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Conversations with the Inspiring Sarah Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Williams.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I spent my young years roaming in a small desert town in the Mojave. I climbed a lot of trees, spent time in the sun catching lizards and playing make-believe. I had a lot of freedom. I could go wherever I wanted and as long as I was home before dark no one batted an eyelash. In high school, I moved to Las Vegas and developed a love for photography that allowed me to show the beauty I found in my world because I had a hard time with verbal expression. Red Rock Canyon was within 20 minutes of my house and looking back, that beautiful place and my time spent there gave birth to my love of natural spaces — a love that would grow and stay with me.

In 2008, I moved to Savannah, GA to elevate my photography by attending Savannah College of Art and Design. I learned the ins and outs of film photography, studio lighting, photo history, and theory. I got my BFA and left school with an extensive knowledge of the language of photography, but hadn’t yet found my voice.

I then moved to L.A. and started working in one of the best restaurants in Santa Monica, Tar & Roses. Hospitality is a passion of mine because it translates into how I connect with my subjects when photographing them. My time in LA has been deeply exploratory. I needed that time and space to build myself, discover, and strengthen who I was. I joined CrossFit Hollywood and worked on my physical body while at the same time seizing any opportunity to grow and develop my mind. My self-growth journey led me back to nature. Just a stones throw away from the most beautiful beaches, mountains, forests, and deserts — L.A. is hard to beat, geographically. I liked exercising in the outdoors because it reunited me with the freedom I once had as a child and allowed me to explore more surrounding areas. I started with local day hikes at Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon, and participated in all the local Obstacle Course Races and month by month, I set my sights higher to bigger physical challenges in the beautiful playground we live in. In 2015, I funded a trip to Iceland and a few months later I solo backpacked the John Muir Trail (220 miles from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mt. Whitney) and it was a combination of those two experiences where I discovered my voice. My two passions grew independently of one another, but when the time was right my love of photography and my thirst for adventure merged effortlessly. Since then, I’ve backpacked hundreds of miles, summited a few alpine peaks, survived 6 days in a pitch black cave with no light, food or warmth — and developed skills in rock climbing, mountaineering, snowboarding, mindfulness, cold water therapy, and yoga. In a nutshell, I’ve spent the past 3 years developing my eye for photography, my body fits for the elements and my mind for the unknown. I pursue experiences that challenge me to be a stronger photographer and individual in order to thrive in and document any situation I am faced with.

To continue the journey, in 3 months, I am taking off for my biggest adventure yet… walking the length of New Zealand’s North and South islands and photographing the process and the people I meet along the way.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s a funny feeling talking about my story because I believe I am still in the infancy of my career and I have not yet arrived in societal success. The path that I am on isn’t really a path at all. It’s a journey of learning that isn’t marked by preexisting milestones. I did go to college, but I didn’t fall into a career. I fell into a path of uncertainty, and I am still floating around using my heart and intuition to navigate. There isn’t someone to ask permission to do what I want to do or even someone I’ve met to ask advice on how to do it. I’ve been looking for a mentor, but coming up short and instead of making the most of the experiences I have with every person I am lucky enough to spend time with. Being present with other people and learning from them, even in quick interactions has yielded most of the opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to have.

Growing up, I saw countless examples of women being treated as the weaker sex and that a woman’s success was directly linked to her physical beauty. It was incredibly subliminal and because I was an awkward chubby girl I believed I had no value. I spent the first part of my life dispelling this false belief and finding my confidence. I finally found it when I discovered my passions in life that were greater than my perceived physical attraction — my talents, my vision, my capabilities and the way I can serve and how I can make others feel. I’ve learned how to use the greatest aspects of feminine energy for good, often the ones criticized in media and comedy.

The other big obstacle I’ve encountered is how to financially lead the life that I do. I would not call myself established, yet. Which means that every trip I take is self-funded, and I have to have a job where I can make enough money, but then be able to take time off of various lengths, at almost any moment. I am thankful for my restaurant job because it has afforded me exactly that. Photography can be an expensive pursuit, especially since I have found myself with damaged equipment on more than one occasion as a result of photographing in unfavorable conditions. You learn how to get creative with keeping your gear safe, and for financially recovering when things turn south.

What should we know about Sky Williams Media? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I believe that our connection to nature is vital, so I set out to capture the ways in which people discover and strengthen that relationship. I focus on outdoor activities, exploring, and general storytelling. I am a young adventure photographer and I have two overarching ambitions. First, to be an expedition photographer who can thrive in any environment on earth and meaningfully tell the stories of people who are pushing the limits of the human spirit. I travel with groups of people who are well established in their outdoor pursuits to learn from and share their experiences with people “back home” who feel a yearning in their life but don’t know how to answer it. Second, I aspire to inspire people who have spent their entire lives in developed cities by bringing them into the wilderness and introducing them to parts of themselves and this world that they never knew existed. I arrange and lead groups of people together for trips into the backcountry to give them an experience that can’t be had in the city. One that infuses their life with richness and reinvigorates their curiosity, joy, and passion for their chosen pursuits. I don’t care what field someone is in… time outside challenges inspires and reunites every human to their essential self which will help with any path or navigating the uncertainty of trailblazing a new one. I believe that it is not a single person responsibility to change the world at large, but it is each of our responsibilities to independently live out our own truth. In doing so and following our unique journies, we will be the first domino in the movement that creates change for our generation.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
If I could give advice to every young woman out there it would be this: Inside and outside of your business, career or chosen path — never stop developing who you are as a human. Learn how to be an explorer and always stay curious. Be present for yourself and in every conversation you have with others. Seek to understand before being understood. Be good to your body, and develop your connection to it and your breath. Your breath is your anchor and it can get you through almost anything. Our emotions are what set us apart and our intuition is a beautiful gift. Learn how to show up to life’s challenges with grace and don’t be afraid to be afraid. Learn how to be alone, because that’s where the richness of self-discovery lies. Know that the way you view the world isn’t the only way to see it. Life is built on perception, and you can change it at any moment. Be adaptable because the one sure thing in life is change. Welcome it, don’t fight it. Learn how to let go of the old in favor of the new. Check in with yourself truthfully and only do the things you truly want and be ok with the fact that what you want will change. Show your loveliness and kindness to everyone around you… and one last thing… SPEND MORE TIME OUTSIDE!!!

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Image Credit:

Sarah Williams

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