Finding Community – One Frame at a Time

In Community, Portraiture, Urban Exploration
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On March 8th, my family and I celebrated our 3rd year of living in the Pacific Northwest. It was a huge change in geography, climate, and community. My husband and I both lived in Northern Nevada/California for our entire lives. That meant when we left Reno, we were also leaving behind the safety net of life long friends and family. While this was extremely nerve wracking, it was also incredibly liberating. It was the four of us now. Navigating a new city, new people, new jobs, new school, new everything. And because of that we had to lean in to one another more than we ever had before. For the first year or so, I actually was really okay with not jumping into the community here in Tacoma. While I did miss having close friendships, I savored the new feeling of anonymity that I was given new my new city. People didn’t know me and therefore I could be whoever I wanted to be. I am not sure that I really changed with the move, but was able to come into my own so much more than I ever felt I could before.

Liz and shop dog, Moana at Stocklist Goods

I had been craving this ever since I was in middle or high school; to figure something out on my own (I don’t know that I am articulating this well enough, but what I mean is that I wanted to have an adventure, a journey of sorts without the connections and safety net of ‘home’). Yet, when I moved from one high school to another, I already had a built in set of friends (which was truly awesome since I was going in as a junior). And when I set off for college, I again did so with a pack of people that I knew growing up. Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing those things in a pack – with having that built in group of people along for the ride when you make a big change. Despite craving the “I do it me self” feeling, I don’t know that I was ready to actually “do it me self”, ya know? All that to say, that when my husband presented the idea of a move north I thought, now’s my chance. Now is my chance to figure out who WE are as a couple, to figure out who I AM as a woman. I don’t know if I have it all figured out (do we ever?), but I know that the last three years have been so important to this journey of growth, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to relocate.
Allison of Happy Fox Studio

I have been in town for three years and I am starting to run into acquaintances at the grocery store and have friends who have mutual friends in town… and the web starts to build. It’s a beautiful thing, this community thing. I have started to feel like I can finally call Tacoma home,  and in doing so have started to venture out to connect with creatives and small business owners in one of my favorite ways, through photography. Over the past few months I have gotten to interview and photograph small business owners, creatives and women I now hope I run into while out and about at the grocery store or the post office. Once again, I am shown how my photography isn’t just a frame full of pixels, it’s a catalyst to connection and community.
Amy of Blooming Kids Tacoma

How has your photography helped you explore and get to know your city and community? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Keep chasing that light, Vanessa

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about this project these images were taken for, please pop on over to the Experience Tacoma website!


  1. It’s so interesting that I had the opposite experience — I moved around so much in my life and didn’t have a lasting group or pack. But having now lived for 15 years here on Cape Cod I finally feel a sense of real home and community. Photography has definitely played a big role in that. Thanks for sharing your story and your project!

  2. it’s so good the way you’re settling in, finding your way…and allowing other people to find you and your gift with the camera.

  3. I love this, Vanessa. When I moved from Toronto to California 22 years ago, I think I did the same thing – sort of relished my anonymity while I settled in. I’m determined to get up that way to visit you one of these days and see what you see. And it goes without saying that these images are gorgeous.

    • it was truly so nice to not know anyone or anything for those first few months to a year! I would love a visit, you are always welcome up this way, mosey on up!

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