Reinvention and realism: The path of photographer Trisha Hadley

No stranger to starting over and beginning anew, Sanford, Michigan resident and Saginaw small-business owner Trisha Hadley found herself sliding into the photography world. By way of her husband’s interests and through a series of impactful events, Trisha became an artist expressing the beauty of everyday women.

 

She began her journey attending college to became a secondary education art teacher. After two years in the program she knew she would never make it long-term as a high school teacher and discontinued her applicable schooling to try her hand in graphic design.

“Women often look to me to create that or show it to them or they want to find it somewhere in there.”

 

Hadley began taking adult night classes while simultaneously working for the newspaper print industry, enjoying that for seven years. Trisha then felt that all-too-familiar itch to switch it up and moved on to freelance graphic-design work, where she remained self-admittedly complacent for eight years until she was finally burnt out.

 

Photographer Trisha Hadley“They were paying jobs, but I wasn’t in love with it,” says Hadley.

 

Not knowing what her next step would be, Hadley only knew she wanted a change. It was then that her husband presented her with an idea.

 

“My husband is a weird guy,” Hadley says. “He’s systematic with an artistic flare and he wanted to start shooting weddings.”

 

Relying on her husband’s ability to handle intense and stressful situations due to his experience as a 911 dispatcher, Trisha placed her faith in him and reassured herself that he could handle any bridezilla that came their way.

 

“He’d be good because he is used to dealing with emergencies and it doesn’t faze him,” she says.

Showing her clients through photoshoots of themselves, they see the magnificence that has always been there and still resides within them.

 

With Hadley’s husband taking the lead, she supported him by handling the marketing and the people-centric aspects while he was on the frontlines taking the photographs and conducting wedding shoots.

 

They remained at this comfortable plateau for roughly four years until Hadley was faced with a stark dilemma needing a decision: her mother had suffered a brain injury and her health was failing. Trisha was then torn between helping her mother, wedding photography, and maintaining her freelance graphic design obligations.

She did not understand the full scope of how photography can bolster a woman’s self-confidence until she was face-to-face with ‘everyday women’ on a regular basis.

 

The turning point came when Hadley’s husband was interested in attending the Wedding Photographer Portrait Industry (W.P.P.I.) conference in Las Vegas. She decided to go to Vegas with her husband on one stipulation — he would continue to do wedding photography — on his own.

 

“I went to Vegas to eat and drink while he went to classes,” she says. With one particular class, she was fortuitous enough to arrive 45 minutes early to pick up her husband. Upon entering the building, she became entranced by the display of artists.

 

“Seeing all of the work, I had a ‘holy shit’ moment and realized all this stuff being done in the industry is art!” Trisha exclaims, recalling the moment the wheels started to turn.

A mermaid from one of Hadley’s styled shoots.

 

The seminar Trisha stumbled into was of artist Sue Bryce from New Zealand. Bryce’s work often focuses on women and their everyday beauty.

 

Unable to fully attend the seminar, Trisha sought out Bryce’s teachings and found a webinar conducted by the artist. Trisha was in awe of how the artist shot women and captured their splendor they had felt was lost. “In present day, we worship 20-somethings,” says Hadley. “We don’t acknowledge women in their 30s and 40s that have kids, have put on weight, are married with jobs. The focus is no longer on beauty, and Sue’s work highlighted that.”

Hadley has undoubtedly made a dent in unmasking the true essence of all women.

 

Even though Hadley was enamored with Bryce’s portrayal of everyday women, she brushed it off and continued on, taking care of her mother and working in graphic design.

 

Six months later, Trisha’s mom passed away after battling a long-time sickness. While rummaging through old photographs in search of one to display at her mother’s funeral, she found one of her from the 1950s: a candid photo of her mother on the beach, as if someone shouted “Smile!” and her mother instinctively reacted. True to her nature, she had styled her hair and was donning a 1940s-style dress with earrings for a leisurely day out.

 

“It was just my mom, but it brought closure, beauty that was just uniquely her,” she says.

 

The guests at the funeral were captivated by the picture and Hadley received a flood of positive feedback. Hadley once again felt that familiar, guttural urge to switch careers.

Hadley explains that many women experience trepidations, yet are eager to rediscover themselves.

 

“I had no experience in shooting, just graphic design. I had no degree, no formal education and I rented out a space before having any of it. I took a risk,” she says.

 

With only determination and an unrelated art degree, Hadley rented a small studio space above a dentist’s office in Saginaw. She purchased a used camera and began self-teaching with the aid of online tutorials. The surrealism of it all, followed by fear, draped over Hadley in her attempt to create a new career for herself.

 

Nevertheless, she began shooting.

 

She wanted her focus to be women; however, she did not understand the full scope of how photography can bolster a woman’s self-confidence until she was face-to-face with ‘everyday women’ on a regular basis.

Hadley’s style ranges from the very real to the surreal.

 

Trisha noted that “most women hate themselves, hate their shells.” When speaking about the yearn for relinquishing their lost identities,” Hadley says. “They look to me to create that or show it to them or they want to find it somewhere in there”.

 

One project that was spawned out of spite evolved into an inspirational campaign, courtesy of a rude commenter on Facebook. The commenter stated that all of Trisha’s work were just glamour shots.

 

“It pissed me off,” she says.

 

“I’m going to show the world how I can make women beautiful without makeup being a part of it.”

 

And thus, Trisha’s For Real Campaign was born.

Some of the shots from Hadley’s wildly successful “For Real” work.

 

Beginning with a modest goal of convincing 20 women to participate in a makeup-free photoshoot quickly grew into an entity of its own. Finding herself, yet again, in an arena where the rules were foreign and she was playing on pure instinct, Hadley ended up shooting 120 women.

 

“This was a huge turning point in me as far as why women want to do this shoot and what they get out of it,” she says.

 

She explains that many women experienced trepidations, yet were eager to rediscover themselves, if only for a few snapshots. To them, those snapshots would last a lifetime.

Hadley works extensively with dancers and performers.

 

“Everything became a therapy session; I had no idea that was coming for me. I thought I’d just be taking their photos — nope,” she says.

 

Hadley is still learning about the impact of her chosen career and is enjoying every moment of transforming someone back to who they used to see. Showing her clients through photoshoots of themselves, they see the magnificence that has always been there and still resides within them.

 

Hadley has undoubtedly made a dent in unmasking the true essence of all women and is settling comfortably into her business, so now what?

Hadley is still learning about the impact of her chosen career and is enjoying every moment of transforming someone back to who they used to see.

Hadley’s studio will re-open the second week of May, and until then she is able to spend time on a bucket list item of hers. Sticking true to her character, Hadley has a vision of creating beauty out of something others view as mundane — that ‘something’ being grocery bags.


Hadley has been collecting plastic grocery bags and plans to create a couture-style gown out of them, with an upcoming photoshoot planned in a unique outdoor setting.

In the meantime, everyday women can look into their mirrors and see the beauty that was never lost within them, only forgotten.

For more of Hadley’s work see her website and or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

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