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Leah Offutt

Maryland

Luxury Boudoir

Photographer

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My Why and Heart of My Business

by | Apr 28, 2021 | Leah's Blog

Discovering My Why and The Heart of My Business

A photographer often gets asked why they went into business.  The stories will vary.  Some will say they notice the details in things and photography helps them see the world differently as they notice small details like light, color, shapes, textures, etc. Some might say photography helps them focus on something other than the stress in their everyday life when they lose themselves in shooting.  Some might also say it is a passion that they enjoy sharing with others and can pass their craft on for generations to come. A popular reason people get started in photography is to document their family, especially their children. I have noticed there are photographers out there that get their start because they love traveling and documenting their adventures. What better souvenir to bring home than photos from your trip?  The photos remind you of that moment in time and can take you back there. There are so many more reasons why photographers got started.    So many of these I notice apply to me.  I feel like I got started in photography for so many different reasons, but what is my WHY?  What is my driving force behind my business every day?  Where does my heart come from for what I do? This is my why and the heart of my business…

 

I was a teacher in my previous life.  I taught grades K-3.  My husband and I had a son, Jake, in June of 2000 who was absolutely perfect! I stayed home with him until he went to first grade.  I was so very lucky to have had the opportunity to stay home with him.  We made hard sacrifices for me to do so but I would not trade any of it because I was given the best moments and the chance to be with Jake every day.  I went back to teaching in 2006 as well and loved it.  Why, you ask? I loved the kids and watching them grow as readers and learners.  Could any of this, any of these moments be a part of my why and the heart of my business?

Jake was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in 2014 and it really makes you stop and look at your life, what truly matters, and what you want for the future.  You can read more about Jake’s story, at the bottom of the page on About Leah or at The Jake Offutt Foundation.  Things became different after Jake passed.  Over the years teaching changed, the demands on teachers changed, the level of respect towards teachers changed and the support of teachers changed.  Why? I don’t know.  I don’t know how it happened, but teaching wasn’t what it used to be.  I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do the rest of my life.  My camera was still a constant in my life.  It had always traveled to school with me for special days.  I took pictures of kids and made calendars for parents as Christmas gifts, so fun!  I think I always knew my future would involve a camera.  As I was taking photography classes I would take pictures in my classroom or of the kids outside at recess to fulfill homework for my classes.  Why? It was truly a passion for me.  I feel like a lot of this shaped me.  It molded me and helped me discover what the why and heart of my business would become.  I believe it was always there, I just didn’t know how to identify it with words.  But, it was right there in front of me in pictures.  

 

My DSLR camera always felt like it was a part of me from the time I bought my first one as I shared in my previous blog post, A Camera Documents the Present, when Jake was an infant and I could no longer capture his quick movements.  I wanted to capture it all.  I didn’t want to miss a moment of him growing up.  Why? Perhaps God knew what was ahead and was teaching me to document his life with the camera and enjoy moments with him.  For whatever reason, Jake has and always will be the WHY AND HEART of my business.  For years, I photographed Jake.  Most of the time just having fun and being silly.  At the age of five he began taking karate lessons with Tristar Martial Arts and I would photograph his promotions and graduations.  I was always the proud mom with her nice camera at every event, field trip, birthday party, holiday, etc.  I can’t help but think back to all those times now and thank God for allowing me the opportunity to afford a nice camera so that I have such wonderful memories to look back on when I am able to.  It is still so hard to see his sweet face in pictures and not be able to touch it in person.

 

In 2019, I was really put through a lot with the school system.  I am a firm believer in dates as signs.  I was called by the school system on the date of Jake’s brain tumor diagnosis.  I took that as Jake telling me it was time to get out of teaching.  Things could have easily been solved had I been shown respect and support.  But I wasn’t.  This gave me perspective.  Why? It showed me that this was not what I wanted to do any longer.  These were not the people I wanted to work for.  Life is too short to just continue in a job that you are no longer respected in nor in love with any longer.  So, I got out with my husband’s blessing and I started Leah Offutt Photography in 2020.

 

When we learned that Jake had brain cancer, I could have put my camera down, but I didn’t.  I did not stop documenting.  My camera stayed at the hospital with us.  Why? I photographed his head after his 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and all the way up to his 8th brain surgery.  I photographed every aspect of his hospital room from his room number to his IV machines to his external drain after his brain aneurysm to his sweet big hands and feet.  I documented his first steps after being in a hospital bed for weeks.  I documented his physical therapy sessions and occupational therapy sessions.  I documented visitors that came to see him and so much more.  My reason for doing so was to show him what he had been through when he beat cancer.  Unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to have that outcome.  So now I have those pictures as reminders of what our warrior went through and how brave and strong he was.  A dear friend documented his last day with us and those pictures are gut wrenching to look at knowing what was ahead.

 

THIS IS MY  WHY  AND HEART  of my business.  This is why I do EVERYTHING in life.

 

Jake taught so many people so many things.  I learned to be brave and jump.  Do something I love because life is too short, and tomorrow isn’t promised.  Every decision I make for the business, I think of Jake.  For that reason, 10% of all final purchases go to The Jake Offutt Foundation.  Why? This allows us to help families and children affected by pediatric cancer and keep Jake’s memory alive. I am also planning a project down the road for pediatric oncology patients, but I have a way to go.  It is too early to discuss at this time, but Jake is the driving force behind the project.

So, when you ask me, “what is your why and heart of your business?  Where does your drive come from for what you do?”  My answer is and always will be, J A K E !

Click here for information on Tristar Martial Arts Academy of Mount Airy.