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How Photographers Can Avoid Burnout, With Dori Desautel Broudy

You can’t just love what you do; you have to love why you do it. For me, a level of financial stability is important; however, it is not the primary motivation for embarking on this professional path, nor would I consider my success if I simply...


I had the pleasure of interviewing photographer, fine art illustrator, (former litigator) and philanthropist Dori Desautel Broudy, Founder and Principal of Dori Desautel Broudy, LLC. A lifelong New Englander-turned-proud Philadelphian, her “Gallery for Good” showcases her ever-evolving portfolio of photographic and artistic works focused on the sanctity of nature, the joys of childhood and the purity of play. Ms. Desautel Broudy shares a portion of the proceeds from each purchase to one of numerous organizations committed to bettering the lives of children and their families, has donated various pieces to causes throughout the East Coast, and has used her platform to highlight a variety of social issues.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m so pleased for the opportunity to speak with you; thank you. I’m actually formally trained as a litigator and practiced law in Boston, Hartford, New York City and Philadelphia. As a youngster, I was heavily involved in artwork, dance and theater, but as I grew older, my collegiate soccer and legal careers, as well as marriage and three babies, resulted in a bit of a hiatus from such.

With respect to photography in particular, I began documenting time spent with my children from the tenderest of ages, focusing not only on their sweet little faces, but also the diverse and striking environments by which we were surrounded. I was flattered to receive positive feedback at an early stage of photographing as a hobby, and as my confidence grew and I became more inspired, I began experimenting with different perspectives and unlikely compositions.

Our most recent election cycle was a factor in terms of converting my photography and artwork from hobby to professional endeavor. Regardless of one’s political convictions, morale within our country seems uncertain (if not deflated). I grew concerned about the escalation of divisiveness, the heightened inability for good people to communicate respectfully with one another, and the impact it could have on children and their families. After all, I had not only attended law school to master the art of arguing, but was also raising my family in historic Philadelphia-where healthy debate was critical in establishing living documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

I started waking up well-before the sun rose to go running, making sure to pass our neighborhood (and national) treasures along the way-the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross house, to name a few. Many times I’d stop to take a picture, while other times I’d just sit on a bench outside the Constitution Center for a few minutes to catch my breath.

It was during one of those early morning runs that I decided our family would start to create our own headlines, reinforcing through creative expression, family participation and charitable work the importance of mutual respect and social responsibility. I began to select subjects for my photography consistent with those principles, also supporting causes through my work which focused on bettering the lives of children and their families.

Dori Desautel Broudy, LLC. was thus born, and I haven’t looked back since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There have been many, for certain, but the most memorable experience to date was in mid-April, when I held an exhibit of my work and dinner at Capofitto Ristorante (in Old City, Philadelphia) to support local businesses devastated by a fire which took place earlier in the year. Post-disaster, the streets were blocked off and parking prohibited as the cleanup and reconstruction efforts ensued, placing a substantial financial burden on the few businesses still open in that area.


Photo of Chef/owner Stephanie Reitano and Ms. Desautel Broudy courtesy of HughE Dillon.

Showcasing over 70 of my photographs and works of art, many created in honor of that neighborhood, I hoped to reinvigorate the restaurant and neighborhood, and publicize the fact that it, along with certain of its neighbors, were open for business. We started with a cocktail hour followed by a live “runway show” of my photography presented in dry-mounted form (carried by my children and their friends); we finished with a delicious Italian meal inspired by my work.

The space was filled to capacity with over 70 people in attendance, as we welcomed state senators, Philadelphia council members, MSNBC’s Joe Watkins, Philadelphia Union soccer star Fabrice (“Fafa”) Picault, as well as local news affiliates from CBS, Philly ChitChat and Fox, each of which provided coverage for the days which followed.


Mrs. Stephanie Watkins, Mr. Joe Watkins (MSNBC), Ms. Desautel Broudy, Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. Photo courtesy of HughE Dillon.

Seeing people of such varying backgrounds come together to support my work as well as a common cause, with my husband and children also involved, was a moment I will forever consider a highlight personally as well as professionally.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My funniest mistake was committed more recently than I care to admit, and demonstrates the importance of proofreading before publishing anything, anywhere. I was submitting a photograph of a field of lavender on Instagram, adding hashtags which included “#naturephotography”. I inadvertently switched the “n” with an “m”, reaching out to the “#maturephotography” page instead. I recognized my error expeditiously (at least before any invitations to join the adult film industry occurred).

Needless to say, attention to detail at every stage, and in each phase of your business, is central. Don’t rush, don’t be lazy, don’t skip steps. Moreover, ensure that you are taking care of yourself emotionally, intellectually and physically; it will keep you fresh and aid in the prevention of mistakes being made.


Photograph courtesy of Shawn Theodore.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The mission and continued focus of Dori Desautel Broudy, LLC. lies in setting a positive example for my children (and hopefully others), and creating collections of work which provide a beautiful reminder that everyone-regardless of age or station in life-should take time for herself each day to play.

