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Woman on a Mission

Arica Lipp Photography is helping you reach your fullest potential

Billings, Montana is home to some extraordinary women—Arica Lipp being one them. At first mention of her name, I learned about her desire to showcase a gallery of “40 over 40” women, and the work she’s already put into this project. With rich life experience in their toolbox, and Arica at their hip for photographing them, these women are sure to stun the community with their wisdom, stories, and beauty. And as for Arica? She’s putting herself on the map through branding, ballerinas, and so much more. 

Arica, as I'm sure you can relate, being a woman can sometimes mean morphing from one role to the next, and maybe even letting some previous versions of ourselves go to better serve the version we are today. Can you tell us about what your life looked like prior to having a family and what it looks like now? 

It's really painful to let go of certain phases in your life that you have worked hard to create an identity with. The key is to keep hold of the things that are the core root of who you are and find a way to continue to be that person throughout your life. I was a dancer and an artist. I saw my body change over and over with bringing six children into this world. Mentally, emotionally, and physically that was hard, but of course it was worth it. When I created art in the past I needed absolute focus, no distractions. Well when little humans need your attention they just can't coexist so that was put on the shelf for a while. I  had to shift what was most important for me to seeing to my family's needs and wants. It caused me to really let go of certain things and sacrifices had to be made. All too soon, things will circle back around and my energy will shift back towards my personal needs and pursuits. I have big plans for that stage but until then I try to give myself grace for indulging in foods that aren't the healthiest or not getting to the gym every day because I'm too exhausted. I'm humbled by it. I am kept aware to extend that same love and grace to everyone else as well. 

In terms of artistry, how does "creating" lend loyalty to oneself?

I went through a phase in my early years as a photographer where I wasn't listening to my own artist's heart. I looked to my left and right and tried to do what everyone else was doing, thinking that would bring me business and also validation as a "real photographer." It didn't work. I wasn't getting bookings. I'm so grateful for that! It forced me to say "I'm going to shoot my way!" It was the best thing I ever did! That was when my work started to capture attention. I also felt energy breathe back into me as I worked. I take what I do very seriously and I have a standard of achievement I try to hold myself to. When someone invests in me, I'm going to turn around and invest myself in them.

From your website, it looks like branding is a big part of what you do as a photographer. Can you tell us why branding is important work to you and what you hope your clients get out of it? 

Tracy Moore, a wonderful mentor to me, said "you have to choose a specialty, you can't shoot everything and be successful." But what she really meant was to become memorable, you have to market as a specialist in something.  I looked at my portfolio and saw a pattern. My best work (aside from my dance photography) were the portraits I took for business professionals. My slogan is "why be cookie cutter when you can be custom?" Businesses commonly make the biggest mistakes on even the most basic marketing decisions starting with the photos they are using. What I want to see happen for my clients is first, a rise in their own confidence as they love the photos representing them and 2. I want to see growth, more of their ideal clients being attracted to them. Photographs have the power to do that, or the opposite. it's actually frightening when you think about it and not worth the risk of cutting corners. 

Can you share what this "40 Over 40" project is all about and why it's important to you?

I'm not the first photographer to do a 40 over 40 project in the U.S. I am, however, doing it my own way, for my own reasons, and the first to do it here in Billings. I set a goal to photograph 40 women over the age of 40 this year. These women are strong, experienced, intelligent, and vibrant. My good friend Steve Bents from Social Montana did some research for me and made me aware that this demographic makes up 20% of the Billings population. That is a powerful force and they aren't being seen, heard, or praised. So many women by nature and by society spend a greater part of their lives serving others, putting others' needs before their own. I craved being able to photograph women individually in beautiful, extraordinary ways but women would shy away from the spotlight time and time again. They would only step in front of a camera for maternity or family photos, which of course is important, but it's as if they didn't feel like they had permission to get a portrait of themselves unless they had a valid excuse for it. Each participant receives a one on one consultation to plan their unique photography experience. They start their shoot being pampered with professional hair and makeup services. We then spend two or more hours photographing them in all the ways they've requested—different outfits, looks, and in some cases locations are included. At the end I sit down and interview them. After the interview is over we look at all of the images I captured from their shoot. They pick their absolute favorite one and that is the one I will retouch and have enlarged for a beautiful print to hang in the celebratory gala! At the gala all 40 of the participants' photos will be on display along with their bios and my favorite quote from our talks together for others to admire and feel inspired by.

I understand you also like to photograph dancers. Can you tell me about that passion? Did you grow up dancing or is it purely just about the art form? 

Dance is the language of my soul. Dance is how a shy girl found her voice and self confidence. I never imagined that I would be combining my two greatest passions in this way but it came so naturally. I did some research on dance photography and discovered there is a huge need for education for photographers on this subject, and after being encouraged by a mentoring branding photographer, I now teach other photographers how to light, direct, and safely photograph dancers. I also teach them how to make a business out of it! In March, I took my teaching abroad and photographed a professional ballerina in France. I love bringing back my new knowledge and skills to the Billings community! 

What is your favorite part of motherhood and how does that part of your life sculpt the work you do?

My favorite part of motherhood has been to participate in their creation process. By that I mean,  they are active participants with me, my husband, and God in creating who they will become. I'm the first to admit to them that I'm not perfect but that I love them unconditionally and only try to counsel and protect them to the best of my ability. I try to set an example for them that we each were created with special skills and when we are true to that purpose, cumulatively we make this world an amazing place. No matter how old I get, my eyes will continue to see others with an eye that seeks to find their goodness and share it with others. It is probably the greatest lesson I can teach my children.