- Major and Year of Graduation
I graduated in 2018 with a major in Electronic Media and Communication and a minor in Environment and the Humanities.
- What was your first job out of college?
After I graduated in 2018, I went straight into grad school studying cultural anthropology to use those courses to become a better documentary filmmaker. I did a year of grad school before deciding to take a step back from academics and to begin working full-time for myself with my photography business. Since then, I've been self-employed as a traveling adventure portrait and elopement photographer.
- What is your current job and location?
I've been full-time with my business for two years now, and am based in Lubbock, Texas, although I travel for most of the year.
- When you came to college, what was it you wanted to do after graduating? How does
that differ, if any, from what you do now?
When I came to college, I knew my life's passion and goal upon graduation was to use storytelling to make a difference. Photojournalism and human rights advocacy are my passions, and while the main stories I tell right now are that of couples eloping in cool destinations around the country, in my off-season, I travel to pursue personal projects for issues I care about. Right now, most of those trips involve underwater photography and freediving!
- As an adventure wedding and portrait photographer, you don't have what many folks
would call a traditional 9-5.
What does your typical day/week/month look like?
A typical work week for me looks like hours spent editing photos, location scouting for future elopements, on-boarding new clients, and doing all of the backend and less glamorous sides of owning a creative small business. On the weeks I'm traveling for work, I either drive or fly to the elopement destination and spend a day (or more) adventuring with each couple, photographing their experience, and sometimes even marrying them! When it comes to elopements, sometimes there are guests and it flows more like a traditional wedding weekend—but instead of a rehearsal dinner at a venue, we spend the day before their wedding canoeing and roasting marshmallows around an open fire. Other times, it's just the three of us! Either way, it's always so special to get to be a part of that experience and help bring their vision to life. During busy seasons, I spend almost every weekend away from home, and even when I'm not traveling for work, I'm usually traveling for personal adventures or projects.
- You're an advocate for women in the outdoors, diverse representation in media, and
you vocalize support for the marginalized and oft-forgotten (for example, you made
a documentary about human trafficking while in college). What experiences have shaped
your perspective on these issues, and how does your profession allow you to continue
There are so many experiences I could share that have shaped my perspective on human rights issues and advocacy in general. From spending time in strip clubs in Texas to studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, to learn about global laws related to human trafficking, and spending time in De Wallen (Red Light District) Amsterdam—with many experiences in between, both locally and abroad. Truthfully, those experiences are pretty heavy, and doing portrait photography and getting reminded of the beauty that can exist in human connection has allowed me to continue advocating without burning out. Best of all, since my schedule is flexible, I have the freedom to continue working on my documentary-style projects on the side.
- Are you a goal-setter? If so (or if not), what are a couple professional goals you
would like to achieve as you dive more into your career?
I am 100% a goal setter. Every year for the past decade, I've done what I call my annual “Dream and Scheme” where I sit down and write out personal, professional, and financial goals for the year. Part of that process also includes writing one goal that scares me, as well as pitching one of my ideas and trying to make it happen. I've found that taking the time to put pen to paper and map out how to make those goals a reality has been a game-changer for me with growing a successful business. Two of my biggest goals for the future include creating a documentary about the sex industry and writing an ethnography about orcas. Two wildly different topics, but ones I find so important and interesting.
- What was the most transformative experience you had in CoMC? How does that experience
factor into your life today?
I think far and away the most transformative experience I had at CoMC was the hands-on learning—particularly the Junction Maymester photography course. That course is essentially a snapshot of what I do now for my career, and it was an important moment for me in realizing, okay, I really do love the grind of living on the road and waking up in new places while I chase stories. I think the world of travel photography can get pretty over-glamorized, and that class did a great job of showing the realities of a career in that field and mentally preparing students for that. Plus, the technical skills I learned during that short period laid a foundation for everything else I did in college.
- What's the most surprising thing you had to adjust to out of college?
Out of college, one of the most surprising things I've had to adjust to is the freedom of choosing what's next. That may sound kind of silly—but going from being a student with a list of syllabi, due dates, and expectations to a self-employed business owner was quite a change. Having that level of freedom can be exciting, but it can also be a bit terrifying. Learning to listen to my intuition with decision-making has been huge for me as I try and figure out what I want my career (and life) to look like.
- Considering both your experience during college and in the industry, what advice do
you have for CoMC students now?
My biggest piece of advice to CoMC students now is simple: Get in the truck! In other words, get out there. You have professors who have your back and want you to grow and succeed, an entire college that supports hands-on learning, and so many opportunities that you may never have again—from study abroad programs, to film groups to collaborate with, adventure media classes, etc. I can confidently say that I don't regret any of the last-minute trips I took to build my adventure portfolio in college—I may have lost a little extra sleep along the way to wake up for those sunrises, but those experiences are the ones I look back on with the most fondness.
- Who was your favorite professor and why? Likewise, what was your favorite class in
This is such a tough question. I took classes in a variety of colleges at TTU, and I really believe that CoMC has some of the best professors at the university. Everyone is so passionate about what they do, and that passion and genuine interest in what students are doing is what makes the CoMC experience so special. Although they are not professors, I want to personally shout out the CoMC advising team—specifically my advisor, Don Ellis. I made his life difficult with my varied interests (like being a media student and studying abroad to take a class about the sex industry and human trafficking), but he always had my back and helped me graduate on time without any hiccups along the way. CoMC cultivates students of the world—not just media students, and I think that's a hugely important thing for being successful out of college. It's hard to pick a favorite class, but I think Paul Hunton's documentary filmmaking course is up there as a top favorite. I got to collaborate with colleagues like Juan Gil and Justin Rex during our course project, and I'm proud of the topic we covered and the work we did. As I mentioned before, getting to have that portfolio-building, hands-on experience was so key for me in my growth as a storyteller and photographer.
- When you see Texas Tech or CoMC swag out in the wild, you…
When I see TTU/CoMC swag out in the wild, I get so stoked and automatically feel a connection with them over our shared experience. I met a fellow Tech alum on a dive trip in Hawaii, and it was just so wild to be on a tiny island talking to a local and realize we both have roots in Lubbock. People often talk negatively about Lubbock and how there's nothing to do or nothing going on here, but I think it's actually a great place to learn how to tell stories. You've got to be resourceful, and learning how to find the beauty and magic of even the flat and dusty places is only going to help you in the long run.
To learn more about Anna Claire and view her work, visit her website:www.annaclairebeasley.com/