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Gracie Withers Photography is based in Loudoun County, Virginia.

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My Fifth Eye | Where It All Began | January 2018

Business

Happy New Year everyone and I hope you all have had a great start to 2018! I have decided to make my first blog post of 2018 rather different than the rest (past and future). Oddly, this blog post is going to be mostly about me, my business, how I got to where I am today, and of course (because I know you’re wondering) why this blog post has the title that it does..
        I have unexpectedly admitted to myself that I really want people to know who the person is behind the camera, the thousands of photos, and the social media accounts. While a big part of me doesn’t like doing this because I find it somewhat selfish, I really want you all to know who I am, but only if you want to of course (so if you do, I would continue reading). To start off , I am going to share some fun things about myself and my life that many of you might not know. Please continue below to find this wide array of facts about myself, Grace Catherine Wilson Withers (yes my birth name is Grace, and I do have two middle names)..
1. I’m 26 years old
2. I was born on 9/9/1991 at 3:03 am, and weighed in at 9 pounds.. (a big baby who has loved the number 9 since birth)
3. the first travel soccer team I ever joined, I really wanted the #9 because that was Mia Hamm’s number! But, they didn’t let anyone pick that number…because it was Mia Hamm’s, so I went with #10..
4. I have been attacked by a goose
5. I DO love dogs, even though most people who know me only think I love cats, which yes, I do..love cats
6. I also love Bunnies (Happy and Peter were our childhood pets) and Kangaroos (actually my favorite animal)
7. my family has a Bed & Breakfast, and we also have two donkeys who live behind it, Milo and Racer
8. I LOVE traveling (some other countries I have been to include Ireland, France, Canada, Africa and Costa Rica)
9. After my freshman year in college, I went on a service trip to Africa with Sports Outreach Institute and an incredible group of people, including my rockstar soccer coach, Dr. Olsen.
10. I have a life goal to run a race in every state (my friend Alicia and I made a pact last year), and this year we will knock off two states together!
11. one of my first pets as a kid was a hermit crab named Milton Digger and he lived to be 2 years old
12. I have two older siblings, Lilly and Calder and everyone in my immediate family (5 of us) runs his/her own business.
13. I love sports and what they do for communities all over the world
14. My grandfather, Bobby, was a Rear Admiral in the Navy and after meeting some of his shipmates last summer, I learned that he was even more inspiring than I thought he was.
15. I love fun mugs, especially cat mugs
16. I’ve re-watched the New Girl series probably 5 times
17.  I am a FRIENDS fanatic, so is my boyfriend Dan, and we have a challenging Friends Trivia Instagram account
18. FINALLY, After graduating high school, I started a blog called “My Fifth Eye”(named this because I have glasses)  and it was my first ever personal photography site.
The Very Beginning
        Next up, i’m going to share with you all how I got to where I am today and most importantly, where my passion for photography came from in the first place! Don’t worry, it’s not super long and I actually summarized 15 years of everything from beginning to end because the last thing I want to do is bore you to sleep or to make you leave this blog post mid-way. When I was in middle school (I think 6th grade), I got a little point and shoot digital camera for Christmas. I can’t say it was little because it was a clunky thing and I am pretty sure I saved it and the box as a momento. As you can imagine, phone cameras can do more than this thing could, but I loved it and loved playing around with it. In high school, my art and photography teacher was Mr. Genther and he’s one of my all time favorite teachers. I wouldn’t just go to him for art and photography help. I annoyed him with high school sports and life in general. He taught me everything I needed to know about the camera, like how to shoot in manual mode, and everything in between. And I actually first learned everything that I knew about photography using a film camera, not a digital camera! After a couple of other photography and media classes in high school, my passion for photography grew and was not stopping anytime soon so, after my high school graduation, I spent the money I got on my first DSLR camera (a Nikon D500).
