Photographer Profile: Geneva Boyett - Chicago
Hey Geneva! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m Geneva. I’m a wedding photographer based in Chicago. My husband, Tyler, and I are native Texans who moved to Chicago 3 years ago and fell in love with the city! Tyler is an architect and I work from my home office when I’m not out shooting, location scouting, or meeting with clients. We spend our free time cooking yummy food, trying to spend as much time outside as possible, and obsessing over our two cats!
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I graduated with a Geography degree. I loved learning about our planet, climate change, different cultures and thought I was going to “grow up” to become a cartographer and create maps for a living. I got an internship my junior year making all sorts of maps for the city and soon realized a desk job was NOT for me. I was always longing for a change of scenery, for days that didn’t all look the same. I had a camera that I’d carry with me at the time but being a photographer was never something I had ever seriously considered; I just wanted to document moments in my life. Friends and others I knew started asking me to take pictures for them. It started with small things like graduation portraits, headshots, roommate photos, and led to engagements, events, and weddings. With photography, I would go from being out shooting to editing at home to meeting with couples at coffee shops. I loved the variety that was part of each day and also realized that I was a deeply creative individual. I added a few art classes to my course load the next semester and started learning about color, design, story-telling, and how to really see things and invite others to see those things too. It was exciting and terrifying to consider a creative career but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try. Looking back, I’m so glad I took that leap of faith.
What led you to start your own photography business? What makes you passionate about it?
I moved to Chicago after graduating and that felt like a real turning point for me in my life and business. I was moving to a place where no one knew who I was and I had to decide if I wanted photography to stay a hobby or if I really wanted to pursue it as a career. I’ve always been free-spirited and a bit of a risk-taker; I knew I had to give this full-time dream of mine a chance. Having made my decision, I worked a full-time desk job until I could replace my salary with what I was making in photography. It wasn’t glamorous. It was A LOT of work. I’d take calls with couples during my lunch breaks, spend the evening after work editing photos until close to midnight, work a full week at my day job and then shoot a wedding during the weekend. Despite how busy each day was, I was happy. Photography is a really intimate thing and it brought me into so many different stories and connected me with all different kinds of people. I was entrusted with the ability to tell those stories and that felt like a really special thing.
How has your style evolved over the years?
Since I started editing photos six years ago, I’ve tried every style under the sun! It was frustrating at first to feel pulled in so many different directions; I didn’t know what I wanted or liked. In hindsight, however, that was a very important process for me to go through. It taught me a lot about how I wanted my work to feel and made me understand that your style as an artist is always evolving. I realized that I wanted my photographs to feel honest and true, like that nostalgic feeling you get when you look through old family photos or home videos - a little mix of dreamy and sweet but at the heart of everything, authentic and pure. I draw a lot of inspiration from film photography and photojournalism.
Do you have a favorite subject/experience to shoot?
I love photographing people who don’t notice I’m there. That sounds very creepy and stalker-like but I guess I just mean that I love photographing people in their most candid, unfiltered state. It’s part of why I love weddings. Anyone can look at a camera and smile but I think it’s actually all the moments in-between that I’m more interested in: holding hands in a crowd, seeing an old friend, hearing a good joke, feet when they’re dancing, etc. My favorite weddings are ones where the couple and their guests are so present and invested in each other that they forget they’re being photographed and just let their love and joy speak for itself.
Is there anything you'd like to photograph more of?
On top of wedding work, I’d love to try shooting more for brands! I love getting to know the incredible humans behind small businesses and collaborating together to create a vision for a shoot.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
You have to wear a lot of different hats as a business owner and I realized that there were certain parts of running a business that I wasn’t as adept in. Taxes, for example, felt like a completely foreign language to me and brought on a lot of stress earlier in my journey. I had no idea how to bookkeep, what my state and federal regulations were, what I could write off as a business expense, how to pay quarterly taxes, and the list goes on. I had to do a lot of my own research and actively work toward improving a skill that didn’t come naturally to me. Most importantly, however, I realized that I didn’t have to do everything alone. I started working with an amazing CPA who walked me through my questions step by step. When we first met, I said to her “Hi, I literally need you to explain these things to me as if I were a 5-year-old” because that’s how lost I was! Knowing that there are people out there who are skilled in ways you are not and that they are here for you is such an incredibly powerful and freeing thing.
What are your some of your short/long term goals?
When I first moved to Chicago, most of my couples found me through wedding planning sites. Now, half of my couples are through referrals from former brides. I’d love to continue to grow that number. In my mind, if a couple has enjoyed working with me so much so that they refer me to their engaged friends, it means that I’m truly creating a special experience for them. I love coming home from a wedding day absolutely exhausted because it means I gave that day my all. In the long term, I’d love to publish a book of my own personal work one day. It’d be something short, non-wedding related, maybe just a collection of moments, maybe a more cohesive story, who knows. I just love the idea of printing your art - putting it into a little book that people hold and display in their homes feels like such a precious thing.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other and what has this looked like in your life?
Women are incredible. In a world that’s constantly trying to set us against each other through comparison and competition, it’s important that we do the exact opposite of that. I feel really lucky to be connected to such an amazing group of women here in Chicago. Many of them are entrepreneurs who have jobs that can feel really isolating at times. It’s a total game-changer to know that you’re not alone but are instead part of a community that can empathize with what you’re going through. Women create amazing things when they come together because people create amazing things when they come together.
We have a series called Purchase from Women - what women-owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
Oh my gosh - so many!! Rawson is an amazing source for vintage basics and is owned by Rachael, an incredibly hard-working and talented individual. Paloma Wool is also another AMAZING women-based brand. They are a photography studio and clothing line that celebrates the art of getting dressed and I love seeing what new projects they’re working on. For shoes, I love everything Marais USA creates. They make the most beautiful pieces of footwear and they’re SO comfortable. I wore a pair on my own wedding day and often shoot weddings in them. Haley Boyd is the owner and creator and has been such a style/business inspiration of mine for a long time.
Do you have any creative, business, or female-centered resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
There are amazing resources everywhere but I would say that the most impactful thing for me has been connecting with women and other creatives in your industry on a local scale. Having the ability to meet in person is such a game-changer in a digital world where anyone can be your “follower/friend”. You start to realize that you’re not as alone in your struggles as you may think, that there are people out there who can empathize with you and understand exactly what you’re going through. I meet regularly with a group of 10 women - all of them are entrepreneurs working to make their dreams happen. We talk about the highs and lows of business ownership, what’s on our plate at the moment, what’s coming up, etc. They’ve become like an extended family to me. I love that creating a group like that is something anyone can do anywhere.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I’m trying to learn how to oil paint! I’m not very good but I like that it pulls me away from my computer and is an activity that is tech-free.
What are some of your favorite places in Chicago?
Any of the beaches at sunset (Montrose, 31st Street, and Promontory Point), Chinatown any night of the week (specifically a restaurant called Lao Sze Chuan where you can get the best dry rubbed chili chicken), lunch at Bungalow by Middle Brow (they have the best sourdough pizza), and the Sulzer Regional Library (if you go, expect to stay a while - it’s a magical place).