.
It goes without saying that I am very thankful for the last five years at Northglenn High School. Some of my most treasured students were also my most treasured clients, and I’m even photographing a wedding for a past student this summer. I will always support public education and fight for what’s right for our students and teachers; I’ll just be on the sidelines as opposed to deep in the trenches.
Thank you to everyone who has made this career move possible for me. If not for you, my wonderful clients, friends and supporters, this really long (probably too long) blog post wouldn’t even be possible. I am so excited to move forward with this venture and see where my camera takes me. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
And for all you Redditors out there, here is a TL;DR: I’m a full-time photographer now. 🙂