        When I was searching for colleges, one thing I was looking for was to be able to study photography. Many schools offered one or two classes at the most, but Lynchburg College was one of the only places that gave me the ability to actually get a degree in photography. The location, campus, community, family feel (partially because my dad and brother went there) and soccer program were, of course, other reasons why I loved LC and why I pictured myself there and only there. When studying photography at Lynchburg, I met Siobhan Byrns, one of the greatest teachers I have ever had and another reason why I could not stop picturing a future in photography (at this time, it was just a dream). All of the classes that made up my minor in photography pushed me beyond what I ever envisioned doing within photography, and I created work that I will keep forever. Combined with a major in business administration, which also happily challenged me at Lynchburg, I am now surprisingly using both my major and minor from college, which is rare as you might guess.
Finally, something that you all might not know about me is that after I graduated from LC in 2014, I started MBA classes there and was also a graduate assistant in the athletic department. As a photographer, designer, assistant, and odd jobber, I truly enjoyed everything and everyone about my rather versatile job in the athletic department. I think about someone that I worked with there or work that I participated in all the time and I really miss it sometimes, but, unfortunately, we can’t have it all. Anyways, I loved this part of my life, but pursuing my MBA did not feel like that’s what I really wanted at all. I went back and forth, a lot, and finally decided to withdraw from the program. Honestly, I will forever hate the fact that I quit and didn’t finish something that I started, but I can also honestly and happily say that I still do not regret my decision. Even though I dropped out, I did finish the year out working in the athletic department and was even offered to work the following year and stay in Lynchburg. Like with many other life decisions, I did go back and forth on whether to stay in Lynchburg, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the photography dream and I knew that if I didn’t try then, who knows if/when I would have given it a shot. So, I moved back home in the summer of 2016 and pursued the dream, with NO IDEA what was going to happen and how it was going to go..
And, Now..
          At the age of 25, I started my own business and I can easily say that I never thought that that would be the case at this point in my life. After making some clutch connections by reaching out to people in the Northern Virginia area, I started working as a freelance photographer for Georgetown University that fall. I had already booked a few weddings for 2017 and had one in the fall of 2016 so I decided to also pursue the portrait and wedding industry of photography.
        From September until April last year, I worked part time at Potomac River Running in Leesburg but I got to a point where I was turning down photography jobs left and right due to already being scheduled at the store and I realized I was ready to pursue photography on a more full time basis. Again, I didn’t think that I would get my business to that point at that part of my life, but as hard as it was, it was the right thing for me to do for my business.
        Now, one more thing that I want to share with you all, which has always been tough for me to admit because so many people told me to do the exact OPPOSITE. I am continuing to be a very versatile photographer. This has always been me, like my passions, and a part of my nature, and I just don’t have any desire to pick one direction anytime soon because I love what I am doing! I have the portrait side full of weddings (14 in the books, 10 in the future), families (15 so far, many of which are recurring) and graduating seniors (happily served 9 so far). I also have the editorial side as a photographer for Georgetown University. Also (EXCITING NEWS), I recently added something else to the mix! This year, I will begin photographing for the Autism Society of Northern Virginia! This society as well as helping others have always been close to my heart and I can’t wait to start working with this organization THIS MONTH!
So here I am..a happy, full time photographer. When I tell people what I do, they usually say something along the lines of, “oh my gosh, you’re living the dream! Congratulations, that’s amazing!” While yes, this is true as I am living my dream, you should know that it’s not as dreamy and perfect as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and would not want to be doing anything else right now, BUT, i’m not just a photographer. I’m an accountant, a marketer, a designer, a business owner, an advertiser, a driver of many miles, a consultant, and sometimes, like right now, i’m a lonely lady writing at my desk listening to New Girlin the background. That’s a lot of things to be every day on most days, but, it feels right for me. Over the last (almost) year and a half, there have been many ups, downs, tears, doubts, frightening thoughts, lonely days, exciting calls, supportive words (many from Dan, thank YOU!) and I have no doubt that there will be plenty more of everything and some of who knows what down the road. We shall see friends..
If you are still with me and have read this whole gosh darn thing, thank you thank you thank you! I appreciate you and your support more than I can express right now!
love and meows,
Gracie

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