A talk with Marissa Bowers, a designer starting out on a new path

Note: This is an excerpt from a complete Q&A that will be included in the 2012 Photographer’s Market.

When I started my position here at F+W, Marissa was my counter part as the Managing Designer for the craft community. We worked together on many book projects as a creative team and to schedule both of our teams, matching talents and personalities to get the best results for the projects we were assigned to produce. About a year ago, Marissa made the decision to follow her passion for photography. She took the leap and left her position to start on a new career path. Since then, we have talked on many occasions and have shared information. I thought that with one year under her belt, this would be a good time to get her thoughts on this decision and where she is now.

Marissa, talk a bit about you education and what prompted your decision to follow your passion for photography.
In college, I had a secondary interest in photography, and, had I not wanted to complete school as quickly as I could, I would have double majored or at least minored in photography. Unfortunately, the “quick path” won out, and I finished a degree in Visual Communications (focusing on graphic design) in 1997 from the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. I went on to work in design for 10 years. When I began my design path as a book designer for a publishing company and began art directing photo shoots, my love for photography resurfaced. Encouraged by the professional photographers I worked with, I began shooting family and engagement sessions in 2007. This naturally evolved into full-time work in wedding photography.

What inspires you to create?
At first it was my children, then I opened up to the wedding world. Looking at wedding blogs helps, but I also just try to walk around and find surroundings that inspire me. It usually happens by chance on an actual shoot, but I use the moment and find what I need.

Marissa Bowers wedding ring on buckeyeFor instance, I took this ring shot at a wedding in late 2009. It was a warm early fall day, and I was walking the grounds of where the ceremony was to be held looking for a good spot for the groom and groomsmen group photos. I kept stepping on these buckeyes that were falling from trees as I checked out a perfect tree-lined area. The idea popped into my head to use the buckeyes as a “resting place” for the ring in the ring shot. I stuffed a few in my pocket and walked back to a picnic table, set it up quickly, and instantly had the elements for creating an awesome ring shot. This is a case of letting my surroundings inspire me, which is what I often do to kickstart my creative process.

What are your specialties?
I focus on wedding and family portraits in a non-traditional style. I am not your typical wedding photographer. I have a photojournalistic style and approach to the wedding day, but, even more than that, I try to just “tell the story” of a couple’s big day. I do this by being creative with environment and positioning, as well as capturing detail images that will transport the bride and groom back to the day they always want to remember months, even years, later. Being creative with the bride’s shoes, for instance, or thinking of a special meaning for the ring shot is how I tell the story.

I also like to think that one of my specialties is how I choose to process an image after the wedding day when I am editing their final set for their collection. Not every image calls for a vintage post-process, but maybe one image clearly sticks out to be finished in a way that makes the viewer recall the memory in a special way. This image just works in a sepia-toned, vintage style and doesn’t have the same emotion when viewed as the true-to-color image.

How do you present your work?
On my combined blog/website, http://issadesign.squarespace.com

Do you have any parting words of wisdom you would like to share?
Photography is a rewarding occupation and can take you on an even more rewarding path. In the time I’ve been photographing professionally, I have come to realize what an awesome creative outlet it is. The “side benefit” of getting to capture memories for people and their families is that those images will stay with a family for long after I’m gone. Knowing this couldn’t be a more humbling and rewarding feeling. I strive to get even more creative and better with each shoot, each month, and now each year. It is my goal that a couple who hires me for their wedding will come back to me when they are pregnant, when the new baby arrives, and when that baby (or babies!) grows up. I want their lives to be a documentary, and I want to be the one given the opportunity to document it, just as I document my own family.

I would like to thank Marissa for taking the time for this interview and wish her all the best on her new path. With her talent and snowballing skills, I’m sure she will be on the top rung very soon. Be sure to take a look at the links Marissa has provided and also her work. I’m sure that these will provide inspiration you’re looking for.

As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Best,
Ric.

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