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Article: Women to Watch: Michelle Pearl

YALA photographer Michelle Pearl photographing a model

Women to Watch: Michelle Pearl

Women to Watch 

Women to Watch is a series where we pose some questions to Women we work with, appreciate and admire. Our first feature is Photographer Michelle Pearl, who has been capturing YALA in perfect light since 2016. We adore her and believe you will too!

 YALA Photograher Michelle Pearl

What was your route into photography? 

Oh you know, heartbreak. 

At the time I was working at Wells Fargo. A combination of significant losses left me struggling and my manager had me take some time off. I bought a camera and decided to teach myself photography. I enjoyed it as a kid, so it felt like a healthy outlet that would get me out of the house.

I was fortunate that my inner circle included models and hair and makeup artists. For fun, we’d get together and test-shoot different ideas. I had photographer friends who mentored me until I found my own style. I never planned for this to become a career, being raised with the thinking that finance, law or medicine were what you aimed for. It’s been just over 12 years since I took that year off!

What’s it like doing photography with YALA?

Working with Rachel and Tif has been an absolute dream. We’ve found a balance between fashion and lifestyle. Relatable and everyday elevated, using models of all ethnicities, ages, and sizes. We’ve also managed to figure out how to shoot during a pandemic, which pushed us in directions we wouldn’t have taken otherwise. All things have a silver lining!

Any projects that are especially close to your heart? 

This past year has been brutal on everyone, especially small businesses and the everyday person. I’ve been using my camera to get assets to non-profits and organizations doing impactful outreach in my community. I’ve also been finding BIPOC-owned small businesses to donate photography to. It’s been amazing to meet new people, hear their stories and see the community come together during a time of much negativity and trauma.

How do you define success?

If you had asked me this even six years ago, I’d have thought about this number that I wanted to make financially. I surpassed that income goal in 2016 but I was also the most miserable I had ever been. That taught me that I needed to rewrite how I defined my own worth, personally, rather than striving to prove myself to others. Now I prioritize maintaining a work-life balance, and gauge success by my happiness and the happiness of my family.  

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Healing. I’d be sprinkling that magic all over the place! I have family and friends going through so many medical issues, if I had the power to take those away, well I can’t think of anything better. 

What is one piece of advice for women who are following creative or entrepreneurial pursuits?

I think we are all born with the intuition that we need in life, we just learn to quiet it as we get older. Be your biggest advocate and don’t let fear keep you from growing. Whether you’re hesitating to reach out to a new client or initiate a new friendship, just do it! We learn lessons through rejections and evolve through failure. Don’t let guilt from mistakes keep you from moving forward.

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