I honestly don't remember where I first came across the wonderful Sara Coffin, but I do remember when we first met. We collaborated on our very first photoshoot. I, when I was still dabbling in modeling, and of course, her, as the photographer, looking to add some variety to her portfolio. It was a strong, successful collaboration. Sara has a delicacy, grace, and talent about her that makes her marvelous at what she does. I knew after our first shoot, I wanted to continue to work with her in any capacity. She is just the kind of person you want to be around! Of course, that makes her perfect as a candidate to be interviewed for my #peoplewhoinspire series. See what Sara has to say below, let the inspiration flow, and check out some of her amazing photography displayed all throughout the post!
J: Tell the readers the story, albeit the short version, of how you got to where you are today. Did you always want to be a wedding and lifestyle photographer? Or did it happen by chance?
S: Actually, I didn't. I wanted to be, and was for a time, a writer. I had been playing with photography on the side for a few years, having gotten into it after my friend and photographer for the magazine, Sally Gupton, saw some film photos I had taken on Facebook and asked me along on a wedding day. When my job at the magazine ended, I was in no position to start a business, but my only other option - moving - wasn't an option at the time, so I just went for it and started a freelance writing, editing and photography company. Over the years, the writing and editing naturally took a step back and photography pushed forward. I won't mince words: It was hard. I had to work through a lot, learning not just business and photography, because I had no formal training in either, but also quite a few self-confidence issues. It took me years before I felt I was producing anything of value.
J: What inspires you or where do you garner inspiration from?
S: For a long time I looked at Pinterest or Instagram or other photographers' work, wherever I found it. After awhile I realized that constantly looking at other people's work made me feel unhappy with my own, so now I try to look to things that I love for inspiration - food, people, places, words, music. All of these things can influence how you see something; no matter if they're directly related or not, I believe living a life full of things you love translates to your work.
J: Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life to date and why?
S: I loved western movies as a child, getting up on Saturday mornings way too early to watch them before heading out to spend the day living out my own real-life western at a horse barn just down the road from my house. John Wayne was my favorite; I was enamored by his fierceness and his spirit. I'm honestly not one to idolize people - we're all human - but I did look up to him in this way and still do when I need an extra dose of brave.
J: What has been your biggest struggle personally or professionally? How did you endure it?
S: I would say my biggest struggle has been myself. I was always a person that felt like they needed a piece of paper to make them legitimate: a degree, a certificate, something, anything. When I found myself in the middle of a photography business with no knowledge of, or natural mind for, business and no professional photography training, I really struggled with this. My learning curve has been huge, and it took a lot of long years of making average work - and lot of really kind photographer friends bolstering me up - for me to finally realize that an education in anything can come in other forms if you're just willing to do the work.
J: We all have one book or blog that we’d recommend to others as a “must read.” What piece of written word is that for you?
S: There are seriously so many, but since this interview focuses on inspiration, I'd have to say Elizabeth's Gilberts's Big Magic. It's an easy read, full of bit-sized wisdom and revelations, one that you can pick up no matter where you are in your life or creative journey.
J: What is your day to day motto?
S: When I was working for the magazine I interviewed Dale Pollock, a producer, filmmaker, writer, and at the time, Dean of UNCSA's School of Filmmaking. When I asked him about his career he said: I try not to have too much of a plan, and to get out of my own way.
I don't know that he'd remember me or this piece of advice, but it's been my credo ever since. For better or worse, I've never had a business plan, and if I'm interested in something, whether it aligns with my brand or not, I pursue it. It's made my path a bit jagged, but also, so interesting. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
J: If you could leave the readers with one piece of advice to take with them daily, to help them feel inspired, what would it be?
S: Give yourself some grace. A sweet photographer friend told me this years ago when I was struggling to find my place, and it's lived with and empowered me ever since.
Isn't Sara the most inspiring? I mean, oh my goodness, so much motivation and nuggets of wisdom in this session! If you loved hearing from Sara, and want to know more about her, you can follow her on her website, Instagram, or Facebook.
Here she is on the left with her husband and sweet fur baby! How adorable are they?