Born in Connecticut and living most of her impressionable years in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tiffany Kowalksy arrived to Frederick County in 2006, when her husband, Joel, was transferred here for work. They moved right out of college—not knowing anyone—and started their lives from scratch. While the transition was tough at first without having friends or family nearby, Tiffany calls Frederick County home now and couldn't imagine living anywhere else!
As the featured photographer in the 2nd Annual African Americans of Excellence (AAOE) Exhibit 2024, we had the opportunity to get to know Tiffany as a devoted mom, gifted photographer and supportive member of our community.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST FALL IN LOVE WITH PHOTOGRAPHY?
Here’s my cheesy but true story...Early one morning I was driving to work and the sun was shining through a group of trees. It was a little foggy...the sunlight was filtered, but bright rays of light peaked through the tree branches and the morning sun was brightly peeking out of the clouds. It was a beautiful scene. I actually pulled over and snapped a picture with my phone, but the shot I captured didn't do the scene justice. It was frustrating that I couldn't capture the breathtaking view I experienced. After that, I started to dive deeper into photography to understand how to work with light and capture not just pictures, but also emotions and feelings.
I love how something as simple as a picture can evoke such strong emotions...But, honestly, I really started photographing a lot when my kids were born. I felt the need to document all of their stages, silly faces and quiet moments.
I also feel like I’m still learning and growing as a photographer. When I look at my work I can definitely see that I have a natural “style” but there are areas that I want to develop and continue to grow.
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW MOST ABOUT YOU?
I get it; I don’t love getting my picture taken either...LOL!...I also love the perfectly imperfect pictures—for example, everyone is posed and looking at the camera, picture perfect; then someone laughs or a little kid picks his nose—those are the best; they’re the ones that we remember years down the road.
And, I just love the arts...I have such respect for artists who create something out of nothing! It’s such an amazing ability and I love that we live in a community that supports the arts!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN FREDERICK COUNTY?
I really love living in Frederick. It has a small town feel with all the amenities of a big city. You get the best of both worlds. It’s really a great place to raise a family.
I also love how beautiful the landscape is in Frederick county. We have a little bit of everything: mountains, farms, national parks, historic downtown, etc.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS ONE OF THE FEATURED VISUAL ARTISTS FOR AAOE 2024.
One thing I love about being a photographer is getting to know different people through the mini conversations we have during our session. That was definitely the case working with all of the AAOE honorees. They all have great stories and were so easy to work with.
It was also a privilege to work with Yemi. I happened to meet Yemi about ten years ago when he was promoting his book downtown. I remember him being such a nice, genuine person. I’ve admired his work ever since...Yemi has been a great mentor, guiding me through the process and giving me advice both creatively and on the business side as well.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE AAOE HONOREES?
I wanted to do something unique...I also wanted to stay true to my personal style while representing each individual; so, I invited each honoree to choose the location of the shoot—a place that holds meaning to them personally. Some of the honorees had lots of options, while others knew exactly what they wanted. For those who had multiple options, we chose the most picturesque location. (Read the captions of Tiffany's honoree portraits on pages XX-XX to learn more about the location choices for each AAOE 2024 honorees.)