“When I get bigger…”

I was watching a video on Facebook recently, of a friend’s younger daughter. She was three years old at the taping and she and her father were having a conversation. At one point she stated “When I get bigger…” and then rambled on about what she would accomplish and do and it struck me like a bell might, out of a deep sleep.

Manifestation. I know, a popular word these days. As a kid and young adult I was a fabulous manifester. Anything I wanted, whether on a whim or a big decision, simply appeared into my life. It just did, it was a thing. Then, as an adult things shifted. I suffered. Was broke. It seemed endless. For years I chalked it up to being “part of life”.

You know what? It WAS part of life because I expected it to be. Not because it was. It was because I created that suffrage. How might it be different if I expected it to be great? Be everything and more?

What if (hang with me now), what if we stepped into our adult selves knowing that we would live amazing, abundant, healthy, and incredibly adventurous lives simply because we knew they would be so?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay our dues. No matter what we choose for our profession, or partner, or any of it – it still must be mastered. Mastering anything takes time. But, what if instead of worrying, and trying to force our version of perfection into every single minute we simply kept moving forward, kept taking the action necessary every single day to create that life for ourselves. What if we knew with absolute certainty that “When I get bigger” everything would be okay? That it would be everything we dreamed and more.

Let’s take that leap shall we? Everyday. Let’s choose to know at our core that when we get bigger everything will be just perfect.

Thank you, Charli. You’re a genius.


Being Blessed and Turning 40

Someone recently noted that I am fortunate. For a moment I had to take a breath. “Me? Fortunate? What? I’ve hustled my you-know-what-off for everything I have! How could they ever think that?!…Oh wait…”

Yes. So fortunate.

Gah! I love what I do. I am so blessed. It is my JOB to create beautiful portraits for wonderful people. I work primarily out of my studio here in Asheville and occasionally even have the opportunity to travel all over the world for education and opportunity. What a freaking life, right?

It is true. At 18 I knew I wanted to BE a photographer but had no idea how. At 30 I was so busy running a bar, I only had a point and shoot that had a flash function I thought was fun and artsy that I loved using when we were out and about. I even had a name for it, “drunk flash”. It was great. Streaming lights in all the photos, highlights so blown everyone looked amazing.

I turn 40 next week. Man, 40. Most people you speak with cringe at remembering their 40th birthday. Frankly, I’m lovin it. Why? Because I am fortunate. I somehow was slung from hustling booze day in and day out, barely considering a future to building a business. A real business. A business where I photograph women from all walks of life, their families, them solo, whatever their hearts desire and create amazing artwork. I attend networking meetings every week, I run advertising, I write for local magazines about business and empowerment, I eat, live, and breathe my business to attract as many women into my studio as I know how to do and then some. I am in a constant state of evolution and upleveling my skillset AND my business to be better every day.

And then I take a breath.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you whomever you are for reminding me that I am so fortunate. So fortunate to learn, to have the capacity to grow, to help others grow their own businesses, and to do what I love. 

To my birthday I look to my “order to the Universe” and it is as follows:

  • To be photographed by Sue Bryce
  • To enjoy champagne infused gummy bears
  • To laugh every day
  • To be healthy
  • To strive every day to be better than the day before
  • To pay ahead on my mortgage each month
  • To grow my savings for retirement
  • To travel to Barcelona in September and London in January
  • To remind others that they too can be better than they were the day before, simply by making the choice to be.

Thank you for reminding me that all of this is possible.




To Be Seen {Personal Post}

I got dumped this week. Someone I considered a very dear friend did not care for how I perceived that she had offended me and in no uncertain terms decided that we were no longer friends.

Wow. Full on slug to the gut.

“Ok, so what’s the deal, Cat? Why are you posting about this?”

Because it absolutely relates to WHY I do what I do. My grievances were centered around the fact that I wasn’t being “seen” by someone close to me; in work situations, and in personal. That my presence and understanding were being discounted for no understandable reason and it pissed me off.

And then I heard this voice this morning: “It only hurts if there is truth to it, Cat.”

I do what I do because I spent much of my life in the shadow of my own self-hate. I’ve worked through a lot of that over the past year or so, and most of it within the last six months. How could I possibly offer anyone the opportunity to BE SEEN through my own photography if I refused to see and value my own self? And then my friend decided that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore and that seven-year old little girl inside of me thought “Of course! Why would anyone want to be your friend anyway, Cat? You’re pushy, you’re bold, you’re dumb, you’re…” And then the seventeen year old version of me immediately started looking around for cigarettes because she knew the seven-year old girl was right on the money.

