On July 5, 1995 Michelle Wise opened her business, Wise Photography, never realizing what a journey the next 15 years would hold. In that time her life changed in many ways and now she looks forward to discovering what story her future holds. Just like film is developed through a process, she believes all she discovered about herself and life’s lessons were developed in the dark room of her life.
Wise fell into photography as she attended school with dreams of making movies. Her first clip, a two-and-a-half minute skit, cost $400 to process. As part of her criteria for earning a degree in film, she was required to take a photography course. Because of college expenses, her first love fell by the wayside and she discovered she could still tell stories through still images. While on that journey, there was another story unfolding. Through suffering she discovered something deep inside that wouldn’t have been uncovered with out the experience of pain and was led down a new path of faith and affirmation.
“I had to go through life and experience some things,” Wise described. “Now I have a story to tell with my work with children.” Wise has written a book she decided to self publish: Discovery through the Eyes of Children, A photographer’s journey. Wise has been working on the book for five years, but it is really fifteen years in the making. The document is illustrated with the photos of children Wise has taken over the years, but the short message on each page is autobiographical.
Wise said over the years she went through some personal issues that filled her with stress and actually made her physically sick from tension. She found herself second-guessing her purpose in life and her faith in God. As she continued her work as a photographer, she noticed, over and over, how the pictures she took while working reflected a deeper meaning.
When she was questioning her belief in God, she saw children posing as if in prayer. Other, apparently coincidental happenings, kept bringing her back from self-doubt and despair, reminding her of a faith she thought she had lost. She said even electronics started to malfunction, it was if God was trying to get her attention. One day a failed email connection gave her the message: “Without the connection, the path cannot be restored.” Another person would have been annoyed about the electronic interruption, but Wise saw a deeper meaning in that as well. “God was using children to get to my heart and using my career to speak to me,” Wise said. “Also I was looking for a sign and asking God if my childhood faith in Jesus was true.”
Wise’s book represents coming full circle in her personal and professional growth. She said she never abandoned her photography, which gave her purpose when personally she felt lost. At one point part way through her fifteen years in business, Wise described a moment of utter clarity. She was surrounded by a presence and in that moment, worry anxiety left her. She believes that was the turning point that lead her back to God.
“I am now following my purpose, not chasing after the dollar and trying so hard to make things work,” she said of her career. “I can’t let money be the sole dictator to the decisions I make in business, if I run my business that way, I would close shop like many of the photo chain stores. I have learned so much about faith in the hard times and was able to see the Lord provide and encourage me not to give up. I think I’ve made better decisions and actually in the end prospered more because of those experiences and times of need.
“Inside of me I always wanted to tell a story, and now I have a story to tell.” Wise stated. “My discovery is how I found God through the eyes of children.” Wise said believing again that she is important and what she does is important is a story not just for herself, but for others to be encouraged of their own purpose and hope for living. “You are important, you were sent here by God to help a despirate world,” she advises to others in her book.
Wise Photography is located at 1 North Main Street in downtown Rockford. Michelle will host an open house Thursday through Friday, July 15-17 from 10 to 5 p.m. during Rockford’s Side Walk Sales (see related story, page ?) There will be specials on photography packages and refreshments or visit online at wisephotography.com. Expect a chance to view and buy her book by Christmastime this year.