As a former attorney (and mother), I also feel a sense of responsibility to advocate for others through my work, and it is central to each aspect of my process: from the composition I select, to the circumstances under which I photograph my subjects, to the ways in which I promote my collections, they are unified by a common purpose: to highlight the importance of bringing good to the world, starting within our own homes.

While certain aspects of my process have varied over time, one constant is that every photograph taken has been with my family-whether on holiday on the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard, visiting my alma-mater (Colby College) in Maine, or simply playing in the backyard, one or more of our children always has a presence. If even the smallest portion of the joy and innocence they exude translates into my work, and it lifts another person, then I have achieved success.

Additionally, I include a piece of my children’s artwork in each exhibit. (“Mona Lisa Junior”, created by my oldest, currently hangs with my work in Philadelphia).

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

1. Have purpose beyond profits.

You can’t just love what you do; you have to love why you do it. For me, a level of financial stability is important; however, it is not the primary motivation for embarking on this professional path, nor would I consider my success if I simply produced a commercially-viable product.


Identify a person, social concern or philanthropic organization which speaks to you, and think about how you and your work can positively impact the same. The power of your lens and your platform is remarkable; use them for good, and you’ll not only be inspired, but inspirational.

2. Choose content wisely.

When choosing a subject, consider not only the quality of the subject, but also the quality of the experience trying to capture the same. I purposely select projects which will not only interest me, but enrich my family as a whole. Frankly, the more I am able to engage my children in something that I love to do, the more rewarding it is for all of us.

As an example, I undertook a project focusing on the marketplaces of Little Italy in South Philly. My children brought their instant cameras, we introduced ourselves to store owners at legendary Philadelphia establishments such as Anastasi’s Seafood and Cappuccio’s Meats, and we learned about their family run-businesses (most for multiple generations). We toured their shops, went behind the counters, even into the storage freezers. It was a wonderful way to connect with new people, share experiences, and bond over the pricelessness of the perfect Soppressata. Seeing how exciting it had been for my kids was even more gratifying, not just for the experience it provided them with, but for the fact that I was able to include them in “work”.

3. Don’t let Social Media suck your time, dignity or privacy.

The addition of social media as a means of marketing and networking — which was not nearly as prevalent during my legal career — can be productive, but is also potentially overwhelming and even self-destructive. As someone who had taken great pride in the fact that I didn’t even have a Facebook page, entering the world of social media to promote my business has produced a fair amount of angst, particularly with a young family to keep in mind.

If you’re on Facebook, separate your business from personal accounts. (I personally prefer Instagram over Facebook because my social media presence is more limited to promoting my company). LinkedIn is my preferred professional networking site.

With respect to the substance of your social media contributions, don’t overshare regarding your private life, don’t pay attention to the number of “Likes” or “Followers” you have, and certainly don’t define your success in those terms. Post your work, honor its meaning with a thoughtful commentary (including careful proofreading in advance for spelling and grammatical errors), and leave it at that. Don’t reveal what you had for brunch on Sunday or document your feet walking to the mall to meet your besties, and please, please, please — do not post anything if your faculties are compromised.

If you don’t wish to picture your grandmother reading your posts as a way of self-regulating your content, imagine a combination of my eight-year-old daughter and someone who is about to interview you in connection with your dream assignment instead.

4. Professionalism with personality prevails.

There is a difference between letting your personality shine through your work and getting too personal. Everyone, even the most powerful of public figures, seems more accessible with the inception of the internet; social media blurs the line between personal and professional lives even more so. As the person behind the lens, you serve as the link between your composition and the viewer. Absent embarking on an introspection of sorts, avoid injecting yourself into the work.

Handling yourself with dignity and maintaining a level of professionalism in how you carry yourself, execute your work and handle your business affairs will never steer you wrong.

5. Protect your pictures (and business).

Although my licenses are not active, my legal background has proven incredibly resourceful in terms of building my business. I’m also lucky to be married to a brilliant lawyer who is able to further advise me. Having your work copyrighted, watermarking and identifying your pieces, thoroughly reviewing contracts with an attorney and ensuring that they are executed properly, should all be priorities. Make sure your salient contract terms are in writing, reviewed and agreed to in advance of any project, and don’t agree to contract terms or modifications orally. Have any conversations regarding the scope of your work followed up with in writing-not texting-to commemorate the discussion.

With respect to business insurance coverage: get it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Longtime family friend and woman business owner Geula Buchnik was the first person to ever invite me to showcase my photography and artwork in a public setting, and really forced me to step outside my comfort zone by doing so; it was at her wonderful spot (Cafe’ Ole’) in the heart of Gallery Row in Old City, Philadelphia where my first collection was debuted. Geula regularly rotates up-and-coming artists and photographers at the Cafe’, but she had never known me as anything other than an attorney, wife and mother. She would often comment about the quality of my pictures as I shared them with her over shakshuka, until finally one day she asked me why I didn’t have my pieces on her walls. I didn’t have a meaningful response other than to express my enthusiasm for the prospect, and the process began.

