Our latest OW Spotlight features another fabulous young woman we came to know through this year's IGNITE the NITE fundraiser. Kaylyn Leighton, a spunky Florida transplant, is making her way in Boston as an up-and-coming photographer with a love for her new city and remarkable desire to give back to the Boston community. We are so happy to have met her and to work with her in our efforts to capture the work of Boston GLOW through photographs.
Q: Kaylyn, you grew up in a small southern town in Florida, how prepared were you to start life in a city like Boston?
A: Ever since I can remember I envisioned myself living in a city like New York, Los Angeles, or Boston. I knew at an early age that the small-town southern lifestyle wasn't for me. I was lucky enough to visit Boston a year prior to moving here and instantly fell in love with it. When you are young, you tend to think you are prepared for everything, but the decision to pack my bags and drive over 1300 miles with just my cat and a hope to become something more was not an easy one.
Q: Why did Boston appeal to you as a woman and a young professional?
A: Boston has the friendly feel of Florida but also offers the opportunities of NY on a more affordable scale. Public transportation was a new experience for me and I loved being able to hop on the T not knowing who I would meet: a struggling artist, a record producer, or maybe a model. The unpredictable nature of the city, that "anything could happen" feeling, made Boston exciting and appealing. I felt like this was a place where all things were possible.
Q:What expectations did you have when you arrived?
A:When I moved to Boston I had a somewhat unrealistic expectation that my career would take off spontaneously just because I was in the right location. It didn't take me long to realize that it was going to be a process and I had many lessons to learn along the way. It is really hard being in a new city where you don't know anyone because although you have to work to survive, you also want to make friends. Sometimes it is hard to find a healthy balance. I would say Boston has lived up to my expectations when it comes to career opportunity and it is such a beautiful city, it's hard not to be happy here.
Q:What were the biggest challenges you faced when you began pursuing your goals?
A:I would say my biggest challenge has been determining exactly which career path to pursue. You have this misconception when you are in school that you can just decide on a career, study, learn, and begin working. Reality doesn't work that way which is why I think my career path has been anything but a straight road. When I started college, it was as a graphic design major. In the end, I switched to photography and now I am very interested in creative directing. Sometimes you begin in one direction, and then opportunity and circumstance lead you in a new direction. Another challenge is networking and knowing where to put my energy. When you begin a corporate job, you have a training period, perhaps a mentor, maybe even an employee manual. When you are taking a leap of faith and putting everything on the line because you are on your own, it is an entirely different game. I would love for a mentor to walk up to me and say, this is what you need to do to get to where you want to be. Perhaps I will be that mentor for a young girl who relocates to Boston one day.
Q: What have you accomplished in the past two years since moving to Boston?
A: In the past two years I have been very lucky to work as a photographer alongside other industry professionals and to shoot a wide range of events in the New England area. In addition to Fashion Project, I am also working as a photographer with Classic Photographers . It has been a fabulous experience to assist the very talented Fabiana Vieira at a number of weddings and I have learned so much from these experiences. I was awarded an internship with Panorama Magazine which opened new doors for me as well. It really introduced me to ad work and I had the opportunity to shoot at venues such as Clio's and other local venues. I am also proud to be working with Boston Glow and donating my talents to capture their amazing events such as Ignite the Nite and Vagaina Monolouges. I am sure that all of these experiences will help me to progress as a photographer and a creative director. I am always looking for new opportunities and new ways to increase my exposure.
Q:Are there any female role models or leaders in the industry that have inspired or mentored you as a young business woman?
A: I am currently working with an organization called Fashion Project and all of the women who work there are strong pioneers. It so great to be surrounded by women similar to myself working towards a goal and being fashionably fabulous along the way! I also admire Annie Leibovitz a renowned portrait photographer for all of her achievements in the photography industry.
Q: What are you currently doing to work towards your career goals?
A: Working with Fashion Project has given me a tremendous opportunity to test my creative talents. I have been able to work for them as a photographer, stylist and get involved in the business side of things such as inventory intake. I'v been lucky to be part of this company's growth since it incorporates several of my passions- photography, style and fashion! Fashion Project is an organization that takes in higher-end gently worn clothing and allows the purchasers to donate a portion of the proceeds to charitable organizations. I really like the concept of combining fashion with philanthropy. This opportunity has really allowed me to mix my love for fashion with my creative talent and it has been wonderful to work at a job I love with a team that is great to work with.
Q:Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
A: If I am able to make a name for myself in the photography industry within the next few years, I think it would be amazing to shoot for a high end fashion magazine like Vogue, Cosmo, or V. Alternatively, I can see myself as the creative director for a fashion magazine or an organization such as Fashion Project. My family and friends are always teasing me about my compulsive planning. I admit I am a bit of a perfectionist so if I am the creative director on a project, you can bet every detail will be addressed. Wherever I am in five years, I feel certain I will be pursuing my dreams and living life in a city surrounded by fashion.
Q: Where did you learn to be so courageous and creative?
A:I would say my courage comes from my upbringing and the people that surrounded me as a child. I grew up watching my parents own their own business and no matter how tough things were at times they always overcame any obstacles. In doing so they were able to give my brother and I an amazing upbringing by being there for all the little things from ballet performances to nightly homework. I also had trouble in school as a child but no matter how poorly I did on a test I never felt like a failure because i knew they were proud of my attempt. I think their faith in me helped me to never fear failure, even if I felt afraid. Having such great support from my friends and family has allowed me to dream big and the ability to dream has inspired the flow of creativity. All of these things molded me into the person that I am today.
Q:What advice would you give to a woman of any age looking to run with a business idea or start a new career?
A: I would tell them to not fear failure. I have always felt good things don't come easy and have often chosen the harder path because I knew it would result in a greater outcome. I would also say dream big. Why shoot for the moon when you can reach Pluto? If you over shoot you're more likely to land farther than most. And I would also tell them that it is OK to feel like everything is failing and you've gotten nowhere. Allow yourself to feel that for a day and eat your chocolate and watch your sappy movie, but then tomorrow put on your heels and take on the world.
Q:Do you consider yourself a novice or a professional?
A:I still don't consider myself a "professional photographer". I feel in the creative industry, where a degree doesn't establish your ability, people use the word "professional" more freely but with less credibility. I have often said that when I am supporting myself 100% via photography, then I will consider myself a "professional". I am an aspiring photographer that is hoping to further the title by becoming a creative director. My passion is the vision. Nothing gives me more satisfaction then envisioning a concept and bringing it together. My personal photography style is more couture fashion that has extreme detail and a unique approach to common concepts. I love many forms of fashion photography and I am still discovering my signature style.
Q: What would you like to see change for women in the world?
A: I would like to see women of all ages feel empowered. It is important to know that you can take care of yourself, that you can support yourself and pursue your dreams. Purpose is something that you can not obtain from another person, you find it in the pursuit of yourself.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you and about fashion project”?
A:Readers can view my work and contact me by visiting my site http://www.kaylynleighton.com/ To learn more about fashion Project weather it is to shop, donate or if you are just interested in learning more about the company you can go directly to there site https://www.fashionproject.com/ as well as fallow them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/FashionProjectDotCom?fref=ts and twitter https://twitter.com/FashionProjct