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Anyone can pick up a camera and press a shutter, but to be able to use that instrument as a bridge to unite the generations is my personal measure of success.
If you look up my name in a dictionary, you’ll find the words ‘unconventional, stubborn, tenacity and strong determination’ as the words that define me – all words that serve as the common denominator of every entrepreneur. What distinguishes entrepreneurs from one another, and often determines their success or failure, is their ability to forge a divergent path, setting them apart from their competitors. On my journey to become a top photographer, I’ve discovered that creating that unique space for myself meant that I couldn’t simply stray gently from the path that other photographers were traversing, I had to take a machete and cut a brand-new way-forward, a path that was often filled with uncertainty, unexpected hurdles, and more challenges that I could count. However, recognizing that the greatest opportunities in life are not found on the clear, easy pathway, I continue to cut my way ahead on that journey to success, charting a course completely unique to Holly Hulse Photography.
As the wife of a US Army soldier, I’m no stranger to the attributes necessary for all spouses of service members, attributes also necessary to entrepreneurs – patience, independence, flexibility, and the ability to deal with uncertainty, daily. Having had the opportunity to move with my husband to destinations around the world, often spending much of that time alone, I’ve been blessed to be presented with the keys to a door to travel, allowing me to experience destinations that most people only read about in magazines. I’ve watched people interact with one another; I’ve tasted many foreign cuisines; I’ve learned that while our languages, clothes, religions, and traditions may differ, we are all more alike that we are different. I’ve learned to view humanity from a lens of tolerance, curiosity, respect and understanding. And it was with my camera lens that I set out to capture the beauty in the world – a beauty that would serve to unite us.
Beginning as a hobby photographer, I used photography as a means to fill the vast spaces of time that I spent alone, while my husband fulfilled the obligations of his military career. I was interested in trying to capture images that told a more intimate story of the people and places that I visited than one could simply see with the naked eye. My grandfather always taught me to have a camera, as you never know the moment and memory you will capture. I wasn’t seeking the ‘tourist’ perspective, but something much deeper and more meaningful. Unique angles, unexpected lighting – even subjects that most tourists did not notice, as they hurried off to visit the more well-known landmarks. I began to invest in and experiment with lenses, filters, and lighting to produce portraits and landmarks that were unique to my own ‘eye’. Much to my surprise, my photos began to attract the attention of galleries and competitions, and I began to see my photos included in exhibitions, and soon, my photos were winning awards.
Could a hobby photographer really turn this passion into profit? With the millions of photographers in the world, could I find a unique niche that would set me apart from others? Could I learn to start and run a business, with no prior experience or knowledge? There is no way to find out, except to try.
Flash forwards a few years, and the answer to all those confounding questions was an unquestionable “yes”. Learning how to start a business was an amalgamation of online research, advice and guidance from trusted mentors, and a great deal of trial and error. I experimented with photographic genres, discovering a penchant for fashion photography and portraiture, allowing me to capture the essence of the era. Always looking for those unique angles and creative perspectives and approaching my photography as a story without words for my audience and clients, I strive to ensure that my pictures differ from the hundreds of other photographers taken in the same room, along the same runway. The point of a photo is to teleport the viewer to a time, place, or person, allowing them to conjure aromas, tastes, and feelings, without physically having to travel. I want my viewers to feel as though they are sitting at the side of the fashion runway, feeling the energy in the air, seeing the vibrancy of color and texture, experiencing the atmosphere as though they are a spectator. Rewarding the work and creativity of the designer with an image of their collection that encapsulates the beauty of their designs, colors, fabrics, and style, allowing their collection to capture the interest and desire of a potential customer from the printed page, is the ultimate power of a photo. This is the mission of my lens.
As a portrait photographer, I passionately endeavor to capture the emotion of my client, ensuring that the hopes, dreams, and feelings of the day become a legacy memory. It’s not enough to simply capture a face, a body, or a location, it is my obligation to my subject to give them an image which serves as a vehicle for time travel, transporting them back to a day, a space and a time which can transcend generations. Anyone can pick up a camera and press a shutter, but to be able to use that instrument as a bridge to unite the generations is my personal measure of success.
While my journey of entrepreneurship is not entirely unique, as all entrepreneurs must learn about business plans, marketing strategies, plans of resiliency, etc., finding ways to differentiate myself in a very crowded marketplace is what ultimately sets entrepreneurs apart from competitors. If you believe you cannot start a business because there is no room for you to be unique or do it better than the others within your industry or sector, you are wrong. There is infinite room for disruption in every industry, all it takes is the desire to start, the belief that you can succeed, and the patience and determination to machete your way down a brand-new pathway, looking at business – and life – through your own, unique lens.
- The article was originally published in Career Ahead January 2022 issue.