“My father was a contractor and I used to not think that was a creative field because it’s construction and building houses. Then I realized, “oh he designs everything and has a vision in his mind and brings it to life”, Caitlin mentioned. “My mom paints a lot and now she has a little business where she refurbishes furniture and creates fun, affordable, cute things for your home. My brother is super creative too. He and my dad are in business together now and he makes custom made furniture and is just very, very talented. So I think for me, I just come from a really creative family.”
Caitlin is an incredible photographer located in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the day, she works for the University of Tennessee as the Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development. Working directly with Women’s Tennis and Men and Women’s Swimming and Diving, Caitlin equips these student-athletes with the tools necessary to be successful outside of their sport. Whether they have the opportunity to play professionally or not, Caitlin’s job ensures that their Plan B is just as successful as their Plan A. However, Caitlin mentions that she has to make a conscious effort to take care of her mental health in a job like this one – and photography is just the outlet she needed.
“Sometimes you hear some of the hard stories from some of the students that you work with or you see them chasing a dream so hard and sometimes they end up failing. It is hard to not take on their disappointments and failures as your own. It is important in a field like this one that you find ways to fill yourself up emotionally. I definitely would say photography is therapy for me. I think what I love the most about photography is that I feel the most creative sometimes when I’m experiencing some of those negative emotions. When I am overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, sad, or anxious, for some reason I just feel very creative. And I love the idea of then channeling some of those negative emotions and creating something beautiful on the other side. It’s this idea of turning dark to light, negative to positive.”
We have the chance each day to decide are we going to let our emotions be our fuel or the very thing that holds us down.
Listening to Caitlin speak about channeling negative emotions in a positive way was such a great reminder that it is up to us, each day to take our emotions and use them as fuel to propel us forward. We can allow our negative emotions to consume us, and some days they will. Some days I don’t have the energy myself to turn the course of my “emotion” train around. But the great thing about life is that each day we have the chance to try again, give it another shot. When I asked Caitlin about her favorite thing to shoot, ironically she mentioned sunrises.
“I think there is something really cool about watching the world wake up. There is such a quiet stillness that you feel being on top of the mountain in the dark and then watching the sunrise and seeing it hit everything.”
Caitlin has been to over 20 different countries, and the images she has captured are incredibly powerful. From sunrises to children playing a game of soccer in the streets, she has a way of telling a story through her photos. It was very inspiring for me to hear that Caitlin was self-taught, and a reminder that sometimes all you need to unleash your creative side is a passion. She highlighted the fact that art is not constricted to being portrayed in only one way – there are many ways to do so.
“I have learned that creativity you can create in any field and you can find anywhere. Even within “art” there are a lot of different types of creativity because there are so many different people who have different visions. I think there is this view that creative people are really whimsical, really out there and maybe just a little different. But that isn’t the case at all.”
No matter the creative outlet, the comparison factor still has the opportunity to be the thief of joy.
Like anything in life, there are a lot of people who do the same job as us, have the same goal as us, sometimes even the same vision. Photography is no different – if you were to look up a list of photographers in your city you could probably find 30 within 30 seconds. Taking it a step further, social media can make it extremely difficult to not compare your craft to someone else’s. When I asked Caitlin about how she remains authentic even when she feels the pressure to conform, she highlighted one very important thing – when you truly love what you are doing you stop caring what other people are thinking.
“Sometimes you meet people and they have been blessed with a lot of authentic self-confidence and have accepted who they are from day one. I was never one of those people. I really had to come into my own. But for me, when you really love something and get a lot of energy from it and it is a really positive force in your life, you stop really caring about what other people think. Photography is something that brings ME joy – so I care less about the criticism that may come or the stereotypes or any of those things. I don’t need anyone else’s approval because all I need to know is that it fills me and my cup up. Sometimes I will get on Instagram and think “I wish I was that good” or “I’ve been to that same place, why can’t my photo look like that?” When I feel those voices creeping in, I feel it is sometimes necessary to take a step back. I have a lot of my photos hanging up around my house. So when I have those moments when I am doubting myself I just take a walk around the house and look at my photos and remind myself that no matter how their pictures look I am pretty good too.”
Whether you are a photographer or not, I hope Caitlin’s story served as a reminder to you that there is no right way to fill a certain role. Whether you want to become a photographer, artist, fashion designer, videographer, whatever your heart desires – you don’t have to follow a certain path to become successful. So much of success is subjective to what each of us defines it as. As long as you have a passion, you have what it takes to unleash your creative side in whatever way you feel inclined to.
With all of the resources available to us on the internet, as helpful as they can be they can also be extremely overwhelming. For someone who is interested in following their photography passion, Caitlin gives some advice on how to start on your own creative journey:
1. You don’t have to have the most expensive camera in the room to take stunning photos – “I started with a little DSL camera with only two kit lenses. That is what I learned on. Of course, I eventually upgraded from there, but you don’t have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on a camera to get beautiful photos.”
2. Ask questions – “I reach out to people all the time on Instagram and will ask “where did you take that?” Caitlin said, “and I have actually made some really good friends based on those interactions and now I have a cool little network of photographers where we can pick each other’s brains or even meet up and go shoot together. You definitely can connect with other people that way.”
3. Do your research on the people that you are learning from online – “If I am going to watch a YouTube series that a photographer puts out about some techniques they use, the first thing I am going to do is to find their website or Instagram page and see if I even like their work, to begin with. Do I like your style? Because if I don’t then I don’t need to be learning from you. It is nothing against them, we just all have different photography styles.”
To see some of Caitlin’s work, check out her Instagram page at @caitlani9.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Caitlin! You are incredible.
Keep Water Your Garden ladies.