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Sunday, January 2, 1994
Northern Mariana Islands
Member for:
1 year 2 weeks
About me: 
I’m Alexa Shaw, photographer. I work with my grandpa and our friends & colleagues: Bart, Alisha, Marley and Kyla, with James popping in now-n-then. Together we run 15th Parallel Photography (business), This Is Saipan (education site for The Northern Mariana Islands), and Creative DIY Photography (DIY & self-taught photography tips, tricks and money saving projects).
Personal bios are not my thing. Some people love to brag about themselves, I’m not one of them. I could drone on using small minded diatribe like so many others on social media, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you about how I began my photography career.
I was born in Southwest Michigan. At a young age I moved to Kentucky with my mom and graduated there. As a teenager I modeled for a little extra cash and for my grandpa. I thought it was what I wanted to do with my life so I asked him to help me. He said he wouldn’t tell me what to think, but he did give me a ton of articles, journals, model biographies, etc. and a peek at his life photographing men, women, children, families, pets, war, crime scenes, special events, funerals, etc. throughout his career of – well a long time.
He said: “Here you go. Read this and see if modeling is really what you want to do...or not.” I read everything. To learn about what goes on when the cameras aren’t looking changed me forever. I decided right there to become a photographer like my grandpa and learn from him, if he would teach me.
I pitched my idea and in his typical fashion, he stood silent, just staring at me, blank face, breathing methodically as he rubbed his fingers across his goatee. It seemed like forever before he spoke and when he did, I listened.
He said college courses would be a must to get a basic concept of photography, writing and photojournalism. I’d have to take FILM and DSLR courses and apprentice with him as his “photographer’s assistant.” I later figured out that was code for “go-for.” Go for this, go for that. Set this here, over there, and everywhere. At the time I saw no wisdom in his ‘wax-on, wax-off’ philosophy. As co-founder of our photography ventures, I see the light (no pun intended), and I understand.
All of my college classes were over and I was beaming with pride at my success. Grandpa looked at me, smiled and said: “Now forget everything you were taught. Today, you start learning how to a be real professional photographer.” He hugged me tight, smiled, said congrats, adjusted his ‘Screamin Eagle’ military baseball cap and walked off, just as I was smothered by my classmates.
He was absolutely right. What I learned in classrooms didn’t, and still doesn’t, actually apply to real world photography. You can only learn that by doing it yourself. College is more about theory or a belief in a practical application approach. That usually means doing something the same way, over and over and over. YUCK! We work outside of those little rule boxes and that makes for some awesome photography.
I’d already traveled much of the US and parts of Canada, flown to exotic places, photographed lots of people, places, things and so much more – then the other shoe dropped. One day, he’d returned from a trip and told everyone he was moving to live his life in tropical splendor – on an island – in the Pacific – my heart sank. I could literally feel it breaking. It was like experiencing those final moments of life on the Titanic first hand. I just wanted to die.
My head dropped, my eyes filled with tears as I started my slow, painful walk out of the room when, like thunder I heard: HEY! WHERE THE HELL DO THINK YOU’RE GOING? It was like a super magnet zapped me. I couldn’t move. I could only turn to face him. He slowly sauntered over to me and leaned in close to my ear and spoke these unforgettable words, clearly and softly: “Go pack your shit, we leave at the end of the week.”
When I heard those words I threw my arms around his neck, grabbed him as tight as could, I think he was gasping for air, and realized my tears of sadness weren’t about being sad. I wasn’t heartbroken anymore. I was going to become a professional photographer and make my own income, be able move to a tropical island to live and work with my grandpa – my mentor, teacher, best friend, protector and the only person I ever trusted. He was always there to make me feel strong, important, successful, and offer his hand to pick me up when I was down. He never let me get away with anything, especially giving up. He’s always shown me how to help myself be the strongest person I can be and not lean on people through life as you would a crutch. Eventually, you have to let it all go.
Now, I could lie and say I’ve loved every minute of it, but I won’t insult you. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, I love living here, I love photography, my grandpa, the people, the food, the travel – almost everything. I just can’t stand the typhoons – I really, truly, hate them. Oh, and we have NO studio. DUH! it’s a TROPICAL ISLAND – HELLO! Natural beauty means gorgeous backdrops.
I hope this gives each of you a glimpse of my real world life, before-n-after becoming a photographer.

Please join us on MeWe at 15th Parallel Photography. We are: Craig, Marley, Bart, Alisha, Kyla, ME! of course, and once-in-a-while, James. Be Safe Out There.

Alexa Shaw,
Professional Photographer
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