It’s probably no surprise that the daughter of a photographer and an artist would grow up to become one herself. But the path to art as a career was not the straight and easy one you may have expected for said daughter. It took an unexpected turn in her life to make Kristen Andersen, a professional photographer in Ridgefield, finally turn towards her own dream.
Kristen was born and raised in California. Her father, John, was a professional photographer until Kristen was four years-old, which was when her younger sister was born. At that point, he decided to change careers and go into real estate to better support his growing family. But Kristen remembers growing up around photography. “I grew up with a dark room in the house and his photography and gear everywhere,” she shares. “It was a real formative part of my childhood. Dad took amazing photos of landscapes but what really captured my imagination was portrait photography. I wanted to become a photographer and find my own style.”
But like all parents, who want the best for their kids, John encouraged his daughter to pursue a steadier career. So, by the time she was ready to get her undergraduate degree, Kristen followed her father’s advice and traded photography for a Bachelor’s of Arts Honors in Visual Communication from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. “When I was in Ireland, I studied design. I wanted to study photography but I didn’t have the equipment,” Kristen says. “I remember walking past the photo studios every day, wishing I could be in there, but the next best thing was studying design. That foundation has really helped inform my photographic style.
After getting her bachelor’s, Kristen taught for a time at the university. She moved back to the United States after 9/11 to be near her family. She lived on Catalina Island and worked with the Catalina Island Conservancy for about six years. During that time, she got her master’s degree in design. After her family moved to the Pacific Northwest, she followed in 2010.
One Sharp Turn Took Her Back to Photography
Our paths often have twists and turns that change our lives for better or worse. Kristen’s life took a sharp turn in 2010 when her health started to rapidly decline. She found herself unable to work a 40-hour work week as a manager at a desk job. “I had to figure out a way to continue to work and put food on my table,” she says. “That’s when I decided to pursue my early dream and much to my surprise, almost 20 years later, Dad gave me a camera. I think he realized it was the right time.” So, she took courses through CreativeLive.com, went out and started taking photos.
Anyone who has ever met Kristen would probably not be surprised at this story. She is the type that can find the good in any bad situation. Her kind heart and gentle spirit remains calm even when the storm is raging. This unique nature of hers not only makes her strong in the face of adversity, but her quiet ways help her finesse her photography subjects, bringing out the best in a way only someone with her demeanor can.
Capturing an Animal’s Soul
Eight years later, Kristen is using the artistic talents she inherited from both her parents as a professional photographer specializing in animals. “The health challenges spurred me to make that leap and go ‘You know what, this is something I’ve always wanted to do,’” she shares. “And it’s a way I can have an income and manage my schedule, all in a way that emphasizes my strengths while minimizing my limitations.”
Whether a beloved family dog, a prized equine or a farm full of goat kids – her artwork captures the pure hearts of these animals in a way few can. “I photograph mostly horses and dogs, but also cats, birds, small animals and farm animals,” she says. “Pretty much anything with fur or feathers!”
One of the secrets of her success is not just her quiet nature that animals respond to, but the fact that she is an experienced handler. On her own farm, she is surrounded by chickens, dogs, Nigerian dwarf goats, horses and a cat named Ferret that acts like a dog. She knows how animals work and that helps her create breathtaking shots. “I love being able to capture an animal’s personality in a photo, to tell their story and show their heart and soul,” she explains.
And with all those animals around, it’s never a bad work day for Kristen. For example, on a recent shoot she was wrangling “organized chaos” with a litter of eight Dalmatian puppies. “I was lying on my belly in the grass, so I could be eye level with the pups, thinking about how much I love my job,” she says, smiling. “It’s amazing. It’s meaningful for people and it fills my heart to do it because I love animals and I want, in some small way, to make this world better for them.” Kristen does this through giving a portion of her proceeds to animal rescues and volunteering her skills to them.
She does on-location shoots anywhere within an hour drive of Ridgefield, primarily outdoors. “Later this year I am opening my own studio so I can offer studio portrait sessions here,” says Kristen. “But I have no problem going to someone’s home, especially if they have a shy dog or cat – that may not be the kind of animal that you want to take to an unfamiliar place and expose to a lot of stimulus. I have a very gentle, patient approach to working with animals. I like to take the time to make both the owner and animal feel relaxed and at ease.” It’s knowledge like this that makes her successful at capturing animals with their guard down, showing their true personality instead of just anxiety at having their picture taken.
“My goal is to give owners some really beautiful, timeless memories,” she says.
Kristen Andersen Photography offers packages that include digital, prints and wall art bundles. Or customers can choose items a-la-cart to suit their needs and budget. She also offers gift certificates. For more information, visit the Kristen Andersen Photography website and follow her on Facebook.