I chose Song River to be the first profile I post on this new site. The purpose of these profiles are to highlight and showcase people around us every day who are not famous or celebrities but who have made a positive path in the world and in their lives. The unsung heroes who overcome adversity, contribute to the community, and strive for their dreams.
Song River is the Owner of CowgirlZen Photography, the Manager of Identify with Yourself, and the co-founder of CLAD (Cosplay Lovers and Dorks). As photographer for CowgirlZen, Song River produces an awesome array of high quality photo art. As Manager of Identify with Yourself, she promotes positive living, self-esteem and community involvement. CLAD supports bringing smiles and acceptance to everyone through geeky-fun events and costumes. In addition, Song River has a thriving history on radio, in the music industry, writing, and creative pursuits in general.
As I got to know Song River I realized what a deeply caring person she is. People often say that about someone easily, but in her case, it is very true. She cares for her relationship with God, with her family, with her friends and with humanity in general. She is a deeply spiritual and creative person who finds her interests out weigh the time she has to pursue them. Her moniker – Song River – is based on the character from Dr. Who, Doctor River Song. For those unfamiliar, that character is creative, smart, funny, sassy and a free spirit. Her name is Melody Pond, but it translated to the language of others to be Song River. Our Song River has those characteristics as well as the matching curly locks and similar visage. She took the name a few years back professionally after several friends remarked upon the similarities.
On to the interview, so you can get to know her better. Afterwards, there will be a selection of photos, both ones she does professionally, and a few family pictures.
1. How long have you lived in Arizona?
My dad brought us to Arizona many years ago. I moved away and have lived in various locations all over. Now my home is between Arizona and California depending on jobs.
2. Tell me a little bit about your family and lifestyle growing up.
I grew up was very traditional, my father was an entrepreneur my mother stayed home to raise us kids and also helped my father in his business. When I was four my folks were introduced to the faith and both committed themselves to God. Sundays revolved around worship, supper, worship, evening snack of tostados and watching the Disney night show. Due to my dads entrepreneurial spirit, and strong work ethic, along with raising us all to be very self sufficient/solvers, I began working at the age of eleven at my dad’s store. From that time on I worked in the family business until I was fifteen.
Then I stepped out of the family business and sought employment on my own. During my days in high school books and such weren’t provided by our schools, so work was necessary for me to pay for my books, clothes, car, petrol etc… It was difficult at times- working and school, as my passions and strengths were in the Arts, English, and History, and I would have loved to explore them more. However, my appetite has always been insatiable when it comes to learning, and I pursued a variety of ways of gaining knowledge. My education came in great part from life.
3. As a creative person, I am sure you have tried a lot of activities and professions. What are some you have done in the past?
Often I’ve thought about all the things I would like to do. Multiple lives to experience the plethora opportunities would be my dream, but alas we’ve only one run to make and I’ve tried many different things already. Lets not rehash the high school years for all that encompassed was retail and fast food (which the fast food part I loved, because the interaction with customers is always fun.) My journey into the world of the arts began at eighteen. I started working at what was called, The Wherehouse Records and Tapes. The knowledge I gained into the record industry was phenomenal. Always having been a huge music aficionado (attending any and all concerts possible) the job was a natural progression.
It eventually took me into photojournalism work in the music industry. During that time I met some incredible people, fantastic musicians and you know what? Meeting Elton John at the airport and driving with him in his limo to the concert venue seemed and still does seem surreal. Having dinner with Weird Al or meeting up at a park to interview him- well he really is one of the nicest guys. Having a bit of a chat with Bono back stage was probably my biggest, OH WOW, moment- as Im a huge U2 fan and have been since their inception. Billy Idol, a true gent, kind to everyone and I was privileged to be able to see him and have my oldest daughter meet him a few years back.
There were so many people I met, and I can’t say I had bad experience with any musician. For the most part they are just like you and me, they just do what they love with passion, and if they don’t they burn out. I’ve stayed in touch with a few off and on over the years and about a year or so ago re-connected with the first person who gave me a big break in interviewing and photographing rock stars- Jonathan L. (https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.l.583?fref=ts). He ran a slick music rag called, NewsReel, then he went on to do radio shows and now broadcasts out of Germany to multiple stations world-wide.
I always want to remember and thank those who have helped me along the way. I live the philosophy of Pay it Forward and Be the Change – not perfectly mind you, but there are so many kind-hearted people in this world who see beyond themselves and I’d say Jonathan is most certainly one of the many I owe a great debt of gratitude. I left the music industry and tried my hand in the realm of writing Op Eds and writing for politicians. I kept the photography alive during that time, but it was mostly business and very little pleasure. Working through both Bush eras I learned a great deal about our government. It made me dig further into our foundation, history and who we are.
Let’s say, I know very few honest people within the realm of politics and it’s a shame. Getting invitations to the certain activities in D.C. was something I will always treasure for the experience and the opportunity to meet people. Overall though, politics is a business and it isn’t pretty. From that point, I continued to write, teach art, opened and ran a small art gallery, but still wasn’t really picking up my camera again. It was May 2004 I took up my camera again in a more serious manner. I have always shot off and on for business and some for pleasure. However, the true creativity didn’t come forth until a little sabbatical that developed into the meshing of CowGirlZen and what it meant to me. How to take two diametrically opposed personas and merge them in to one? The labor it took to get to where I needed to be is so worth it.
4. What led you into photography?
In 1969, my mother handed me her ‘Brownie’ camera. I photographed the desert and saw stories behind each photo. The rest is history. Trying various camera bodies and brands truly is imperative. You’ve got to find what fits your style, and craft. Once you find that ‘fit’ grow your abilities by only purchasing the finest lens.
