Today we’d like to introduce you to Carolina Adame.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Carolina. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My start in photography came out of a need to let go of a life that was being lived for others. I had just gotten out of a long relationship, had let go of a home, called off a wedding, and found myself with an overwhelming need to spend time with myself. Photography felt extremely therapeutic. At the time, I hadn’t realized that there was actually a world out there on the internet full of tutorials, blogs, and free education. I bought books! I self-taught myself and made a million mistakes doing so. Once I learned that there was a whole world of photographers out there with blogs and sessions for all to see, I did as they did. I photographed babies in baskets and football helmets. I was busy but burned out. My work was not a reflection of who I was or what spoke to me. Being inauthentic taught me to dig deep and ask myself why I wanted to be a family photographer. Finding my “why” has taken years to figure out.
While I was pregnant with my first child, my sister was pregnant with her third. After watching the documentary “The Business of Being Born” we both felt the call to have home births. She was 35 weeks pregnant at the time, and I was 33 weeks. We found the most amazing midwife, and we were physically healthy, strong, and capable. Her labor was extremely fast and I soon went from being birth photographer to baby catcher. As I was preparing to call the midwife to drive over, my sister came out of the restroom with the bathroom mat in her hand. She threw it on the floor of my mother’s dining room, knelt down on all fours, and yelled out, “Pull down my underwear!”. I was 38 weeks pregnant, I took the deepest breath of my life and told my baby she better stays right where she was.
As I pulled down her underwear from behind, (I’m on the phone with the midwife this whole time), my sister yelled out, “What if this baby comes now?”. With every bone shaking in my body, I said, “I got this, he can come.” What happened next was the most earthy, loud, floor shaking, roar that escaped my sister’s body. My nephew shot out so fast, his umbilical cord broke right then and there. His cry was glorious and healthy and strong, and I held life in my hands. I followed my midwife’s clear directions to place “the dinosaur looking claws” on the cord, and she quickly arrived maybe 3 minutes later.
That experience, along with my own home birth, changed my life. It was as if God was saying, “Wake up! There is a life out there you are not living. Be brave enough to create a life that gives you meaning, that brings YOU joy.”
It hasn’t happened over night, but I’m slowly getting there. Three years after that experience, I chose to leave my full-time career as a classroom teacher. I taught at a public school for 17 years. It was extremely hard to give up what I had done, what seemed like, most of my life. I worked 10 to 11-hour days, like most of the teachers did at my school. We were a very tight knit community, and once I became a mom I leaned on that community to help me get through the overwhelming first years of motherhood. Teachers are really great at taking care of teachers. They will always have a special place in my heart. But I couldn’t swallow the system. I couldn’t swallow in the inequalities that Latino students experienced simply because of location and lack of money. Every year, I was disappointed and disillusioned by the lack of advancements within our schools. I was giving 150%. Did I make a difference? There is no doubt. Every teacher at my school made a difference. But they were tired, worn out, not taken care of. I saw amazing teachers who were retiring early because they couldn’t handle the stress. I saw teachers who wished they could retire but couldn’t afford it. These teachers are my heroes. They give a thousand percent even though the system is not taking care of them. I felt like the system loved money, not teachers. Though I feel blessed to live in a country that offers free public education to our children, I believe it is our right to have equity and equality in our public-school system.
So, after 17 years, I chose to leave the traditional classroom. I began to close the door to all that did not reciprocate the love and passion I put forth and began to create a life that felt authentic to me and my family.
Along with being a family photographer, I began working as an educational facilitator for homeschooling families. I have a roster of 30 students that I visit monthly. I am proud to say that some of these families are immigrant Latino families that have also chosen to demand more from a system that was failing them. These students experienced trauma, bullying, and racism. Before homeschooling, these families attended traditional public schools. They patiently waited for a system to fix itself and tried their best to help fix it by volunteering their time at their children’s schools. But they needed more. Overcrowded classrooms and not enough support to address the declining mental health of these students was overwhelming. Parents cannot fix it alone, teachers cannot fix it alone. Success continues to be measured in a way that shows up only in test scores and developmentally inappropriate state standards.
From these inequalities come Latino homeschooling families which are a new breed, but a beautiful thing to witness. They are creating individualized family-oriented education for each of their children that includes all that is beautiful about the culture. I don’t want to over romanticize it. It is hard work and it is a big commitment. Many families have to make huge financial sacrifices in order for homeschooling to work. But these sacrifices are what makes it worth it. Seeing your child light up when they discover how to build something instead of being disappointed for not finishing it in time or having your child speak confidently about a subject instead of worrying about what others might think or what grade they will get if they don’t say the right thing. This is why we chose to sacrifice.
