You love hearing how other photographers got to where they are today and this week we have another inspirational ‘my photography journey’ here for you from one of our CMpros, the incredibly talented Cassandra O’Leary!
my photography journey | cassandra o’leary
I cannot tell you how happy and excited I am to have this opportunity to share my photography journey with you as well as to share my love and appreciation of all things Clickin Moms! I have so much that I want to share that I don’t even know where to begin. So I apologize in advance because I am pretty sure that I am going to ramble and write way too much!
So let’s begin at, uuuuummmm, the beginning! I still have my very first camera, it is an old Olympus OM10 film SLR. I don’t, however, have that many memories of actually using it! I do still have a photograph though that I took with it of a rhino and it sits framed in my house. I love the photograph even though it’s nothing special; it’s a snapshot but it brings back a load of happy memories! I grew up as a kid running around the bush in Africa and this one photograph reminds me of that. I was up close, on foot when I took this photo and he never woke up. I am very grateful to still have that photograph and the memories that it holds.
Unfortunately, I didn’t pick up a camera again for a long time. Fast forward to my twenties – I have moved countries a few times and I am now in Istanbul, Turkey. I had no work permit and after 3 months of doing nothing I started to go a little bit crazy, I needed something! So I started studying – you are expecting me to put photography here aren’t you? But no, for some reason that I cannot seem to remember anymore, I studied social sciences and nutrition. As much as I really enjoyed both of these, I realized that I needed something a bit more me. Having a background in graphic design meant that I loved to create things so I figured photography would be the best thing; I wanted to create pictures! So I got my first Nikon film SLR (thanks to my lovely hubby) and that was the beginning of my obsession!
I started learning with a small group of other ladies in a camera class in the city center. We all had a ball! We did loads of photography days out and really got to explore the city. I don’t think I could have lived in a better city to nurture and grow my love for the medium. It is a truly a fascinating city and I miss it to this day.
For the next few years, while living in Istanbul, I did two online photography courses with the Open College of Arts. One was the Art of Photography and the other was Landscape Photography. They had a portraiture course as well but at the time, portraiture just scared the pants off me! To me it meant asking strangers if I could take their pictures and getting model release forms signed, both of these things still scare me to this day and is something I plan to really work on! After my two courses were over I was a little bit in limbo – I wanted to study more but didn’t know where to turn next. I had also upgraded to digital by this stage and I remember just how excited I was about digital as it was mixing my two favorite things in the whole world, my camera and my computer! I have always been a little bit of a gadget freak! I learned Photoshop when I was in college and I have always loved it. I find editing therapeutic, I can honestly spend hours upon hours on my computer and it just makes me happy!
Another country move and I was now in Barcelona, Spain. A month after I arrived I fell pregnant with my first child. Strangely, it never occurred to me that I would end up wanting to take thousands of photographs of him! Also around this time, my mom was growing her new jewellery business and I was her photographer. I bought myself a little tent and two little lights and discovered a love for still life photography. I thoroughly enjoyed doing my mom’s jewellery but when she didn’t have any pieces for me to photograph I started to look for other things to stick in my tent. I became obsessed with photographing fruit and vegetables and started buying them to photograph rather than to eat and I have a huge collection of photographs of every kind of fruit and vegetable you can imagine! Yeah, my poor husband!
After my son was born, you would expect me to tell you I fell in love with photographing kids but not exactly. I went out and bought a point and shoot – yes you read that right and to this day I still cannot believe I did that!! I just struggled to carry all the baby and photography stuff, that was my excuse at the time anyway. I did take a few photographs of my son but I never thought about actually learning how to take them well. About a year after he was born, I was doing an online illustration course and somehow came across Clickin Moms. I was immediately hooked! CM quickly became my second home. I started off very quiet, like most people, but CM opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me and I suddenly realized that I could, and should, take better pictures of my son!
Here are some of my first photos of my son pre-CM! They all suck but I still love them. They are all of my little man and that makes them perfect! Don’t you just love all these funky skin tones?!
I dove straight into the photography workshops. I was thrilled to be back studying and learning and the workshops on CM are invaluable! My first ones were Photoshop 101: Photoshop Fundamentals for Photographers and the previously mentioned Shooting 101. Although Photoshop had always been a big part of my life, I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to editing photographs of people. The same with shooting, although I had been taking photographs for years, when it came to kids and people I was starting from scratch and I was loving every minute of it! Lisa and Lynne opened my eyes and fueled my need for more!
I was pregnant with my second child at this stage and was completely workshop obsessed! Up until CM came out with all these fabulous looking new workshops that year, I had pretty much almost done them all! They have all been fabulous and completely invaluable! I often wish that I could just do them all all over again! The amazing instructors and teaching assistants, as well as all the wonderful women I have had the pleasure to learn with, have all had a very powerful and long lasting effect on photography journey and I will be forever grateful to all them. I have met and been inspired by some exceptional women and made so many photography obsessed nutty friends too! Joining CM is one of the best things I have ever done. Of course my photography journey has really only just begun but CM is going to be a lifelong part of it.
Regarding my photographic future – my goals, my plans, my wishes – well I am not yet sure where its going to lead me. I am not in business, I still have to decide whether I will travel that road or not. I would love to teach. I really hope one day to help others to grow and learn. But until I figure it out I am going to continue doing what it is that I am doing and loving every minute of it!
Cassandra O’Leary, Europe and Tokyo
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My name is Cassandra but everyone calls me Cassie. In my life before kids I was a graphic designer. I am a full-time personal assistant to two mini-monsters and I love it! I have been an expat most of my life and move every 4 to 5 years. This is something I thoroughly enjoy and am grateful to have photography to help me keep track of it all.