It’s only a matter of time before I get the usual strange look after I tell someone I’m a Freelance Oil and Gas Photographer. Almost inevitably comes the question, “How did you get to be that?” Depending on the situation I’ll either give the extremely short version, “I realized there was a need and carved out my niche.” If I have a little more time it goes something like, “I started out as a landscape photographer. 2 years ago I highlighted some of my sunset pumpjack pictures at a show in Williston. The response to my photos prompted me to realize there was a need so I put together a portfolio and pounded the pavement. I talked with anyone that would stand around long enough to listen to me. Cold call after cold call finally landed me my first freelance job, which led me to the Williston API, which led me to Halliburton, and the rest is history.”
Only a few people know the back story that launched my career as a photographer.
I’ve always loved photography ever since I was little. It was always about capturing memories never about any artistic qualities of a photo. Just simply to remember the moment. It wasn’t until I had children that I started to appreciate things like composition, contrast and lighting. We tried for several years before conceiving Jack. I wanted to capture perfect photos of my little miracle from God. So I started reading on how to make a picture something that is worthy of a frame.
Soon after we had Josephine I quit my 9-year career at Scheels to be a stay at home mom. After going thru IVF to have Jack and having our surprise gift of Josephine there was no way I was going to let someone else raise our children. Being a stay at home mom was my dream. I loved every minute of it. The routine, the play, the joy of seeing their precious faces smile in front of me every day. But through it all, I lost my connection with my husband.
Anyone who knows me has heard me say that 2010 was a year that I don’t care to repeat. Now that it’s in clearly in my rearview mirror I can reflect upon it with a little more clarity than I ever could have at the time. When the pain was more than I could bear I sought refuge with my camera. There is something about being out in nature with my camera that helped bring me peace. My love affair with the moon soon developed into my thirst for all things outdoor. Flowers, leaves, icicles…anything was fair game.
When my almost 16-year marriage came to an end it was obvious I needed to find a job. As wonderful as being a stay at home mom is, unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills. I learned that most jobs that accommodated a single mom’s schedule paid very little. And I couldn’t go back to Scheels since retail hours clearly would not work. But what Scheels did was develop and foster the leader in me. Six of my years were spent as a sales manager. Inspiring people was my passion. But inspiring myself would prove to be my biggest challenge yet.
A thousand good intentions aren’t worth as much as one small action.
You must first believe in yourself before others will believe in you.
I would rather try and fail than to sit and wonder “What if?”
I knew at that time that I needed to think outside the box. This was a normal problem that needed a creative solution. I took to my email and asked friends and family for suggestions on work. My friend Gary Emineth who was the NDGOP Chairman at the time offered me a job being an event planner for a fundraiser where Governor Romney would be the keynote speaker. What did I know about event planning? Would I fail? I basically had a blank slate that I needed to bring to life to create an unforgettable evening for a few hundred people. I jumped in head first and worked harder than I ever had in my life. I needed a win for the team. What happened in the end was something I couldn’t have ever predicted. The event was a huge success. The confidence that I gained from that experience would lead me to follow my newly developing passion.
I knew it would be a stretch but I had to try. I created a two-year plan to monetize my photography passion. If I failed, then I failed. It would be on my head. My ex-husband told me it was never going to work. That I would go broke trying. I never needed a cheerleader. I was taught to work hard. Not because there would be a reward for doing so but because it was expected. But was he right? I hoped and prayed that my plan would work. I decided if you want something bad enough you make it happen.
I have to be honest the first year and a half was pretty rough. Several sleepless nights, early morning tear-filled calls to my mom asking her for help, the constant nagging of bills that needed to be paid. Would I be able to keep my house? Was he right? The end of the two years was approaching quickly and I wasn’t prepared to declare defeat just yet. I had two back to back shows in Williston. I decided to put a couple of my pumpjack pictures out front and center to see what kind of reaction I would get. After all the oilboom had mixed reviews. But I went with my gut and did it anyway.
With a bit of hesitancy, I put the images under the lights but it felt like it was a magnifying glass. Would they love them or hate them? Overwhelmingly the people loved them. After these two shows, I knew with complete certainty that there was a need for this kind of photography but could I do it? I spent the next two months building my portfolio. Putting together enough images to create a pamphlet. Building a website for people to look at my work. If you want to see what you are really made of go out and make several cold calls in one day. Nothing will bring your spirits down quicker than a crabby receptionist that throws your card in the garbage before you even get to the door. But I persisted and kept going until finally one receptionist said yes. I jumped at the chance to drive out to their locations and take pictures of the sites that were being drilled at the time.
This one small job turned into another job that turned into another job. And before long I had more than enough work to keep me busy. It has been a humbling and incredibly rewarding journey. There is nothing like going into an office where all the photos on the wall are mine. I find I have to refrain from pinching myself yet to this day. There’s something about throwing on my steel toed boots and my hard hat and heading to a location. Every time I do, I stop and think to myself…..damn girl, you did it.
Everything that has happened to me, all the good stuff and even the bad stuff has shaped who I am. Unfortunately, it took one of the most painful experiences in my entire life to make me believe in myself again. To know that there was absolutely nothing that I couldn’t accomplish.
I only look back to know where I’ve been, the moment is where I choose to be and the future is where I dream.