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Meet Meka Hemmons of SpiderMeka Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meka Hemmons.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Elders say that we never know where life’s moments will lead us. The day I walked into my being as a portrait photographer, I suddenly saw how so much of my history merged and fit together as pieces of an incredible puzzle.

I saw my mother in the basement darkroom she created in our home — my tiny-human self-taking an interest in what mommy was doing, shaking canisters under a strange red light and setting timers to tick in complete darkness. I saw my slightly older self-sitting on grandmother’s sofa, Dove commercials playing on the gigantic floor-model tv, saying softly out loud to no one in particular, “I can do what this commercial is doing. I can make pretty words and pictures that make people happy.”

I watched my teenaged self-board the Metra to begin studying the arts of design and advertising at Columbia College in Chicago. I watched myself make friends with faces so different from mine, but with souls so similar. I learned that we were the same. I learned that the beauty of the art I studied and the people I met was not in how it looked, but how it was created.

I saw my young adult self-walk into a respectable position at Harpo Studios — a shark tank… a riddle. I saw myself exceed at becoming a shark but fail at solving the riddle. I saw the moments where I no longer recognized myself… where I couldn’t see any puzzle pieces of my past fitting together… where I couldn’t see any shape or light ahead of me. I saw myself lament at my life and wonder what I would become.

I saw a moment of warmth… of me getting wiser… of me taking charge. I saw the moment where I remembered things I did to help me feel alive. I saw myself remember my camera, discover it all over again, and use it to make people happy. I saw myself the happiest I’d been in ages.

I made the decision to begin what I hope is a life-long career in portrait photography two years before Oprah Winfrey dismantled Harpo Studios and left Chicago to focus on her OWN network in Los Angeles. It was my honor to have been her premier photo retoucher for eight years, within which, very ironically, I learned the greatest lesson of my career thus far: Beauty happens when we love who we are, not when we’re pretending or desiring to be someone else.

As a portrait photographer, I approach creating an image of your true self with knowing that we shape our worlds, and if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot expect to properly teach others to love. I give you a moment to harness the strength and magnificent energy within you, to drop reservations about anything you think you are not, to imagine what you could do with refreshed power and appreciation for everything that you are.

Beauty is not manipulated into expensive printed pages. It is not peeled off at night. It is, in fact, affordable, attainable, and abundant. This knowledge is the foundation of what I hope to continue nurturing and spreading through service of SpiderMeka Photography.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
So, yeah… starting a business is not typically easy. Surprise. It has not been a smooth road.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was learning that what I give and receive in my business is a mirror reflection of what I give and receive in myself. I had to learn that if I don’t fully believe (and do the research!) in my own talent or mission or goals, I could never convince anyone else to.

Once I learned to hold my head above water as it came to self-worth, the subsequent struggle was knowing that now I had opposition I had no power over – friends and family close to me who still didn’t understand or even believe in what I wanted to create. As if not having solid business classes behind me, or knowledge of how to market, or the best practices of bookkeeping, or ways to engage profitably on social media were not enough.

I had to struggle with daily nay-saying. Loneliness. It can be overwhelming… until I remember the 300-point list of why I’m doing this. A person with one reason will give up. A person with a hundred reasons will keep getting up.

On a less existential note, I also struggled with old bad habits, which are not easy for me to change. Every day I have to remind myself that the rules and methods that worked in corporate simply do not apply to SpiderMeka Photography. I longed for the freedom, but it’s a son-of-a-gun to recreate a new system of efficiency.

SpiderMeka Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
How many times do we look in the mirror and either ignore or criticize what we see? Chins, hips, stomachs, whatever… it saddens me that too few of us appreciate who we are in our given form. Too many of us desire to be someone or something else. My customers come to me because I listen to their secrets and desires. They all want to feel like they matter. I see significance easily. I show how we matter.

My customers are trying to solve the problem of hating taking a picture, and never having a photo that they like themselves in or are proud and happy to share. My customers confess not being present in pictures of their families, not owning professional photos to pass on to their children as they grow older, or having a fear of documenting the most important thing in their lives: themselves.

Portrait sessions with SpiderMeka Photography include headshots & personal branding, family, beauty & glamour, intimate, couples, maternity, mother & daughter, best friends, sisters, generations, bridal party gifts, and “treat” days out. From the initial meeting to canvases on your wall, the process includes consultation, wardrobe recommendation, hair and makeup styling, fully guided natural posing sessions, full professional retouching, and a solid variety of prints and products for your portraits.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
This is a horrible question for perfectionists. We rarely, if ever, feel successful.

That being said, I honestly feel I am most successful when I allow room for imperfection. I realized a while ago that my entire mission statement is based on the battle cry that we are all different, and there is no such thing as perfect, and we should celebrate our uniqueness… which is a great concept to implement in my work ethic as well. I never want to put out anything I feel is inferior or sub-par in quality or service, and I definitely dream big, but as my mom often reminds me, “Your ‘good enough’ is someone else’s ‘outstanding’!”

Her words help to bring me back to chill mode and be grateful of “small” victories.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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