Wait. Breathe. No.

I was upset because I wasn’t being seen by someone I held in friendship but, whatever the issue is simply a reflection, isn’t it? Was I not “seeing” her? I certainly was quick to blame her and only take responsibility for the martyred reasons…Ahhh, yeah, I might break up with me too.

I really work to “see” the people in front of me, really see them. It is how I develop connection with my clients, with my family, and with my friends. It also requires that in order to see them, first I have to see myself. I have to care for myself. I have to look in the mirror and ask my conscience if she is proud to be a part of me today. Today, tomorrow, and the next day.

My portraiture would be nothing without that conscience or that connection. That means that I have to own my own choices. It means I have to look every person in the eye and see them, the real them and if I can’t do that, then I’m off. Off by a long shot.






Intentions to be Better…

Everyone makes new years resolutions, right? I was never one of “those” people. I kind of thought they were dumb. What makes January 1st any more a reasonable time to make changes in your life over any other day? Then it kind of dawned on me; we are all trying to be better. Maybe we forget from time to time and get caught up in our daily lives but, I think overall each of us, in some way wants to be better. It’s kind of like the advice others give you when you want to correct your posture. Have you heard this? When you walk through a doorway, use the doorway as the reminder to stand up nice and straight. The doorway is kind of like January 1st. No matter what is happening in your life, remember at the very least, on January 1st to set intentions to be better.

My intention this year is to be the best version of myself, to live up to my potential.

That is what this image is for me, a reminder of the best version of me. A very dear friend photographed me in January and I have decided that this shot is going to stand as my reminder that I am to make choices every day that help me to be better than I was yesterday.

To make better choices personally, in my business, financially, in relationships, and the list goes on. I’ve always had the excuse “Well, I didn’t really try for it anyway…” Well, this year, anything I set my sights on I am going after. No excuses. I refuse to take any part of my life for granted any longer. Not one minute and neither should you.

Call your mom. Enjoy the sunshine. Be passionate. It doesn’t matter about what, just that you are and about something. Further your education. Travel. Get outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be across the globe (though, if it can be, it absolutely should be!), it can even be 20 minutes away. Hug someone. Hug a stranger, hug a friend. Learn something new. Take a walk. Take a nap. Live in this moment, this one right here.


The close of another year and, just wow.

The close of another year and, just wow.

I have to pinch myself sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, this year was tough. At times, I wasn’t sure how, if, or when I’d come out the other side but occasionally, you have trouble seeing the forest through the trees. Looking back on 2015, holy cow!

What. A. Year.

One of the greatest parts about my work is that I am able to celebrate the wonderful, and inspiring people who I have the privilege of photographing. I get to meet these amazing women, leading such incredible lives with their families and loved ones and just, even for a moment, show them how incredible and beautiful they are! These women are professionals, artists, home-makers, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and the one thing they all have in common? They are all, each and every one of them, givers. They give of themselves in every way.

Thank you, universe. Thank you for this life. This one, right here! This life where I am so lucky, and so blessed to be able to live a life that I love, creating art with such an amazing community. I am an artist, a mentor, a student, a wife and loving every moment. Cheers, 2016. Welcome.

Here is to another great year. A year I welcome with open arms. A year full of goals, planning, fulfillment, introductions, exodus, learning, abundance, security, and freedom.


How Being Thankful Inspires Goals for the New Year

Getting ready for the new year, we all have sugar plums dancing about everything we hope to accomplish. My own goals are no different. First and foremost however, before putting pen to paper on those goals I think it is paramount that I review the year coming to a close to be thankful for my accomplishments and lessons.

This year has been a doozie for me, personally and professionally. I came in to 2015 with a goal to complete my continuing education course (which I did! Wahoo!), and to build my business, build savings for my family, and learn to manage my time more efficiently. What I have come to learn, throughout this year was so much more.

I did complete my continuing education. I also closed my second business and that took a toll on me both emotionally and financially. What I’ve come to realize with that closing is that it was the perfect opportunity for me to put my all and everything into this business, my photography. What is it they say? “Where focus goes, energy flows?” and it is exactly the truth. I picked myself up and dusted myself off and said “Cat, no more excuses. Now is the time for you to really shine, so get up off your arse and get to it.”

Since then I’ve been to New York, I’ve made new friends and new clients, visited with dear friends I haven’t connected with in years, my husband and I are actually able to spend time with one another (a concept foreign to us for years) and I love going to work every, single day.

