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How Modeling Fueled My Photography

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Fun fact! For years, I actually used to spend far more time in front of the camera than behind it. I somehow found my way into a couple of magazines, and even found my way onto the runway at Denver Fashion Week. For a long time, I felt way more comfortable with being in front of the camera than I did behind it.

Now, I didn't say I didn't love photography then. Photography has always been a part of who I am. I mean, ask little 4-year-old me, strutting around with her Barbie disposable camera. It has always been in my soul; it just wasn't necessarily the passion and fuel that it is for me today. If you're still here, I'm going to take you on a little journey down memory lane and how modeling fueled my passion for photography, made me a better photographer, and why I ultimately picked photography over modeling.

The Spark

If you've read my post on Why I Prefer Photographing Women, you already know that I was a pretty insecure person growing up. I had issues with depression, self-image, and self-harm for starters. Photography was fun for me, but I think at the time, modeling is what I needed. Modeling gave me the platform I craved to feel confident and beautiful. Each shoot made me feel strong and brave!

Seriously, if you have a lady in your life that is feeling down about themselves (a daughter, wife, cousin, or best friend), get them a photoshoot! I'm not saying go out and hire me! There are plenty of other photographers that can do the trick. The point is that having someone else show you on a tangible medium that you are more makes you feel like more. Sometimes having others tell us we are worthy just isn't enough. It's something we have to learn for ourselves. Photography shows us something that the mirror can't. And it's about more than just an ego boost. At least for me, it was. Modeling honestly helped me become comfortable in my own skin. When I finally came into my own, I found myself needing another creative outlet. Bet you can guess what that was.

The Kindling

Now the more I modeled, the more I got to work with amazing photographers. Each photographer had such a unique style and methodology. Their photography was an extension of themselves; it was almost its own being. It had a personality, a mood, and a voice. I became and still am so addicted to watching other photographer's work and learning from them. It is such an incredibly beautiful thing. I specifically learned the most from my friend and mentor, Anderson Gonzalez, in Denver. We would do these beautiful, elaborate, elegant shoots together. The makeup alone was known to take up to 4-hours. And the images made me feel so feminine yet powerful. They showcased that confidence modeling gave me.

Anderson and I created some amazing works of art, but as we did so, we also formed what will be a lifelong friendship. Not only did he help me to build a real modeling portfolio, which lead to me getting signed at my first agency. He also saw my passion for photography and fostered it. When we shot together, it became more than "tilt your head this way", or "I'm moving my light here". It became "tilt this way because it helps the catchlights to form in your eyes," or "I am moving the light here because it will create more intense shadows in this way." I'm sure it made the shoots take a heck of a lot longer, but he was willing to slow down for me and really teach me how to improve my photography through modeling.

With this new way of viewing photography from the viewpoint of a model, I started learning and understanding why other photographers did what they did, even without them slowing down to explain it. I began to build this knowledge and needed to find a way to apply it. It started slow. You know, a senior picture here and there. I was mostly photographing my sister against her will. And the more I shot, the more it fueled the fire. This was all happening, of course, and my flame for modeling was still raging. My confidence in both really grew together.

The Fire

Sooner than I expected, there was a full flame raging. My friends at RMEA were kind enough to let me use their models to start to form my sense of self as an artist. I found my own style and what I prefer to shoot. I learned how to edit better and found my aesthetic identity, all while trying to balance in modeling. While photographing an RMEA workshop, Casey, the owner and founder, posed me with the question of which one I was going to continue to pursue, modeling or photography. I'd never really seen it as doing one or the other. I didn't understand why I couldn't keep doing both. I mean, they don't really interfere with each other. What's the issue?

Well, the issue became apparent on my trip to Bali earlier this past year. I couldn't do it all, though I damn well tried. I couldn't both model and do photography. And trying to do both kinda made me feel spread thin. I think this was when I realized I kinda outgrew the purpose that modeling had for me, you know? It's a great career path for some, but I knew I was never going to "make it big". And I honestly had done what I needed to. Modeling gave me my voice. It made me feel confident enough to be able to assert myself better. It helped me feel secure. I can more easily do public speaking in class or at work because of it. I look in the mirror and love who I am because of it. It's taught me that my flaws are not flaws, they make me unique. It showed me what I needed to know, and it finally felt okay to let it go.

My photography, on the other hand, still has so much room to grow, so much to teach me, and gives me so much to share. With every shoot, I am given the opportunity to share with others what was shared with me. I am able to give someone else that perspective that a mirror can't. I get to be the person who helps someone else realize their strength and show them confidence and beauty within themself.

I will never forget the day I showed my subject, a teenage girl I had never met before, the back of my camera after a shoot. She broke down crying, saying she had never felt so good about herself before. I will always remember the feeling I had a year later when she reached out to me again. She told me that my photos completely changed how she viewed herself and that they made her feel stronger than she ever knew she was. And I will forever cherish the moment a few years later where this young girl, a stranger, now a woman who had become my friend and sister, called me asking to be her bridesmaid in her wedding later this year.

I'm not saying you should let me photograph you, and I will later become your bridesmaid (though I'm down if you are)! The point is the power of photography and the gift that I am able to share with others. She found her voice! Holy heck! That is such an incredible, humbling feeling! And I've had so many women tell me over the years that I helped them genuinely feel beautiful, some for the first time in their lives. And it is such an incredible feeling to be able to create those moments, form a bond, then create a community and lifelong friendships. Seriously. Wow. I get to do that.

So yes, I decided to hang up my modeling career. But it still lives inside me. It still fuels who I am, and photography gives me a way to share some of that fuel with others. I am so thankful for the spark that modeling gave me, and the lessons it taught me. It showed me where my heart is strongest, and for that, I will always be thankful. It will always be with me, but it's time for a new chapter, and I can't wait to see where photography takes me.

Thank you for reading! I would love to hear about what fuels your passion in the comments below! Or would even love to hear your side of what being in front of or behind the camera has shown you about yourself!

Yours, Katherine

Check out my blog on Why I Prefer Photographing Women!

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