Inspiration for this post comes from my dear friend, Joy, who asked me to guest write an article for her blog Stories of Joy . There’s something so therapeutic about putting your story out there, and I thought what better place to share than here with you. I hope you enjoy reading a little bit about my story!
My Story: A Look Behind The Lens:
My name is Emily Zamora, I’m a lifestyle and wedding photographer born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and now living with my husband and furbaby Riley in Portland, OR.
Most photographers would say that their love of photography started when they got their first camera in their tweens/teens/college years and haven’t been able to put down the camera since.
My story with photos goes a bit further back than that.
First, I guess I should start with a little blurb about my family history and how I came to be the woman writing this article.
I was born Emily Jean Stephens to a teenage, drug addicted, single girl who just wasn’t ready to be a mom. And that’s okay. Because that opened the door for me (and 3 of my biological siblings) to be adopted by her grandparents, my maternal great-grandparents.
Can I just take this moment to add that adoption is a BEAUTIFUL thing. It’s difficult, messy, political, scary, and yet an oh so needed thing. And sadly, most children aren’t fortunate enough to be adopted by blood relatives. Some don’t find their forever homes for several months, years, or ever. All of that time spent in the system, passed around from place to place. With little to no documentation of their growth, no baby pictures, no preserved memories and accomplishments, or knowledge of where they came from.
This breaks my heart.
By the grace of God, that was not my story exactly.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was adopted by my maternal great-grandparents. My own living family history. I can still visit my childhood home and grab my family photo album that documents my every milestone and accomplishment. But with this connection to my (well half of my) genetic pool, also came the knowledge of our family’s history of memory loss, dementia, and mental illness. Especially among the females.
And while I’m not guaranteed to inherit the disease, that doesn’t stop the worry that, someday, I just might.
Cue the part of my story where I get my first “real camera”, your mid 2000s basic point-and-shoot. I guess technically you can trace my VERY first camera back to the Kodak disposable film ones my mom would give me and my siblings when we did theatre plays in elementary school. For every new play/production we’d get a new camera to fill up. I even still have the physical images from those cameras. The content you get from an 8 year old with a camera…
But before I go too far on this tangent, I just want to explain how I’ve used cameras (and photography) since that first point-and-shoot. I took pictures of EVERYTHING. My food, family vacations, trips to the mall, my dogs, my feet…basically of anything to document the memory of what I was up to that day. Nowadays people get a bad rep for taking “food pics”, “shoe pics”, and basically over photographing every moment. But I say, take those photos! Preserve those days! And maybe refrain from the hundreds of selfies- those ones do get kind of old.
Now as a professional photographer,
I absofreakinglutely LOVE that I’m the one trusted with preserving someone’s special moment. Whether that be the first look between a bride and groom, the sibling meltdowns that happen at basically every family session, or that special moment when someone asks their significant other to spend the rest of their lives together. I get to play the comic relief, the peacekeeper, the quiet fly on the wall, and so much more. How lucky can one person be?!
And because I feel like I started off this whole thing pretty heavy, I’m going to close with some of my favorite camera/photography related memories…
When my husband and I were dating, during the summer before my first year of college, he bought a disposable camera and documented random moments of us during that summer. He then developed the photos so I could have them before I left for school. The images weren’t the greatest, but the memories are some of my favorite.
When I’d get my middle school then high school best friend group together for dinners and then turn them into mini “friendship photoshoots”. We even posed on my dad’s Mustang during one of them. Serious dorks.
The childhood summers during my Jr. Lifeguard years where I’d create FULL albums of images of my friends and what we did that day and upload them to Facebook. Almost EVERY DAY. I’m talking heavily filtered. All uploaded to the internet. The one upside was that they made for great end-of-the-summer slideshows.
My mom taking our “special occasion outfit” photos in the same exact spot in our house my entire life. I’m talking toddler years to present day. Talk about consistency!
And basically anytime someone prints a photo I’ve taken. It gets me in the feels every time.
And with that, I’ll sign off. Thanks for reading!
Note from Emily: Because I want my small business to have an element that does something for others without any expectation of anything in return and as a way to “pay it forward”, I’d love to offer any foster or adoptive families in the Portland, OR area (or Los Angeles, CA area with coordination with my return visits schedule) a complimentary family or portrait session.
I’d like to gift these sessions as a way to say thank you and offer these families, who open their homes and hearts to other children, a way to preserve the memories of their growing families and the lives of those they foster. If I can provide some memento of this time in these children’s lives with the people who helped them grow, while giving them something to look back on when they are grown, I will have accomplished my mission.
If you or someone you know is interested, please reach out!
Wedding and elopement photographer in Portland, Oregon. Specializing in true to color edits and natural light photography. Servicing the local area of Portland and the surrounding areas. Providing photography services for weddings across the U.S. and worldwide. Based in the Pacific Northwest but available for travel worldwide.
Love this! You are a beautiful and talented lady! Also learned a few new things about you!
Gah you are SO KIND! THANK YOU!! And love getting to share a little bit of my story and “why” with my friends and clients 🙂