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Saint Mary’s alumna founds photography business

| Wednesday, September 20, 2017

By the start of her freshman year at Saint Mary’s, Elise deSomer (’17) said she knew she would be a professional photographer. DeSomer started her Michiana photography business, Elise Imagery, as a high school blog and has since transformed it into a full-fledged career specializing in portraits and unique artwork.  Having graduated from the College as the co-valedictorian of the class of 2017 and having been the recipient of departmental awards in art and English literature, Elise said she attributes much of her confidence to her Saint Mary’s education.  

“I’m definitely not the same person I was before Saint Mary’s. I was very timid and non-assertive, which simply doesn’t work for photographing people. Saint Mary’s helped me gain the leadership skills necessary for directing clients during photo shoots,” deSomer said in an email.  “The intensity of art classes at SMC prepped me well for the fast turnaround clients expect for photography in the digital age. … Being an art major taught me how to conceptualize an idea in my head and then form it into reality.”  

Like many other successful Belles, she said, deSomer received some help along the way.  

“I never met a [Saint Mary’s] faculty member who didn’t change my life for the better in one way or another,” she said.  

DeSomer credits Professor Krista Hoefle’s SISTAR grant creative research project in Object-Oriented Ontology, as well as advice from Aaron Moe of the English department and Douglas Tyler in the art department as integral influencers on her “direction in life as an artist and a person.”

DeSomer’s work week is split between shooting and editing days, the latter taking about one to 30 days, depending on the scope of the project.

“On shooting days, I wake up, sort and pack gear, and go wherever the client requests. My favorite part about shooting days is the spontaneity, the break from routine,” deSomer said.  

She edits her work at home, starting the day at 8 a.m. with a cup of calming chamomile tea for focus and a brief meditation.  Daily migraines from a minor traumatic brain injury last fall keep deSomer from working on the computer for more than 40 minutes at time, so she manages this obstacle by interspersing her editing with housework and relaxation exercises.

DeSomer said she works to create an environment that celebrates the intricacies of the human person.  She finds inspiration for portrait shoots from her clients, as well as from the landscape of the shooting space.

“Many clients know exactly what they want, so we’ll make a collaborative Pinterest board to help us keep a clear creative vision,” deSomer said.  “We might have poses planned out carefully and then scrap them all in favor of spontaneous poses that fit better with the vibe of a location.”

In the future, deSomer said she hopes to buy her own house, complete with lots of acreage for outdoor portraits.  She also said she hopes to branch out from portrait photography, and tackle more conceptual fine art photography and digital art for exhibitions.  Elise Imagery is expecting the launch of an entirely new website and online booking system, as well as hand-bound books for clients.

Although deSomer graduated this past summer, she said she still feels very tied to the Saint Mary’s community.  

“I never truly comprehended the reality of the ‘once a Belle, always a Belle’ mantra until after graduation. … As an alumna, I still turn to my fellow Belles when I need strong confident women to model for photographic projects,” she said.  

DeSomer said she feels cautious using the word “sisterhood” to define the unique bond that Saint Mary’s students cultivate over their four years on campus, as she maintains that it can sound unwelcoming towards the LGBT members of the community.  

“Semantics aside, I don’t think I would have found such a supportive network of soul sisters at a co-ed educational institution,” deSomer said.  “I love how Belles look out for each other, and I love looking out for other Belles, even more so now as an alumna.”  

In making her love for photography and art marketable, deSomer said she has found a career path that combines her natural skills with her true passions.

“Even if you don’t feel like you are good at anything, you absolutely are. You just might need to do some soul searching and hard work to find and develop the skills that will fulfill you professionally and personally,” deSomer said.  “You’re going to do amazing things no matter what. Don’t worry about the future too much. Sometimes you will feel like you are falling instead of flying, but falling is necessary for all the pieces that will fall into place with time, persistence and resilience.”

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About Maeve Filbin

Maeve is a senior studying political science and economics at Saint Mary's, as well as Journalism, Ethics and Democracy at Notre Dame. She serves as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Observer, and thinks everyone should support student journalism.

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