Your Family As Art

Haresh Shah

Her Eureka moment came when she was already 38 years old. Up until then her professional trajectory is crammed with a whole slew of occupations. She did well with whatever she chose to do or whatever fell into her lap – but she was never passionate enough to stick with any of them. Things took a turn when her step dad Jim, the man who raised her since the age two and to whom she was very close, passed in 2005. Following that, she went to work for the Catholic religious order The Claretians, doing marketing for their publications division and worked for them for five years. As a leisure activity, she purchased a “nice” camera and wanted to learn more about taking pictures.  Which lead her to take a weekend class in How To Use Your Camera. She was smitten and along with the shutter, something else clicked within her. She found a full time degree program at Harrington College of Design, in downtown Chicago. She talked it over with her boyfriend, who encouraged her to go for it. She met with the admissions counselor. Convinced, she quit her job and started college again. Two years later, she acquired associate degree in Photography and soon opened her studio, Michele Taylor Photography. As she says on her website: It’s never too late to live your dream…

Michele Taylor was born in Peoria, the city in central Illinois 166 miles south east of Chicago. She went to Iowa State to be an architect, because she loved drawing houses and spatial planning. A year into her studies, she realized the soil wasn’t her thing. While at Iowa State, she met Brian Krchmery and they have been together ever since. When Brian switched his major and transferred to Northern Illinois, Michele followed. There she studied corporate communication. Upon graduation she went to work for Sakura Bank. She stayed with them eight months lending money to Fortune 500 companies before moving to the advertising agency BB&A creating automobile ads for Sunday sections of newspapers. Next she had a job with IEG, doing their marketing that provided info and research on the sponsorship industry. Add to that, a job at the Field Trip Factory, where she marketed educational based field trips with girls and boys scouts, for schools and for the super market chain Dominik’s and other retailers on how to run field trips. After all that meandering, she still didn’t know what it was that she really wanted to do.

In the end, nudged by her heart and encouraged by Brian, she decided to become a professional photographer. Now, with the associate degree in Photography under her belt, she began with sharing a studio in South Loop with 4-5 graduates before opening her own first store front photo studio in Humboldt Park on California Avenue. She operated out of there from 2015 to 2018, before moving to her current location on Division Street, which she feels is a perfect spot with its family orientation and visibility. But how do you make your mark and make a living doing something in the days when anyone with a decent cell phone can take pictures – most of them good ones at that? Just think of millions of pictures snapped by phones all around the world every day! Overwhelming! Though soon you realize that  in the end, almost all of them are snap shots, capturing just the moment, and shared with whoever on Instagram, Facebook and other social media. Probably forgotten soon as the next one is posted. While wonderful for instant gratification and a few laughs, they do not make for a lasting memory.

Fortunately, we still have professional photographers like Michele, who put their heart and soul and expertise into creating permanent memories. Broadly speaking, Michele’s is a boutique photography studio specializing in maternity, newborn, children, families and pets. But what she loves to focus on the most are newborn babies, as young as two weeks old. If the parents or other family members are in the frame, it’s to showcase the one who has just entered this wide world. Why families and babies? I wondered. Because babies are little for such a short period of time. Parents are tired and it all flashes by in the blink of an eye. I feel like I am giving them a memory of a significant moment that would otherwise be long forgotten.

After having given some thought, Michele realized that in the last several years, new born photography has become a vogue. Also, Annie Leibovitz cover shoot of the very pregnant Demi Moore in August 1991 issue of Vanity Fair, set a trend for maternity sessions. Probably also because when pregnant, women while happiest and yet vulnerable, they are at their most radiant selves. I have had a pregnant woman posing with her belly decorated with mehandi patterns, and another wearing  the third eye on her forehead. Seemed like it made sense to focus on families and by extension on infants. Because memories begin from the day you’re conceived, and Michele wants you to go back to that moment over and over again all through your life.

Something she wishes she had. Unfortunately, she doesn’t. But then Jim liked to take pictures, who filled albums and albums with them. Michele loves to look at them and re-live the precious moments of her family life. And yet,  as an adult I realized that my family NEVER had a group portrait taken. The only official photos of the family we have are from our traditional Christmas Day snap shots. For as much as I complained about them at the time I am so happy to have them, especially now that my Dad is no longer with us. While I will always cherish those photos, there is no substitute for a well thought out great image! She feels that Your family is art that needs to be created and preserved.

And that takes more than the sweet sound of a shutter. It takes planning. Before we shoot any images, we create a plan for how they will be displayed in your home. Creating a plan and shooting for that plan will result in a successful portrait session EVERY. SINGLE. TIME, emphasizes Michele. What’s more, they are hopefully built in future customers.

And it takes time and money! Just to book a session with Michele costs $200.00. Once that’s done, she sits down with the family to discuss what it is that would create the best memory of who they are and where the photos are going to be displayed and what emotions they want captured. Sessions for new born babies can take up to four hours. Even though she would shoot at places other than her studio, Michele, as do most of the professional photographers, prefers to shoot at her own studio. The place where she can control every aspect of her shoots. Things are set – including a 86” reflector umbrella, the lights, the backdrops, the wardrobe and all.

The most important thing about shooting nearly newborn is to create womb like environment – the place they had inhabited in warmth and comfort for nine months. She cranks up the heating of her studio to 80 degrees Fahrenheit to replicate the warmth of the uterus – closer to the human body temperature of 98.6 Fahrenheit. Once placed in a warm and comfortable environment, babies are happy. Even though they can be cranky at times, as long as they don’t break out in a cry with their little hands and feet kicking, they make for perfect little models. It’s not just capturing the lump of flesh and blood, the important thing is to capture their personalities – something that’s already there when they are six months old. Parents holding the baby makes for great pictures.

Other than keeping the babies comfy, warm and happy, her 1,500 square foot studio is equipped with variety of backdrops, blankets, wraps and hats to choose from. It also has  several outfits for babies as well as a beautiful selection of maternity dresses for mothers to be. It’s stocked with pacifiers, diapers and wipes. And for the parents, she has created a comfortable lounge to sit, relax, and even take a nap; or catch up on work with complimentary Wi-Fi and printer. Or you can help yourselves to coffee, cookies and sandwiches. Her goal is to have everything you should need. Just kick back and relax. You already have so much on your plate as a new parent, it’s one less thing to worry about.

In other words, Michele’s studio spells class and quality. The whole session can cost anywhere between $595.00 to $2000.00. Michele makes sure that what her customers take home with them are the memories for a lifetime, something that would hang on a preferred wall or be placed in a beautiful keepsake album that can be passed down for generations and is something that will be cherished forever.

© 2019 Haresh Shah

Photo: Courtesy Michele Taylor

Michele Taylor Photography, 2124 West Division, Chicago, Il. 60622, +1 708-359-8881

SISTER SITE                                                                                                          



© 2019 Haresh Shah

Photo: Courtesy Michele Taylor

Michele Taylor Photography, 2124 West Division, Chicago, Il. 60622, +1 708-359-8881

SISTER SITE                                                                                                    



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