Kathleen North Porter

Class of 2007
Professional Photographer
North Photography LLC
Westford, Vt.

Once photographer Kathleen North Porter ’07 arrives at a wedding venue, she feels a sense of relief. Yes, she’ll be documenting a once-in-a lifetime event, and yes, that does involve some stress. Still, Kathleen says that she is in her element.

“The most stressful part is actually the drive to the wedding. Until I get there, I don’t know if I’m going to have car trouble or have the wrong address,” she says. “Once I have seen the couple and I have my gear on, it is the most fun.”

Guests often tell Kathleen that she has a dream job, and after working as a professional photographer for seven years, she agrees. Though the job is stressful, it combines technical skill, artistic vision, emotional sensitivity, and entrepreneurial flexibility — exactly what Kathleen wanted.

Kathleen took a photography course in high school, but she thought that she would become a veterinarian, not a professional photographer. The tipping point may have come in spring 2002, when Kathleen and her family first stepped onto Valpo’s campus.

“It was a warm spring evening,” Kathleen says. “The flowers were blooming, and the environment just seemed to fit.”

On that trip, Kathleen met Associate Professor of Art Aimee Tomasek, who gave her a piece of advice Kathleen still follows today.

“She told me, ‘Follow your instincts. Anywhere you go, your education is what you make of it. If a school feels right, then it’s right,’” Kathleen recalls.

By the time the family car was back on the highway, Kathleen had decided to come to Valpo, where she would study photography with Professor Tomasek. She applied early and knew by November that she would be coming to Valpo.

During college, Kathleen followed her intuition away from pre-health studies (too many needles), and away from a potential career in journalism (too intrusive). By sophomore year, photography was no longer a secondary interest. Professor Tomasek encouraged Kathleen to pursue an internship with a local wedding photographer, and by junior year, Kathleen could see herself becoming a photographer as well.

“My decision to become a wedding and portrait photographer had a lot to do with enjoyment,” she says. “I knew that, to be happy, I wanted to have a family and spend time with them. I also found promise in having a business where I could work from my home in order to be a mom and a businessperson.”

After several business classes, a semester internship through the Chicago Arts program, and a senior exhibition in the Brauer Museum, Kathleen graduated from Valpo with a bachelor of science in fine arts.

Now back in her home state of Vermont, Kathleen is the current president of the Vermont Professional Photographers Association. Her father, a professional photographer as well, joins her as an assistant on large events, and her husband, Devin Porter ’06, helps out with some of the back-end work of running the business. Kathleen has shot almost 100 weddings and many more individual and family portrait sessions.

Kathleen also volunteers her time for more serious portrait sessions. She is the northern Vermont area coordinator of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a nationwide organization that coordinates pro bono portrait sessions for parents suffering the loss of a baby. Kathleen and a fellow photographer are also beginning a program to take portraits of infants in the local neo-natal intensive care unit for families who otherwise wouldn’t have such mementos of their child’s early days.

In every setting, whether a hospital room or a hotel ballroom, Kathleen says that her portraits capture the love of family relationships.

“A lot of my life is wrapped up in love and relationships, and a picture can capture that,” Kathleen says. “I think that is why I am so pulled toward life photography.”

Kathleen remembers the advice that has guided her to this point: “Follow your instincts.” She says that she will keep photographing as long as her heart guides the way.

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Avery Davis