Developing a Career in Photography: Lorinda Clarke Points and Shoots a Life For Herself
“I'm taking my time. If I have to do one photo at a time, I think I will,” says Lorinda Clarke, a Winnipeg-based photographer who has big dreams and a fifteen year plan to make them happen. She had a positive upbringing, raised by parents who have been married for over two decades, living in a small community near the Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota borders.
She experienced rural living, tourists, boating, fishing, hunting and life on a lake. She was educated in a day school and her family brought her there by snowmobile, quad and boat. Her family relocated to Vancouver Island and her world expanded. “It really taught me there's just so much out there,” she recalls, thinking about all the cultures she was exposed to. Her parents raised her to do whatever she wanted in life and living by the ocean was a dream they long had for themselves. Five years later, her family moved to Winnipeg, where she’s been for over twenty years. Her kids are learning to fly fish and smoke beaver.
Growing up, Clarke struggled with being shy at school, but forced herself to put herself out there because she didn’t like being labeled that way. She volunteered in her community and improved her communication skills. Another barrier she faced was being targeted with racism, something she overcame by learning more about other cultures and opening up her social circle to kids from a variety of backgrounds. Something else that helped was her participation in a cultural program offered by the Canadian Forces.
“That, to me, was my turning point and me really falling in love with my culture. I felt power and like, I'm allowed to be who I am,” she recalls. For six weeks, elders stayed with the participants, speaking in their language, praying for them, doing sweats and sharing circles and building teepees together. She struggled with wanting to go home and the elders said, “You're here, you're doing it. And we're proud of you. You're representing your country.”
They did a grand entry for a small gathering of nations in Alberta and a grand chief told her, “You're strong. You're representing your community, and I'm proud of you,” something that meant the world to her. She was full of cultural pride.
Funding for her education was the next barrier she faced, without sponsorship from her community to pursue her photography. She had to put things off, apply for scholarships and jump through hoops to get her education. Now as a photographer, she loves looking at the images, making galleries for clients and seeing the joy they feel when they see the finished product makes her happy. From tears, to hugs, the reactions can be satisfying. The projects she works on vary and she works constantly, being self employed and on her own to pitch new work.
Her advice for a young person considering starting a career in the world of photography is to go for it because it can lead to film work and many different directions like acting or modeling. She suggests taking courses on business, creative imaging, and how to use a camera. “It can be challenging and I know a lot of people think that it's just taking pictures, but …you have to know every single button on that camera,” she advises. For a starter camera, Clarke recommends a Canon Rebel. In the future, she hopes to get her own studio, exhibit her work and offer her photography in a way that’s budget friendly. She volunteers in her community because she loves to give back.
“When I was in college, there were a few crossroads that I took. I look back and that was the point I could have just walked away and I'm so glad that I didn't. I had to put those extra steps in. I had to be on the phone. I had to find advocates that were going to help me. I just want to let people know: fight for what you want and don't let anybody stop you. Even if you get some rude remarks on the way, you know what you want and just go for it, ignore all that,” she advises.
In developing a career in photography, Lorinda Clarke is pointing and shooting a life for herself. One photo at a time, she’s making her dreams come true, no matter how long it takes. Underestimated for her shyness and struggling to find funding, she’s found a way to step into her dreams and do what she’s always wanted to do, all while making it look easy… and beautiful in print.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.