We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Fork and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danielle, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
God gives everyone the perfect mix of talents and abilities to fulfill the mission He has in mind for you. I discovered when I was a child that I had a gift for photography. When I say that, I don’t mean the gift of operating fancy cameras and detailed editing software, but more so the gift to see and capture the beauty in every little thing God created. Millions of simple moments add up to become one amazing lifetime and photography is one way we can save those simple moments for the next generations to see. Who doesn’t love to sit with their elders, look at old photos and hear stories from way back when? I used to fill up multiple disposable cameras in a week, and my mom or grandma would drive them to Wal-Mart to be developed. As I got older, I continued to take pictures of everyone and everything. I was always gifting people photo frames with my simple photos. In high school and college, I volunteered my photography for church events, mission trips, family photos, sporting events, and birthday parties. Finally, last year one of my great friends said “Why don’t you turn this into a business? Why don’t you share your work on social media?” and my immediate response was “No way I’m not professional enough to do all that!” But then God let me know He gave me this gift to shine my light on others, and help them shine their light on the world. That’s how I decided to do donation-based photography. Just like I thought my photography wasn’t professional enough for a business there are people who probably think their moments aren’t important enough for a photographer. That’s not true. I don’t want people to lose the opportunity of capturing life’s special moments because they don’t feel like they can afford it. Every day hundreds of people are hosting special events, charity walks, rallies, and donation drives to support their community. I want to capture that for them. Every month thousands of teenage girls are having babies. I want to capture that for them. Every year youth of all income levels are graduating and celebrating milestones. I want to capture that for them. So to answer your question, the thought process behind starting my business began in my heart on a word from God.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Donation-based photography is my side hustle. My actual career is in social work. I previously worked at a youth homeless shelter and now I currently work at a non-profit that treats youth with mental health disorders and substance use issues. I am also pursuing my Masters Degree in Social Work at University of Texas at Arlington. My journey to my current position was not easy at all. I actually got my Bachelors Degree in Journalism from the University of Arizona with a focus on sports broadcasting. I worked for Pac-12 Networks, FOX Sports and ESPN during college and for my first job post-graduation. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love sports – talking sports is my second language. However, despite the excitement of working Final Fours and National Championships, my heart was not fulfilled. I knew deep down I was supposed to be working with youth. Besides my gift for capturing life’s beautiful moments, God also gave me a gift to work with youth. I’ve been volunteering at shelters, after-school programs, church and mission trips since I was a little girl. So, long story short, I quit my job at ESPN and completely changed my career to work with vulnerable youth. Some people called me crazy – and I might have felt crazy too sometimes – but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Now, I get to spend my days advocating for youth who are homeless, victims of abuse, victims of human trafficking, formerly incarcerated, or just struggling with hard life experiences. I am extremely passionate about educating people on the effect trauma has on the brain in early childhood, and how it can alter a child’s whole life if not treated. I have a dream to make our juvenile justice system more trauma-informed so we can heal our youth and decrease recidivism rates. I want to sit down with the people that most avoid, hear their stories and devote my time to support them. Amazingly enough – I am able to combine my gifts and use my photography to capture photos of those I work with when they want me to share their stories. The lesson I’ve learned along the way is if you commit your work to the Lord, THEN your plans will succeed. Follow YOUR calling and not what the latest Instagram post said is good for you. If you get anything out of my story, whether you are spiritual or not, it’s that the moment you let go of society’s expectations of you and what they say is popular – and focus on what YOU were actually created for in this world – you will find true happiness and true success. Don’t worry about what abilities other people have. If you don’t have them, you don’t need them for your purpose. Love yourself, build your business on a foundation of faith and watch how it all grows. I want the world to see me as a thought leader. A young woman who sees beyond people’s circumstances and takes the time to know their heart. Someone who fights for justice, equality and accessibility. Someone who is dedicated to empowering our youth to be resilient and build a solid foundation for their future. Please see me as a perfectly imperfect Child of God walking in her purpose.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Hmm, if I’m looking to have a daytime drink or Sunday Funday then you could find me at STIRR having a frose or at Vidorra having a gold digger margarita. Both are located in Deep Ellum and have rooftop bars – such a vibe. I also love The Statler’s rooftop bar on a nice day. My go-to spot for a dinner date on the weekend is Felix Culpa. The décor is beautiful, the energy is so fun, and the food is delicious yet affordable. Plus they have DJ’s on the weekend and turn the lights down low for the best atmosphere. Definitely make a reservation though and there is free valet! (tip them of course though) PLEASE support La La Land Kind Café. This is my favorite coffee spot because it’s delicious, but more importantly they employ former foster care youth who are working toward becoming independent and successful. Similar to this, Café Momentum employs formerly incarcerated youth and helps them reintegrate into society. I love having dinner here with a friend, colleague or family member. I love the outdoors so if you like to hike, run or ride your bike I always go to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve or Cedar Hill State Park. I also like to walk the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge over the Trinity River downtown. It provides such a beautiful view of the Dallas skyline. Lastly, if you are in the market for new furniture or home décor then I suggest Dwell with Dignity Thrift Studio. Their items are so modern and trendy, and their proceeds support families who are homeless or living in poverty!!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Grandma Lucy and my mom get my first shoutout because they are the two amazing women who used to buy me disposable cameras, and my mom bought me my first professional camera. I love them for supporting my passion. I have to send a shoutout to Ola Akintola. She is the amazing friend who motivated me to turn my photography into a business. She is a female business owner herself and she inspires me in ways I could never explain. God truly placed her in my life for a reason. Lastly, I have to shoutout every single person, family, sports team and organization that trusted me to be their photographer. Every single time I shoot is an opportunity for me to learn and grow. So many people have allowed me to capture their special moments, share their beauty and advance my skills for the next time. In donation-based photography – some of them pay cash, some of them send gift cards and some of them give me a tear-filled hug to say thank you. I love every single form of payment in return for helping me express my passion and grow in my skills. I am forever grateful for that and hope I will continue to get new clients and be able to capture new lifestyle moments.
All images were photographed by me, Danielle Fork (@deeforkphotos).