Website: Melanie Mauer
Biography: Melanie, founder of Melanie Mauer Photography, spends her days creating what she calls “records of essence”. She is in love with life and the variety that each day brings. Opportunities to simultaneously travel and work have been arriving at her doorstep and she is ever so grateful. Her medium is black & white photography and her method is open, friendly and happy. She photographs weddings, people of all ages & an occasional puppy.
What do you do and how did you start?
B&W portrait photographer – I started taking photographs of my friends’ children for assignments in my college photography courses. Soon, requests from friends of friends and word of mouth grew into what is now Melanie Mauer Photography. M.M.P. has become the perfect outlet for my photography and my need to create.
What steps did you take to create your own business?
First, I read A LOT – not just about photography but business. It helps having a husband trained in marketing/management but I often found typical business resources and education geared toward Fortune 500 size companies rather than the more common mid & small sized enterprises. I studied entrepreneurs I admired and read business journals whose philosophies matched mine like Fast Company. Second, I rounded up a circle of cheerleaders to support and encourage me – my mother, friends, and mentors. Third, I came up with a list of things that were important to me & my business (a rough modus operandus that included ideas like “Being nice is IN”, “Every client gets the red carpet” and “Time off to pursue pure play is essential”) – and then started.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
The hope of creating portraits that are intimate enough to look as though they are created by a member of the family. People are so often spread apart from one another and little photographs of the people you love most can be a real treasure. I like doing something that runs counter to the nature of today’s world of ‘gotta have it quick’ – my clients take time out of their busy schedules to be photographed in a leisurely and comfortable way, we have real conversations and then they allow me time afterwards to create something wonderful for them.
It certainly doesn’t hurt being constantly surrounded by people who are hugging, kissing and laughing with one another either!
Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
I think fear often accompanies artistic endeavors. Questions like, “Will I wake up tomorrow without this gift?” or “What if I have an “off” day on an important assignment?” or “Am I good enough?” should be acknowledged as part of life as an artist. I have, however, felt those questions fade as I’ve gained more experience and learned my own creative rhythms.
What has been your biggest struggle(s)/challenge(s) with your creative career?
My first challenge was having faith to step into the unknown. Even as a naturally optimistic person, I wondered if this would ‘work’ (would my contribution be viable) and then what happens when your dreams come true (answer: you get new dreams & become nauseatingly happy like me!). Now my challenges are the fairly simple struggles of keeping enough free time in my schedule to learn something new (I’m currently taking a ceramics class – so fun!), spending time with the people I love & dealing with my tendency to stress (and want to work too late) when I have a very long to-do list.
I heard once that the effort that little chicks put into breaking through their shell upon birth means a lot in determining whether they will survive the following days — there’s something really strengthening about challenge and I think it often helps us on the way to becoming the person we are most meant to be. That said, I also enjoy an easy day on vacation to catch up on magazines as much as the next!!
What kind of work environment do you have?
I adore working outside in Kentucky’s rolling hills & sweet-smelling air. When I’m inside, I work in a too-cute home office. It’s extremely pleasant (I look forward to Mondays!) and I keep my favorite music of the moment spinning.
Who or what are your inspirations?
A scattering of my favorite inspirations: traveling by train, picnics, optimism, talking with children, limes, afternoon naps, Graeters ice cream, MUSIC, constant celebration
Who: the artistic women in my family; photographers like Keith Carter, Eugene Atget, Rodney Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson
Books: simple books that remind me of happiness & friendship are my favorites Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White), Gift from the Sea (Anne Morrow Lindbergh) Movies: Roman Holiday, Pollyanna Websites: I love KeriSmith (kerismith.com) & The Metropolitan (metmuseum.org)
Places: My home in Lexington, KY, the Almafi coast in Italy, Savannah, Atlanta, Portland OR, and I imagine Machu Picchu, Peru & Paris would be incredibly wonderful as well.
Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals.
- Read and learn all you can and then just step, letting your intuition/conscience guide you
- Forget about doing “good” work – good is a known quantity & you should strive to create something even more wonderful
- Create a beautiful place to work on your dream
- Take a few days (if possible) to be by yourself and reflect on the direction of your dreams, and to make plans for the future. Quiet contemplation can harvest wonderful ideas.
- Do all you can to be the change you want to see in the world