My name is Tara Ruby and I am a photographer. I am also a mother, a wife, a disabled veteran, a friend, and so much more. I grew up in a small town with grandparents that taught me right from wrong, and how to work hard. Life for me hasn’t always been easy, in fact I struggle most of the time, always feeling like I never quite fit in with the “in” crowds. I was never the most popular in school and I have always found that one or two friends in life were enough. Once I picked up my camera I learned that being in the background was where I was meant to be, because from there I could capture so much. I never went to school for photography, and I’ve taught myself most of what I know. If I didn’t know the answer to a problem, I researched it online until I found what I needed. I’ve done that most of my life as well … figuring things out on my own. I hate asking for help, and I hate asking for advice which is simply asking for someone else’s opinion. I know now that this is just who I am, but it’s taken a very long time for me to learn that.
My passion is my photography, and if you want to be a friend of mine now, you must accept that. I live to capture moments. Being self taught I have found that I take portraits different than other photographers and I work different than other photographers. I’m also a military wife at the moment, and I’ve either been in the military or married to a soldier since 1997, making this lifestyle the only lifestyle I really know. Being in the military in any aspect is not for everyone, and change becomes a daily ritual of sorts. I love it, and at times I hate it, and I’m also learning that this is normal. But at the end of the day I love everything about our military and I will do whatever I need to in order to support them, even if it’s just with my camera.
So in September of 2015 I took a photo of 10 Army soldiers that were also breastfeeding mothers, and that photo changed my life, by career and my passion. It helped to push the Army to change regulations in support of active duty mothers who were breastfeeding. It went internationally viral on a very large scale and produced more conversations than I could have ever imagined. With that single photo I found not only my passion, but I found my purpose. I know now that I am on a path of destiny. Everything lined up just right for that one moment in time, and although I didn’t know that at the time, I certainly know it now.
With purpose, I found my legacy. I sit and watch so many other photographer try to learn from the photographers that are “big” in our industry. Sue Bryce, Kelly Brown, Jerry Ghionis and so many others. Everyone seems to want to be them, to live their life, or to recreate their careers to match these photographers. I find lack of imagination and an extreme lack of being able to figure this business out on their own. Do I have mentors, of course. But do I want their life. No way. I do not want to end my photography career with people saying that my career was so much like Sue’s or Kelly’s. So I work hard everyday to make sure that I learn what I can from these amazing mentors but that I work to capture moments like Tara. It’s hard to be different, believe me, I’ve been different my entire life. But it’s also okay to be different. To challenge the norm and go a different direction. It might not always work out, but I can always say that I was true to myself.
I challenge anyone reading this to sit down and write out what you believe your purpose in life is and what you would like your legacy to be if something were to happen to you tomorrow. Write down the things that you have done that make you special or different than the rest. If all of us as photographers shot with the same camera, and the same lens… and used the same props and vendors, how boring would that be? Do some soul searching and find out what makes you special and unique. Is there a project that you have been wanting to work on but were afraid to try? Do it. Have you had an idea floating around in your mind but you thought someone would ridicule your work … Try it anyway. You will never know until you try.
I am still working on this, so believe me when I say we can work through this together. But I know that at the end of the day I am Tara Ruby. I shoot like Tara Ruby. I work like Tara Ruby. And I will continue down this path of life as Tara Ruby. Not Sue… not Kelly… I’m Tara. And I’m learning to love this person so very much. I’m working on my legacy, are you?