Meet The Photographer: Emma's Journey to Photography

Updated: Nov 21

I'm a big believer in knowing your photographer and getting along with them on a personal level. It's about to get personal, but not in a weird way. Okay, so maybe it's going to get a little weird, but so am I. Like Inigo Montoya, we're going to go back to the beginning.

This is me, circa early 1990s when I was in elementary school before I knew that Led Zeppelin was four amazing musicians, not one cool dude, and that Boston was not the biggest city in the world. I lived in a tiny dust-speck in New Hampshire with one blinking yellow light (in all four directions) and was a latch-key kid at the age of eight.


This is also when I realized, definitively, that I was an artist. Mr. Tirelli had said so. We were practicing perspective, where you draw a box in the center of a page and then lines from all four corners of the box to all four corner of the page to make a room in perspective. I was not known as the class artist, Nick M. was because he made cool army man drawings. But that day, I was the only person to draw all the furniture in the trapazoid area that represented the floor and not on the line where the floor meets the walls. "You have great observation skills, Emma," said Mr. Tirelli, "You are an artist."


From that moment onward, I was a creation machine. I had always been creative, making music with my grandfather and crafts with my grandmother, but after that moment I started taking it more seriously.

Flash forward a decade. I'm 17 or 18, living in Connecticut and I am really way more confident than I have any right to be (spoiler alert: I am still this way). By this point, I have mapped out my future: I am going to be the most amazing and well loved artist in history! 🤣😂🤣 That didn't exactly work out, but I did land myself a spot in the Bachelor of Fine Art program at Ringling School of Art & Design, one of the top three art programs in the country. I went to Florida with my paintbrushes in hand, ready to conquer the world. It was a bit of a rude awakening to say the least. I was not the most amazing artist, not by a long shot. But as Mr. Tirelli had said, I have great observation skills. I soaked up everything I could about anything. Painting, wood sculpture, printmaking, bookmaking, gallery studies, art history, cultural & political studies, I was ravenous to learn as much as I could about art and how it fits in with the world. If I couldn't be the best artist, I could at least be the best student of art. I shifted my focus: I was going to become an amazing art teacher at a top rated art school.

Enter Grad School. I got accepted to the Master of Fine Arts: Studio Art program at Memphis College of Art.

It. Kicked. My. Ass.

So hard. Nothing I learned at Ringling prepared me for the total mindf*ck that was grad school.

But it was so good. I loved every moment of grad school. I have never been challenged more as when I was there, and being in grad school taught me how to look at my work properly and realize "this can be better, here's how." I started grad school with a continuation of my painting studies and incorporating some of the small metals sculpture techniques I was learning into them. But then I began really stretching my limbs as an artist and doing performative work, which requires photography. I had never been behind the camera before, only in front of it.

My first serious photography project involved my shoes. I had been drawing my shoes for a long time, so it seemed like a good place to start. I think shoes tell a lot about who a person is and I wanted to do these photos á la Dutch still life paintings to be like alternative self portraits. But it wasn't long until I graduated to the real thing.

These two self-portraits were part of a series I did "documenting" my life and how I felt being in grad school. (Side note: because at the time I took these I didn't know jack about safe back up practices, I now only have the prints, and thus these crappy photos of the prints.) Photography had never really been a thing in my family growing up. We weren't picture takers. My friends in high school took photos of us hanging out, but even my exposure with that was fairly limited, it was before the age of cell phone cameras (the Nokia walkie-talkie was the hot commodity). So when I started with photography in grad school, it was very novel for me and I started photographing everything. Even when I stopped needing to do photography because I stopped performance work, I continued with photography as a hobby. I began taking photos of flowers, birds, insects, frogs, basically anything I thought looked cool. But my special project was animal eyes.

After grad school, I moved back to Florida for a few years. I got a job as the curator for a non-profit gallery and I did that kind of work for over five years. I loved gallery life. I could help artists grow and flourish with their practice and still be creative designing shows. Interacting with the public and teaching them about the art on display was deeply fulfilling for me, too. I was still doing photography as a hobby, and assisting a friend of mine with weddings she had and photographing the weddings of friends when they would ask.

In August 2015, I found out that I was pregnant. My partner, CJ, and I were living in a third floor walk up in Salem, MA at the time. Shortly after our tiny tyrant, Charlotte, was born, we moved back to CT and made our home in New Britain. This selfie is of me and her three weeks after her birth hiking Kent Falls, one of my favorite places.


A little less than a year later, I opened up Emma Thurgood Photography and the rest is kind of history. I've been steadily building my business here in CT and I love being a small business owner. I do miss gallery life sometimes, but I love the freedom I have to be able to show Charlotte all that she can be and do. She even has her own little camera now and goes around taking photos!


If having your photos taken by me sounds like it could be a fun time, I encourage you to reach out and schedule a consultation with me by clicking here and filling out my questionnaire. I can't wait to hear from you! ❤ Emma

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© 2020 by Emma Thurgood | New Britain, Connecticut