Many people email me and ask for help on picking out the ‘best’ camera so they can take ‘great’ photos. Photography is like any other passion, art or love, it’s in the eye of the beholder. If you can ‘see’ you can take more than just ‘great’ photos – you can take amazing works of art! I am a story teller and I enjoy it when my works make people stop, linger, pause, smile and tell their own story in the twinkling glimmer of their eyes… of what they see/hear/smell/feel happening. God gave me a gift – and I believe I should use what He has given me to show my love for humankind.
5. What are some things people don’t realize about photography that is harder than they think?
I’m not sure what people think actually. Maybe it has more to do with what they’ve experienced? You make an appointment with a studio, show up, a white sheet gets pulled down behind you, your staged… smile… flash. A grey mottled sheet gets pulled down, your staged…smile…flash. Well, if that’s your take on the art of photography it makes sense that most don’t understand the truth of what photography really is. Those of us who are truly passionate about the creation spend countless hours of prep time, studying terrain, angles, lighting, scheduling, events, prepping time with client, and planning on travel. My goodness there is so much prep work that goes in to the art and that’s just the beginning! Add to that the shooting time and all that can happen during that time, people running late or showing too early, children who need naps, adults who have headaches, animals who may be a little hyper, rain, snow, wind, etc…
There are so many random factors and in the end you really just need to smile and roll with the punches. Now you’ve probably invested at least 72 plus hours to get that far. Drive time hasn’t been included, nor any other things you may have had to get ready, now you’ve time in the finishing of their memories and delivering to your clients. It is SO NOT stage, smile, flash! 6. What are the most rewarding things about photography? When someone sees what I was conveying- a story, and Id say traveling to meet lots of different people from all walks of life.
7. Is faith important in your life, and if so, talk a little about that?
Faith is the hope for all humanity for we were created to be immortal.
8. You have lots of friends that you spend time with. How do you juggle a busy schedule and still have time to focus on important people in your life?
Recently, I suppose one could say this line in the sand became prevalent to me. As a solution finder often I found myself driven to find solutions. Letting this control go and giving it to God is something I have tried over and over many times in my life – but I finally put the try into do. First is God, next is family, thirdly because I am self employed work at times over laps family – and friends, then friends, others I meet, and lastly myself. My focus fluctuates with priorities. The only one that stays constant in all honesty is my walk with God.
9. What are some of the greatest challenges you have overcome? (illness, heartbreak, financial, whatever) How have those formed you as a person?
We all have challenges. I believe we have a choice with each challenge placed before us to either meet them head on, embrace them and take them to make us better individuals. My past, or present or even future challenges are only what I make them; and I’ve had my share, but who hasn’t? The most valuable thing I have learned from challenges is this: your stubbed toe may be more painful than mine… so have a sympathetic and humble heart.
10. What are some of the accomplishments and moments in your life that you appreciate the most?
Oh my goodness I’ve had so many! The ones I’ve appreciated the most are the ones that leave one in awe… and each one of my children, and grandchildren leave me in awe. You know I still get jazzed over the oddest things though. I can get lost for hours staring at the structure of leaves and their process, or blades of grass and the variations of shape, size and color… even the tiniest little bug crawling among the blades, not to forget the night sky! Have you ever just stood out in the middle of no where looked up among the stretched expanse of lights and just realized how tiny you are? Blows my mind!
Then, I begin thinking of the subatomic world and how it is infinite in its own right… and the other dimensions there are, and all that we in the Western way of thinking don’t allow ourselves to explore and acknowledge! How much we miss sometimes of just the simple.
11. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I don’t. I’m letting God take the wheel and trusting He’ll take me where He needs me. For me to state that, and put it into action is very difficult! I keep saying and thinking what I want… then I go… wait – plan, work, work hard, network, help others, believe, be a cheerleader, be grateful, count my blessings, smile, and He will show me. Mold me and make me! Oh trust me, I know what I want in my future here on Earth – lets see what happens! Working with Jimmy Jay of Jay Comics and Amazing Comic Con of Arizona, Las Vegas and more to come… was a goal of mine I set back in 2012 and its come to fruition. Developing a working team that can produce supreme quality Cosplay work and develop a business plan with them has given birth this year, CLAD (Cosplay Lovers and Dorks). My photography business, art work and writing continue to blossom, stretch, develop, morph and grow. My future will take care of itself- today I am content.
12. If you have a philosophy or advice for others, what wisdom would you impart?
Talk is cheap… actions speak volumes. And… no one is a stranger, after all we are all of the same race and condition- human.
Lastly, thank you for asking me to share. There are so many people along this journey to thank and if I could Id like to mention a few before ending. My Mamo Mary for sarcasm and humor; my parents for teaching me God, and strength; to my husband who never says much, doesn’t attend my functions, but in his own way understands the creative mind and supports it; my children for showing me life is a miracle, they are my best friends and so amazing; Jonathan L for opening the first door into writing and photography; Weird AL for humbleness and humor; Richard Wamsley (a former teacher we lost to cancer) for seeing and telling me I had the gift of ‘seeing’ and needed to pursue my hearts passion of photography; to a former Editor who told me to write, write, write… you’ve the gift of George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Clemens; to Matt Olpin who believed I could teach art and run a gallery; to Bennett Roberts who knows me and still says- do it; to my long time best friend Debbie Halstead who tolerates my insanity; to the Wood family- Judy because she is full of glitter- to Chris and Beth who’s influence of passion, love and strength inspire so many; to Robbie Brown who inspired me to ‘sell it all’ and minimize material stuff so you can pursue passions; to Jimmy Jay who has gone far beyond to open doors for me; and there are so many others along the way who have shown me there is a better way- that way is to love others unconditionally.