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My Story · Pittsburgh Lifestyle Photographer

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Number 1 question I am asked…

I thought it would be fun to answer that question on the blog today. 🙂

portrait of Laura Mares, Pittsburgh Lifestyle Photographer, photographing NYC

Consumed by Wanderlust

Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, I always dreamed of adventure. It began the day my friend showed me her father’s extensive collection of yellow National Geographic Magazines. From that moment on, I decided that I would travel to breathtaking places to photograph similarly unique people. After that life-changing moment, I was consumed by wanderlust. Luckily my dad was too, and took our family on multiple cross country adventures to explore the American National Parks.

In high school, I begged my parents to let me travel to Austria as a foreign exchange student. That “yes,” led to an inextinguishable desire to see more and more of the world. During these travels, I met my future husband in a small church while studying abroad in Monaco. He was on vacation after finishing law school in the Czech Republic. We spent five hours exploring Monaco together. When it was time to say our goodbyes, we exchanged our addresses, since he didn’t have email yet!

To successfully complete my school’s International Honors Program it was required to travel aboard for a year. After my semester at the University of Monaco, I decided to study photography in Ireland at the Burren College of Art. Soon after arriving, I found myself at an Irish set dance, dancing with a charming stranger, easily 50 years my senior. That night he shared with me that the secret of life is all about recognizing serendipity or the joy of learning to value the little moments – especially the extraordinary ones that we didn’t plan or search for.

Laura Mares in Reykjavik, Iceland

Turning a Side Hustle into a Full Time Career

I didn’t know what to do after graduation. I had already surprised my parents that despite my degree in Communications, Advertising, and PR, I had substituted most of my core classes for Photography classes and didn’t actually know enough about advertising or PR to get a job in that field. I saw two options— move to Prague to teach English or take pictures. I did both—and loved it. While there, I got married in Olomouc, we took a five-week road trip around Europe and then settled in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Soon after we arrived in the US, I began teaching English to immigrants and international in downtown Pittsburgh. We kept busy with our children, and continued to travel! After our third child was born, however, I decided I was done waiting for the “perfect time,” and worked hard to turn my Photography side hustle into a full time career. 

Three years later, in 2016, I was running a growing business, teaching English in Pittsburgh and raising three kids by myself, as my husband took a short-term work assignment in Germany. One day I walked into my boss’s office at the school, where I was teaching, not quite sure where the conversation would lead and in that moment I heard myself saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” She shockingly asked, “Laura, are you quitting?” I resolutely answered, “Yes, I am.” I remember leaving the office in utter shock before ultimately realizing—this is what following my lifelong dream feels like. 

Laura Mares in Florence
branding portrait of Laura Mares Photography, Pittsburgh Lifestyle Photographer

From Artsy Dreamer to Successful Photographer

Looking back on that stretch of time between my initial exposure to photography as a child, those beautiful, adventure filled yellow magazines, and the moment I finally went full time, I see the reason why my “detour” was necessary. I never had any female business-leader role models. During my childhood, photographers were middle-aged men with dark studios and extensive prop closets. I wasn’t sure how to transform from artsy dreamer into a successful female photographer. Reflecting back, I wouldn’t change my story and its twists and turns. There were lessons that I learned along the way that allowed me to become the photographer I am today. 

Laura Mares at Glenfinnan, Scotland.

Not a Moment Wasted

As a traveler, my eyes began to open. I noticed that what makes us different makes us beautiful. Even though our stories are unique, we share a similar human experience. As a teacher, I was able to find my voice. As a child, I was bullied for my shyness and could barely stand up in front of a class to deliver a presentation. And as a mother, I’ve learned to love unconditionally. I value being flexible and finding joy in the simple moments.

So, my story is one of a timid girl who dreamed of becoming a photographer and eventually made that dream a reality.

Click to see photographs from my travels.

portrait of Laura Mares, Pittsburgh Lifestyle Photographer, holding a Nikon camera

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Hi, I'm Laura Mares! I'm thankful to be a wife, mother and Pittsburgh lifestyle photographer. I photograph because I believe that life is simply beautiful and every person has a story worth telling. I'd love to tell yours.

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