Meet Devin! A Penn State graduate who is pursuing her passion of photography on top of her full time office job. Living in Hoboken, New Jersey Devin is able to capture the mile square city she has come to call home. Thanks for sharing your story, Devin!
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW? ARE YOU IN SCHOOL, WORKING?
By day, I work as an ecommerce manager at Newell Brands, overseeing our “Writing and Creative Expression” portfolio. We affectionately call ourselves the “WaCE (wack-y) Team,” which captures the day-to-day pretty accurately – very busy, but fun! One of my favorite parts of this job is getting to work on brands that promote creative expression like Sharpie, Prismacolor, and Elmer’s Glue.
By evening and weekend, I’m a photographer. I launched my own Hoboken-based photography company this past February called Mile Square Moments. Where does the name come from? Hoboken’s nickname is the Mile Square City because even though it’s home to 52,000+ people, it’s only about one square mile in size. I spend a lot of time hopping all over Hoboken, New York City, and the surrounding NJ/NY meeting clients and taking photos. I also use my photography skills on the photography team at Hoboken Grace Church.
The first half of my day is pretty standard. I get up and go to my 9 to 5. I walk to work in the mornings, which is actually one of my favorite parts of the day. Hoboken is such a busy place, especially during the morning commuting hours. I get to enjoy this part of the day on foot instead of sitting in traffic in a car or on a train. I see moms scootering to school with their toddlers, dads biking to daycare with their kids in tow, as well as countless young professionals walking downtown to the PATH train to make their way into Manhattan. It’s exciting to be a part of this bustling metropolis.
The second half varies quite a bit. I’m usually running to photo shoots, client consultations, dinner with girlfriends, or date night with my boyfriend Matt. Tuesday night last week is a good example – I went to work, hopped into NYC for dinner with friends, then back to Hoboken for a fundraiser where I raffled off a portrait session in support of a great non-profit called TRUE Mentors. It just so happened that the fundraiser was at a wine bar, so it doubled as date night. :)
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED ON A DAILY BASIS? IS THERE CERTAIN MUSIC, OR A PERSON, OR PLACE THAT GETS YOU GOING?
This might sound cheesy, but I’m a good self-motivator. The thought of sharing my photos with more and more people is motivation enough to keep going. However, music does help, so here are three artists that motivate me on a daily basis:
- Andrew McMahon. I grew up listening to Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew’s first two bands. The music is alternative rock/pop punk with catchy verses and choruses that easily stay in your head for days. Andrew’s continued this style with his solo work now. He’s the only musician I can say I’ve regularly listened to for 12 years.
- Justin Bieber. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Belieber. I realized this when the “Purpose” album was released in 2015. I was living in London on a short term assignment for work and would listen to the entire album on repeat in the mornings while getting ready for the day, in the afternoons while at the office, and in the evenings after a long day at work. Now, when I hear his music, it reminds me of this special chapter of my life.
- Elevation Worship. I lived in Charlotte before moving to Hoboken, which is where I discovered Elevation Church and, therefore, Elevation Worship. Their music is incredibly powerful. Listening to their albums reminds me of being back in Charlotte at Elevation Church, seeing them perform live.
WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL DAY LOOK LIKE IF YOU COULD CREATE IT FROM MORNING TO NIGHT?
- Wake up at 8:30 a.m.: I consider this sleeping in. I’m a morning person, so I get stressed out if I sleep too late because I feel like I’ve lost a part of my day. I rarely don’t set an alarm.
- Drink coffee: I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I like to buy whole beans, grind them at home, and manually brew them. Right now I’m on a Toby’s Estate kick. They’re a roastery in Brooklyn that has some of the best combinations of flavors in their roasts. My favorite is their Brazil roast, which has notes of maple syrup, nutmeg, and dark chocolate. Delicious!
- Boot up the MacBook: I’m an Apple loyalist. I bought this particular computer in 2009 before I left for college. It’s seen me through all four years of my college education and is now one of the main tools I use for my photography business. I love sitting down in front of my Mac, with my mug of coffee close by, and editing photos.
- Get outside: I like being outside. During the spring and summer months, I like to run along Hoboken’s waterfront, taking in the views of the Manhattan skyline and feeling the wind from the Hudson River whip through my hair and cool me off as I go.
- Reflect: I love to write. I’ve kept a journal since third grade. It’s fun to go back and read stories from all the different stages of my life.
- Get some rest: I believe in sleep. I perform best when I’m well rested, so I try to prioritize a reasonable bedtime.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FOUR PERSONALITY TRAITS AND WHY?
PASSIONATE- I love storytelling and am passionate about photography. My projects are what get me out of bed in the morning (normally to make a cup of coffee and edit a batch of photos) and what keep me up at night (mostly trying to hit a deadline while juggling a full-time day job). It’s fair to say I lose sleep over my photos, but not in a bad way. I’m constantly thinking of new projects to pursue, local connections to make, and ways to keep perfecting my photographs.
HARDWORKING- Between Mile Square Moments, Newell Brands, and Hoboken Grace, I’m pulled in countless different directions, non-stop, around the clock. Although sometimes overwhelming, I mostly see these opportunities as chances to grow as a person and as a photographer. I love pushing boundaries and discovering new thresholds of what I’m capable of.
