As a shy, quiet child living in a large, loud family, I often felt unheard and unnoticed. I found myself looking at the world around me like pictures in a storybook, absorbing the emotions of others and feeling as though I didn’t have a voice.
Finding my voice, first through art and then through the lens of my camera, has been my true calling. But when I first started out, I had no idea in which direction to head. I tried my hand at watercolor, greeting-card design and even graphic design, but nothing seemed like the right fit. I just continued to create.
And then one day, my neighbor asked me if I would draw her son in pencil from a photograph. With little experience in portraits, I reluctantly said, “yes,” and much to my surprise, she loved it! After a second portrait request, I started to think, “Hey, I could do this for more people.” Little did I know that this was the start of a pencil portrait business that would span nearly two decades.
“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.”
— Brené Brown
I also think it’s no coincidence that less than a year after becoming a mother of twins, I was contacted by a woman who had just lost her twins and desperately wanted a remembrance portrait. I was terrified to receive her hospital photos; but with tears in my eyes, I got through it and told my husband that I didn’t think I could ever do a commission like that again.
A month later, I received a letter in the mail from the mother expressing how much her portrait meant to her and how healing it was for her to see her babies sleeping peacefully together. Her words resonated deeply, and I instantly knew that I had to do this for more families. While I never actively went looking for this type of work, I feel like it found me, and now my pencil portraits hang in homes all over the world honoring babies who were taken too soon.
As you can imagine, it’s a very difficult topic to discuss, let alone draw from every day. I realized I needed a way to lighten my emotional workload, so I grabbed my camera and started photographing all the beautiful things and people around me.
In my attempt to find balance, I also founded my photography business. That little girl inside of me who saw the world through a sensitive lens, who always wanted to feel seen and heard, had finally found her stage. I am an artist with a camera and specialize in storytelling sessions that shine a light on what makes each child unique and special.
My studio offers a very different type of photography experience and service. We provide a high-end custom service from start to finish, from designing your wall portrait to perfectly fit your space and decor style to the delivery and final installation. With my fine art background and passion for tangible art that you can see, touch and feel, it’s very important for me to work with clients who value the power of artwork in their homes and businesses.
The most important part of my process is the discovery consultation. This is where we dive deep into a child’s story. I want to learn about his/her interests, dreams, talents — and even struggles. The more details I discover about who they are, the more their storytelling image starts to take shape. An important part of my process is getting to know my subjects’ interests, talents, struggles and dreams.
I then take a variety of photographs and begin to piece the story together through digital manipulation and adding layers of symbols, textures and light.
When people see my work, I want them to feel drawn into the scene and imagine what the true story of the image might be. I want them to get lost in the details of the image and the subtle messages it’s portraying. Most people are amazed to find out that my portraits are created from photos.
“Be a Fruit Loop in a world full of Cheerios.”
Instead of just taking a photo, I’m piecing together several photos to create a very unique and personalized story. This type of photography is called conceptual photography and combines photography with imagination and digital tools like Photoshop. Every detail is purposeful and is meaningful to the family, from the tropical fish in the water to the pink flower being held. Here’s an example: This young girl was adopted into a lovely family; however, she had a rough start as a baby born addicted to drugs. She has struggled her entire life with sensory, emotional and social issues. When she started to notice she was different from the other kids at school, her parents reached out wanting to celebrate the beautiful things that make her unique. I photographed her holding a flower and photographed her dogs separately. I was told she loved the outdoors, has always been fascinated with water, goes everywhere with her two dogs — and one of her unique habits is to smell everything. This is her journey; this is her story.
When I first launched my photography business, I didn’t have money to invest in all of the props I wanted to incorporate for each photoshoot. The DIYer in me said, “Let’s figure out a way,” and so I did. I taught myself how to use Photoshop so that I could add in the details I imagined and still create the vision I had for each photoshoot. I hardly consider myself a Photoshop expert, but I have learned certain tools and techniques that have helped me become an award-winning conceptual artist.
When I’m not designing custom wall art for my clients’ homes and photographing children, I like to give back to the community through local projects, teach other photographers how to become better conceptual storytellers and continue to grow my private collection of limited-edition prints.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
— Henry David Thoreau
One of the upsides to the pandemic was learning how to pivot my business and reach outside of my comfort zone. I feared, because I wasn’t a Photoshop expert, that I didn’t have anything to offer other photographers. I quickly learned that I simply needed to teach what I was good at, and that is the art of storytelling.
My online pre-recorded classes dive into the magical world of visual storytelling and include watch-and-learn videos as well as practice files. These easy-to-follow tutorials are perfect for the beginner or intermediate photographer who needs help making their composites more powerful and believable.
Project SHINE, started back in 2012, is an ongoing passion project birthed after my best friend’s experience with breast cancer. The purpose of Project SHINE is to change the way women feel about themselves after a breast cancer diagnosis and to create awareness around the emotional impact during and after treatment. Project SHINE started out as a no-cost beauty makeover experience for women and has grown into a collection of storytelling images that exemplify beauty, strength, hope and resilience. These artful messages not only empower survivors but also will resonate with all women. My goal is to grow a large enough collection of survivor storytelling images to publish an empowering book for the cancer community.
And because I just can’t get enough of storytelling, I recently launched my very first collection of limited-edition prints, featuring my two favorite local animals. Moose & Magpies (www.DanaKleinCreative. com/Moose-Mapgies) is a collection of eight whimsical photographic collages, showcasing my take on the fun relationship between these beautiful creatures and highlighting some of the history found in the mountains of Park City, Utah. Created especially for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers, my artwork reminds viewers that the spirit of the mountains is a wonderful, magical place, alive with unlimited possibility.
I look forward to traveling around the world, meeting new clients, collaborating on new projects and empowering others through the art of storytelling.
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
— Maya Angelou