Meet the woman behind the pretty pictures at Clarissa Marie Photography

Kati Panasiuk
By Kati Panasiuk April 21, 2018 21:24

Meet the woman behind the pretty pictures at Clarissa Marie Photography

Clarissa Macgregor-Mitchell sitting on her front porch with a sign for her business on April 21, 2018. (Photo by Kati Panasiuk)

By Kati Panasiuk

She takes considerable care when she holds a newborn baby in her arms. She carefully wraps a soft blanket around the tiny limbs, placing the young child on big pillow before she steps back to analyze the scene.

Adjusting her camera settings, she prepares the large flash and smiles several times as she presses the shutter button of her Nikon DSLR.

Clarissa Macgregor-Mitchell is a professional photographer in Windsor, who specializes in newborn and wedding photography.

“I always loved taking pictures,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “I was always that girl who has boxes and boxes of negatives and actual pictures from when I was in high school.”

She was on maternity leave from her job as a veterinary technician when she decided to pursue that passion more. She had worked as a vet tech for more than a decade.

Little did she know, taking photography courses at St. Clair College and meeting other local photographers would lead to a full studio career almost six years later.

“It was nice to have people that I trusted, that opened me up to this world,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “It’s really nice to have this tight community in a world of photography that is potentially so cut-throat.”

People like Stephanie Gabriele could see Macgregor-Mitchell’s talents and asked her to be their photographer.

“I approached her and asked her if she would do newborn photos for my daughter,” said Gabriele. “She did them and I haven’t got rid of her since. I just can’t get enough of her photography.”

Clients kept returning to Macgregor-Mitchell year after year. She was capturing raw and authentic moments that people hung up on their walls, but a darkness was growing behind the scenes — one that would ultimately change the photographer herself.

“The end of a marriage is never an easy thing,” said Macgregor-Mitchell.

It was an end of an era; 20 years of friendship, 17 years of a relationship, 10 years of marriage and three children. The change altered everything in Macgregor-Mitchell’s life as she had known it.

“Initially I let it break me, but I continued shooting,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “It was something that I could control in a world where everything else was spiraling.”

But it was far from over for Macgregor-Mitchell. Separating from her high school sweetheart became the least of her concerns. She had encountered new health problems. An infection almost took her life.

“I had mastitis which caused me to become septic,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “I was then diagnosed with pulmonary embolisms, blood clots in my lungs.”

She struggled to maintain control in every day tasks, her body was weak and her heart was broken.

“I still had weddings that I had already booked,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “When you’re going through this heartache and this time of your life, it is not easy to go and celebrate someone else’s love and happiness.”

Even though she saw hard days at work, she tried to remain optimistic.

“I decided to finally wake up and stop just going through the motions of my life. I actually wanted to start living,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “I didn’t just want to be surviving every day.”

Eight months later, the September rains came flooding into her basement — which also happened to be her studio.

“I lost almost all of my props,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “My whole studio was destroyed.”

She worked for five days cleaning out the ruins of her basement before she packed her van and did something she had never done before.

“I didn’t plan a single thing except for the first day where I was going to go to Kingston,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “It was one of the most incredible things of my entire life.”

Macgregor-Mitchell dropped her children off with her mother and started driving north. The only planned part of her journey was stopping to visit some friends in Kingston.

Clarissa Macgregor-Mitchell using her Nikon DSLR to take pictures outside on April 21, 2018.
(Photo by Kati Panasiuk)

After her quick visit she headed east with a camera on her neck and a bed in the back of her van.

Macgregor-Mitchell was not looking for a conventional, mainstream hotel. She was not out there for fancy places to sleep. She wanted a full, solo experience.

She was never a fan of outdoor photography or self-portraits. She forced herself out of her comfort zone and into a new territory of photography. She was photographing the outdoors and managing to get herself into the shot.

“There were times that I brought my tripod and I was hiking through Cape Breton on a trail and I had my gear, a tripod and my purse,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “I made sure that I got into my pictures, that I didn’t just take them.”

Macgregor-Mitchell felt a tidal wave of reactions. She started to feel better. She would spend hours looking at the landscapes, writing in her journal and clearing her mind of negativity. She started to pay more attention to the fine details in life.

“I was on a beach in Prince Edward Island, when the tide was out,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “I went out and it looks like all these tiny little pebbles. Millions of them. I was photographing the bigger picture and then I started to look down at all of these pebbles. They were actually tiny, tiny little hermit crabs. Like dime sized.”

“It was more reassuring to me, more passion inspiring. To look at the details of things and not just try and look at everything at once.”

Weeks later, Macgregor-Mitchell headed home with 6,000 pictures and a new lease on life.

She left the veterinary field after 15 years. She readjusted how she spends her time with her three children. She took a job at a hair salon, so she could commit more time to working in her studio.

Her life is more involved with photography now than it ever has been.

“I see it more so now when I am out in regular life,” said Macgregor-Mitchell. “With my kids, I am watching more of these little details rather than just trying to live through and get through each moment. I am trying to really slow down, watch it and photograph it that way as well.”

Gabriele noticed a huge change in her as well. She says they’ve become friends over the years and Macgregor-Mitchell is not just her photographer anymore.

“I think over all, it’s not just made her a better photographer, but a person,” said Gabriele.  “It’s made her so much better in every aspect of her life.”

Macgregor-Mitchell and her camera were hovering near the ceremony of two people saying their vows recently. Off to the side, there was a smile and a glow to her skin.

The anguish she felt before is gone and the happiness she feels photographing love is embedded into her camera every time she clicks the shutter.

She loves to talk about the unbelievable trip she took and how she changed for the better.

“All of those things that were horrible in those moments. It was necessary realizing that those things are what made me who I am right now. I have to be grateful for those things,” said Macgregor-Mitchell.

Clarissa Macgregor-Mitchell sitting in the backyard of her home with her three children Coralaina, Brielle and Emmerlyn on April 21, 2018. (Photo by Kati Panasiuk)

Kati Panasiuk
By Kati Panasiuk April 21, 2018 21:24

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