Sunday, April 18th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


An eye for the beauty found everywhere

by Rob Lauer

Michele Thompson (photo by Dana Leigh)

Michele Thompson (photo by Dana Leigh)

Some time ago, Chesapeake photographer Michele Thompson began a personal project: over the next year, she would produce one photograph a day of which she could be genuinely proud. Going out for daily runs, taking walks on local beaches, and being the busy mother of four, Michele had no doubt that her daily comings and goings would provide her with endless material and inspiration for photographs.
And then the COVID pandemic began. The world went into shutdown mode, and Michele, like millions of others, found herself homebound. Even that didn’t stop her from finding inspiration for a daily photo. “I found beauty in my backyard and even in my house,” she says. “None of us have to go very far to find it.”

Michele believes that having an eye for seeing the beauty in even the most mundane settings is essential to the art of photography. And yet, this Florida native readily admits that she never considered herself artistic in any way while growing up.

“As a little kid, whenever I colored, I basically just tried to stay in the lines,” she laughs. “What I  think I always had was an ability to appreciate the things around me and see beauty in them. Growing up, we took trips to the mountains in Maine for two weeks every summer. The trees growing there were so big and beautiful, so different from the trees in Florida. We had family who lived on the New England coast, so I always appreciated those beaches—which were beautiful because they were rougher and rockier than the sandy beaches I was used to.”

Noticing the subtle details that make the beauty of one thing different from that of another is the essential tool of every creative person regardless of their art form. Photography became a way for Michele to capture what she saw and share it with others. This was especially true after she married her husband, Brian Thompson, and they began having children.

“Photography has been something I’ve always loved—going back for years, but after having kids, it became a passion as well,” she explains. “I found myself wanting to capture their day-to-day life. After my third child was born, I had pictures made of my kids. When I saw the final results from a professional photographer, I thought, ‘Well, I could have done that.’”
As the Thompson family grew to include four kids, paying to have photos taken professionally become costly. So, Michele threw herself into her photography.  “I wanted to have a visual record of my kids’ daily life—one we’d have years later. As time passes, memories can fade or change, but if you have photographs, you can always go back to them.”

“Photography has been
something I’ve always loved
—going back for years,
 but after having kids,
it became a passion as well.”
—Michele Thompson

“I started off being self-taught, with my camera set on automatic and going with my intuition,” Michele continues. “Finally, I decided that I wanted to have more control over the photos I was taking, so I put the camera in manual mode. That was the game-changer. Editing my photos was the next big step. During four years that we were living in California, I began taking classes. Until then, I had primarily photographed people, but the California landscapes were so beautiful that my focus started to change. By the time we moved to Virginia in 2011, the kids were in their teens and, like most kids at that age, became a bit more resistant to want to being photographed as much. So, having respect for them, I turned my attention to landscape photography. I met with some local photographers, we’d go for walks, and I saw beauty everywhere.”

Michele’s friends were impressed by the beauty of the photographs she was producing. One friend was Jennifer Tolarchyk, The Shopper’s graphic designer. When a local gym with a bright orange interior was slated for a story in an upcoming issue, Jennifer realized that a skilled photographer with a keen eye was a must for the assignment. She offered it to Michele, and the resulting photos were so successful that Michele immediately became the photographer of choice for every Shopper cover story.

“As a photographer for The Shopper, I’ve enjoyed meeting and photographing such a wide variety of people and getting to know more about my local community,” Michele says with her characteristically warm smile.

Landscapes, beachscapes, and nature are the subjects that currently draw Michele’s eye. In recent years as her children became active in high school sports, she also developed a knack for sports photography. Because of the positive reactions that the body of her work has received, she is currently exploring selling her photographs online—something that a growing number of photographers are doing.

“Because of the digital age, there’s a lot of talk about whether shooting on actual film is better,” Michele notes. “I stand by the idea that the best camera to use is the one you have with you. It’s not the type of camera you have, but what you see in the thing that you’re photographing that’s really important. Photography is all about actually having a vision and seeing it. Unfortunately, a lot of people just snap a photo with no thought in it and then move on.

“Usually, when I go out,
around sunrise or sunset,
there are things that I look for:
the way the light hits the water,
 the sand, objects on the beach.
Those kinds of things  
always inspire me.”
                       —Michele Thompson

“Usually, when I go out, around sunrise or sunset, there are things that I look for: the way the light hits the water, the sand, objects on the beach. Those kinds of things always inspire me. Great light always gets me giddy; so does the way that the waves hit the shore. The formation of clouds and how they interact with the weather make for some great pictures. I open myself up to the feelings I get from seeing what’s around me. Photography definitely begins with those feelings.”

“I think everyone should have a camera, go out and shoot,” Michele concludes. “We live in such a busy time, that day-to-day life can feel pretty stressful, but there’s a peacefulness that comes with photography. So my advice for anyone is to get a camera, slow down, walk around and explore. Pause and take in the world around you. There is beauty everywhere.”