Michelle Howard
My gift, and my aim, is to make people smile

Michelle is a wife, mother to two teenagers, photographer and designer. What she is passionate about is being creative and nurturing ideas and dreams, which is something she has always been compelled by since she could hold her first pencil. For her, it’s a gift that she encourages those around her to develop and use, especially her children. She has now started new ventures as she wants to empower women to take their vision to the next level, by insuring their words are as strong as the picture they paint. From this interview you will learn more from her story and her dreams.

What motivated you to change the direction of your life and career after many years?
My passion was missing a beat, like an engine that misfires. I began to feel that my identity didn’t belong to me the way it should. I hadn’t realised at the time, that I had started searching for answers and it wasn’t until after being at a top photographer’s workshop, where she spoke such profound words. I couldn’t help but feel compelled to react to them. “If you don’t like what you are doing today, then stop! You won’t succeed with what you hate!” This raw honesty evoked a response within me, and the answer was clear. That I no longer loved what I was doing, it wasn’t my true passion. That ripple, created more ripples. Leading me to changing all of my plans and restarting. I had to overcome feelings of failure, self-doubt, and I had to regain feelings of self-worth and confidence. It wasn’t easy, but cleansing your mindset means getting rid of the old voices so you can make room for the new. At that point, it became less scary, and more of an adventure.

How do you remember your childhood and what was your biggest dream at that time?
My biggest dream was to become an artist. All I ever wanted was to be surrounded by millions of colours, pencils, pens… I worshipped my pens, I still have pens from my childhood today.

How would you describe your relationship with your parents and how did they impact in your choices?
My father was my biggest inspiration for my art, I loved to watch him create. He was very good at art, but his passion was wood and carpentry. He could build just about anything! What I loved most, was his ability to adapt, he had many different businesses through my childhood. His career started as a mechanical engineer, which he later grew to dislike, and then changed to starting a catering business. From there he worked in DIY so he could work more with his hands as he had always wanted.I think that sense of fearlessness was his biggest gift to me. My mother taught me how to nurture those I love. What she gave me was a voice, so I could be heard. She encouraged and praised my art. She gave me a humble pride, that would instil in me a resilience to push forward even when I doubted myself.

How would you describe your relationship with the world and how do you see your role in the world around you?
I have a need to strengthen and support those around me, I’m greatly encouraged to see those around me blossom. Their success is my success, big or small. I know how hard the steps they take can be, as I have worked similar roads. Giving back the things I have learnt along the way feels that I am offering thanks for all those that have helped me along my way. I want my role to be that of empowering the will of self-belief, to help cut through the weak points and to hand them tools of strength and confidence. I truly believe that placing yourself in front of the camera is an empowering act for each client. It’s in the moments between the click of the shutter that they discover their next path in redefining themselves for their prospective clients. I’m with them the whole way, never leaving them alone or in silence. The conversation is non-stop, the camera is just in between.

Our best attribute is to belly laugh. There is nothing a belly laugh can’t fix, even in the saddest times.

You are also a mother of two. How is your relationship with your children and how does it feel now that they are growing up and becoming independent?

Yes, I have two teenagers now. Megan is 18 and has trained in Theatrical makeup and design, she now hopes to study Business Management. Jadon is 16, just about to embark on his GCSE exams. His aspirations are to be either an architect or work in film composites. I am so proud of them, not just because of their academic pursuits but because their love is unbounding with all our family. My husband’s mother has vascular dementia, once a strong woman, she is now practically immobile, and despite their age my sons attend to her and assist her where they can. Their compassion and ambition spur me on to create my dreams, so that one day we may have the opportunity to bring our skills together. We are by no means perfect and some days can be harder than others, but forgiveness can go a long way. Our best attribute is to belly laugh. There is nothing a belly laugh can’t fix, even in the saddest times.

What are the main challenges that you have faced during your personal and professional growth?
My first challenges were not to let my failure be defined by the success of others. We are all unique, and our clients are too. I realised early on, that the only competition I have is what I did yesterday. If I challenge myself constantly I can only grow. My next challenge was to realise that change is not failure, but a lesson learnt. It takes courage to change one’s path, it takes resilience to see it through. My biggest challenge was changing my mindset. I did this by having a clear plan, to remind me of all my aims and aspirations. It wasn’t something I did in the beginning, and this was where I failed. Truthfully I think looking back, not making my first business plan, was because I didn’t believe it. That should have told me something straight away! I struggled massively with my nerves after losing my mum, in fact who I was before that, is nothing compared to who I am. I face new challenges, big and small changes each day! I learned not to overthink every step. In fact I started to say to myself things like “How would I feel if I didn’t do it”. If I wasn’t happy not doing it…….well you can see my point! It’s a challenge to be fearless, but every time I have made those fearless choices because it felt right. I have made the right choices, it’s usually the ones that I question were never right to begin with. If I am finding excuses not to, I’m most likely not ready, or my conscious mind can see the bad path. If it’s right, you will go out of your way to make it happen!

How are you experiencing changes in your life?
Oh my goodness, well I have been working in line with my passion and the energy is amazing. I have been working with a variety of people I have met at events, networking and through social media. I’m so excited about all the new plans I have. I have two sides, which is to support young businesses in my field and to work with businesses who wish to refine their personal branding and design. Two very different areas of work, but both as thrilling. Meeting people from around the world, hearing their stories, and then transforming those goals through the photographs I take is so empowering, and fulfilling.

Can you tell us more about your passion for photography?
My passion for photography started as a child taking portraits of my family on holiday. I was never wholly allowed full control of the expensive toy, so I rarely had a chance. I always returned to my art as my main choice for creativity. Photography would soon find me again, later in my life. I was frightened a first, thinking I would break the camera, which sounds ridiculous now. For three weeks, I averted using the technology, or the software. Then I saw a fellow student change a setting, and all my frustration was blocked by one tiny problem. Once that problem was removed, it was as though a floodgate had been opened. Within three months I was producing work good enough to represent my college, and from there, I was pleading to record all events at the college. It just grew, and grew and grew. I had found something that was inherently part of me! Every step I have taken, no matter the genre of weddings, portraits, events, or studio, they have all taught me valuable lessons that I now use with all of my work. Weddings has taught me to capture raw emotion, but to also seek it as though I feel what’s about to happen is in front of my lens. Portraits has taught me how to talk to my clients, and how to pose them. Events has taught me to how to see and be patient. Studio work has taught me how to light each client and to create the right atmosphere.

What would you consider is the best gift that you have and want to share with the world?
This will sound such a cliché, coming from a photographer. My gift, my aim, is to make people smile, I want them to see what I see, to see what my camera sees. I want to strip back the negativity and leave them with their own positive imprint. I want those around me to feel enriched, empowered, and truly supported by how I connect with them.

What are your plans for the future?
Well, I am hoping to take my work to the next level by not only attending events, but speaking and coaching at events. It’s a massive challenge, but I feel I have a story to tell about my journey. I hope to share and enlighten others, to not give up when faced with overwhelming problems. I hope to travel the world, producing my style of work through personal branding, events and design throughout the UK and taking it globally.

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