I am excited for 2016. Life hands you exactly what you ask of it and I see that now. I love that I am able to live my life doing exactly what I love and with the people I choose to enjoy this journey with by my side. I love that I am able to support others in their dreams, and their successes.

For 2016:

  • My goal is to travel, to learn from masters in my field.
  • My goal is to build savings for my family.
  • My goal is to live to the fullest at every opportunity.
  • My goal is to photograph 192 women in 2016.
  • My goal is to photograph one inspired, conceptual shoot for me each month.
  • My goal is to spend quality time with the people that mean the world to me, near and far.
  • My goal is to set boundaries for myself and stick to them.

One of the things I started doing this year was saying “yes” to things. Things I had never experienced or had been fearful of. New ideas, new concepts, new journeys and it has been one of the most liberating changes in my life. Now I’m excited to fly on a plane. I trust that the pilot will get me to my destination safely. Now, I make new friends whenever given the opportunity and embrace everything wonderful I see in those people (Thanks, Andy 😀). Now, I venture to new places, out of my home, out of my regular path to connect to new people almost everyday. I am so thankful for that.

What are some of your goals for 2016? What is on your horizon?

Fine Art Portrait Concept

Coming into the fall this year, I realized I was struggling. Struggling to meet the level of service I strive to provide for my clients. Struggling to really create the imagery I KNOW that I can. A friend asked me when the last time I had shot, just to be shooting? Just to be shooting for me and I truly couldn’t answer. I had no idea.

When you first start out, you photograph anything and everything. It’s how you decide where you passion really lies within photography. Is it with weddings and events? Is it photographing infants? Is it in a photo-journalistic approach or a studio setting? Is it in covering families? Is it in shooting men or women? Is it with digital or film? Is it for fashion and editorial work? Is it with personal portraiture? Conceptual work and abstract? The list goes on and on.

For me personally, I have ALWAYS loved photographing people, women especially. Yes, I have experience with events and weddings and covering concerts and street photography but where my heart sings s portraiture. I prefer it be in my studio but it certainly hasn’t been banished only there, haha.

This year, I had been concentrating so heavily on my continuing education, my blinders were up. Plain and simple. And, by this fall, man I gotta tell ya, my fire was barely a candle flame. This happened when I studied music, too. I became so wrapped up in the theory of everything, the logistics that I had lost the love of the music itself. I had taken the art away and brought everything back down to the rules. It ruined it for me. Now, the extent of my singing belongs to belting at a karaoke night (don’t get me wrong, I will sing loud and proud for some karaoke) but the dreams of a career in music beyond teaching, left me a long time ago.

So, when my friend asked me when the last time I had photographed anything just for me it dawned on me that…I hadn’t. Plain and simple.

This is not an option. Not ever. For any artist. Heed these words, please.

As as an artist I HAVE to create, it’s in my blood. I love creating: lists, plans, concepts, flyers, goals, paintings, composites, you name it. What I get lost in sometimes is the execution. If you take away the creation part and all I’m left with is maintenance, and rules, and theories, my well runs pretty dry.

It was pretty apparent to me that I needed to start planning a shoot just for me. I had found some inspiration in a clay facial mask and found a model that could move like a ballerina and we created some beautiful images together.

I am now adding a conceptual line to our menu with 828. I will work with you and your ideas to design a vision to create some beautiful artwork. Please, let me know if you’re interested.

Model: Emma D

Photography: Cat Ford-Coates

inspired photography in asheville

Inspiration on the way:

  • all white – December
  • cherry red – January
  • Napoleonic era – February
  • branches – March
  • Paris – April

What is it like to meet your hero

What is it like to meet your hero? Let me tell ya, it is nerve wracking, it is humbling, it is empowering, and it is inspirational.

new york - from the plane - cell phone snap
Arriving in New York, always a welcome view

So many professionals attend and exhibit at trade shows and photographers are no exception. I had the joy of attending the Photo Plus expo in Manhattan this past week. I came away with in person education from leaders in photography (Sue Bryce, Lori Patrick, Jen Rozenbaum and Lindsay Adler) a new holster for my camera which, I am elated about and a personally autographed book from my virtual mentor and photography hero, Ms Sue Bryce herself.

suebryce, learning, mastering my craft, womens portraiture, nyc, ppe 2015

For those of you that follow me here, you already know that I studied virtually under Sue (via CreativeLive) for the majority of this year. I knew at the beginning of this wild year that if I were going to step up my game in my photography business, education was going to play a HUGE part in that success.

