BABE #164: BECCA SKINNER, Photographer
Becca is free-spirited, Montana-based photographer with a serious passion for the outdoors. Raised in the high plains of Wyoming and the Rockies of Colorado, she’s inspired by landscapes and ecosystems, and strives to capture nature’s beauty with hopes of motivating others to understand the importance of conservation. During her time in college, she won a National Geographic Young Explorer Grant to photograph post-tsunami Sumatra, Indonesia, which eventually led to a 32,000 mile adventure of living out of her car and exploring the West. (#Goals.)
Hometown: Denver, Colorado and Lander, Wyoming—I claim them both!
Current city: Bozeman, Montana
Alma mater: University of Wyoming
Degree: I got part way through my bachelor’s degree in social work and writing.
Very first job: Working in a haunted house.
Hustle: Freelance Photographer
Babe you admire (and why)?
Ruthie Lindsey. She’s always so open and honest about struggles, but she laughs so often, she cherishes her friendships and always takes the time to talk to people who want to meet her.
How do you spend your free time?
Helping manage our little farm and spending a lot of time outside.
Go-to coffee order?
Go-to adult beverage?
Gin and tonic with garden raspberries.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
What is something you want to learn or master?
I’d like to get better at ceramics. I’d also like to learn to play the fiddle.
Go-to news source?
What was your middle school AIM screen name?
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Three words to describe yourself?
Sensitive, introverted, independent.
What’s something most don't know about you?
I was a competitive soccer player for 15 years.
Tell us about your hustle.
I manage my own business as a freelance photographer, which includes being an accountant, a manager, a personal assistant, a travel agent, a PR representative—and a photographer. It’s a lot of computer work; far more than what I expected when I first started.
What does your typical workday look like?
In the morning I have about 30 minutes of chores while I get coffee going. Feeding chickens, cats, dogs, etc. I usually jump into emails pretty quickly and try to knock out the ones that need immediate attention. That can take anywhere from 30 minutes to all day. The best part about my job is the flexibility and the fact that it’s different on a day-to-day basis.
What was the time frame between picking up your first camera to pursuing photography professionally?
How would you describe your style of photography?
It’s mostly western, backlit, outdoor lifestyle photography. I’m not sure how I’d describe it past that. I’m inspired by landscapes, ecosystems and light.
What makes you passionate about conservation and the outdoors?
I spent so much of my childhood on public lands and outside recreating. I want future generations to be able to have that opportunity.
What has your experience with National Geographic been like?
My experience with National Geographic has been really amazing. It’s been life-changing for me to get my foot in the door and have so much guidance through mentors and peers in that organization. I first got involved as a grantee from a program, now called the Early Career Grant, and it’s continued to introduce me to amazing people and experiences professionally and personally.
How have your past internships, education, and work experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
Working behind-the-scenes in the photo department at Patagonia gave me good insight into what companies might be looking for. Working with National Geographic has been instrumental in highlighting the importance of networking and having professional goals.
How often do you travel for work?
I travel for work quite a bit, totaling a few months out of the year. I’m continuing to strive for balance in this; trying not to take back-to-back projects is one major change for the better.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Being awarded the grant from National Geographic was major for me. It opened a door into a world that I’d always wanted to be a part of and introduced me to other young people who were also living unconventional lifestyles in order to make their work happen. It’s an encouraging thing to meet other people who are passionate, like you are.
How has being a woman has affected your professional experience?
Sometimes it’s scary traveling alone or being in a foreign country as a woman. Other times, I feel like people trust me more and it allows me more access into families or other groups. I wasn’t raised to see a difference in what men could do versus women, and I feel lucky to have had those role models at a young age.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
People assume I travel all the time, get to go on fun adventures, and that it’s not really work. Instagram perpetuates that idea, but if people take the time to ask about my job, I’m really open about the field-work to work-at-home ratio, though it is fun and I do love my work.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job we might not see?
I spend so much time on my computer emailing, networking, editing, etc. I also answer emails out of a normal nine-to-five window, which oftentimes dips into personal time.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Clare Fieseler and Louise Johns are two of my best girlfriends who are photographers and researchers. I go to them with project ideas and questions. Krystle Wright is always doing amazing things; so are Jody McDonald, Sarah Menzies and Hilary Oliver. Jillian Lukiwski is another source of inspiration.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
I love design, I love small scale farming, I love what I’m currently doing and I think my ultimate dream job would be to do all of those things. I like having every day be different.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
I volunteer at the Raptor Conservation Center every week, I’m on the board of a water conservation group called Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and I generally try to keep a passion project going on the side.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Network! Email the people whose work you love and admire. Find out how they got to where they are. If you’re in college or at a university, check out any grant opportunities that might exist to help you complete a project you’ve been wanting to do.
What motivates and inspires you?
Watching people demonstrate kindness and generosity.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
Working out—whether it’s running or climbing—going into the mountains, heading to a yoga class, taking a bath or having people over for dinner. All of those things have been really good for me to do when I’m stressed.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Collaboration over competition.
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