ADVENTUROUS- I’m not afraid of new things and believe in taking chances in both my personal and professional life. This most closely translates to my love for travel and adventure. I love to hike, camp, backpack, and kayak. I think I enjoy it so much because I spend most of my time in a very populated, urban place, so getting outside on mountains and in canyons is incredibly therapeutic. My favorite trip I’ve ever taken was to Arizona last summer with my younger sister. We hiked the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, kayaked through Antelope Canyon, and jumped waterfalls at Fossil Creek. You can bet that I got some awesome photos on this trip.
CONFIDENT- "If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be." —Maya Angelou
When I was in middle school and high school, I found myself trying to fit in…a lot. So much so that it was exhausting. I finally found my groove in college, where 40,000 students were walking around campus and following their own paths. There were over 1,000 student organizations – more than enough for any and every hobby, so differences were embraced and celebrated.
All this is to say, I discovered my photography passion in college, honed it through photojournalism classes, and have pursued it by starting my own business. I am the happiest I’ve ever been, and that’s because I found the confidence to pursue my passion and put myself out there. I have several close family members and friends to thank for their encouragement and support along the way.
HOW HAS YOUR HARDWORKING AND CONFIDENT NATURE HELPED YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
In my mind, confidence precedes hardworking because it took a lot of confidence in myself and in my abilities as a photographer to put my work out there for the world to see. When I was first starting my site, a friend said to me, “as long as you’re happy with it, as an audience of one, it’s simply a plus that anyone else enjoys it as well.” This idea of “an audience of one” gave me the freedom to make the site exactly what I wanted it to be, not what I thought others wanted it to be. Since it’s authentically mine, my audience can sense that and, therefore, enjoys my work because of that. Needless to say, I’m hardworking in the sense that I relentlessly follow my passion in order to continue to provide the truest form of Mile Square Moments to the world.
SO YOU ARE INCREDIBLY PASSIONATE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY - WHAT SPARKED THIS PASSION? HOW HAVE YOU DEVELOPED AS A PHOTOGRAPHER? ANY FAVORITE SUBJECTS TO SHOOT?
I first picked up a camera in a photojournalism class in college. The professor sent us on several unique assignments, asking us to cover local events in the community and on campus. I’d easily take hundreds of photos on any given assignment, but had to choose just three of four photos that best conveyed the event and helped the reader understand what it was like to be a part of it. I felt empowered by owning the decision of how to visually tell a story – how to represent a person, place or event with images. I bring this perspective to everything I photograph, from clients, family and friends, world travels, and more.
I’ve developed as a photographer simply by saying “yes.” This year has been a lot of firsts for me as a photographer – first live proposals, first studio portrait sessions, and even a first horseback riding session to name some. I’ve taken these invitations as opportunities to expand my skill set and hone my journalistic photography style. It’s also a huge compliment that these folks see my work and think, “I want her to capture a significant moment in my life,” and then invite me to be a part of it. It’s amazing what happens when you put yourself out there and trust yourself to deliver.
For clients, my favorite things to shoot are proposals. It’s so fun for me to be a part of these huge moments and to capture such raw emotion and happiness. For fun, I really enjoy shooting scenes around Hoboken and New York City. One morning this past April, while hiding and waiting to shoot a sunrise proposal in Hoboken, I snapped a few photos of the sun rising over Manhattan, with the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building silhouetted against a golden-blue sky. This is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken.
WHEN IT COMES TO PHOTOGRAPHY - WAHT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?
More philosophically, my mission is to tell the story of the Mile Square City, so I’m inspired by Hoboken’s character, its proximity to New York City, and the people who call this small city home. More technically, I’m inspired by other local photographers who also love Hoboken and have experimented with different angles, scenes, and subjects to express what it’s like to be in the Mile Square City.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS AROUND THE CITY? (RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, BARS, PARKS, ETC.)
My favorite Hoboken spots:
- Bin 14: A cute wine bar. This is the first place I went to in Hoboken after signing my first lease in 2014.
- Bean Vault Coffee: A quaint, standing-room only coffee shop. I buy my coffee beans here and pick the baristas’ brains on how to make the best pour overs.
- The Waterfront: An incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. I take my runs here, weaving in and out of all the Hoboken piers.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU LIVE BY, OR THAT YOU’VE GIVEN OUT TO OTHERS?
“People will say a lot of things to you, but you get to decide what it means.”
These are words from a former marketing director I used to work with. I can’t even count the times I’ve repeated them to others because of how true I believe they are. We all get wrapped up in a sentence, or even a word, someone else has said to us that rubs us the wrong way or causes us to question something about ourselves. This piece of advice encourages a moment of observation when one of these disruptive phrases enters into your atmosphere, and then deciding whether to let it linger for further consideration or not. I’ve chosen not to internalize several disruptive phrases because I decided they weren’t worth the mental energy. I love how this redirects your attention to think about other ideas, topics, or passions that will drive your life in a more meaningful and positive direction. Think of what you can accomplish by thinking this way instead of attempting to decode what someone else thinks about you...a lot!