I organized each of the week’s assignments with women and daughters and men throughout Asheville over the course of 32 weeks. I sketched out each photo shoot based on the class videos and the topic for the week and was rarin to go! What I wasn’t expecting in this class was how it would affect me personally.

The great thing about Sue is that in her teaching, part of her curriculum forces you to face your own…your own YOU. Your own fears, your own abilities, short comings and strengths. It isn’t only about posing, and set mapping, and business, the real value in this learning is what you learn about yourself. Your own success starts there, and you simply cannot get there without doing the work.

Well, needless to say I evaluate my life on a fairly regular basis. I measure results. I critique my actions and learn from each situation. I’m hard-wired for it. I love it.

Have I had missteps along the way? Of course. I have never been any sort of valedictorian by any stretch of the imagination however, this course was more valuable than any education I received in two different college settings. What I AM is creative, and driven, and thoughtful, and I do my best to support those around me and those that I love and, those I don’t even know.

I can be a little brash at times, haha. However, it is never meant maliciously, I’m kind of “a bull in a china shop” at life.

This past week was a dream come true for me. I got to photograph and learn in new settings from leaders in this industry, enjoy my favorite city for an entire week, I was invited to attend a very exclusive party and enjoy it with the company of a friend and people I had only ever dreamed of enjoying a cocktail with, fan girl a bit, and to top it off, I was able to thank and hug the woman who has championed women’s portraiture through two recessions, educated countless photographers through their own challenges personally and professionally (they do go hand in hand after all) and shows zero signs of slowing down any time soon.

Thank you for such a fabulous experience!! I hope you all enjoy my snap shots. They don’t even begin to do this trip any justice at all. Thank you to all of my new-found connections and the kindness I was shown from so many people. Thank you to my friend Lauren, for being the perfect confidante for the week. Thank you to all of the amazing hosts for the wonderful classes and experiences throughout this amazing week. And, thank you New York. You will always be my first love.

williamsburg ferry ride - tourist - new york skyline

How I felt about my own Before and After

One of my gifts, as a photographer and a human is that I am able to see everything beautiful in you and everything that you maybe, aren’t super happy about, too. So, how did I feel about my own before and after?

When I first entered photography professionally, I was immediately drawn to modern portraiture. As a college student (a hundred or so years ago), I loved the edgy, black and white aesthetic. it was the 90’s. Everything was edgy, then, haha! As my photography grew and I was able to hone my skills, contemporary glamour was easily where my heart burst with joy. There is something so simple, yet so magnificent about stripping away everything you don’t like or hate about yourself and lighting everything that is beautiful. Defining that in a magazine style portrait that just, well, it sings.

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a rampage in purchasing new pieces for our studio wardrobe. Beautiful satin and lace dresses for anyone to wear during their photo shoot here in Asheville. Elegant pieces to go that extra mile in ensuring you feel beautiful for your photo shoot. You might come in thinking, “Oh I just need new head shots” or “I’m more of a casual girl” but, having that extra piece of drop dead gorgeous never hurts anyone.

So, what better time than to test the waters myself? So, I donned one of the new pieces and called a photographer friend over, hung my black velvet backdrop and put on a face and stepped in front of her lens.

“What are you doing, Cat? Why on earth do you NEED a portrait? You just had a full on beauty session a year and a half ago with another photographer. Do you really need another one? Do you even really DESERVE another one? God, this looks horrible on you. Your makeup looks awful and you haven’t touched up your hair color and you could use to lose more than just a few pounds. You’re almost 40. There’s no way these will be even remotely resemble the you, you remember…”


“OK deep breaths, Cat.”

All the voices, I acknowledged their existence. Always in the voice of the 12-year-old me. She was constantly berated so, I can’t really blame her for being scared. It’s her job to protect me from suffering that kind of attack…oh wait…

Be careful how you speak to yourself. You are listening after all.

I took my “Before” picture in my kitchen, after a single cup of coffee in front of a window. No makeup, I don’t think I’d even brushed my hair. A real “before”, to say the least. Yup, that’s me in the morning. How did I feel about the before? Seeing the truth sometimes can be jolting. I got to see all of my flaws in the cold light of day, and then I was going to put it out there for all the interwebs to see. Haha! The dark circles under my eyes, the scowl lines in between my eyebrows from spending 20+ years in the Florida sun, my growing chin (what’s THAT about anyway, jeez) and the list goes on. The point is, that is my face. That is what I look like. In a normal day, I might throw on a little moisturizer and some eye makeup. I might even go so far as lipstick if I’m feelin sassy. I’m a pretty good lookin gal, curves and all. A little face can go a long way.

