It's been quite a journey over the last few years. When I started Barbara Leatham Photography back in 2007 I never thought I'd have moved three times across the UK and gained my Masters Degree in Photography, but it goes to show you that you never know what life has in store for you and that you need to take opportunities when they tap you on the shoulder.
I joined the Royal Air Force in October 2002. I remember going into the AFCO the year before with my mum, (even at 28 you still like to get your mum's approval) sitting and waiting for someone to come and ask me why I was there. The Cpl behind the desk asked "Can I help you?" and I said, "I'm a photographer, I'd like to join the Air Force"
I've always known that I wanted to take photos. Dad had an SLR which he gave to me when I started my A-level photography all those years ago. I never thought it would lead me to the RAF.
I certainly wasn't your average recruit; at 4' 11" aged 29 and single parent of a then eight year old boy, I was at the extreme of the recruiting limits.
I remember asking mum if she'd look after my son while I went through basic and trade training. It was going to be hard for a year, but the pay off would be worth it, and it was. I jokingly said to her, "what's the worse they can do, post me to the top of Scotland??" I ate those words when my first posting the following year was to RAF Kinloss; when you get up to Inverness - turn right.
I met my husband when I was trade training at RAF Cosford. It was very frowned upon, AC's were not encouraged to get involved with any one of rank. David was a Sgt in the medical centre, so what my Training Staff didn't know they couldn't charge me over. He was single dad of three boys all older than my son; it was a crash course in having a big family, but it was fantastic. Our boys aged 9-14 at that point.
In 2005, having spent two years commuting between RAF Kinloss and RAF Cosford, we finally got a co-location posting to East Anglia (RAF Honington) and were married.
I left the RAF In 2007 after the birth of our son (who arrived in March 2006, and then our daughter (July 2007). That was the year I started my business. Quickly followed by my MA.
You may notice that I don't do things by halves, it's often commented on that I never seem happier than when I'm under stress, and I suppose that to some extent people are right.
I'm passionate about two things in my life, my family and photography.
It's all about to change in the business. It's taken me until now to find the direction that I want to go in and with a (sort of) plan in mind I'm expecting to look back over the next 12 months and wonder how I managed, (again). I'm sure there will be days of "OMG" as well as "it's never going to happen" and probably some "I'm going to pack it all in and get a 9 to 5 job."
But the reality is I will make the changes required to get the very best out of my business, to make it everything I've envisioned and something to be proud of. When my children look back at it and realise that their mum may have been a little crazy sometimes, but sometimes being a little crazy helps.
If I can spend my working days creating some stunning images that brings joy and happiness to my clients through some fantastic memories that will be immortalised in albums, framed for their walls, encapsulated in acrylic or emblazoned on aluminium - as well as having the most amount of fun that can be squeezed into a photo shoot, then I think I'll have made my version of Maslow's self-actualisation.
I've been quoting this to my children for years and it's something I say to myself all the time too. Seize the day, make it happen. Spend all that energy you have into positive thoughts and hard work, you'll be surprised where it can take you.
I'd like to thank my mum for helping me take the first step on this adventure; thanks also to my husband for supporting me though all of my crazy days, super happy days and not so entertaining stressy days; and especially for helping me with my accounts (you have no idea how much I loath that job!) To our kids, you have been a fantastic learning curve to my photography (when you let me) and a constant source of love when things get difficult, you guys rock!
Special thanks to the rest of my family and to my closest friends, who have seen me evolved over the years. You have all influenced the person I am today, you've been my ears to bend, my smiles when I'm excited about things, even when you "don't get it" - my sounding board and my rocks. You're all awesome.