Finding Herself in the Photography World: Krysta’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Krysta Myles is a portrait photographer with a passion for children and babies. Krysta began her journey into the photography world as a new mom. Her hobby eventually turned into her own business, Krysta Myles Photography. “I started getting into photography when I had my first child in 2010. She gave me a new perspective on how precious life really is, and how quickly time passes us by.” Krysta had always enjoyed taking photos, but when she saw how rapidly her daughter was growing, she said it made her “yearn to capture as much from her childhood” as possible.

“I became fascinated with snapping images of her and trying to figure out how to capture nice images wherever we were. While she was napping you could usually find me with my nose in a photography guide, or with a hot cup of tea at my laptop on photography websites. After posting what was mostly likely the 500,000th photo of my daughter on Facebook, a friend asked if I would be interested in taking some photos for them. I did, and I loved it, so I offered to take photos for friends and family until I eventually saved up enough to upgrade my equipment. I then launched my website and started taking in regular clients and I haven't looked back since!” she continued.

Krysta asked, “What’s not to love?” when referring to her job. “I have the opportunity to meet awesome new families, hold their precious new bundles of joy, and give my client's memories they will cherish, and call it ‘work’. The most rewarding part of my job is definitely seeing the look on my client's faces when they see their final images.  It is such a joy to be able to capture images that bring back memories of these fleeting moments in my client's lives.”

There are also a lot of challenges that come with Krysta’s profession that happen “behind the scenes” so people may not realize this is not an “easy job”. “The most challenging part of my job has been balancing work and family life. I work from home, so keeping up with my active children (5, 2, and 4 months), as well as working on my business, keeps me busy day and night. Settling into a good routine and carving out specific times each day for me to work has been essential for balancing it all.”

In addition to having clients in her own home, Krysta travels all over Bruce and Grey counties to do photo sessions. Afterwards, she edits and prepares the images into a personalized photo gallery for each client using her computer.  Her job also includes marketing, ordering products and blogging, all of which “require a lot more time than shooting sessions”.

Despite the challenges, Krysta loves interacting with her clients and making sure they are comfortable. “The biggest thing I want people to know before coming to a session is to relax. I strive to keep my sessions as laid back as possible, especially when there are children involved (they really pick up on stress). My favourite images from my sessions are always the ones taken during candid moments between loved ones. So I like to tell my clients to pretend there isn't a strange lady with a camera following them around, and to just be themselves.”

 Like her clients, Krysta Myles advises other photographers to be themselves as well. “…Find out who you are in the big photography world. Focus on finding your style and resist the temptation to compare yourself to other photographers. You have something unique to offer. Your individuality is what will set you apart from others and make your work stand out.”

To book an appointment with Krysta, you can email her at krystamylesphoto@gmail.com or visit her website.

Amanda Stark is The Friendly Visitor

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Amanda Stark has worked for her own self-started business The Friendly Visitor, in London, for fourteen months. After attending Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, she realized there was a lack of support for those with Parkinson’s Disease and other seniors’ needs. As The Friendly Visitor, she provides companionship, helping-hand services, and life-skills coaching, in order to facilitate clients’ independence at home and to connect them with other resources.  Her goal is to help her clients live as well, and as independently, as possible.  

As the owner of The Friendly Visitor, Amanda manages all of the administrative tasks, and all marketing initiatives, including advertising, social media, community networking and the website. She first became interested in this type of work when she was living with her uncle who has Parkinson’s Disease.  Amanda used to help him around the house, drive him to appointments, and go on weekly movie dates. This, as well as her experience and visits with her grandmother, inspired Amanda to venture into this line of work.

Amanda has a counselling degree from Emmanuel Bible College, and many years of administrative assistant and customer service work. In addition to these skills, she explains that “this job takes a certain personality to connect with clients and to build rapport.”  The job also involves conflict management, facilitating group discussion and awareness of mental health concerns. She notes that “given the general nature of the helping hands component, it also requires a willingness to get our hands dirty and do whatever is needed. In some cases the skill of resourcefulness has been my best asset, by helping with pets, making meals, and doing laundry, among other things.”  Also important for anyone who is self-employed are time management skills -- knowing how to prioritize tasks and optimize time in the schedule.   Having a general knowledge of the operational side of business, Amanda also knows where she should hire out, so she can focus on the things she’s good at.  For example?  “I enjoy coordinating and customer service, but I am not great with numbers so that’s why I have a bookkeeper. Networking is another strength that fits well with running a business. Making connections in the business community as well as in the public is what goes the extra mile to spread the word about a small business.”

