by Grant Moser
“If you can find something you can really enjoy, you’ve done it. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you can find something every day that makes you feel good about your contribution to the world, you’ve really figured things out,” said Regina Miller, local photographer.
In September, Miller launched Origin Photo, her own photography business that focuses on children’s portraits. “I’m creating memories. Ask someone what they would grab if their house was on fire, and inevitably they’ll answer, ‘My photos.’ It’s those moments of time captured that people want to save. And I’m helping them capture moments of childhood. Kids are constantly changing all the time.”
Miller, 27, knew what she enjoyed from an early age: photography. A Flourtown native, she started taking photography classes at Springfield Township High School and instantly fell in love. She made photography the subject of her senior project, and then pursued a degree in photojournalism at Temple University.
Right out of college she landed a job at Montgomery Newspapers as a photojournalist. “I really enjoyed it. Every day was different. You get to meet interesting people every day. I also liked the small-town nature of shooting for local papers.”
Though her time there coincided with the 2008 presidential election, which meant she was present at many Obama events around Philadelphia, she looked for story ideas that were different from the norm.
One of her favorites was about a special education classroom that she fully documented over the course of a semester. “I showed the fullness of their lives. They weren’t just ‘life-skills’ kids. They had so much going on. They worked; they played sports; they were involved in the choir. It wasn’t a typical Montgomery Newspapers story.”
The allure of photography for Miller was its ability to be more than just a photo. “It’s a form of art, but an incredibly powerful storyteller too. It’s easy to take a picture, but to get the story behind it is very interesting. I was drawn to photojournalism because it can make a difference.”
Miller decided to share her love of photography, and found a volunteer opportunity teaching photography at the nonprofit Centro Nueva Creacion, in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia that is known as “The Badlands.” It created a program called “The Goodlands” in 2000 to give children in elementary school the opportunity to transform their neighborhood through photography.
“The aim was to empower the kids. We’d go out and photograph the neighborhood. They’d come back with these amazing photos that painted their neighborhood in a beautiful light. They were able to tell their story. They were reclaiming the neighborhood in their own way.”
By the end of her year volunteering at The Goodlands, Miller had enjoyed working with these kids so much, she knew she wanted to continue to work with children. She went back to school and got her master’s degree in elementary education from LaSalle University. After teaching in the Upper Dublin school district, as well as in Philadelphia, Miller decided it was time to merge her two passions.
“I decided I’m not going to go back to teaching, and it’s time to do this. I love working with kids, and I love photography. Kids are just so honest and lovely. I bring a great style that can capture kids as themselves.”
It’s her experience in photojournalism and working with children that lets her take one-of-a-kind images. “You can’t put kids somewhere and ask them to smile. I think that’s refreshing. The best photos of children are when they’re not even aware they’re being photographed. Capture them when they’re themselves. I spend time getting to know the child, and then I tell them to just go play. I want the photos to be natural.”
To see Miller’s work and learn more about Origin Photo, visit http://www.origin-photo.com. Two-hour portrait sessions start at $150 and include an online password-protected gallery where clients can order high-quality prints.