As a kid, a favorite question an adult would ask was what you wanted to be when you grew up.
Those answers often changed between astronaut, firefighter, president and princess — until we reached the age to actually decide.
Since high school, Irene Beckham has always loved taking photos. But believing she couldn’t make a career out of such a competitive field, she instead went to school for graphic design.
Graduating from the Art Institute of Seattle, Beckham began working her way on different newspapers designing ads and graphics. It wasn’t until 2013 when her youngest son was graduating from South Kitsap High School that she realized her true passion was photography.
“It’s a very competitive field, and it’s hard to find ways to stand out,” Beckham said. “There came a time when both our boys were graduating, and it would just be me and my husband, and I thought, ‘I really love photography.’”
Beckham is a self-taught photographer who specializes in “extreme sport sessions.” She loves putting eye black on any and every athlete and making members of Bremerton High School’s marching band feel “bad ass.”
“They came in, and their parents were so thankful because not everyone thinks about shooting the band,” she said. “A scrawny kid who plays the tuba and has a scar on the back of his head where a birthmark was removed feels like a rockstar when he comes in here with the lights and music blasting.”
The idea to open a studio came a few weeks ago when Beckham and her husband were preparing a shoot for pee-wee football. She was tired of driving around with boxes of pictures in her car trying to track down families.
“The football parents made a Facebook page and said, ‘Pick a time, pick a place and we’ll meet you,’” Beckham said.
They decided to check out pricing to rent a space in the Port Orchard Town Square Mall.
“They said $20 for the day, and it worked perfectly,” Beckham said. “So we decided to price it out for a full-time space.”
In a time when there aren’t many photo studios left, Beckham said hers has taken off. Since having an open house on Oct. 10, seniors have been setting up appointments for sessions and real-estate agents are asking her to come shoot houses. Even Fathoms O’ Fun committee members have recruited her photo and design skills to redesign their pamphlet for the annual Fathoms O’ Fun pageant.
“It’s taken off,” Beckham said, and she’s already looking to move into the location across the hall. “I’ve already grown out of this space.”
Beckham said she shoots just about everything, “but for weddings, people need to do a little begging.” Since she began to pursue photography full time in 2013, she has also been in charge of the South Kitsap football game-day programs.
She shoots the mug shots for the players, designs all the ads and puts it together for the teams each year. In fact, the school likes it so much that she is still doing it even though her sons have graduated. The team has already booked her for August 2017.
“Even the cheerleaders are asking if I’ll take their pictures for next year,” Beckham said.She said that’s her favorite part about doing what she does — being able to bring this art and passion to the community.
“I’m able to give something to parents that I wish I had,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to do this. I have parents come up to me and hug me or cry because I’m really able to pull out that personality. They get to see themselves from a different perspective.”
Irene’s Photos and Design is at 1700 Mile Hill Rd, Suite 116. Beckham is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony at noon on Friday, Nov. 4 with cake, punch and raffle prizes.
“I thought I’d never be able to find a way to stand out, but it’s all come together and been really cool,” she said.