Today we’d like to introduce you to Ilene Squires.
Ilene, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my career in Education Reform in NYC, after spending a year abroad after college. At the time, I was very much into community organizing and activism and wanted to use my youth to help others. So, I applied (and was accepted too!) a program called, Teach For America where I was sent to the South Bronx to teach Bilingual, Special Education Kindergarten and earn an MS in Bilingual Early Childhood Education.
Subsequently, I went on to become a founder of a charter school in Harlem, a school administrator, a nonprofiteer, and an instructor of photography. Working in schools allowed me a lot of time off which I took advantage of and traveled extensively to the third world and beyond. I’d studied film as an undergrad and was really moved by new faces and places; I lived to tell and retell beautiful, untold and bold stories with my camera. Friends took notice and encouraged me to apply to photo school. On my path to MFA, which I never ended up getting, I met a dark room instructor who took me under her wing as an apprentice for a year.
That was in 2009 and in 2010, I started my own company, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I took the leap into full time freelancing. NYC is an extremely expensive and competitive place to live and work but I thrived in that environment. In 2016, while 35 weeks pregnant, my husband accepted a job here in LA, the place where I grew up. Here I am two years later with a toddler and officially running the bicoastal business I always hoped for. It certainly is no cake walk but it is extremely gratifying to be my own boss.
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?
Funny that I left off the previous question responding to this questions! In short, no, it has not. I worked a full-time job for 3 years while simultaneously running my photo business. My husband works in finance and though he is the tip top champion for my business, neither of us comes with a trust fund or the money needed to take the risks I’ve seen a lot of my peers make over the years. Having financial security is really important to building a thriving business. So being prudent meant financing my photo work with a full-time job until the photo business starting turning an equal or greater profit.
Most businesses see a loss in the first 3 – 5 years and seeing how a photo was no exception (investing in equipment and styled shoots cost money!), I worked 7 days a week for 3 years. Working like that was definitely a lot easier to do when I wasn’t yet a mother!
Moving coasts unexectedly also presented new challenges for me. Since the move was largely unplanned, it was almost as if I was starting over. And to be really honest, it has been more than 2 years and I only feel like I am starting to get my footing in this market. I’m a firm believer in two things: 1.) If you can make it in NYC you can make it anywhere and 2.) mistakes are part of the growing pains of being a boss lady.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Ilene Squires Photography – what should we know?
I was motivated to become a photographer because I’d largely consider myself a storyteller. In essence, I’d say my style is much more timeless and photojournalistic. With a focus on children, families, fetes, and brands, my photo niche is definitely environmental portraiture. I live to translate a client’s creative vision into a single photograph or a small collection of photographs. Whether it is for their business, wedding or baby, I know my work is consistent. And for that matter, so is my service, which is something clients never forget.
In NYC, I spent much of time maintaining and attracting a clientele that would consider themselves marginalized by mainstream media – people of color, if you will. My goal is always to find the beauty in everything and to be as authentic as possible when I am shooting, which is hard nowadays with social media. I’m very proud of this because I spent a lot of my own youth looking for faces in the media that looked like mine, yet I hardly ever found them. So, to be able to create these sort of living legacies for people with a similar life experience fulfills me.
Children bring a lot of joy to those around them and with my background in early childhood education, I find that I naturally gravitate towards small kids and their families.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Authenticity is a term that is trending at the moment but I think it goes a long way in business. My work is extremely intimate often times in a client’s home or place of work. For them, to reveal the true essence of who they are to the camera, it can take some time and doesn’t always come immediately. With the current force and influence of social media, it’s hard to distinguish reality from fiction. I find most people seek out a photographer who can capture their best self, which is easier said than done. I’m not interested in telling fake stories, I’m interested in telling real stories about real people. And, because I am a straight shooter, not typical of a native-born California girl, people lend their trust to me sooner, allowing me to tell their authentic stories to larger audiences.
- Portrait and Lifestyle sessions begin at $500
- Branding sessions begin at $750
- Weddings begin at $3000
- Events begin at $250/hr with a 2 hr. minimum
- I offer mini sessions once a year, usually in the fall that run about $200/ 30 min
- Website: www.ilenesquiresphotography.com
- Phone: 212.694.8934
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: ilene_squires_photo
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilenesquiresphotography/
Ilene Squires Photography