Introducing Lilac West

One of my vintage cameras I kept from my grandpa’s collection. It’s a family thing.

One of my vintage cameras I kept from my grandpa’s collection. It’s a family thing.

For most who know me, this announcement may not come as much of a surprise. But for some of you, who haven’t seen this facet of the many-faceted Amanda, I’ll go ahead and provide a little backstory.

Insert moody photographer photo here.

Insert moody photographer photo here.

The Backstory

Photography has always been a big part of my life. My family nicknamed my mom and her sisters “the paparazzi” and at a young age I began shooting film photography. I began participating in photography competitions in second grade through 4-H, and won the county level competition and advanced to the state competition probably 6-7 years out of the ten years I participated.

I learned to shoot manually and develop my own film and prints in high school (we had a strong photography program at Crawfordsville High School—nowadays I realize that was a wicked good program) and I absolutely loved having so much control over the process.

I took another introductory course at DePauw, and loved it so much, I became a photography major. This was largely in part because I was bribed with the prospect of studying abroad in Dublin. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to study abroad because the scholarship I had from Wabash didn’t cover it.) About halfway through my major requirements, I had a negative and unprofessional experience with my advisor (and the school’s only photography professor) during a critique, and because of it, I gave up the major and gave up photography for years.

A few years later when I graduated from college and moved down to Georgia, Ries asked me to take two weeks off. I had been working three jobs, directing middle school and high school students in a full length Shakespeare production, and served on committees in 5-10 school organizations. I was a workaholic and had never taken a break. When I did, I actually stopped to think what I was doing. I had a bit of a crisis because I didn’t know if I did the things I did because I enjoyed doing them or if I was doing them to impress other people or if I was just doing them because I had started years ago and hadn’t ever stopped.

So I started with a clean slate and started by doing things that I wanted to do. And at the time, what I wanted to do didn’t involve much of what I had been doing: no acting, singing, photography, or writing. I wasn’t sure if those things would ever come back to me, and I didn’t push it, I just found other things to occupy my time.

While I was taking a break from photography, I saw this Humans of New York post, in which the subject said:

“Vonnegut said we live too long. He said: ‘You had your children. You wrote your book. Now don’t be greedy.’ Yet we all live with this fantasy of recuperation. We see an old photo of ourself, and we momentarily feel like that person again. We think: 'I’m going to get back to that place.’ And we never get back there. But that desire gives us the ferocity to hold onto life no matter how bad it gets.”

This resonated with me. I fall in love with people very hard and very fast. But I’ve lost or stumbled away from a lot of people I loved. When I see the photos I took of those people, I can slip back in time and remember the exact circumstances of the situation when I took the photo. I have to admit, most of the time it hurts. Photography fixes people in time. The people in the photograph don’t exist anymore. They’ve grown, changed, moved to different states, gotten married, graduated from grad school, gone a different way. Our relationship isn’t the same. Some relationships are repairable, but nothing will ever go back to the way it was when I took those photographs. And I still struggle with that aspect of photography. It ties me to ghosts and brings up a lot of feelings of sadness and nostalgia and regret, and sometimes the only thing I can do is delete the photo and try to move on.

So for a while, I stopped taking pictures altogether.

And then, of course, I got pregnant and had Gus, and now I try my hardest to freeze as many moments in time. Everything changes so fast with kids. Gus started this summer with no “real” words in his vocabulary, and three months later, he’s speaking in short sentences. Beyond that, life is better, much better than it was in college and the few years after it. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not so scary and unstable all the time.

In the past two or three years, I’ve taken a lot more photos for the blog, and the habit and routine of taking my big DSLR out of the house with me has brought back the joy that I once got from using a camera.

Doing photography professionally has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but something I didn’t think I had the knowledge to do. My friend, Lexi, who shot our maternity photos, (and has been killin’ it as a photographer since we graduated high school) was kind enough to talk to me about what I would need to do if I wanted to start my own photography business, and provide some much needed encouragement.

One of my favorites of Gus.

One of my favorites of Gus.

The News

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be starting my own photography business, Lilac West, this fall when we return to Indiana. I have long list of things to do between now and then, but Ries and I are both very excited for this business to start. (He’s been helping me with logo designs.)

I had a really rough few years there, and I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride and finding where exactly I (and the odd combination of my talents) fit in this world.

And for anyone wondering what the heck happened to my Web Development course—don’t worry. I’m still working on it. It’s just taken me a lot longer than I anticipated due to…being a mom and the wife of a grad student. I’ve taken a month off this summer to pursue other projects and enjoy time with our little family while we live in such a cool state, but I’ll be commencing again once we get back to Indiana. (I only have 25% of the curriculum left, and two projects.)

I’m a person with many interests, so I’ll almost always be trying something new or reclaiming an old interest with a better head on my shoulders. If you’re confused, web development will be my full time job, and photography will be my “side hustle,” as the kids are calling it these days.

Yeah, so that’s cool.

Some Oldies, but Goodies

Yeah, yeah, so in honor of announcing this thing and making a bigger deal than necessary in true Amanda fashion, I decided to share some of my favorite photos, mostly taken with my Sony Alpha 850 since 2010. I call this collection “People I’ve Loved.” I’m pretty proud of these, especially since I used to just creep around my friends and steal portraits when I could. They’re candid, and in my opinion, those are the best kind. But I can’t wait to see what happens when people actually want their photos taken. Boom. Fireworks.

Yeah, okay, I’m done.

If you want to listen to something while looking at these photos, this is the song that popped into my head while I was organizing them (On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter.) I’m hoping if I share these, I’ll simultaneously release the images from my mind. Sometimes that works with my poetry.

Okay, now I’m done being moody and dramatic.