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Meet Trina Orton of Saint Cloud

Today we’d like to introduce you to Trina Orton.

Hi Trina, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I have been interested in photography since at least high school. I took journalism and fell in love with that photojournalistic style of photography. Honestly, though, I’ve always been snapping photos partly because I’m a visual learner, which helps me remember people, places, and events. But it also allows me to allow other people to center stage- especially those who aren’t usually comfortable with the spotlight but deserve it. Once I had my first child, I focused on photography and documenting as much as possible. The transition from film to digital was pretty jarring, and I took some time away from pursuing my photography skills and aspired for a bit to become an author. After my second child was born, I decided to dig back in on a more professional level, operating under Straylight Creative. I bought my first DSLR, a Canon T3i, and persuaded those around me to help me find my visual voice. My photography journey became intertwined with my postpartum journey. I became invested in learning how to live in my changed body and helping others feel good about accepting theirs (young or old, pre- or postpartum, able-bodied or differently abled). So that helped shape the trajectory I wanted to take. I’ve been lucky enough to have been associated with and assisted by people who’ve been influential in the Central Minnesota community. They’ve all had similar ideologies about empowerment and accessibility, and that’s been immensely helpful. It takes a village.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t always been an easy road. Learning digital after being so thoroughly immersed in the film was a harsh transition that forced me to take a step back for a while. My partner, friends, and I used to take day trips to photograph all these amazing abandoned places. Those were magical days, and I knew my camera like the back of my hand (Canon Elan II). My partner worked at The Camera Shop at the time so that we could get the film developed at cost. But then digital exploded, and the film was harder and more expensive to find. I grew up with years of film photography to look at for reference, and digital photography was (and still is!) an evolving art form. Also, DSLRs were prohibitively expensive at the outset, and digital had a whole other set of photography rules than film. That’s why it was so hard to find my style. When my partner and I decided to begin our family, we made a conscious choice to have him stay home with the child/ren, so that means that I became the primary money-earner for my family. For many reasons, the day job has to come before the photography job, but as the kids have gotten older, it has gotten easier to navigate my job-job-life balance. My family supports and encourages me constantly, but I don’t have as much time as I would like to dedicate to it. I give it my all and make it count when I do photography.

Right now, I rent space in a lovely space in historic downtown St Cloud called The Studio: A Creative Collaborative Space. I’ve also had access to (both now closed) Lucent Movement Arts and For All of Maternity. For the longest time, I had to do solely on-location shoots, which were at the mercy of what the weather was doing on any given day.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I often get asked what kind of photography I do, and it’s not so simple as to say, “I do X.” Because I do it all. Every photo session tells a story. Slice of life photography focused on the connection would be the best way to put it. However, I’d have to say that I’m the proudest of the Body Liberation Project. I started it in October 2016 as a way to make body acceptance and radical self-kindness translatable and accessible, and since then, there’ve been over 100 sessions. So often, we’ve been told that our bodies and very selves aren’t quite right – and we definitely shouldn’t brag about things. And that’s not true. We are valuable and valid just as we are. You don’t have to love yourself unconditionally, but if you can accept yourself where you’re at, maybe you can give yourself some grace. When you can do that for yourself, it becomes easier for others. The BLPs are some of my favorite photo sessions, to be honest. Sessions run the gamut of stylized, thematic, conceptual, spooky, seasonal, glamour, boudoir, gender-affirming, and collaborative, influential social commentary art with like-minded individuals about current events. I’ve also been able to photograph local burlesque and drag performers, local roller derby teams/officials, births, kids, families, couples, unconventional small weddings, promotional materials for events, targeted branding, and headshots. I look at every session as a collaboration. It isn’t *my* shoot, so I don’t dictate where the journey takes us. If my client isn’t having fun, if we’re not connecting in a give-and-take, then I’m not doing my job correctly. And you can always tell when someone isn’t able to be present at the moment – it truly is in the eyes.

What would you say has been one of your most important lessons?
The most important lesson? Be flexible and compassionate; sometimes, your equipment will have technical difficulties. Sometimes the weather will derail the session. Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts. Sometimes someone wants to hire you, but they’re short on money. Sometimes kids don’t want to do a boring photo shoot. Sometimes your set falls over, your light burns out, or you forget your spare camera battery. Sometimes life happens. For example, I have worked with quite a few people who deal with mental or physical illnesses, and we’ve had to reschedule because of a flare-up or mental block. It costs me nothing to be kind and understanding; it means everything to them. Life can be chaotic, so roll with it.

  • 30 minutes for $175
  • 60 minutes for $250
  • Body Liberation Project – 15 minutes for $85, local only unless a special event
  • 90 minutes for $375
  • 2 hours for $450

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Image credit (all): Straylight Creative

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