Powerful Woman Project: Kelly Garthwaite

Kelly GarthwaiteMeet Kelly Garthwaite

Kelly’s powerful impact on me…

There are some people you have an instant connection with and for me Kelly was one of those people. There is something about her that just puts you at ease and makes you feel comfortable. I recently hired Kelly for some new photos and while I loved her photographic style beyond that I loved the heart she brought to her work. She cared about doing it right and doing it well. Before we talked about anything photography wise we sat down for coffee and she got to know me, my story, who I am personally and professionally. She didn’t have to do that – but that showed me she not only had the skill but the heart.  I’m not sure how it gets much more powerful than that.

Q&A with Kelly:

Describe a bit about your background: where you grew up, what motivated you as kid, did that influence where you are now? Any experiences (work or otherwise) that influenced where you are now?

I grew up in Charlottesville, VA , which was an incredibly affluent town for its size. I’m really thankful for the opportunities I had there with music and the arts. I played  violin in orchestra from 5th-12th grade, which I’m sure aided in my interest to photograph music down the road. I took a film photography class during my senior year of high school. At the time, I only cared about getting a grade, but without my knowledge at the time, it ended up defining where I would end up career-wise. All of my parents – I’m lucky enough to have four of them — were pretty supportive of my endeavors. 

Who and what inspires you?

People who are incredible at their trade. I love following photographers on Instagram, like Mario Testino or Joe Pugliese, and especially women, like Ellen von Unwerth, who I consider to be masters. Looking at their work and their stature in the industry used to intimidate me, but now I understand that it’s all a process, getting to that point in one’s career. I’ve come to an understanding with myself that I can take as long as I need to get to that level, but I need to honor the process along the way.

What do you do and why do you do it?

I do a lot things! But if we’re talking career, I’m a photographer and aspiring artist. I say aspiring because I feel that I’ll always have room to grow, see things in a new way, in a new light. I followed this path because I initially tried technical writing, and it was very much a square peg, round hole scenario. I’m much happier with pursing being an artist, even if there are a lot of unknowns.

What does power mean to you? What makes you feel powerful?

Power means being in control of myself and my reactions. If I can act instead of react, then I have overcome my ego. I feel powerful when I notice I’ve stopped myself from getting emotional and responding maturely to a difficult (for me) situation. 

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

I have a couple. My great granddad always said that no matter how hard you try to run from them your problems will always follow you. You have to face them head on and not try to avoid anything. It’ll always come back to haunt you. From my dad: “Kid. Trust me when I tell you. Life, it’s gone in a second. I was your age yesterday. Enjoy life.”

Did you struggle in standing in your power? If so, how did you overcome it?

It’s been a constant struggle to not allow my emotions to win. Yoga has been fantastic for that. I also saw a handful of different therapists over the years who spoke to me in a way that made sense, and then I realized how I had to be more self aware and focus on gratitude to put things in perspective.

We all have days where we are feeling anything but powerful, how do you work through that?

I remember the saying “this too shall pass.” Everything is temporary.  Some days are incredible, some quite the opposite, but everything ends.

Which line in the manifesto most rings true for you? Why?

Line four all the way. [You don’t ever have to worry about competition because your power is yours and yours alone.] I constantly forget that I only need to impress myself, especially when getting caught up looking at superficial things like how many Instagram followers someone has; that doesn’t equate to success or power. I beat myself down a lot because I allow outside forces to dictate how I feel about my own path.

Any other thoughts/comments you want to say on the topic of personal power?

Every year I creep further into my 30s I get excited about how much less I care about validation from others; I definitely love hearing my partner say that he’s a huge fan of my work, but when it comes to hearing that I’m doing something right in my life from acquaintances, it’s starting to mean less when it comes to the way I value and see myself. I’m striving to find the power within myself to accept who I am, especially when I feel that I’ve put on a few pounds. My opinion of myself is directly related to my physical state, and I would like to let that go.  

Learn more about Kelly and her work:


Today’s Contest Question:

Who inspires you and why?

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