Life’s journey doesn’t always turn out the way we expect. In an era where individuals are focused on choosing a career path based on a degree or certificate, others may choose instinct over logic. Choosing a career can often originate from the most unlikely places.
Take the story of Marti Belcher, for example. Now a renowned photographer, the Vienna resident’s journey has taken a long, winding road of unexpected turns and numerous ups and downs. Having moved to Georgetown in her early thirties and returning to school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. A new city meant an opportunity to take a moment and revaluate, as change often does to most people.
If someone had told her growing up she would have been a photographer, she would have shot down the idea immediately. “I never had a camera, I never liked cameras,” she says. It wasn’t until she had already chosen a different career path that she discovered her passion for photography. “In 1999, I went back to school to study interior design and shifted towards graphic design. I got hooked on the camera.”
As her infatuation with photography increased, there were certain aspects that Belcher found difficult to comprehend at first. Specifically, the art behind photographing people.
“Taking a photograph of an individual compared to a monument or the sky differs dramatically,” she says. “In the case of photographing a person, the photographer is responsible for not only capturing the moment itself, but also the emotion their subject is feeling. Compared to a building, the sky, or a lake, these objects are not able to communicate the same message a person can.”
She learned that a photographer must be able to convey the emotion, intensity, and sentiment the subject is feeling in that exact moment.
Belcher originally thought photographing people was an avenue she would not dare explore. “I always said I wouldn’t photograph people,” she says. “There’s all these things you think you know about yourself and very often we think we know.”
This internal struggle led Belcher to face a crossroads. She had the choice of staying within the confines of a career that she had outgrown, or take a leap and pursue an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I didn’t think I could use a camera, I’m not a very technical human being,” she says. “I do Photoshop and all this other stuff, but I never thought I could photograph people, I thought it would be impossible.”
Throwing caution to the wind, Belcher eventually overcame her hesitation and dove head first into the realm of photography.
One of the most exciting elements of Belcher’s new career has been taking photos in India. It is one of the first countries she visited as she began her endeavor as a photographer.
“The best pieces of my work are in India, a culture which is completely opposite from everything that I would basically be, photographing people who were allowing me to be literally in their face and having them comfortable with me,” she says. “It was kind of magic.”
The essence of Belcher’s photography has always revolved around the intimacy between her and her subjects.
“It’s important to get the right people and it’s just not doing the portrait work, but also trying to take pictures that show the environment and what it’s really like to be in these places,” she says. “Therefore, it is important to not lose sight of your passions in life. That passion or hobby could develop into a once-in-a-lifetime career, but you never know until you take the first step.”
Over her career, she has received a number of awards and accolades, including being named a finalist at the International Fine Art Photography, Grand Prix de la Decouverte; taking home second prize, “people,” at the 2013 National Show, Louisville Arts Center; and winning Folio 2011, Silvershotz Magazine, England and Australia.
Belcher’s philosophy is, “every picture has a story.”
“My photography is simple and straightforward. I have a passionate interest and curiosity about people, world cultures, and ideas,” she says. “These are the forces that dominate my personal life and my photography. Actually, I draw no distinction between my work and my personal life: they are one and the same. I am an adventurer, a lover of color, culture, and the bewitching.”
Shown above: (Top left) Holy Chatter, (Top right) Woman in Peach, (In article) Aged Man 1