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Life & Work with Clare (JoAnna) Lewis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Clare (JoAnna) Lewis.

Hi Clare, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My story starts back on the other side of the country. I grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania named Hollidaysburg, and I attended college at a small liberal arts school named Juniata College. I studied and earned my Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology and Spanish/Hispanic Cultures. After graduation, I worked as an archaeologist in cultural resource management around central and western Pennsylvania for nearly a year. While I truly appreciated the science and the work of being an archaeologist, I was left feeling unsatisfied with my career and was honestly a little heartbroken that I didn’t love archaeology as much as I thought I did. Realizing that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do or try next, I decided to go big and move across the country. I packed up my car with my belongings and headed west with my destination set to sunny Long Beach, California.

Since moving to Long Beach nearly four and a half years ago, I’ve worked as a bartender, gymnastics instructor, birthday party coordinator, contract writer, film production assistant, REI retail associate, social media coordinator, photography assistant, and eventually, a photographer. As I worked all of these different jobs, testing the different waters, I learned so many things about myself and what I actually wanted in life. From archaeology to bartending to REI, each one has taught me something valuable and helped me to evolve as an entrepreneur and creative. Throughout this period of job hopping, my passion for photography began to blossom. Photography started as a hobby of mine after I was introduced to rock climbing when I arrived in California. I fell in love with the sport and simultaneously fell in love with photography and the idea of capturing climbers as they danced on the rock. When I wasn’t on the clock, I was constantly traveling to new places to rock climb and I was just continuing to practice photography as a hobby, not ever thinking I could actually make a career out of it. I was bartending at the time when I randomly landed my first job as a paid photographer.

I was working at a local bar in Long Beach and an old manager overheard me talking about rock climbing photography to a coworker. He immediately asked if I’d be interested in taking photos for the bar and just like that, my journey working as a paid a photographer began. I was responsible for styling and taking photos of cocktails and entrees for the bar’s social media and website marketing. I was surprised by how quickly I fell in love with the whole process and eventually realized that I could be creating for other businesses and different products too. Eventually, the time came when I felt like I had learned everything I could from the position I was working so I decided to take the leap and quit my job so I could pursue freelancing full time. Since then in the past year, I’ve been able to develop and launch my freelancing business and despite Covid-19, I’ve been able to continue creating images for businesses by working remotely in my studio at home. I guess I could say that the story of how I found myself in photography is a long one, but my story as a photographer is just barely starting.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not exactly. My biggest struggles occurred after the tragic loss of my father when he took his own life in 2017. For several years, I was unable to envision a future for myself because I was so lost in my grief. His death hit me really hard. I struggled with setting goals and making even the tiniest decisions became difficult for me to do. That was when photography became much more important to me. Photography became my main creative outlet and it honestly was one of the few things that brought me joy during that dark period. After I was offered the job to photograph cocktails at the bar, that’s when I felt like I had a purpose again. Photography taught me how to make creative decisions and see things differently, in a more positive light. In fact, it literally taught me how to see light again and appreciate light in all the way it can be seen.

Really sorry to hear about your loss and can only imagine how difficult that must have been.  It is definitely inspiring to hear about how photography played a role in helping you bring some positivity back into your life and so maybe we can explore that and your career a bit more? Can you talk to us a bit about what you are currently focused on professionally?
I’m a photographer who specializes in commercial product stills and stop motions. I also consider myself a creative director, animator, stylist, entrepreneur, and writer. I work with businesses and brands to design, compose, and capture unique stills and stop motion animations of their products for marketing and advertising use. On the side, I have a blog and a YouTube channel where I share educational posts and vlogs. Recently because of social distancing and Covid-19 I’ve been creating more self-portraiture work, which I’d really like to expand upon next year.

Other than being proud of every photo and animation I create, I am currently most proud of a blog post that I wrote back in July. It’s a post about how to tether a Sony camera to Lightroom, which is a tricky process thanks to some silly little touchy details within the Sony software. I didn’t anticipate for the post to go viral, but since then it’s been ranked by Google as one of the first articles to come up when someone searches how to tether a Sony camera. For the past several months, my blog has had views from people in different countries from all over the world every day. I’m so stoked to think that an article I wrote has been able to help fellow photographers all over the world and it has inspired me to continue making educational content.

I find myself in an industry full of really talented photographers and creatives. I think what sets me apart from others is thanks to previously being an archaeologist, I have the patience to work tediously and maintain extreme attention to detail. I think my knowledge of studio lighting sets me apart too because being able to control my light sources allows me to create some really clean and seamless stop motions.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I think being open to trying new things and having the drive to continue educating myself have been the qualities most important to my success so far. If you want to grow, you have to be open and vulnerable to taking risks with the possibility of failure. You have to be ruthless and be willing to put in the time to make your goals happen.

Contact Info:

Image Credits

All images by Clare JoAnna Photography

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