finding your home | with neka rae

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This is a story about trials, errors and overcoming the odds. My love for photography started at a very young age, where I was able to creatively express my emotions. The arts were always around in my house, from my mom being an amazing hobbyist artist to myself growing fond of photography and painting. I grew up in Oregon, in a small town called Dallas. I remember my grandpa always having his camera present for every event or when he felt inspired. I was always intrigued. I received my my first camera, a Polaroid, and then came an upgrade to a canon Ae-1.

My childhood was pretty traumatic that involved sexual and mental abuse from my Dad, loss and life. Photography (well, art in general) was and still is my way of escaping my thoughts, my reality, and a way to feel heard. I was a young Mom, giving birth to my daughter in 2003,  just 6-months shy of 18th birthday, and soon after I had two more wonderful boys. After years of domestic violence, I decided it was time to leave and pursue my own dreams. I was still painting and photography was still there for me, my way to escape my reality. I went to college to become a nurse, but quickly realized after working in hospice, nursing was not for me. I decided to change my course.

During my time of transition, I had another traumatic experience in 2008, where then my 3 children were wrongfully placed with their biological dad.(I fought for custody constantly, you'll see the outcome at the end.) During this time a miracle happened and I met my guardian angel; the love of my life. We fell hard, and in November 2008 he encouraged me to follow my heart. I quit my career after almost 5 years and bought myself a little point and shoot. I soon fell in love with digital photography, and in January 2009 I purchased a Nikon D90. I learned the ins-and-outs of that camera. Soon after I purchased a 50mm lens and began getting paid for sessions. I invested in a website, insurance and my business license. And that’s how my business began. I used my pain to create art once again.

Soon after, we were pregnant with a little boy, I don’t know how to explain the feeling after losing a child(ren), and I know I lost them in a different way, but my ex was very manipulative and I felt I had lost them forever. When I found out we were pregnant, I felt a sense of worth again. I developed a new way of photographing and our little guy was born in September 2009. In between those times we moved to San Diego which is where my husband is from, for a job opportunity he received. My three older children visited every summer and we went up to Oregon every vacation and holiday.

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In 2011 our lives changed drastically. My husband was laid off from his job and our savings was dwindling and we were left to make drastic decisions. We decided we could no longer stay in our home and moved into transitional living for a month, but quickly determined it was not a place for our family. We stayed in a hotel and then found a small studio along the beach of Carlsbad, CA. It was now time to get rid of our car payment that we could no longer afford and after a long discussion we purchased a VW Bus, the perfect additional for our family (and a bonus as I always wanted one!) We knew it was time to figure out our lives. The studio was temporary and we NEVER wanted to experience transitional living again. With the remaining of what we had and with some help we purchased a 2 bedroom fifth wheel. We moved onto the cutest little commune in Vista, CA and decided we wanted to travel. We traveled in our '72 VW Bus, all along the west coast. Living on the commune taught us the importance of community. We made amazing kinship's that were needed at that time in our lives, and once again my photography molded, I evolved as an artist. I knew, I wanted to photograph my clients how I photographed myself. My family.

In 2012 I decided Lifestyle Photography was where my heart lied. This style was so new to our industry and I wasn’t sure how to go about transitioning. But I decided to go for it. I photographed my kids wandering the commune; also known as the orchard. I photographed them climbing trees, feeding the chickens and being in the moment. I used my personal work as my portfolio and right away I booked my first in-home lifestyle session. My business and my love for lifestyle work grew from there. We continued our travels up and down the west coast, until we ended in Oregon. We decided to stay in Oregon for about a year where my lifestyle photography continued to grow, evolve and thrive.

Years past by so fast. In  2014 while visiting my sister-in-law, we found out my brother-in-law's brain cancer returned. It was incurable and we decided to stay in Temecula, CA where we lived with my in-laws to help vare for him. It all made sense to stay, honestly. I took a year off from photography business, only taking a handful of clients. I knew I needed to be there for my husbands family. I stayed to care for my brother-in-law and to make sure they were comforted. For them to know that he was cared for by someone with education to do so. In March 2015 my brother-in-law past away in the comfort of his own home. It was life changing but it wasn’t the end to our families loss.

They say death comes in three's, and for me it was coming true. June 26, 2015 I experienced my first miscarriage. I had a wedding to photograph in the same week in Oregon. My dad (step-dad) and my mom helped comfort me and luckily my best friend was in the wedding and helped as well. It felt surreal, my body had never failed me before. I have four beautiful babies. Why now? However, the most challenging loss came on July 26th, 2015 with one phone call, my Dad (i refer to my step-dad as my dad, as I do not associate with my biological father) he had suffered a massive heart attack and was on life support. I was all the way in Temecula, CA and  just returned home from Oregon, how could I possibly get back there. I posted on Facebook and a guardian angel answered, they purchased my ticket to Oregon for that day! After 48 hours on life support, and trying to “reset” his brain we had to make a family decision to remove my dad from life support. I spiraled into a depression. And again evolved into the artist I am today.

After I lost my dad, I knew lifestyle/documentary was my calling. Emotion is what I wanted to capture. And my voice was born.

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A year after my dad's passing, we welcomed a surprise addition to our family and I finally won our 8-year custody battle. We were still living in our trailer on a nice piece of land in Fallbrook. With out family back together, we wanted to lay down some roots. We decided to retire the Trailer life for now and move into our home now, nestled in the beach town of Oceanside, CA. It’s crazy to say that we have been here for a year now. We have our home, our kids have grown some roots, and we plan to live the wanderlust life traveling in our VW Bus this summer.

I still have much to learn in this business and photography. I'm looking forward to continuing my growth and evolving as a person and an artist. One thing I do know is... I will not limit myself as to what type of subject I photograph. There is emotion to be captured in all aspects of life and I feel I was chosen to capture these intimate moments in my clients lives, as well as mine. I believe that every chapter in my life, every trial and tribulation, has molded me as the artist I am today.

Much love and growth,

Neka Rae