When asked why she loves her work, Amanda has a long list!  “I love my clients – I think my seniors are my favorites. I don’t have any grandparents, so I love hearing their stories and getting their advice on life. It’s the relationships in general that are my favorite – whether learning from other business owners, connecting with people in the community, or staying in touch with the families of the people I serve. I also love the variety, the fact one day I’m gardening, the next day I’m moving furniture and the next I’m having a conversation about life skills.” Speaking of a particular 93-year-old client, Amanda loves hearing her old stories about London many years ago, and that she considers Amanda family. Similarly, she enjoyed working with an 83-year old client who shared many stories about growing up in Greece, moving to Canada and making a life there.

Making the decision to go into business for herself was the biggest decision that Amanda has ever made. She could have worked for someone else, but because of a physical injury she also needs specific prioritizing. So working for herself seemed best.  Another hard decision involved whether to follow the advice of others or do what she felt was right. Amanda explains that “many well-meaning people had advice about the different aspects of getting started, but not all advice was helpful or fruitful. Along with that, knowing who I could trust was a big challenge.” Her branding was also critically important, so she did a lot of research before her business name and logo were created.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the biggest challenge Amanda faced was finances. It was difficult starting a business when there wasn’t much money coming in at the beginning. She was lucky enough to go through the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit program before its recent cancellation.  Getting attention for her business was also challenging since her advertising budget was focused on word-of-mouth marketing.   Amanda acknowledges that she had her moments of doubt wondering if this was “the right path” for her, but quickly adds that “I absolutely know 100% that it is…no good thing is accomplished without a little struggle.”

Amanda’s advice for others?  “Be honest with yourself. If you are not a self-starter, you probably shouldn’t start your own business!  But trust yourself. You know what you know – be confident in that. Reflect on what you’re good at and choose a career that focuses on your strengths. Don’t just go where someone tells you to go – if I had done that, I would still be sitting at a receptionist desk somewhere.”

Find out more at The Friendly Visitor website: http://www.thefriendlyvisitor.ca

 

Overcoming Isolation through Art: Heather’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Heather Wodhams is a part-time retail employee with a full-time passion for art and photography. “When it comes to art,” explains Heather, “nothing about it feels like a job!  It is my essence and something that brings me so much fulfillment.”

“Art and photography are an outlet for me, a way of expressing who I am as a person and what I believe in without having to really explain myself. It is a way of reaching out to the world to see how people from all walks of life respond to me and my creations.  In this way, even though I would categorize myself as an introvert, I am still able to relate to the world and feel connected so that I don’t feel isolated.”

Heather was born in Georgetown and raised in Tara, Ontario with “an incredibly active imagination”. She has always had a love for reading fiction and being out in nature, which is often reflected in her work today: “I believed, and still do, that all life is precious and that there is importance and strength even in the smallest things, maybe because I’m so small myself!  I realized that I could help other people see what I saw by recreating or documenting things that inspired me.... It becomes quite obvious from looking at my work that nature is a prevalent and recurring theme in anything that I do.  It is ever-changing and provides endless inspiration.”

Nature is something that Heather has become quite at ease with, but that doesn’t mean she is a one-trick pony. Wodhams has created a diverse body of work using a variety of methods including, but not limited to: photography, collages, painting, illustrations, digital art and more. She is always willing to work outside of her comfort zone and to try something new:

“In recent months, I have started photographing people and families, something entirely new and challenging to me.  But I don’t limit myself to any one subject-- the same way I don’t constrain myself to any one medium.  People make requests for things I’ve never done, most recently photographing cars, and I love the challenge!  Still, lately I do have an affinity for watercolour, ink, and of course any type of photography.... I work in a variety of mediums because I never want to become complacent, or comfortable with what I am doing.  There is a vulnerability and an excitement that comes from working with a material that you haven’t yet mastered.  For me, art is not about flaunting my abilities. It’s about constantly learning and growing.“

 Although being an artist can be a solitary occupation, Heather is open to collaborations. One of her earliest collaborations was in Grade 12 at Chesley District High School (now Chesley District Community School) where, at the time, the entire student body consisted of  only 300 people. Heather was chosen to create a mural that would be on display in one of the school’s hallways. She painted the Chesley Cougar mascot in front of several yellow and black bricks. Then each brick was filled in with a unique design created by the equally unique individuals in Heather’s graduating class. She recalls the experience as follows:

“Back at CDHS, I felt so strongly that the school was very special in that we were a tight-knit group of students.  So when I had the opportunity to create the mural I knew I wanted it to represent the students and the bond we shared, to be a lasting tribute to the positive aspects of high school. I absolutely loved to see the people filling in their own section of brick on the mural, because they were the building blocks of the school community and it helped to show their diversity and individualism.  I was warned that vandalism may happen to the piece later on and I thought ‘well, if I give these students the opportunity to be a part of this mural they will be much less likely to want to deface something they helped create’.  It was a way of working with my peers instead of isolating myself from them.”

