We had the good fortune of connecting with Piper Blake and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Piper, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I never really thought of myself as an artistic person growing up. I was the kid that colored inside the lines, didn’t have much interest in drawing, and rather had been reading a book than playing or looking for something to craft. However, l always enjoyed looking at pretty things, whether it was a beautiful painting, an untouched landscape or a well-composed photograph. It wasn’t until high school when I was accepted into the Academy of Media Arts and Technology Academy–now known as the Creative Media Production Academy– that I became passionate about a career in photography. I was lucky enough to have a teacher that gave me access to a studio equipped with strobes and other photography equipment that I had never used before, which ultimately helped guide me and hone my skill. I would have never been able to afford the equipment that I was able to use, let alone learn how to use it without his help. That was where I got my foundation and I have since graduated and kept working on building my craft. Since starting college I have been able to make photography my side job and my main hobby. I still have a small set of clients, but I cherish each session I style. I am not a photographer that relies on my editing skills to create a beautiful image. I want to create what my client is envisioning from composition and lighting, everything else is touch up and a few color enhancements, unless they are looking for a more unique look. The reason I like to have more raw, untouched looking images is that I have always loved the idea of capturing an authentic moment, whether it’s a look between two people or a genuine heartfelt smile. Those are the little things we take for granted and being able to show those moments to a client and saying, “that is you, and you are beautiful,” is the best feeling in the world. As I said, I admire beautiful things. That includes beautiful moments. Also, because I am a journalism student I like to be a storyteller in my writing and I think that translates over to my photography. Not everyone is going to want to be read the same way or be captured in the same light because no two people are the same, and that really speaks to me on a creative level. My ultimate goal is to merge my photography with my writing to become a travel journalist that roams the world telling a diverse range of narratives through visuals and written words. What could spur creativity more than to be able to see beautiful places, meet beautiful people, and tell beautiful stories?
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I wouldn’t say my journey has been the easiest one because I wouldn’t be where I am today without a bit of heartbreak. After a sports injury left me unable to play my senior year of high school volleyball, I had to switch my focus from getting recruited by a college to figuring out “where do I go from here?” I was lost after this because I had put all my hope into that one passion without truly thinking of what I wanted my future career to look like. That is when I fell headfirst into my photography and made it my new passion and I shaped my future career around it. I learned that you can have one plan for yourself, but that plan might not be the path you are meant to follow. Overall, If I had to describe my photography in three words it would be, work in progress. This isn’t that I think my work is bad or that it isn’t exciting, it’s that I believe I still have a lot to learn on my journey as a photographer since I am still fairly new to this career. Honestly, I don’t think any artist is ever done learning because the definition of beauty is ever-changing in the artistic world. Why do you think there are so many types of art? My business is small and my clientele is slowly growing, so this allows me to take more risks and try things out more than a well-known photographer would be able to because at that point everyone knows what to expect from your work. I want and strive for my work to be authentic. I don’t like overediting or using harsh presets to make my images stand out more. I would rather my images speak for themselves based on the subject and the raw moments that I capture. I am most proud of my ability to capture a person’s personality in my work, whether it’s that person’s style, their emotions, or their surroundings. I have done photoshoots for multi-sport athletes, artists, couples, families, and babies, each one poses some challenges, but navigating the personality of the person you are photographing is half the fun. You get to be the person that highlights their best features along with their favorite aspects of themselves and that gives a photographer a kind of power that should be cherished. People are vulnerable around a photographer because they get nervous that their true selves will be revealed in each shot we take, but that is what makes an image beautiful because it’s honest. I am a student, photographer, and writer; I am honest, hardworking, and caring. These are my main personality and character traits and a good photographer would be able to make that known in the images they take, and I hope that makes me one of them.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Day 1 We would go to the stockyards in downtown Fort Worth to soak up that Texas culture in our nices boots and southern-chic outfits. We would spend all day perusing the western-themed stores looking at clothes, boots, cowboy hats and cowboys. Then that night we would head over to billy bobs live music and line dancing. Also, we would probably have to eat barbeque for each meal because Risky’s bbq and Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-be-que are right off the stockyard’s main strip. Day 2 We would head to Southlake Towne Square to window shop at all the name brand stores located there. Whether we buy anything is a whole other story but walking around sure will be a workout! We would go to Central Market for a few mid-day snacks from their vendor stations while we look around at all the unique food items they offer there. Then for dinner, we would head over to Brio Italian Grille for some amazing authentic Italian dishes. After that, we would walk around Barnes and Nobles for hours looking at books and records and try to buy the whole store. Day 3 We would go back to Fort Worth down to West 7th street for some Ramen at Oni Ramen. Then I would take her over to the botanical gardens to look at the architecture and beautiful flowers that grow there. Honestly, we would probably do a mini photo shoot while we were there. After that, it’s off to the Fort Worth modern art museum to take in some culture and then we would go to Cayote Drive-in right outside downtown for a double feature movie and enjoy the night skyline of the city. Day 4 At this point, we are both probably exhausted so we would stay home and have a rom-com or greys anatomy marathon and we would eat pizza, popcorn, and ice cream most of the day. Day 5 We head to Dallas to check out Deep Ellum and all the unique coffee shops and restaurants that are down here. We would do photoshoots in front of some of the cool murals and statues that are down there and even in front of the architecture that the storefronts have. Hopefully that night there is a concert that we have tickets for at the Dos Equis Pavillion an outdoor amphitheater. We both enjoy their country summer concert series. Day 6 We go hiking at Eagle Mountain Lake and pack snacks and hang up hammocks by the water and enjoy the sun and nature. Day 7 Go grab breakfast at Seven Mile Café before she leaves and talk about the week and catch up. We love their coffee and food!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The person that mentored me and pushed me toward my passion for photography was my teacher, Joshua Gaston. He did everything he could to keep me creative while in his class by teaching me new techniques with lighting in the studio and outside and how to plan and create compositions. He even would purchase equipment that he believed his students’ may need and would allow us to buy them from him at a discounted price. He did everything he could to make us successful outside of the classroom and keep us wanting more from our photography. I owe what I know now to him. He taught me everything I know about editing images, setting up lighting, setting up a shot, and posing a client. If I didn’t have him as a teacher I probably would have never pursued photography in the first place because I wouldn’t have spent the time to hone that skill. In high school, I was an athlete, photographer, and writer, so when I tore my ACL I had to give up the sport I loved and focus on my other interests. Mr. Gaston helped me through that loss by giving me something I could make my own and supporting me to get better. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance and support, so I am grateful for everything he did for me while I was his student.
Piper Blake (Piper Ryley Photography)
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