My father gave me my first “real” camera in 1982, when I was a sophomore at Skidmore College. It was a Minolta XG-7, and I loved it from the very beginning.
Being a great liberal arts college, Skidmore had a strong art school. I took every available photography course and got the best grades I had ever gotten.
The emphasis in these classes was the darkroom. Darkroom technique was always the key to success. No matter the subject, if it wasn’t processed and printed well, it didn’t matter – your grade would suffer.
That summer, I had a waitressing job on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. One day the owner accused me of reading the specials off of a piece of paper, and I was fired on the spot.
My father felt so sorry for me that he came home that night with a new portrait lens. That lens changed my life as, that's when I began to focus on photographing people.
After graduation, I moved to Boston and secured a six-week internship with a well-known commercial photographer who shot everything from models to cars. I was an assistant in this amazing world.
The internship expired and I was hired on and continued assisting for other commercial jobs. My favorite photographer’s assistant job was darkroom printing for a fashion photographer. Since this was before digital (eek), it was MY prints that were reproduced for magazines and other media outlets.
While being an assistant was invaluable to my photography education and ultimate style, not being the one to capture the photos was starting to feel odd.
The creative urge motivated me to land my first job as a photojournalist. I was the sole photographer for five weekly newspapers in Boston and the surrounding suburbs. I was shooting, processing, printing and editing my own film. It was a great entry into photojournalism. I was shooting a wide variety of subject matter, including everything from the Boston Celtics (in the Boston Garden) to City Council meetings.
Never knowing what conditions I would be photographing kept me on my toes. As a photojournalist, you can only use the equipment you have at THAT moment. You have to work for the perfect shot.
Photojournalism taught me so much about portraiture: lighting, reading your subjects and creating the best image in a short amount of time.
I continued on with photojournalism in Boston and suburbs until I got a full-time job at the daily newspaper in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, The Sun News. It was an amazing job and I loved living on the beach more than anything. I immediately was submerged in a photojournalism world that included SunFun Festivals on the beach, being one of the first cameras in a courtroom and chasing spot news at all hours of the day.
I moved back to Kansas City in 1993 and opened my first portrait studio, Kandid Kids in the Crestwood Shops. Having grown up nearby, I understood what a treasure those neighborhood shops were.
I set up a storefront studio and a darkroom in the basement and got to work. I always loved hand-painting photographs with oil paints, and I decided that would be the special something that would differentiate my work from that of other photographers.
I still love the photos I took back then. I keep in touch with many of my clients from those early years, and I’m even starting to take photos of those babies’ babies!
My style has evolved over time.
In the early days I did many more studio shoots than outdoors or on-location. I’m not sure why, but it seemed to be a trend back then to have photos in the studio. I took tons of baby pictures back then. Because I shot film, my clients always ended up with printed photos for both albums and their walls.
I am honored that many of my customers create “photo walls” showcasing their families in my photography. As houses got larger, so did the walls! In addition to being the photographer, I also began helping clients design the photo displays in their homes. Clients were respecting my vision as to how we could frame my photos and best arrange them to fit their home décor.
In 2009 I changed the name of my business to Julia Shapiro Photography + Art and moved to a smaller, simpler space in Mission Farms. The new space enabled me to not only take portraits, but also host art shows and other events that featured other artists and craftsmen.
Today I live just up the street from Mission Farms with my husband Tom, our two beautiful sons, Jed and Sid, and our Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Zeke. I have a studio space in my home as well as an amazing darkroom to keep up my printing and processing work with film.
Aware that digital has come a LONG way, I find that I still love the beauty and control I have with film. I obviously shoot with my digital camera for commercial shoots and headshots because of the simplicity. I believe that once you're a master at film, you can’t help but be a good photographer
Feel free to reach out to me and together we can make the lasting pictures that your family will treasure for many years to come!
My husband Tom, and sons, Jed & Sid.
attending a Jack White concert.