Have you ever stood in front of the camera and tried to smile naturally? Yeah, it doesn’t work. At least not for me. The pictures my hubby takes of me always seem like I have plastered a smile to my face. He always tells me to stop it, and smile properly. My body and joints become rigid as I make myself look photogenic. Yeah… no, that is not how a great picture is made. But that’s what I default to.
Chrissy from Christian Cloete Photography is not only an amazing wife and mom of three children plus a foster baby, she’s a passionate Jesus lover, and also runs her own wedding photography business. The pictures speak for themselves. She has a fantastic way with people. Chrissy is so natural and easy to be around.
The Awkward Photoshoot | Revealing God’s Heart
Though I’ve known her for years, it was still awkward for me to be in front of her camera. This is nothing against Chrissy’s skills, this is all the awkwardness of Dani. I kept trying to fight myself from sticking out my tongue and making funny faces to cover up the hidden thought that I didn’t think I could look beautiful. But Chrissy’s relaxed, and light manner reassured me. One sunny and warm afternoon, she helped bring out my confidence and natural beauty. To me this shows that she really has a gift. Despite the weird thoughts going through my head, and the way I perceived myself, she was able to capture the me that was really there.
In that way, she reminded me of God who, despite our own thoughts and the swirling lies in our head, speaks out and reassures us with his truth. What a beautiful way of revealing His heart.
After the awesome awkward photoshoot, we sat down next to a glistening lake and had a little chat. I wanted to know more about what got her started in photography, and her favourite things about it, about having a business and a bunch of kids, and about seeing the beauty God sees in people, and about feeling overwhelmed.
The Spotlight on: Chrissy from Christiane Cloete Photography
Dani: Tell me:
How did you begin with your photography? How did you know you enjoyed taking pictures?
Chrissy: It actually began as my husband’s hobby. We were visiting South Africa when my oldest was about one year old. I ran out of stuff to read and I thought to myself, “what am I going to do for the next five weeks if I don’t just want to sit by a pool?” My husband started explaining everything to me about ISO and shutter speed. I forgot everything by the next day. It was too much.
But then I practiced and I photographed his sister at her engagement photo shoot with his other younger sister who was a wedding photographer. That’s where I experienced how cool it was to get people to feel comfortable, to be creative and to make them look good in images, and to portray their connection. For me, it’s always about showing how people are connected.
Then I thought, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right.” So I started a business. My husband actually always wanted to start a business, but he didn’t have the time because of work so I thought, “Why don’t I do it?”. Funny enough, it was never a dream.
How long ago did you begin your business?
Chrissy: I started a Facebook page just a few weeks after we came home, so that was six years ago.
Dani: So it was never actually a dream to have a business, but it just kind of happened?
Chrissy: Yeah, I just found joy in creating. I think I find more joy in editing the images than in taking them. Which is odd, because I love to be with people and interact with them, and the editing is just on the computer. But I love to see what you can make out of a raw image. How you can make colours pop, or how you can enhance things.
Dani: I understand that you like the beauty that you can create out of the experience.
Could you share your favourite aspects of taking photos?
Chrissy: Beauty. And the connection with people. To see them love each other and be completely unaware of the camera. Just being happy with themselves.
Dani: Who encouraged you to really pursue this? We spoke before about this being your husband’s passion.
Chrissy: Yeah, I’d say he encouraged me. He was the driving force, with his teaching and everything, he got the ball rolling.
When you started the business did it rob you of any joy or pleasure you got when you took photos, or did you appreciate the challenge?
Chrissy: I’m not sure if you can compare that because I didn’t photograph before. So I couldn’t say.
Dani: Do you notice a difference between taking photos just for personal pleasure, for instance taking pictures of your family versus ones that are for business?
Chrissy: Well, I do not photograph my family as often as I would love to. But I’m trying to! I made a conscious decision to photograph them more often, like while they’re playing. They are very aware of the camera and don’t like to be photographed. I have to kind of catch them in the moment when they’re not aware, which are my favorite shots anyway.
Since you are at home primarily with the kids, how has having a business on the side been?
Chrissy: It’s perfect basically. Being a wedding photographer means that the weddings are usually on Saturday and that means my husband is home. During the week I can decide when I will edit the images, or when I will answer client emails and stuff. I can keep the afternoons completely free for the kids, and do the business stuff in the morning.
Dani: Sounds perfect!
Dani: Earlier in our conversation we were talking about faith. Could you tell me how your faith reflects in your business? Can you see connections between your faith and your business?
Chrissy: I can definitely, because I believe that every person is created beautiful and in the image of God. I often have clients say to me, “Oh, I’m not so beautiful” or “I’m not so photogenic” or “I feel awkward in front of the camera” – maybe you know that feeling? -Both of us laugh- I know I do! So for me, it’s not about the beauty that is portrayed on the outside but how can I make the beauty from their character and personality come out. Because everybody is made in the image of God. I’m not sure if someone who wasn’t a Christian, from the outside would see the difference in the pictures. But for me it’s different because I always aim to get their inner beauty to shine through… which is basically portrayed in their character.
Could you share how you see yourself in 5 years?
Chrissy: I want to see myself having grown as a woman of God. I want to be in the place where God wants me to be.
How do you hear or experience God speaking to you?
Chrissy: I can give you an example, over the last few months now I always start crying during a certain song, when a certain line is sung. I’m pretty sure God is speaking to me through that line, and that something is going to happen about what it says in that song. Funny enough, completely more or less unrelated, my husband also brought up that same issue the other day. So this is definitely something we believe God is speaking to us about.
Dani: So because we are humans, made in the image of God, we also have this ability to create, just like he creates. I’ve been calling this our “co-creating calling” lately. I understand it, in part, as the ability to bring forth, to develop, and to innovate.
Where do you see your role in creation as a creator?
Chrissy: I think this falls into that category, Recently I’ve had it on my heart to start something for women. Maybe starting a new house group. I feel like, for me, I’m in my house doing all sorts of stuff, and challenges come across and I have to deal with them more or less by myself. Sometimes I deal with it well, and other times not so well. Young mothers and mothers in general deal with these things all the time. I find that these challenges are not spoken of so openly – for instance, issues in school. I’d love to see a community of women grow together and be able to rely on each other when challenges happen. They could be there for one another with advice, or prayer.
Dani: Ok, we will end with one last question:
What would you say to someone who is totally overwhelmed?
For instance to these mothers. They don’t even recognize themselves anymore because they are just so full of everything in life – of school, of all of the urgent things – they don’t realize what they are capable of anymore.
Chrissy: I would say, “It’s ok!” There is no one rule for everyone. One woman may desire to be with her children 100% of the time, and for the other, she wants to start working a few months after having a baby. I think that the underlying message is, “It’s ok, the rules are made in your life by you and God, but not by the exceptions of other people.”
You are enough! –