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Life and Work with Karen Vierbuchen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Vierbuchen.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I took a winding path across several creative fields before arriving recently at photography. I received my undergrad degree in architecture at Penn and worked as an architectural intern for 5 years before attending MIT for a masters in architecture. After my first year in the program, I started to question whether architecture was right for me, so I decided to take a year off to explore other design-related careers. Initially, I did an internship at Radlab, a design and fabrication firm where I was able to explore my interest in digital fabrication before moving to a full-time position at Analogue Studio, an architecture and design firm that also does branding. I ended up loving these new creative avenues, so I decided to leave architecture to pursue them further. At the time, it felt like I was taking a huge risk because I had no clue where I’d end up but I’m so glad I did it because I would never have discovered what I’m truly passionate about.

I started photography about a year ago but my interest in picking up a camera started prior to that while I was the Creative Director at ArtLifting, a social enterprise that gives artists impacted by homelessness and disabilities a platform to sell their artwork. A big part of ArtLifting’s mission is to help empower artists by sharing their talents and stories with the world so it was through ArtLifting that I developed my love for visual storytelling. About a year ago, I co-founded a branding and design company called Dos Manos Studio with Ali Campbell, a talented photographer that I worked with at ArtLifting. Ali taught me a lot about photography and helped me transition into doing it full time. I started my own photography and visual storytelling business earlier this year and so far, I’m really enjoying this new venture.

Has it been a smooth road?
In all honesty, it took a lot of courage for me to leave architecture because I wasn’t sure what I was doing or where I’d end up. I just knew that if I completed my degree at MIT, I would have been more or less locked into pursuing architecture as a career and I would have always wondered what else I could have done. It took me a while to get to where I am now and I certainly had my fair share of missteps along the way but I’m where I am now is because of all of these experiences, including my mistakes and failures. While I’m glad that I left architecture, I will always be grateful for the education and experiences I had in the field because it helped me become a better designer and visual problem solver.

In terms of advice for anyone who’s considering a career switch, I’d say go for it. Making the decision to do it is the hardest part. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, you just need to believe that you’ll figure it out. You may not find what you’re looking for right away but I’ve found that the journey can be just as fulfilling as the destination. My advice for photographers is to go out and shoot/edit as much as you can. I think photography is incredibly humbling and challenging and I am constantly learning new things. Understanding light, people, techniques, post-processing and everything else that goes into creating a good image is a lot and there’s always room to learn and become better. The only way to improve is through experience so practice often and shoot the things you want to be shooting.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Karen Vierbuchen Photography & Visual Storytelling – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’m a lifestyle photographer with a love for visual storytelling. I help individuals and companies connect with their community and grow their audience by creating compelling images that tell their story. My work is inspired by talented individuals and companies dedicated to pursuing their passion. To me, nothing is more inspiring than someone who loves what they do and I like to help people celebrate and share that with others.

I think my approach to photography is somewhat unique because of my background in branding and design. Before becoming a photographer, I was a designer and creative director so I have a lot of experience creating visual content for brands. I’ve made everything from full identity systems to lookbooks and websites, all of which require the application of powerful visuals. In addition to shooting and creating images, I also offer art direction and design services for creating marketing collateral or editorial work that integrates my images.

In terms of my approach to photography and visual storytelling, I always think holistically about a person or company’s visual narrative and show it in a way that’s rich and compelling but honest. Whether I’m shooting custom photography for a brand or an individual, I begin a project by understanding my subject’s perspective and their values so that my images can reflect that. I look for real moments of connection and try to capture the details and context that make each story unique. I think all photographers have a great responsibility to highlight people in the best light but to do so with truth and integrity. Finding beauty in the truth is what I love about visual storytelling because it can be so powerful and engaging.

My favorite projects so far have been with social impact brands like ArtLifting and more recently, My Merkata, an ethical fashion brand that provides a digital marketplace for Guatemalan artisans to sell their goods. I recently starting working with VERV.tv, a digital media company that brings news content to the US Hispanic community. A few months ago I traveled to Cuba with VERV.tv for their documentary series called Startup Cuba featuring Cuban entrepreneurs in Havana. I met some of the most inspiring people, including the owners of Clandestine, Cuba’s first fashion brand and PAUZA, Cuba’s first female DJ duo. These entrepreneurs are pioneering a new era of opportunity in Cuba and I really enjoyed capturing and celebrating their stories of resilience and dedication. I love seeing the best in people and their work and helping them share that with others is one of the most meaningful things I can do though as a photographer.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
There are a lot of helpful resources and tutorials for photographers online like lynda.com and creativelive. Also, I’ve found that the Style Shoot Boston meetups are a great way to network and meet other photographers.

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Image Credit:

Karen Vierbuchen

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