The installation of my exhibit took several hours, and occurred after Cafe’ Ole’ had closed for the evening; although I had an amazing crew of friends and mentors to help me navigate the process, by the end of the evening, I was too tired to know for certain how the space looked or, even more importantly, how Geula and the general public would react. (She served in the Israeli army; I didn’t want to disappoint her, putting it lightly).

I remember waking up the morning following the installation to a missed call from her (“No message? She must hate it”, I thought). I called her back, and with the buzz of the Cafe’ in the background, I heard her say “Dori, I love it.” I breathed. I visited with my children (not having told them in advance that my work would be on the walls) later that morning, and when we arrived, the hugs and tears began.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I’m so lucky, yes I am. I am currently developing a collection of photography and artwork to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center, which is part of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in honor of a dear friend of mine, with 100% of the net proceeds to benefit brain cancer research.

I’m also collaborating with a Boston-based artist, A.J. Hernandez, to support the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, with a portion of the proceeds dedicated to “One World Strong”, an organization which help the victims of terrorism move forward.

Finally, every year my children, nieces and nephew hold a summer-long lemonade stand to help benefit the Kennebec Valley Humane Society (of Maine). They could use a bit of a boost this year, so I’m creating a collection of photographs entitled “The Way Life Should Be” to benefit the Organization.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As far as I’m concerned, if I’m not bringing goodness to the world with each piece produced, I don’t consider myself a success at all. From focusing on composition meant to uplift people, donating a portion of the proceeds from each piece sold to charity, holding fundraisers during exhibits and promoting philanthropic organizations as I market my work, I hope that I’m having a positive impact on people, starting with my own children.

Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please provide an example for each.

Tip №1: Composition is King (or Queen).

Professional experience is not required to identify truly striking subject matter; the genuineness of an emotion evoked by a particular image or the ability to find uncommon beauty in the most common of things, are key. Trust your instincts.

Photo courtesy of Dori Desautel Broudy

Tip №2: Savor the Spontaneity.

Capturing unrehearsed moments conveys the purity of the emotions involved in the truest of fashions, and preserves the integrity of that time. To further preserve the spontaneity of such, I also utilize the HD quality camera on my iPhone 8 Plus everywhere.

Photo courtesy of Dori Desautel Broudy

Tip №3: Play with Perspective.

Experiment with the angle at which an image is shot: aerial, underneath, play with how it’s framed. Find a singular focal point, shoot the same image at multiple angles, numerous times.

Photo courtesy of Dori Desautel Broudy

Tip №4: Your phone is your friend.

Camera phones are now of incredibly high-quality; the coloring and saturation adjustments (including black and white conversions), the lighting, contrasting and cropping options on an iPhone 8Plus, for example, can convert a “pretty” image to an incredibly memorable one.

Photo courtesy of Dori Desautel Broudy

Tip №5: The “Perfect Shot” is Pretend:

Focus on what makes a subject most striking rather than making it look overly precise or exact. Unburden yourself and enjoy the process.

Photo courtesy of Dori Desautel Broudy

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have a dear, late childhood friend by the name of Samantha Smith who, in 1982 (at the tender age of 10) reached out to the former Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov, asking him why the Soviet Union and the United States wanted to destroy one another with nuclear weapons. Her letter was answered with an invitation for her and her family to visit the Soviet Union, which was largely unheard of at the height of the Cold War, and assurances that the Soviet Union wanted peace. The Soviet people fell in love with her, and among the symbols of her celebrity overseas are a stamp with her face on it, a rare diamond and a mountain crest named after her. When she returned to the United States, she was asked to star as the daughter of Robert Wagner in a television series called “Lime Street”. Her life and the potential she had was halted far too soon when she and her father Arthur were killed in a plane crash in 1985.

Her visit was a diplomatic achievement unparalleled between the two countries, and yet, her name is largely unknown (even in her native state of Maine). Sam may have been an activist, a writer, even an actress, but ultimately, she was a kind, innocent child concerned about living in a world of peace.

My wish is for children and adults, Americans and those abroad, to be inspired by her, and for her legacy to be honored every day in the ways in which we conduct ourselves and teach our children about their own potential. On a practical level, I believe she is a critical figure in American and international history who has been unnoticed for far too long, and I want my children to be reading about her in their textbooks at school. My friend, International Relations Scholar and Professor at American University Robert Kelley, is writing a book about Sam, which I am anxiously awaiting.

I would love to see Sam’s accomplishments and overall message of peace and hope embraced and honored not just by scholars and politicians but by photographers, artists, writers, and makers, as well as their children, around the world. An international collaboration, with the theme centered on peace-worldly, domestically, neighbor-to-neighbor and even internal peace-with submissions from children as well as adults-would be incredible.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My website, which is regularly updated regarding the scope of my portfolio, recent events and new exhibits, is www.doridesautelbroudy.com. I am found on LinkedIn as well as Instagram (@doridesautelbroudy), and Facebook.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

The pleasure was truly mine. Thank you.

Originally published at medium.com

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