Inspire Speaker: Rachel Avery Conley

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In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2014. Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Avery Conley of The Photographer's Blogger who will be leading a workshop on Combining Your Web Presence into One Place: Using Wordpress as a Content Management System

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Becoming a parent is a defining moment in life under the best circumstances. For me, becoming a parent helped me to define myself as a woman and as an artist, and it didn’t happen in the frenetic, fast-paced movement of everyday life, but instead in the quiet moments of waiting that I was forced into when my pregnancy went awry and my baby was born almost 7 weeks early.

Life before baby was a whirl of business building, networking and getting outside of my comfort zone. I had recently left a nice safe administrative job at MIT to start a full time photography business. I set out to learn as much as I could, I apprenticed, I assisted, I ran photo booths. I attended Inspire 2011. I was out building community and shooting as much as I could. My husband and I were a year into our marriage and started talking about children more concretely, and life was full of exciting possibilities. I never thought a pregnancy would interfere with my life as a businessperson & photographer. I knew women shooting weddings well into their third trimester.

Then it happened, we were expecting!

Almost immediately I was very very sick. I had to stop working as much and started being unable to make my work commitments. Then I was on official bed rest at 17 weeks, I had a hernia at 27 weeks and my little guy was born at 33 weeks. I moved home with my mother so she could care for me while my husband went back and forth to work. I didn’t have the energy to create images.

On his second day of life, my mom asked me to take a picture of her holding him. I realized I wanted to capture this moment. Inside I was emotionally torn, feeling guilt, love, fear, joy, but I wanted to remember it. I only had my phone for that moment, but the next day I brought my camera to the hospital. I was rusty, the camera felt strange in my hands and I knew I was a totally different person. But I wanted these memories, and even though the light was awful, my hands were shaky, and I didn’t feel like I was going to capture anything good, I took the pictures.

Life in a hospital is a lot of waiting and all I wanted to do was hold him, to make up for the fact that he was not still safe and snug inside like he was supposed to be. I studied him, his features, his fingers, his toes. I would watch the light pass though our hospital room and find the sunny spots to sit in with him. Every once in a while I would pick up the camera and capture an image. I knew this was the beginning of a lifetime of taking his picture, and I wanted to get to know him from every angle in my mind and in my camera.

After 22 days, we were allowed to bring him home. Life sped back up and a new normalcy crept in. We were parents, and eventually I was able to start my business back up again. He is now a happy & healthy toddler! I will always remember our quiet times together and I try to slow down and observe the moment while I am taking pictures of any subject.

While I hope that no one goes through what I went through, I do hope that every once in a while, you stop – really stop – and watch the light move through your space, or stare at a child’s expression or a pet’s whiskers, or smell a flower. Then you pick up your camera and try to feel that moment in your own way. You will be amazed at what happens.

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