Every aspect of my life is an extension on the other. Photography, education, birth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, my culture. They are all connected. I know what brings me joy, and work with families that have similar values.
It’s amazing how the universe works, and what God brings into your life once you are in alignment with your true values. A friend that I had not seen for more than 10 years came into my life again when I began to get more involved in the birth community. She had an idea to begin Latina Mothers Collaborative, a group of professional Latinas who offer services that foster a positive and empowering journey onto motherhood. I now serve as co-chair to LMC and have help lead workshops on breastfeeding, bilingual education, and homeschooling.
Great, 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?
Once I made the decision to shoot in a way that felt most authentic to me, it made it easier to find clients who find value in my work. I’ve definitely struggled learning the ins and outs of running a business and have learned to give myself grace in that area. Like many first-generation Latinos, I come from two hard working immigrant parents who were not taught to dream beyond coming to this country and having a stable income. There was no room to do so. When I first told my parents, I wanted to be a photographer, there was definite hesitation. I think any field that goes beyond the traditional brings fear and doubt, from a place of love and concern. My parents came to this country out of necessity and worked most of their lives so that our generation would be able to begin that cycle of being able to dream. I will now be able to pass that on to my children. That is one of the reasons both my sister and I chose to homeschool. I don’t want any educational system leaving my children behind, and certainly not because of where they came from. I have the privilege of working hard and showing my daughters how to dream, to make the world their classroom! I am showing them how to create a life full of intention based on what they have to bring to this world, not their shortcomings.
Please tell us about Carolina Adame Photography.
I photograph families in their homes. In a place that they have worked hard to fill with authentic love and beautiful, real moments. My style is a gray area between lifestyle and photojournalistic. I place families in the parts of their home that holds the most amazing light and let them love on each other. My best sessions come from families that are present, that love the everyday, that value artistic images full of emotion, and that dare to be transparent with their version of love. Mothers are always at the heart of my sessions. A wonderful woman once told me, “Una mama es el sol de la familia.” I am here to tell this story of the love that SHE has created. That’s why I like to photograph everyday moments. It’s in the everyday where she creates that love. Only she can speak her truth and show us her journey. Whether it’s a newborn session, or a family session, I love to shoot it all in their home. That is what feels most authentic to me and what drives me as an artist.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I was about 8 years old. I needed a new pair of school shoes. My mom was working that night, so it was up to my dad to take me shoe shopping. Catholic school meant my choices were pretty limited- Black, not cute, and either laced or some kind of velcro craziness. Don’t judge, it was the 80’s. I knew that going shoe shopping with my dad was my chance to get shoes that I wanted to wear. This included patent leather, some sort of rhinestone/bow clip on, and they were probably going to be totally unsafe for school.
Purchasing anything with my dad was a process. Once, when he took me to buy my backpack (bookbag in those days) I had to try it on, walk up and down the aisle of the swap meet, and listen to the vendor convince my dad this was the one that would last me all year. It was navy blue and looked like a boy’s backpack. So not cute. There were never any impulse buys at our house. Everything was bought “con calma.”
So, there we are in the middle of Payless looking for my school shoes. It didn’t take long for me to find them. Slip on, shiny, and bow-fabulous. I tried on a few other pairs making obvious “these won’t work faces” until finally slipping into the got to have shoes. As I walked around the entire store for the Dad test, I was extremely careful not to let him see how slippery these were. I had to curl my toes so they would stay snug and not accidentally slip off my heel, ruining my plan. “Are you sure you can wear those to school?” This was the only question my dad asked. After lots of pleading and begging, I was the new owner of the most adorable, smooth as glass patent “leather” shoes.
The next morning could not come fast enough! They looked great with white twice folded socks. Obviously, my feet were creatively kept out of my mom’s view as I got ready for school. Flash to the next scene: Recess and kickball. When it was my turn to kick, I knew this had not been good idea. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say there was a shoe flown in the air and a bloody nose involved. My mom marched me right back to Payless that night and bought me ugly shoes with no hesitation on my part.
Throughout my life my dad has been a man of few words and has taught me all I needed to know through his actions and examples. He has allowed me to make many mistakes, and I’ve learned from them (and continue to learn) without judgement. Thinking back on my shiny shoes, I know now that my dad wasn’t an idiot.
- Website: Carolinaadame.com
- Phone: 5626181844
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/carolina_adame
Carolina Adame Photography