Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mom in the Spotlight: Liz Zorek

Liz Zorek currently lives in her hometown of Amarillo, TX, with her husband and their two daughters, Anna, age 2.5 and Marie, 1. The Zoreks recently moved to Amarillo from Chicago, which is Liz's husband’s hometown, as well as where Liz attended college and lived for the past 15 years. For the past 10 years, Liz worked in advertising while photographing children and families in her free time. As of 2011, Liz launched into photography full time, and she is so excited about this new chapter in her life! To view her work, please visit

You had a pretty demanding job when both of your girls were born. Can you talk about that a little bit? How did you manage that?  
I was lucky to have been with the same company for seven years when Anna was born, so I was able to return from maternity leave to something very familiar.  I did have to change the way I was working -- meaning, doing work on the train to and from work and sometimes finishing things up after the girls were in bed, but I have technology to thank in those situations since it allowed me to be productive while not needing to be physically in the office.

What made you finally make the break?
I really loved my job and the company, but came back from maternity leave after having Marie and felt like I needed more flexibility in my hours than the job was able to provide. I found the difference in the demands of going from one baby to two to be much more than I anticipated!

When did you realize your passion for children's photography?
I started doing kids portraits in 2004 as a sort of side hobby as a counter to my "corporate" day job. I've always loved photography and portraiture, and especially love using it as a historical record for mannerisms, character, interests, and just general development as people grow and change. I decided to specialize in kids' portraits because I am fascinated by their honesty and innocence and gumption -- and how quickly they change from month to month and year to year. I love trying to capture their little essences, and after having my own kids, I really appreciate how much more precious those types of photos become as time goes on.

Did you get training, or were you primarily self-taught?
Besides a couple of photography classes during college and after, I haven't had any "official" training. I was a film major in college and my career for the last ten years was in film production, so I've had tons of experience putting shoots together for clients in a commercial realm. To develop my style and way of working with photography though I've just tried to shoot as much as possible - literally, every day -- even if the only subject I have to work with is a bowl of oranges, just to practice lighting and camera techniques. It seems like there is always something new to learn, which is what keeps me coming back.

What made you decide this could be a viable business opportunity that could work out well for your family?
For me, it fulfills everything I want and need in a "job" -- it gives me an enormously inspiring creative outlet, which I've discovered is something I actually need (vs. want) in my life, and it allows me to set my own hours and dial my commitments up or down depending on the needs of my family. Besides the actual shoots, I can do pretty much everything else while the girls are napping or asleep at night.

What is it like starting a business from scratch with an infant and a toddler?
In one word, sleepless. Starting a business of any kind is pretty crazy since it requires so much time and attention to get the wheels turning and gather momentum, and adding the full-time attention that two really little ones need on top of that means that you are basically working two full-time jobs at once, at least in the beginning. For me, it is so easy to lose track of time when I'm working on prepping or posting a shoot because I get so absorbed in it that I don't even notice the clock. There have been a lot of really late nights or times when I should have been taking care of other things around the house but have had my head in the computer instead.

How do you think your former job prepared you for this new stage?
Besides the day-to-day workflow, it taught me how to be a professional at delivering a product to a client, and since it was in a creative field, I'm using the same skill set to bring a shoot to life in terms of prep and post and establishing a schedule and setting expectations.

You recently moved from Chicago, IL to Amarillo, TX - quite a change! What has that been like for your family?
Whew, quite a change for sure! I grew up in Amarillo, so although it's been a huge culture shock to come back after being gone for 15 years, I'm grateful for the opportunity to live close to my parents while the girls are so young. We've been here now a little less than two months, and it's already been amazing to watch the girls bonding with their grandparents in a way that's impossible if you live in a different state. It's also been a challenge because I've had to completely rebuild my client base here. It's definitely been hard to leave so much behind, both with our friends and all of the contacts we had made there over the years. We miss everyone!

What do you want your girls to understand about working motherhood?
I really hope they can imagine what kind of life they want to have and then work a career into that picture vs. having their career dictate what kind of life they have.  For me, having my own work makes me a better mama since it gives me my own community and creative outlet outside of the day-to-day world of holding up a house.  And the fact that I can carve my own path is what makes this work for me and my family.  I hope they find the same fit for them, in whatever form that takes.

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