In editing the footage we shot that day, we were very careful to only go as far as we would for any client. I am very meticulous about retouching. As much as I wanted to wave my magic photo shop wand to get rid of everything I see, it was very important that I remain my beautiful self and, not some idealized version of myself. My portraiture is based on highlighting everything beautiful about my client and if I went the “extra mile” on my own portraits, it would have defeated the purpose.

before and after - beauty - asheville - photography - portrait
Having the strength to step in front of a camera can be challenging. You’re faced with all of your flaws and “I’m not good enough”, right then. You ARE good enough. everything about you is perfect. You are valued.

So, what do I see staring back at me?

  • a woman who loves her work
  • the courage to let all of the voices have their say, and then move forward to embrace this moment
  • a woman with doubts and fears, just like everyone else
  • a woman who is loved
  • a woman who has worked tirelessly to build her business
  • a beautiful portrait, now part of my legacy

I put this image out on social media yesterday. Clicking the “post” button definitely took a minute…or two but, here’s the thing, if I can’t share my very own before and after, how on earth could I ever expect you to come into my studio, let alone experience your very own transformation with us?

Our service, our process is not one of turn and burn, wham bam thank you ma’am. I want you to be able to envision yourself having your portraits made with us. I want for you to see that my purpose here is not to just photo shop everything away, it’s to showcase everything wonderful about you, right now. It’s to help you see past all of the little things you hate seeing in the mirror: all of the shoulda, woulda, coulda, all of the when I lose 15 pounds, all of the when I get to the salon or the gym, all of the maybe one days, all of the “I’m not good enough”. You ARE good enough. You DO deserve beautiful portraits. Your family and loved ones deserve beautiful portraits OF YOU.

They are your keepsakes. They are your heirlooms.

In the words of Sue Bryce, “You are beautiful. I want to capture you for All time.”

I would love to photograph you.



I got the news on Saturday evening {A personal post}

I got the news on Saturday evening. Andy was a childhood friend with my friend, Mary. He came to Asheville to connect with her on his cross-country journey. What a light this man had! Wow…I met him in our restaurant on a karaoke Sunday. He was lively and shooting stills and video of the day. What a great day it was, too. He then stayed on for a few months. He, of course spoke about his “Embrace Your Awesome” and videoed us brewing sake and danced and played. We were following our passion and it thrilled him. Around Andy, you always felt as though he had a magic that was out of reach for so many of us. What I’ve learned since then though, is that you attract what you are. What you see in people is simply a reflection of yourself.

I was never close with Andy but, somehow his passing has had a major impact. When I heard about his passing on Saturday, complete and utter shock. I can’t stop crying. Is that crazy? When I open my facebook, my newsfeed is riddled with so much love for this man and it begins again, the tears come. On his personal page, you could scroll for days with all of the images and stories he created with people. There have been groups created in memorial and for sharing and celebrating his life in grief. Even a worldwide dance party was shared last night in his honor.

He really, really would have loved that.

One of the things I loved most, was that he loved to document, everything. EVERYTHING. As a photographer and videographer he understood completely how impactful imagery is. When someone is gone, you pour through photos to remember that moment with clarity and depth…and love. This was the image that he stated “If ever were there a picture to memorialize me, I want it to be this one.”

andy devlin - embrace your awesome
Photo courtesy of John Shim. John, thank you for capturing such a perfect moment.

Andy, dear sir, I don’t know that you ever truly knew what kind of legacy you have created through this terrific web of people you have connected. It is astounding to me the outpouring of love so many are sharing. You never did get to compile and share all of your imagery and cinematography as you’d planned. I can only imagine how fantastic a story it truly would have been upon completion. In fact, if anyone in his family is interested in putting this documentary together, I am more than happy to help in any way. Please, feel free to reach out to me directly (Cat@Studio-828.com) to discuss the details. That legacy, his dream deserves to be shared.

I know that I am sharing this on my professional blog. Perhaps I should create a personal, I don’t know. I needed to write. To get this out of my system and into the ether, as it were. I can only imagine how those closest to him are feeling. I knew him only a few short months and I am heartbroken for his passing.

My hope is that everything he brought to every. single. person Andy ever met was that, that love that he spread like wildfire illuminates the sky. Every day he made the world a better place and we are all richer people for having known him. Burn bright my friend.

“There are no happy endings because nothing ever ends.” – Peter S Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Now, I have to go and put together my “Notes to Self”. You probably should, too.