My Calling

February 14th, 2022

My love of photography came from an early age. When I was young I loved to sit and look through family photo albums, over and over. When I went to school, I carefully saved each person’s school picture in my own photo album. Photographs amazed me, each was a little piece of history frozen in time on a piece of paper! They were magical! I received my first camera as a Christmas gift when I was in 6th grade, a long, skinny Kodak Ektra film camera. I can still vividly remember the first time I opened the royal blue and yellow box with my newly prized possession.

In the past, when asked about my photography career, I have referred to my first memories of taking pictures as a child and how that love turned into a hobby. When my daughter was in kindergarten, I took two beginning photography classes in Fort Dodge at the community college – beginning photography followed by beginning photoshop. My memberships with Professional Photographers of America and Professional Photographers of Iowa and the education opportunities in these associations led me to where I am today.

But there is more to the story. Today, on a day of love, I wanted to share my transition from hobby to career. I have been reluctant in the past to share because this is such a personal story. But after discussing my story with her niece and her sister, I am ready to share…

I came to know Lisa when we first moved to Algona in 1996. At that time, I sold Longaberger baskets and pottery and she had been to a couple of my shows. I knew Lisa, but not well, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt a bond with her, however, as I was a cancer survivor myself. When we came to town, I had just been diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma when I delivered our 35-week old son. I had gone through 7 months of chemotherapy. I knew a little bit about the pain she was going through with her own treatment and having two little girls.

So, every now and then, I would stop by her house with a little gift, something I enjoyed when I was going through treatment – a soft, new nightshirt, some lotions…

When Lisa was done with her treatments, all looked well! She was as beautiful as ever and moved forward with her life, caring for her children and her family.

Then one day, I heard the news. Lisa’s cancer had returned. I was so sad for her and her family.

I was getting ready in my bathroom one morning and trying to think of some way I could do something for her when I literally heard a voice say to me, “Maybe you could take some pictures for her.”

When my children were young, I loved photographing them with my 35 mm film camera. I captured many wonderful moments! I never had any kind of class, but I knew that I could take a good snapshot.

I didn’t know what to do with the words that I heard. I would happily take pictures for her, but would it be weird? Did I know her well enough to ask?

I asked a mutual friend, Dede, who was Lisa’s neighbor across the street. Dede thought pictures was a great idea and when she presented the idea to Lisa, Lisa was also thrilled!

So Lisa and her family got dressed up one day and I came over with my camera with little knowledge about photography, but a genuine to desire to do my very best at creating some images that she would love. We took pictures of her family, of her girls, of her, of her with her girls, and I remember taking a picture of her with her God-daughter, Chloe, who at that time we never would have dreamed would now be working for my husband. Our families have become intertwined in unexpected ways since then.

I had the film developed with double prints and gifted them along with the negatives to Lisa. Both Lisa and I found so much joy in this experience together. And I treasure the wonderful day we took pictures in my heart.

Then Lisa became more ill. My heart broke when she passed away. I went to the funeral visitation by myself. When I entered the church, with each picture board that I passed, I saw another image we captured on that fun day together. And with each image, I cried a little harder than the one I saw before. When I got to the front of the church, I saw a larger picture from that day, where she looked off to the side and each of her little girls was kissing her cheek. I went to my car and I sobbed as hard as I have ever sobbed. I am still breathless when I think about that moment.

When her sister, Linda, went to look for a picture to put on Lisa’s stone, she knew what image they wanted to use, but how on earth could she find it amongst so many pictures? She opened a box, and the picture she wanted, this picture, with the negative was right on top.

The truth is, I believe Lisa and our experience together led me to photography. I give credit to her for my career decision now. Because with her, I saw that taking pictures could make a difference in people’s lives. I already had a bit of an artistic ability. I just needed to learn more and with these passing years, I have learned.

My photography is more than a job for me. It was a calling from God. And with each session I pray to do my very best and make a difference in the lives of others.

Thank you, Lisa! I can’t wait until we can talk about this more some day!

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