It all started with a ring. Well, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. It really started about age 15 when I became aware that I didn’t really have a favorite subject in school, but that my “interests” lie in travel and culture. Then, as one enters university, those are terrible subjects to take a liking to unless you want to be an anthropologist. I did not.
Not really knowing what else to do, I landed in the international studies department at my university. Specifically, I focused on Africa & The Middle East, French, Ancient Greek, Arts & Culture. I know, I know. I pretty much confused every person I ever talked about my major with. Even the head of my department couldn’t really see where I was going with my hodge podge collection of courses. No one had really done that before. And if you know me, you know that sounds just about right. 😉
So I dove, full force and with great passion, into my studies. In 2008, I moved to Dakar, Senegal in West Africa. It was as if my grey world was bursting with color again. I felt alive. While I was there, I used my ghetto Canon point & shoot camera (purchased at Target a few years prior) to document my world on a blog for friends and family to see. Somewhere among my high emotions and amateur photos, people discovered an innate talent for photography (so I’m told). For graduation, my family gifted me my first dSLR- a Nikon D90.
I moved home from Senegal, finished school, and had a difficult time adjusting to life the way it was here. The only thing I knew to do to cope with it was to explore. So I grabbed my new camera and hopped on a plane to Greece for a month. I wanted to see the place whose ancient language I had dedicated three arduous years of my life. I also wanted to try out this new website I had heard about- Couchsurfing. I felt alive again. I was breathing. My emotions were a mess but I felt the highest highs and the lowest lows. I took a lot of photographs and ate a lot of fresh greek food. I learned to use the tool that would eventually build me a career.
When I came home from Greece, I did what I had to do to make ends meet. I worked at a bookstore, I substitute taught, heck, I even spent a year grumpily making lattés for college students. Unsurprisingly, I still felt restless. In late 2010 I moved to Charlottesville, VA in hopes of finding a job that fueled my intense hunger for culture and wandering the world. But I didn’t find it. In an act of desperation and with the encouragement of a lot of people- on January 1, 2011, I opened my virtual doors at www.joyeusephotography.com and by May 2011, I had 12 weddings booked for that year. By the end of 2011, I had 20-something weddings booked for 2012, on top of a variety of other shoots. It was crucial to me that I only photograph people and things that allowed me to be creative. I was shooting all along the East coast and the west, down in Texas, and across the pond in Europe. By the time summer 2012 hit me, the only way I could imagine being able to photograph in all these places as well as grow my business was to move to New York City. It’s the one place I had always wanted to live, so moving here felt like finally pursuing a dream, or something cliché like that.
2013 had me so busy traveling and shooting that by October I was ready to throw in the towel. I couldn’t tell if it was because I didn’t like being a photographer, or if it was because I was in a creative rut. At some point when you are that busy, your health and creativity and your life take a back seat to surviving and delivering photos to people. I couldn’t live that way.
And that’s when I came across the ring. I was admiring all the beauties that NYC-based jewelry designer Erica Weiner had on her website when my eye was drawn to a tiny little diamond ring called the Gypsy Spark Ring. This is what she wrote about the design of this ring:
In the V&A Museum’s jewelry collection, there’s a child’s ring from the 14th century that looks a lot like this one, with star-shaped points radiating from a central gem. Inscribed inside are words “This Spark Will Grow”, which is a lovely sentiment of hope for the beginning of a life or journey. There’s another (possibly apocryphal) historical reference at work here: centuries ago, rich merchants’ wives were afraid to travel through the countryside while wearing their piles of jewelry, because gypsies would come along and snatch stones right from their settings. A smart lady asked her jeweler to set her diamond deep down in the ring, with no prongs, so it was flush with the metal and therefore thief-proof. Voila! The “gypsy setting” was invented.
When I read that little paragraph, it moved me. Like really moved me. My life, both personally and professionally, was experiencing a lot of growing pains at the time, and somehow, this little ring reminded me that these things too shall pass. That this tiny glimmer of hope will grow.
I don’t want to communicate that I believe buying things will truly make us happier, better people. But I never take this ring off. Every time I see it, I’m reminded that life is beautiful, that hardships do pass, that my career dreams and passions can and will continue to grow. And that’s what brings me here, to La Bohémienne. My spirit has always been that of a gypsy, a wanderer. When people describe me, bohemian is generally in the top 5 words they would use. So when I began to think about pursuing new directions in my career and incorporating the things I truly am passionate about, I knew that it needed a new, separate, home on the web. I love the ethereal beauty of Joyeuse Photography that I’ve created. But what I love more is humanity. It’s culture, narratives, identity. I studied culture because I believe in it. I believe that we all create and participate in beauty every day and that the things that make us the same far outweigh the parts of us that are different. And so, that is what I mean to do here.
I mean to grow as an artist and to pursue the things I am passionate about. To spend some time creating for myself and inspiring others. When I say “narrative imagery and inspiration for the wanderer,” I seek to inspire like-minded people to remember sweet memories and create new ones. The travelers, wanderers, and appreciators of beauty. I see this site growing with me and my career and offering insight into the beautiful places I travel, narrative lifestyle images, the soul of New York City as I experience it, and everything in between. I love to depict life, as it is lived and seen and felt, by people everywhere.
In the madness of being a wedding and portrait photographer, creativity and personal development usually take a back seat. My ring reminds me not to let that happen and this website gives me the space for that. This spark will grow.