Becky Gardner’s photography journey began with a few community college classes after her son Henry was born in 2011. In seeking something fun and different from her work in corporate sales and recruiting, she turned to an old love.
“I’ve always been really interested in genealogy and local history, and trying to find out the stories of things and places,” Gardner says. Now she seeks out stories through her camera as owner of Becky A. Gardner Photography.
A big part of these stories shines through in clients’ homes, she says, but Gardner also enjoys finding hidden gems where she photographs families in Loudon and Fairfax counties, as well as Arlington and Washington, D.C.
“Through 11 years—and some of my families have been with me that long—I haven’t run out of places,” Gardner says.
Gardner now lives in Purcellville, Virginia, with her husband, John-Mark, and her three children, Hollis (6), Henry (11) and Sage (13).
How do you balance your day-to-day schedule as a photographer with family life?
I feel like that’s something that I still am learning. It’s gotten much better as I have learned to set boundaries, say no to things and focus on what is going to be best for not only my clients but for my family. I think when you’re first starting out it’s a lot of “hustle, hustle, hustle” and trying to say yes to everything. There is definitely room to say no, and that’s sometimes all you can do for your sanity.
What does creating those memories mean to you as a parent?
It means so, so much. My daughter just turned 13, which I feel like, you know, I spent a lot of time going back through pictures and I feel like that’s one reason why they’re awesome. But then it’s realizing that 13 years went by super duper fast.
I went through a time where I actually had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was sick, went through chemo and lost all my hair. And I made sure to take pictures of my kids. We had a lot of funny things to lighten the mood there. But I think a lot of levity can be found in photos. Looking back, you can find that—maybe see something differently than you did before or you can always then see. I have a giant wall of photos and books and books and books of them to look through.
Your photography is focused on capturing the authentic moments that tell a family’s story. Has your career made you more driven to document these moments in your own life?
Yes and no—I would say most photographers would agree with that. When I pick up my camera now, I would say that’s one of the hardest things is it sort of becomes work, or that I get to be kind of too much of a perfectionist, or trying to really treat it as a job rather than letting my family take center stage. A couple of times a year, I’ll really buckle down and have a couple of long days with my kids where I can document them as they are.
What’s one thing you hope your kids learn from your career?
Creativity and creating art, and creating something for others to appreciate and treasure and that’s meaningful to them. I hope that they get letting their brains wander and play in beautiful light in big open fields and those kind of things. I started with a camera and a couple of classes and then put my mind to figuring out this was something that I wanted to do, took the steps and did it the right way. You can create something if you put in the work.
Family meal: I would say spaghetti and meatballs. We love to make lamb meatballs.
Place to photograph your family: Probably at home. We just bought a 110-year-old house out in Purcellville, and there are always weird outbuildings and light.
Family photo: We spent some time living abroad in England. My boys were a couple of years younger, and everywhere has swords and shields. I remember this photo of Henry and Hollis doing what we called storming the castle. Everywhere we went, my husband would be like “OK, go storm the castle!”
Story to tell your kids: My husband used to be in the Army, and we met in college. He got orders to move to a different base, and if we weren’t married, basically I couldn’t go. We like to tell them the story of when we got married on our lunch hour and both (of us) went back to work. We didn’t even bring the camera.