This is the first of our Friday Features here on Sleepless in Samoa where we meet People with Passion. Welcome to
Timena’s Samoan, raised in the US and Samoa. She married her husband of 20 years, in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters to hit Samoa – Cyclone Val. She’s Mormon (LDS). She’s mum to 6 children, grandmother to another 6, with 2 more on the way. (They defn keep her young because she certainly doesn’t look like your stereotypical grandma!) She loves Harry Potter. And she’s a photographer in Salt Lake City, Utah. I stumbled across Timena’s photo blog a while back, was entranced by her work and am excited to have her here to talk about her passions. Her goal as a photographer is to “produce images that are worthy of words like: life, joy, laughter, inspiration, beauty, hope, and love.”
1. Photography is your passion. How did you embark on this career path and what do you enjoy most about it?
I didn’t take an interest in photography until almost two years ago. I was six years into a deep depression. My father lost his battle with cancer in 2003. Four years after that, and still devastated by my father’s loss, my 14 year-old son died due to an unfortunate incident in 2007. I don’t like to think about who I was back then. I was so dead inside. I somehow clawed my way out of that hell hole of depression, and saw that there were definitely more things to live for.
I remembered how my father who was a photographer, used my siblings and me as his models when he was experimenting with his 35mm film camera. He loved taking pictures and seeing the end results. He had such a passion and drive for it. That’s when it started. My newfound desire to be good at photography burned within me like a fire. I enrolled in a photography class at the local community college. One day while out shopping with my husband he bought me my first camera. I was floored. He has always been my greatest supporter and encouragement.
Along with my wonderful husband and family – photography literally saved my life. Writing did too. I started a blog and snapped pictures along the way. I found something to keep my mind off my pain and sorrow. The suffering began to fade and a photographer emerged. I continued to shoot and my work started to improve and it just grew from there. I’m still learning as I go, but I’m definitely grateful for the struggles I’ve had to go through in order to get to where I am today. I still have a long way to go in terms of where I want to be with this new dream, but knowing that I am continuing a part of my Dad’s legacy gives me that extra drive.
2. You have some beautiful portraits of children. It must be tough sometimes to get them to smile/stop fidgeting! How do you get them to ‘do what you want’?
Thank you for the compliment. I’d like to take responsibility for the children “doing what I want,” but in reality the key is to let them be the boss. Not in a way where you lose total control of the shoot, but just enough to allow them to be themselves. At the end of the day I want to produce images they (and of course their parents), will love. In order for that to happen, their personalities need to shine through – and that is not likely to occur if I’m stressing out about how I want them to smile and pose. I find that this method works for me, and their reactions are more natural. Parents love that.
2. Your family is very important to you.What do you think the key is to building a strong family? What advice do you have to other mums out there who are trying to balance motherhood AND build a career with their passions/gifts?
Being a mom is the hardest job in the world. Being a working mom is even harder. Finding time to chase a dream and raise a family is no easy task but is totally doable. When you’re faced with a deadline, and you have kids who are hungry, have homework, school projects, church projects, and are also fighting about who gets to hold the remote control for the television, it’s enough to make you go mad. What do you do? Lock yourself in your room for hours until you’ve finished your work? Only to come outside and find that your house is a wreck, homework hasn’t been done, and all the food from your pantry is on your kitchen counter?! I totally learned the hard way that the answer is prioritizing. Sometimes it’s trial and error. Now I’ve learned that when the kids walk through the door it’s their time. I put aside all my work (even if it isn’t done), and I make sure they complete homework etc. Let’s face it kids (especially mine), need our attention. I’ve learned that if I take time out to pay attention to my kids and converse with them about their lives, they are more attentive to my needs as well. It’s important for our kids to know that they matter to us. Somehow it makes things easier. When things run smoothly there’s always time for me to get my work done. I even get to hold the remote control for the television sometimes!
3. What’s your favorite dessert? (Since food is a HUGE passion of mine…)
That’s like asking me who I love most out of all my children! LOL. I do love dessert. It’s a tie between my daughter’s pound cake (from scratch), with a glass of milk, and tiramisu cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Yum!
4. Here at Sleepless, we read way too many books! What are 3 of yr all time favourite fiction books?
I have to say two of my favorite fiction books are my childhood favorites (and my grandsons favorites too). They are: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendaks,Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the third would have to be the Harry Potter Series. Read all seven with my children and we’ve watched all the movies so far.
Thank you Mena for sharing with us. As a rather
psychotic busy mother myself who’s also trying to write in between all the chaos, I especially appreciate your advice regarding that family/work balance.
Everyone – you can view samples of Timena’s work at her blog/Facebook and connect with her on Twitter.