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Katie Le | Personal | Reasons Behind The Lens

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

I have long had a love for photography, but I didn’t get serious about my photography business until I had my kids. What started as a hobby became a desperate attempt to find a way to get out of the rat race, out of the 40-hour work week, out of the 40-plus hours week that my kids were in daycare and after-school programs. I wanted more time with them, more time to teach them what they can’t learn in school, more time to build memories, more time for unstructured play, more time to relax and tend to the spirit instead of always being on the go. 

Growing up in VN, my dad was a farmer, and my mother was a teacher. During the planting and harvesting season, my dad would come home late, but during the off season, I would see him all the time. I saw him build our house; tend to the garden; plant peanuts, corn, and yam; weave baskets; build our beds; take us on his bike to our neighbor’s house to watch our favorite TV show (The Monkey King); prepare for the Vietnamese New Year; and more. I learned a lot from my dad, and I never thought that I did not have enough time with him growing up. I also saw my mom often at school, and at home, she helped me with my homework and taught me how to write essays (and write them neatly). I saw all the papers she had to grade and how her students respected her as a teacher. I went to the market with her, and I learned from her how to cook, tend to the house, and tend to my brothers. I also had a lot of time with my friends,  playing and being care-free with the neighborhood kids, making mud pie, playing in the rain, swimming in the stream, making dolls out of banana barks and paper, learning to cook, building little houses, having market stands and pretending to sell things, gleaning peanuts after rain, playing jump rope and hide and seek, performing, and making costumes. I had the best childhood. I was only in school for four hours each day. I went for either the morning or the afternoon session. Never for a full day. 

I want that flexibility for myself and our family. I want to be home when the kids come home from school. We decided to pull our kids out of the after-school program and daycare, and we cut back on my work hours. My goal has always been to be able to choose my schedule regarding work so I could prioritize my family.

Photography was a natural choice because I’ve cherished photos since I was a little girl. Growing up, we had one photo of my grandmother and one of my grandfather. Living in a remote village meant photos were hard to come by. My family was very fortunate because one of my uncles, who lived in the city, was a photographer. He always took photos of us when we had our annual family reunion. Thus, I had more photos growing up than many of my peers did. When I was 18 years old, I visited VN and brought along with me a digital camera. I took photos of people I saw in our village and of my relatives just so that I could remember them. When I visited again at age 21, I brought those photos that I took with me. One of my cousins had died tragically, leaving behind his young wife and kids. When my aunt saw the photos that I had taken of him, she began to cry and asked if she could have them as she did not have many pictures by which to remember him. I was thankful I took them. I realized then how powerful and precious photos are. How unfortunate that sometimes death is what makes us realize how important photos and videos of our loved ones are; they allow us to look back, cherish, find comfort, grieve, and feel a little closer when we are so far apart.

Just as much as I love beautiful pictures of important moments like weddings, engagements, and birthdays, I love to taking lifestyle images of families just doing life together. I try to imagine what would I miss about people if they were gone. For example, I would miss seeing my husband working at the computer, where he spends a lot of his time; playing tennis; and brushing his teeth. I would miss seeing my kids playing with each other in their room, my mother-in-law watering her garden or cooking in the kitchen, my father at his desk, and my mother reading a book. Won’t you miss simple moments of your loved ones, too? Don’t you want to preserve those memories? I do. If you understand what I’m trying to say, please let me know!

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