Meet ViewBug community member, creative photographer and mother of three tammyswarek. Enjoy our recent conversation and get inspired:

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

First and foremost, I am the mother of three wonderful sons. My youngest, Matthew is severely Autistic (along with other health issues). Until the age of two, Matthew progressed normally. His life changed after reactions to childhood vaccinations, as did mine. Being an “Autism Mom” can be extremely isolating. The friends and family you used to count on for advice, no longer have any clue what you are going through. It is a terrifying and lonely road, but one I would not trade for the world. I thank God every day for trusting me enough to be his mother. One thing this journey has given me is the ability to appreciate the little things that most people will never notice. Things like a hair cut in a real barbershop, the kindness of a salesperson when attempting to try on shoes, things most take for granted. I believe these experiences trained my eye to see beauty where most would not. I needed somewhere I felt safe to store all of my emotions. Photography filled that need perfectly. I can honestly say that it has saved my sanity.

Reflection by tammyswarek

When did you first think about becoming a photographer?

In 2010 our lives seemed perfect. We lived on a beautiful ranch in Mississippi. It was the most peaceful place, and Matthew thrived there. April 24th of that year a violent tornado ripped right through it leaving nothing but rubble behind. I was beyond devastated. It wasn’t just a home that we lost, it was our entire world. It was then that I started living behind the lens. It was easier to see what was happening around me through my camera.

I struggled for months trying to cope with the new life we had, always broken hearted over the one that we left behind. I knew to be the mother Matthew needed, I had to find a way past it. That is when I had the idea to create the image “Power”. I needed to make something beautiful and inspiring, something I could hold onto instead of dwelling on the loss. It was a very cathartic experience. After that, I committed myself to learning all I could about photography.

Rose colored glasses by tammyswarek

Where do you get your photographic inspiration?

Most of my work is inspired by something I am dealing with personally. I learned quickly that I could pour my soul into a photograph better than I could ever explain what I was going through verbally. It was my new “safe” place. I love the juxtaposition of putting a beautiful model in the complete opposite environment. Abandoned houses are my favorite. They fascinate me. Peeling paint, dings in the walls, they are the stories of the people that lived in them before. I find beauty and inspiration in that.

Purity by tammyswarek

Do you have any influencers?

Yes! I still remember the first time I saw the work of Natalie Dybisz. Most know her as “Miss Aniela”. I was amazed at what all was possible. It opened up a whole new world for me. Knowing that she could create those images by herself inspired me to learn more. I bought her book, Self-Portrait Photography, and read it from cover to cover the same day.

Untold stories by tammyswarek

What is your favorite subject to shoot?

My favorite subject is definitely women. It is easier for me to tell “my” stories that way. Fortunately I have gorgeous friends and family that are always willing to help. Whether it is climbing a spiral staircase attached to a tree, lying in a pool covered in dirt or being beaten by ocean waves, they step up to the challenge beautifully.

What is your favorite gear to shoot with?

I am a Canon girl through and through. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and can’t imagine shooting with anything else. When you go in one of your travels, what do you take with you? Why? I always take my camera bag. In it is my 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8l is ii, 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8, 24-70 mm f/4, 580exII Speedlites and Pocket Wizards. I usually take a few reflectors and a Photoflex ExSm Octodome also. You never know what you will find to shoot on a trip, or what kind of lighting you will need.

Secrets they keep III by tammyswarek

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

Trial and error (a lot of error) is how I learned the most. Second to that would be CreativeLive. Having a disabled child makes it difficult to attend classes or seminars in person. I found everything I needed with CreativeLive, and I could learn at my own pace. Also, the instructors they enlist are top notch. I knew nothing about digital photography or post processing and found it very easy to learn through them. I must have went through a dozen books and still could not grasp the essentials until I found CreativeLive.

Symmetry in nature by tammyswarek

What it is you want to say with your photographs?

Definitely emotion is my number one goal. With my personal work, the emotions are my own that I am pouring into it. If I am shooting someone else, I try to tell his or her story. In my image “Reflection”, the model was a wonderful pastel artist. When I saw her beautiful artwork, I knew that was the story I wanted to tell. I try to make everything I shoot as personal as possible, whether I am shooting for myself or someone else.

Secrets they keep by tammyswarek

How do you actually get your photographs to do that?

There are lots of ways to tell a story in a photograph. The pose, lighting and choice of location are all ways to communicate for me. In post, I love textures and slightly muted tones. I can push the atmosphere of an image that way. Like I have mentioned before, it is extremely personal for me. It is often intimidating when posting an image that I have created. Like sending your child off to the first day of school. You never know what kind of feedback you will receive. If someone reacts negatively, it breaks my heart. I love all of my images, even the terrible ones from the beginning of my journey. I look back on those often to see how far my work has progressed.

Seond Thoughts by tammyswarek

B&W or color, what do you prefer and why?

Such a difficult question! I have to say that I am somewhere in the middle. I tend to desaturate my images quite a bit to get a vintage feel. I love the tones in the old hand tinted photographs. Occasionally I will go all the way to B&W, but not often. Recently I was given a vintage Polaroid Land Camera that I am very eager to shoot with. I absolutely love the tones in a Polaroid.

Enjoy more awesome photos, check out tammyswarek's profile.