Meet kelsey shoemaker of kelsey shoemaker photography
There is such a natural feeling about being behind a camera and visually creating something amazing. For me, that feeling has carried with me through my journey as a photographer. From the beginning, I knew it was going to be my passion because it brought a creative outlet and brought genuine joy. Before making any strict decisions on my life, I knew that I didn’t want whatever career I chose to be restricted to a desk and a chair. I wanted to be able to have freedom with my job and have fun while doing it. Now, as an eight-year-old, I was thinking more along the lines of being a princess or a model but since I’m not from royal decent and better behind the camera, I gravitated more towards photography. I didn’t know what journalism or a photojournalist was until I took a journalism class in high school. It was the only writing class available for freshmen. Not soon after, I took on yearbook and the literary magazine, wanting to get as much experience as I could. I had a good teacher in high school that directed me more towards photography than writing. At the time, I didn’t have a desire to do either but I knew that I wanted to continue it and hone in on photography.
When it came to college and making a decision, I originally majored in photography and went through the art program at my school. I’m only slightly good with a pencil and charcoal but as soon as I heard about the journalism school, I immediately snapped back into reality and changed my major. The only difference between photography and photojournalism is photojournalism allows you to tell a story, be involved in something that matters, and be more part of magazines and newspapers. On a whim, I applied to D Magazine under the photo intern role and didn’t have any predictions about what would happen. It was midnight and I saw that it was available and when I noticed it was the last day to submit applications, I paused my youtube video and applied. Long story short, I got it and I was so happy to have my first real experience in the industry. Journalism classes were so intuitive and I was thrilled to know that the school newspaper was accepting applications. I began my work as a staff photographer, doing a few assignments around campus that kept me busy enough. It wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that I shifted from a staff photographer to the visuals editor of the newspaper. It came with a lot of surprises and sharp turns, but a lot of experience. I made tons of friends on that staff who I still talk to today and if it weren’t for the amazing support in that newsroom at 1 a.m. on deadlines, I don’t know where I would be now. One can walk alone in life and try to get to their goals by themselves, but it’s the support and feedback from others that makes it even better.
It was my goal to have a job after graduation and I managed to secure that for myself. My first job was at a watch company in Dallas where I took photos of watches. It had money coming in for rent, groceries, and gas, but I wasn’t happy with it. I knew there was something else I wanted to do and an office desk job was draining. After three months, I quit and felt amazing once I did. I knew it was a risk but I made sure I had a fallout plan. Around this time I began to cook and bake a lot more frequently, hosting dinner parties and making pasta from scratch. When I had more time on my hands, I began to bake more, but also take pictures of what I was creating. (I’ve always been interested in food when I was left alone for an afternoon as a child and made macaroni and cheese. It’s not impressive when the recipe is on the back of a bright blue box we all know and love but I was proud of myself at five.) I started doing food events for the Dallas Observer and picking up a few assignments from various local magazines and newspapers. I knew it wasn’t enough to keep my busy, but it was enough to get the money I needed at the time.
After a few months of baking at home and taking photos of coffee shops for D Magazine, I decided to take it to an actual public place and apply to a bakery in Denton. It was such a spontaneous thing that I don’t regret because what I thought would be a job quickly felt like it wasn’t a job at all. I owe it to the people that work there and the environment that I fell in love with that made it feel more like a family and community. I began to understand the technics in baking as well as how to improve my own cooking and baking. Around the same time, I began to freelance for a food company in the area. It’s been my goal from the beginning to have a schedule of my own and by freelancing with a company, I was allowed to do that. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time; baking at home, having a baking job, and taking photos of restaurants and bars around Dallas. After a few months of doing this, I have made over 64 pastries at home and almost 30 restaurants. I share what I make on my food Instagram and of course, let others have my delicious baked goods. I still pick up other freelance assignments when my schedule allows, but my main priority now is having a dedicated website for my food and always take more pictures.
The main source of stress for me has been about money. As one might have guessed, it isn’t cheap to live between paycheck to paycheck as a freelance photographer. A few weeks after I quit my job and left in April, I got into a car accident. It wasn’t anything major and I was able to have enough money and support to cover it. Around this time I began accepting a few assignments from magazines but as it pays under $100 per assignment, I wasn’t making as much money as I should. One of the highlights of the summer was taking a trip to Ireland with my family and I honestly think about it every day. It occurred during my birthday so whenever I came back I decided to invite my friends to dinner. On the way there, I got into another accident involving five cars and naturally totalled my car. It was hard to use the money in my savings for those incidents, but I was able to find a way to make it all work. Of course it’s my goal to have a full time job with a magazine or newspaper, but I also enjoy the freedom of my schedule.
My business is about creativity and making sure everyone I work with is collaborating with me. I love to be creative and on the same page with everyone I’m working with. I love doing food photography as it has become natural to me. There’s something about cooking the food and taking photos of the food that brings me so much satisfaction. It’s about being part of the process from the first step until the last. I bring that dedication with me on my other assignments, wanting to make sure that I’m doing everything to the best of my ability and making sure the people I work with are happy with what I give them.
For me, success is not about the destination but what you learn on the way. It’s about the people you make connections with, the creativity that surprises even your own comfort zones. I didn’t know that I would be where I am today and I couldn’t have done that without my own dedication and confidence and the people around me. It’s normal and natural to be stressful and have periods where you don’t feel inspired, but it’s important to not let that affect your projects. The moment I feel like I’m in that daze I immediately take a step back and come back when I can give my 100% because I know if I don’t, it will look like it in whatever I do. The best thing is to never stop trying and sometimes the best parts are failing. I hate the feeling of failing myself or failing others, but in those moments is where you learn about yourself. Not just about an important project, or receiving negative feedback, but knowing how to deal with it and move forward. Success is what happens when you are confident in what you are doing and doing the best with what you have. Whatever happens next is what you allow to happen.