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Conversations with Holly Kearney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Holly Kearney.

Hi Holly, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
From a really young age, maybe 9 or 10, I always loved documenting. I always wanted the point and shoot cameras at family events so that I could snap as many “candids” as possible before someone took it away from me. I would always take photos of my friends for their Myspace profiles. I don’t even know that a lot of those were super artistic (or even good, really) looking back, but it always felt like an outlet for me. When I started high school, I stumbled into online classes because they offered digital photography classes. I was maybe 14-15 at the time and I didn’t have a camera of my own, but could “check out” cameras through my school’s Photography Club. A few months after starting that class, someone who has come to be very pivotal in my life decided to gift me a camera that she had purchased for herself to document her family. I used that camera until it literally would not turn on anymore. I would charge my friends next to nothing to do photo sessions for them. I also photographed my first wedding around that time, which was so crazy to me.

My junior year of high school, I started working at a local restaurant and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, because I took on a lot in that role, everything else was put on the back burner. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that my partner, Drew, encouraged me to pick up a camera again. I had began working full-time at a local childcare center at the beginning of 2016 but quickly filled all of my free time with photo sessions. In 2017, I photographed my 2nd and 3rd weddings and I think I told every single person that I knew that I could honestly never see myself documenting weddings full time. I loved the lifestyle family sessions, usually done in the clients’ home, and truthfully, I thought I’d end up specializing in that and keeping my day job for forever. Unfortunately, after saying that, all that I got inquiries for…were weddings!! I got some of the craziest opportunities in 2018 and was able to work with some of the most incredible couples for their wedding days and that in itself was enough to solidify specializing in weddings.

In 2018, I had the opportunity to go into photography full-time. I was honestly terrified because financial security is huge for me and I knew that being self-employed was probably as far away from that as you can get. I didn’t grow up in a super wealthy family and so I really wanted to make sure I was able sustain if I were to do it. After some back and forth, I decided to jump headfirst into it. And truthfully? I can’t imagine my life looking any differently than it does right now.

2020 was not kind at all to the wedding industry. I had debated quitting so many times before, not because it was hard work, but because I struggled to view myself in the same regard as I viewed the people in the industry that I admired, I didn’t know how to make myself “feel” like a professional. In fighting through that and feeling like I had a handle on it, came the pandemic. Hands down, 2020 was the hardest year of my life, not only as a small business owner but as a human. In fighting through all of THAT (with the help of some really incredible family and my incredible therapist), I am finally back to that place of loving what I do and continuing to love and serve my couples the best that I can.

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?
I think that my biggest hurdle has always been feeling worthy of the success or recognition. I feel like this rings true for most people who work in creative fields, where their art is how they earn a living. It’s tough but it is some of the most fulfilling work.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a wedding and lifestyle photographer. I specialize in documentary-style photography that empowers people to be comfortable in front of the camera while capturing exactly who they are. I am known for and most proud of my warm, cinematic editing style and my ability to get anybody comfortable in front of my lens. I truly believe that the emphasis that I have put on just caring about my clients, learning who they are, and being able to create photographs that feel like them sets me apart from others in my industry.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I think it’s a good balance. There have definitely been some instances where I believe that my path crossed with someone else’s by pure chance, or good luck, I guess, where I have been really fortunate. Whether that looked like a venue that I’d been dying to work at or a really phenomenal couple that just embodied everything that I’m about. I really thrive when couples are genuine and care more about spending time celebrating with their people rather than traditions or everything being perfect. While the good luck chances have been great, I think it’s equally balanced with the hard work that I’ve put into presenting myself genuinely, in a way that attracts those types of people, as well as creating a community of clients that just want to work with me, regardless of the cost.

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Image Credits
All image credits to Holly Kearney

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