Today, Heather continues to collaborate through commissioning her work, which gives her the chance to create something that she would not have necessarily thought of on her own. She has a connected with others from around the world through her Facebook page and  Instagram account which allow her to display and sell her work without being in “a traditional gallery setting”.

Even though she excels at what she does, Heather’s journey into the art world has not always been easy and has taken some unexpected turns. Before working with a variety of mediums, Wodhams mostly focussed on painting in college. This ended up depleting her creativity instead of increasing it. She admits that she was at a point where she didn’t paint for “over a year” after she graduated from Fanshawe. However, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it opened her eyes to other creative and work-related opportunities:

“After high school I made the difficult decision of going to post-secondary to study art.  It made sense to my friends and family, but to me there was always a fear a failure, and of coming out the other side with nothing but debt and a useless diploma.  I graduated in 2010 from the Fanshawe Fine Arts program and immediately got a job at Fotoart (a camera and photography store).  From there my passion for photography grew exponentially. I was then offered a job at Lens Rentals Canada (LRC) and jumped at the opportunity to connect with photographers from all across Canada, and to use gear that I could have normally only dreamed of using.  These jobs helped me gain a confidence and a drive to want to be my own boss, focus on my own business and see if I could apply the things I learned to my career as a freelance artist.  So with some hesitancy, I left LRC in October 2014 to start my own venture, which of course leads us to the here and now!”

Currently, Wodhams’ struggles with art are more positive because her mind is now over-run with ideas and it is difficult “to bring them all to reality!” For Heather, each new idea leads to another, “so that the thrill of a new creation never fades.” In the future, she would like to continue learning the video editing process as well as working with stained glass and jewelry-making!

In the words of the beloved “Ms. Frizzle” from The Magic School Bus, Heather Wodhams would advise her younger-self to “Take chances, make mistakes and get messy.” She emphasizes, “If there is one thing I could tell my young artist-self, it would be to not feel pressure from anyone to alter the way you create art.  We all have our own process and even though some may not understand yours, the important thing is that you do.  Even if you can’t explain why you create, there is an instinct within you that leads you in completing a piece. Trying to fit yourself into a mold of what an artist is will quickly drain any joy and passion you had for art.  Trust your instincts....  After all, art can be an incredibly personal and intimate creation, and to others it is simply a whimsical outlet, so just try to maintain a truth with yourself and that way no matter what anyone thinks, you will feel confident in your work knowing that you love it.”

Independent Artist Goes Global

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Patrick (also known as Pat) Maloney is one of the lucky people who can say, “I do love my job!” Raised in Ottawa, Pat works as a self-employed musician. It’s been a long journey for him to get to where he is today, but it is a journey that has taken him around the world doing what he loves—making music.

Maloney got his start in music as a child, where he played piano and later a drum set in high school. He then moved to London, Ontario to attend Fanshawe College for its two-year Music Industry Arts program. He ended up staying at Fanshawe much longer than he had originally planned because after he graduated, he became a Fanshawe College employee!

“I got a job with [the] Fanshawe Student Union promoting events on campus” says Pat. “That job put me in touch with a lot of industry contacts.” In addition to his “day job”, he also played drums for a band which had several other members. Eventually, Pat knew it was time to go solo and depart from the band and the college where he had worked for six years, thanks to the networking he had done with people in the music industry.

In 2013, he played 170 shows across Canada in all 10 provinces, as well as touring college and university campuses in the United Kingdom. Of this experience, Pat tells us,

“I book the Canadian tours myself, and travel England with Tony Lee, the Hypnotist. I spend most afternoons making cold calls to bars and sending emails to book myself. In these early stages of my career, I probably land one show for every 5 emails I send.” Although low numbers and low pay can be discouraging, Pat’s fan-base continues to grow and he couldn’t be happier with his job. However, when he first left London for Toronto, where he currently lives, he wasn’t sure how it would all turn out:

I was worried about the money at first. But once I had my first bad month [over with], I was still happy and alive and I still didn’t have to go into an office [for work]. I could still focus on my passion! It was worth being a little strapped for cash!”

Luckily for Pat, the cash came rolling in when he reached out to his friends, family and fans for help to fund his second album, Repotting, the follow up to his solo debut, Root Rot. Earlier in 2014, Repotting was crowd-funded online through PledgeMusic.com and he says that “it was a great feeling to know that there are people out there willing to shell out a few dollars for a record they haven't even heard yet! There is very little financial support for independent music, so it's nice to know the fans are willing to step up.”

When asked why he loves his job as a self-employed musician, Maloney was quick to answer, “I love that I work for myself, and that I get to play music every night. I get to share what I love the most with audiences all over the world!”

Visit Pat Maloney’s website for upcoming tour dates and more information

at www.patmaloney.ca 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patmaloneymusic  

Twitter: @_patmaloney  

Instagram: _patmaloney