Give me change. Give me different. Give me living, not just existing. | By Janel Peyton
I find writing bios incredibly difficult. Partly because I don't feel like I fit into any particular category. I'm not a light seeker everyday. I'm not even a photographer everyday. I just live.
Everyday, I'm a mom to 3 boys under 8 years old, a wife to my college sweetheart, who is an OB/GYN and am a Catholic homeschooler in St. Louis, Missouri so I suppose that's where I could start a bio. But after that it sort of varies each day.
Some days I start by making big breakfasts with silly face pancakes, with kiwi hair and a bacon mustache. Other days, I'm hoping the boy's don't mind the crumbs at the bottom of the cereal box as their first meal. Some days I have my camera attached to me to capture every little detail of the day and other days I forget where I put my camera.
Some days I notice powerful light and set up a scene to capture it and other days I'm too tired or too busy to notice at all. Some days I want a cup of coffee (which is always better if my husband makes it) on the porch while listening to Nora Jones and watching the birds fly around. Other days, I want to go for a run while loudly listening to ACDC.
I don't fit into one particular box. I'm not a routine kind of person. I have weird quirks and I love discovering the nuances in other people. I thrive on learning what makes people tick, what drives them, what makes them think. And I thrive on that because that's what makes us unique. My heart doesn't desire the monotonous, my soul thrives on the variable.
But I come by it honestly. My mom was brought up in the foster system, constantly changing homes and locations. Then she went into the Marines and now teaches special education and behavioral management. She is used to constant change. My dad is a restaurant owner and he would open and establish a restaurant then we'd have to move to the next place to open the next one. I moved a lot. I was the new kid a lot. I was used to meeting new people and I figured out how to get to know people and places quickly. I was an athlete and had to learn the moves and subtle changes of the opposing team and had to have some of my own unique moves in order to win. As an adult, I now travel as often as possible with my husband and children and learn about new cultures. I love to discover new places and paths. I love finding new artists who don't get noticed because they don't follow the trends.
So monotony just isn't a part of me. But don't get me wrong. I don't need excitement every minute of every day. I don't want to drive 100mph every where I go. Our lives are just too short to see and do the same things every day for as long we live. So I'll drink my cup of coffee while I listen to the kids playing a board game in the other room and enjoy that, today. Then tomorrow, I'll pack up the kids for a hike up rocks as big as a house. I'm type A and type B and depending on the day... on the moment, really, I could be either one or somehow both.
Give me change. Give me different. Give me living, not just existing.
My Photography Journey:
When I was 3 years old, my brother was attacked by a dog. Half of his face was bitten off, but the doctor magically fixed him and at that moment, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up -- a reconstructive surgeon. I worked my way through school with that mission in mind. I wanted to make an impact in people’s lives. I wanted to bring them happiness and beauty. I wanted them to see themselves in a way they didn’t before. I wanted to show them themselves. I graduated top of my class and knew for sure I would continue on my path. But 2 weeks into college, I met my husband. I knew he would become a surgeon and I couldn’t imagine a life with children and 2 surgeons as the parents. So I changed paths. I completed my degree in Psychology. My mission didn’t change. I felt like through counseling others, I could still bring them happiness and beauty in their lives, even through struggles. My husband started medical school and I became the breadwinner. I have worked as a credit analyst and marketing manager for General Motors, I have worked as a marketing director and graphic designer for an interactive television company, I have owned my own art studio and my own wedding planning business, I have written a cookbook and now... I’m here with my photography business and running Dear Photographer Magazine.
If I’m honest, I didn’t want to be a photographer. I saw how brides, during my wedding planning days, treated their photographers. I saw how hard they worked for such little thanks. So I never wanted it. One day, after posting a point-and-shoot picture of my son, a friend called me and asked me to take her maternity pictures. I didn’t even own a good camera. I had no idea where to start. But my mom was in town and she owned a Canon Rebel. That camera seemed to be the most extravagant thing I had ever seen. I had no idea how to use it. I didn’t even know what settings were, let alone how to set them. But I showed up. I went to the session with my mom’s camera, left it on auto and shot the most bizarre photo of my entire career. I still, to this day, have no idea why I thought that a maternity image in front of this super creepy statue was a good idea. But I did it anyway. And to my surprise, they loved the images. A few weeks later, another friend asked me to take their family pictures and the ball started rolling. Before I knew it, I had a business.
About two years into my business, I remember talking with my husband about how I felt like a fake. Here, I had people paying me for a thing I had no idea how to do. But his words stuck with me. He said, “They don’t think you are faking, so why do you?” I didn’t have an answer for him. Time went on, but I still felt like a fake. I didn’t feel like my work was “me.” I would go to photo shoots with print outs of poses and would refer to my Pinterest boards over and over again during a shoot. Until one day.
I remember pulling up to a newborn shoot (which used to be my least favorite type of sessions of all time) with 3 huge Rubbermaid containers full of props, blankets, bows, wraps, etc in the back of my car. And I remember thinking, “Nope, I’m not bringing those in. I’m going to just be me.” So I took my camera and one plain white baby wrap and that’s it. I left everything else behind. And that was the turning point. That was the first shoot that I felt like really expressed me as an artist. I knew I still had a lot of growth ahead of me, but it felt freeing to let go of what I thought I was supposed to be and just be an artist, in the moment.
When I look back on my initial career mission... it still holds true. I want to make an impact in people’s lives. I want to bring them happiness and beauty. I want them to see themselves in a way they didn’t before. I want to show them themselves. That’s the role of a photographer.