I started my photography career with a baby on my hip in the rolling ocean of wheat fields that is Eastern Washington. Neither the internet nor social media had boomed, but my phone was ringing nonstop as I was one of the only wedding photojournalists in the state at the time. Wedding storytelling required an important skill: to be ready for any light at any moment. We were all still shooting film, the expense was high and the shooting had to be sure. When you know how much each shot costs, you get good fast.
They say there is a romance to film, and I can tell you from my experience that selecting film for storytelling it truly is a part of the art. At that time wedding photojournalism was fairly new and at the forefront was a blend of old tradition and a high expectation for magazine style portraiture, traditional family portraiture and artistic storytelling. It was hard work; by the end of the night you would often see me find the nearest cooler to plunge my arms into.
Two years into my career I was called into deeper waters and bigger cities, eventually flying out to shoot in NY. I finally decided to relinquish a part of my income towards my first “real” camera bag. I named my first camera Bonnie and my second Clyde, but never named my bag. It turns out my bag was my most loyal companion for shoots. A long term sidekick meant for a utilitarian internship faithfully sheltered its occupants for years. I weaved the fabric of my work with several companies, art shows, fashion shoots, and documentary shoots. With that bag by my side, I searched for my own outlet and story for over a decade. I eventually opened a Studio in The Schwabacher building in downtown Seattle. The building was one of the few left standing after the Great Seattle Fire: formerly a warehouse that outfitted miners for the Yukon gold rush. Pioneer Square is now home to a booming tech market and is the pulse of start ups including my own: Dai Ross Studios, a coworking studio to support fine art and portrait photographers. The Yukon gold rush of the nineteenth century and start ups today have something in common. Hopefully some of the luck the Schwabachers had--being the last outfitter standing after the fire--will rub off on my start up.
After 15 years of pondering replacing my faithful sidekick, it was finally time to make a change. As a woman, I have been marketed everything from leopard print lenses to couture camera bags. It all felt like fluff compared to the grit and muscle that goes into my work. Similar to the thorn in my side: people often assume I am an amateur or mention that I take “cute” imagery because of my gender. And I have lost contracts because they thought I might not be “tough” enough. At sixteen, I spent most of my days training bad habits out of good horses. I learned what having a little faith in an animal can do even if another can’t see it. It’s stuck to my core with every challenge I’ve faced along the way. A couture camera bag was not going to cut it as my new sidekick.
This next journey was going to be different for me. A long time passion for storytelling had begun when I partnered with Seattle Weekly and Pike Place Market Foundation to tell stories of “The People of The Market”. This project was to capture the heart of the market and uncover the layers and mystery of why 10 million people flock to the market every year. This I knew was only the beginning for me. I knew I was going to be moving across the city, into the woods, onto ranches and farms and the bag I needed was one that was up to those tasks. A faithful vehicle for Bonnie and Clyde.
I finally discovered my Filson bag. It was the one, and is now my daily partner on my journeys from the land of everything big, busy and loud to the quiet cool spring birthing room of baby goats. His name is Filson.