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Photographer shares love of the lens
Life-changing moments have guided Mary Miller, owner of Down to Earth Photography in North Bend, to where she is today.
Miller, who was voted the top Valley photographer for 2010, is a former college photographer who has grown from life and business challenges to become immersed in her craft. Here, she shares her thoughts on life, art and being a woman in business.
How did you start your career?
My career began out of pure passion, which only grows deeper and more profound. The art itself really grew roots for me while I was a staff photographer for the college paper at Michigan State University.
My first lesson was actually when I was given ‘no’ assignment while at the college newspaper, and had to rely on discovering subjects quickly and concisely — no giving up — and bringing home a viable and printable image. Hunting out the image thrust me into looking at the world completely differently, on a level of delicate intimacy, and the beginnings of timing the image, how my body movement was instrumental to composing, and truly trusting myself. I never forgot that.
What was an important lesson for you?
When I had Bell’s Palsy 10 years ago, I saw that my life could change in a matter of moments. Through that healing, I made a promise to myself to ‘shoot with joyousness,’ and I do.
I am life-taught, and while I respect so many other professional artists, I have learned to trust my intuition, cultivating a natural style that can dip and groove to my clients’ specific needs. Edgy and artistic, casual and classic, I move fluidly with the moment and subject. I put myself out there as much as possible as an artist, and have dropped fear from the palette. It is a beautiful experience to be true to yourself, and your art, without limitation.
What’s your business philosophy?
My unpretentious philosophy is really quite simple, much like imagery can be. I strive to provide products and service that my clients are proud to show off. I put my talents and my personality out there every day, happily. I walk my walk, and talk my talk, with a smile. It couldn’t feel more right when you’re being true to yourself.
My business has a relationship-oriented, personalized focus for individual and group needs. Hitting the mark is specifically satisfying for my customer. Leaving them not only smiling but referring me on is so rewarding.
Have you ever faced challenges in your work?
I have had moments where I have felt intimidated by those surrounding my subject, such as body guards of a then-undisclosed Alzheimer’s-afflicted Ronald Reagan. If you walk in fear, you stop your own momentum. Photography is all about finding the momentum, going with the moment and releasing personal judgement. I love people, and that aspect of my personality was supported by my mom, who passed away recently. She was my first fan.
How do you balance work and life?
I work playfully and am a physically active woman. You might find me shooting from a helicopter or a cherry picker. I put my all into what I do, safely, and reward myself after a job well done. Keeping my mind, body, and spirit healthy and strong is a consistent, lifelong goal. I live life to the fullest.
Where would a potential photographer start?
I would tell an up-and-coming photographer to be openminded, less driven by agenda and a huge ego. It’s more about being true to yourself, and beyond everything else, know that you can. As a freelancer, I have cultivated individuals who I rely on to do their job well, such as my professional graphics persons and printers. We become a team. Communication is a key to making that team work well and stay happy.