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Meet Melanie White of MKW Portraits in East Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie White.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Melanie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in east LA near USC. I have always been drawn to art, but more specifically drawing objects, animals, and people. I remember the first time I realized I could make money from doing art was in middle school when my school bus driver would give me $20 to draw him any animal I wanted. I don’t remember how many drawings I did, but it was my first loose introduction commission work.

From that point on, I began focusing on drawing portraits in my free time and began to take it more seriously in high school. In high school, I was able to really explore different mediums and with the help of some really cool art professor, I began to find my niche and what styles I enjoyed practicing. I participated in a few high school exhibitions and they give me a lot of motivation to keep going with my art practice. In college, I got interested in drawing portraits with a pen, after scrolling through Instagram and seeing other portraits done with a pen. I seemed like a great challenge to take on and I kind of just stuck with it for a couple of years. The pen portraits led me to where I am now with photography. While doing pen portraits, I ran into a problem of wanting my own images to drawing portraits from versus using images of other photographers. My main concern was copyright issues.

During my second year of Undergrad, I started going around campus asking strangers if I could take a picture of them using my iPhone. At the time, I did not have a camera I could use, so I figured why not use what I have. Surprisingly, the response was 90%, yes and 10% no. Most people were super open-minded about it and did not mind at all. Going up to strangers taught me a lot about having self-confidence as a photographer and knowing how to communicate ideas in my head to someone else. Eventually, I ended up renting a camera from the art department on campus, which helped me get more confident with a camera and having more control than what I was used to when taking pictures with an iPhone. My focus was mostly on trying to understand how the camera worked in a way that benefited me. Now my focus is on storytelling while still learning new ways of using my camera.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I believe my process with art and photography has been smooth on the outside. The struggles have more so been within. It’s been a learning process for me to just have enough confidence and fearlessness to reach out to people. I have a tendency to be in my head and overthink what I should do. My journey specifically with photography has been learning to do understand that I have nothing to lose from trying. I would much rather try than to regret not trying at all.

I also think a lot of times as artist and as people, in general, we compare our work to other artists. We are all different and If I want to be where someone else is I have to put in the work. I try to let other artists motivate me versus make me doubt my ability.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about MKW Portraits – what should we know?
MKW Portraits is the name of anything I do that is photography related. My primary goal with my portraits is to make my clients see the beauty that I see. I really like to emphasize self-love in my personal life and in my work. I love things that feel personal and vulnerable. I am trying to push my work to make people feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of the camera. I want to tell genuine stories and moments in my work so that people know when they work with me, they are going to get an experience that is genuine and authentic.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Most of my journey has been me navigating the ups and downs alone, but I always grateful to friends and family that book me or tell a friend about what I do. It means a lot to know there are people out there who put in good words for me even when I am not around. The love and support always keep me going.


  • Portrait Photography: 30 min session (1 outfit, 1 location, 10 photos, 1 print) $80
  • Portrait Photography: 1 hour session (2 outfits, 2 locations, 15-20 photos, 2 prints) $120
  • Facetime Photography: 40 min session $50
  • Facetime Photography: 90 min session $70

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