1.Briefly describe what it is you ‘do’:
SH: I feel incredibly lucky that it’s my job to document life, to preserve memories and tell stories. As a photographer, I’m invited into clients homes, or into some of their most intimate moments and do my very best to capture the heart of whats happening. Whether it's a brides wedding day, a simple lifestyle session, or the birth of a child, I consider it an honour to document the beautiful chaos life has to offer.
2. How did you start out and how did you get to where you are today?
SH: I was approaching the end of my fourth year at university, and had accepted a position at teachers college for the fall. Teaching had been the plan for as long as I could remember, so when thoughts of doubt started to creep, I was scared. Photography had unexpectedly overtaken my life in so many ways, and I knew part of me would always wonder if I didn’t give myself the chance to ‘go for it’.
With only three weeks until I was due to leave, I photographed my first wedding and before the night was over I had decided to postpone teachers college for one year. That was 6 years ago this summer.
"There has been a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and failures that have gone on between that faithful summers night and now, but that one decision was truly the start of it all."
3. What has been a highlight for you as a photographer?
SH: Undoubtedly, the biggest highlight of being a photographer is the connections I make with my clients. Some of my closest friends and confidents are past clients, and I consider that to be a tremendous blessing.
4. What was the most awkward thing for you about being a teenager?
SH: During my teenage years, things at home were complicated. And somewhere along the way, I started to believe the lie that the things I’ve had to overcome made me weaker, not stronger. As a young woman, it seemed my only goal at times was to make my life look ‘normal’. It was hard and awkward. Would you believe me now if I said that I wouldn’t trade a single one of those hard experiences, that I am actually grateful for the trials I had to face during those teenage years? They made me strong, and capable, and prepared me for a path I didn’t even know I wanted to take. I promise you, one day your ‘awkward’ will give you purpose.
5. When did you discover what you wanted to do?
SH: The first time I truly knew I wanted to pursue photography, as more than just a passion or hobby, was after my first commissioned session. I was asked by an old friend to take some family portraits, and for the first time, I was going to be paid. Even though it was just $50, which if I’m honest barely covered the gas it took me to get to our location, it was huge validation and opened my eyes to reality that this could be a wonderful opportunity at my door step if I was willing to work really hard for it.
6. Did you ever feel pressure to choose a different career choice?
SH: I certainly felt the pressure to be successful, and initially I’m sure my friends and family were concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make a suitable income doing what I loved. But truthfully, in those early days I was entirely focused on growing my business and getting better at my craft that I never felt any doubt, from within or from others, that being a successful photographer was possible. At this point in my life, I certainly have other passions I would love to pursue, but I can’t imagine a day where photography wouldn’t play a vital role. It’s in my blood.
7. What drives you to do what you do?
SH: I am extremely blessed with friends and family who believe in me relentlessly, and have continually encouraged me in deep, profound ways. I am driven to make those people abundantly proud. If I can show them that their love has made a difference, then all the hard work seems completely and utterly worth it.
8. If you could go back to your teenage years, what is something you wish you could do differently?
SH: It is hard to look back and want to change anything because every embarrassing misstep, mistake, or blunder has landed me where I am today. I wish in many ways that I stressed less, and enjoyed the moment more but I can’t change the past and I’m proud of the opportunities and chances that I took as a young woman.
9. What traits are you most proud of?
SH: I believe whole-heartedly that I’m a resilient and strong, and that makes me proud. Years ago, I would have done anything to wish away parts of my life but truthfully, they’ve formed the best parts of me. The pain you’re feeling can’t ever compare to the joy that’s coming. Take heart in that.
10. Fun fact people may not know about you?
SH: I have the sense of humour of a 12 year old boy. I consider myself to be a well-read, intelligible woman but fart jokes and Will Ferrel will get me every single time.
11.In moments of self-doubt and lack of confidence how do you build yourself back up?
SH: I have a file of saved emails from old clients and teachers/mentors that I look back on during days of heavy doubt. Words mean a lot to me, and when someone takes the time to carefully form a letter, informing me that I’ve done something or produced something meaningful to them, it makes an impact and I treasure that. On the days where I struggle with my confidence, or my abilities, I go back and read those letters.
12. A fear you have had to overcome in order to get to where you are today?
SH: One of my most consuming fears has always been failure. After starting my business, launching my brand and committing to go full time with Taylor Clark Photography, very publicly mind you, I had many crippling fears of failure. It was 100% dependant on me whether or not my company was going to succeed or fail. It felt like an enormous amount of pressure, and initially prevented me from taking any chances. However, you can’t move forward if you’re scared still.
"Taking chances, and even failing, has become a new normal as I’ve ventured entrepreneurship. My mindset has changed since those early days of TCP, today I view failure as not trying, not going for the things I know I’m capable of."
13. What is something that keeps you up at night?
SH: When I let my mind race, many thoughts that essentially revolve around ‘am I enough?’ can keep me up at night. Did I work hard enough today? Am I pushing myself enough? Am I relevant or trendy enough? Have I made my friends and family proud enough?
14. What is a piece of advice you have always held with you?
SH: The best piece of advice I ever got was from one of my favourite authors, Shondra Rhimes. She published a book a few years ago called ‘The Year of Yes’, and up until that time I had prided myself on being a dreamer. But in the first few chapters, Shondra made it clear that dreamers end up in their parents basement because they couldn’t afford rent. Her sentiment was be a doer, not a dreamer. Go out, take chances, don’t be afraid of failure. DO.
15. Something you wish you knew and understood when you were a teenage girl.
SH: I wish I knew that all my plans were going to fall apart, and that truly, I would be better for it.
16. Name a woman past or present whom you admire or look up to?
SH: The late Maya Angelou has been a hero of mine for years. Her words have impacted the hearts of millions, her quiet strength and determination changed minds, and her writing left a forever impact on my life.
To learn more about Steph and to view her work, visit her website:
taylorclarkphotography.com (click on the logo)
To Steph: Thank you for participating in this project, for your transparency, exposing authentic passion and wisdom. May a young girl come across this post and say to herself "If she can, I can."
We wish you the best of luck as you turn every dream into a chapter of your story, and as you crush every obstacle that tries to stop you.
- Tattered Tiaras