I collected 6,000 toothbrushes to take with me to Africa. Six-thousand toothbrushes in six 50 lb. duffle bags on a 46 hour trip across the world.
When I stepped on my college campus for the first time I knew the career path I was on. I dreamed of anatomy classes, med school, dental degrees and traveling the world as an oral surgeon working from remote villages and reliving dental needs in the third world.
I spent most of my summers working on a double major and triple minor (maybe I was an insane over achiever) trying to get all of the classes in I needed to apply for med-school. I loved the white lab coats and the anatomy books so thick you could use them as a weapon.
I got my first taste of the dental world when I walked into a promiment dental office in our city and asked for a job. I had no experience, no training, no qualifications but I told them I could learn to do anything and they hired me on the spot as a Dental Assistant. I worked two jobs during the 3.5 years I was at college hustling my way into the career of my dreams.
Part of my requirements for graduation was that I needed to do a study abroad, my second major was international studies and while all of my friends were packing their bags for Europe I chose to pitch my tent in Burkina Faso, a small country in West Africa. I spent 3 months selling baked goods, handing out flyers and rallying the troops of my campus to donate toothbrushes for me to take abroad. I spoke at any event I could find sharing the stories of people I met who had waited over a year for someone to come and ease their pain. I had plans and a health based education program I prepared to teach children in one of the poorest countries of the world how to brush their teeth and why it was important.
I was two weeks away from boarding a plane when I showed up to my dorm to find 20 massive boxes in my living room and my roommate standing there with a box of her own. I unloaded thousands of toothbrushes that day while she unboxed the most exquisite camera I had ever seen. My mind was racing with excitement about every child who was about to receive one of these toothbrushes but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her camera. That night we sat in our dorm and taking a copious amount of toothbrush photos and talking about photography. I had never known a photographer other than my mom and to see my friend creating art enamored me. I got on eBay that night, spent almost all of my savings and purchased my very first DSLR.
My time in Africa invigorated my passion for health care around the world, I found someone to give a toothbrush to almost everyday, taught kids in classes all across the country the importance of oral hygiene and kept telling myself this was my dream. But, every time I handed out a toothbrush I snapped a picture and those photos were what brought me to life. I started to tell powerful stories through my images and even started booking weddings from a remote village in Africa.
After months of living in one of the most remote places on earth I came home, finished school, graduated, took another job at a dental practice, photographed my first few wedding and signed up to spend a year traveling the world.
My time spent abroad during those years opened up doors to photograph in some of the most incredible places I had ever seen. I was flown to exotic and beautiful cities to capture destination weddings, engagements and portraits and loved every second of it. My dreams of dental school began to fade as my passion to capture and tell stories grew.
I officially started my business with a clipart logo and a website that seemed more advanced than anything I’d ever seen and photography quickly grew to be one of the things I cherished the most. Life’s seasons have taken me on paths headed to the top of fortune 500’s, steps back into the medical field and journey’s deep into the heart of non-profits but always brought me back to the camera. The place I feel most alive and at home.