Your Name: Phoenix Sipin
Business Name: KM Ivelisse Photography LLC
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Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Family? Pets? Hobbies? Etc.
My name is Phoenix and almost everyone I meet always asks me if that is my real name. Since my name is unisex, my mother knew her first child would be named Phoenix and I was the lucky first. I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and moved to Connecticut when I was around 6 years old. Spanish is my first language but English quickly became my main when my first grade ESL teacher essentially threw me to the sharks (aka regular english classes). I learned Japanese from first grade until sixth grade. I was always a straight A and sometimes B student who went above and beyond. When I was in third grade I gave a presentation on how to use Word, Powerpoint, and Excel to highschool and college students.
I was raised by my single mother and I have a younger brother that has Autism. I initially wanted to be a Marine Biologist but was deterred by my mother. I later went into college confused and not knowing what I wanted to do. I came across a behavior modification class and that was when I knew. I began implementing what I learned in my course into my home life. Applied Behavior Analysis helps children with Autism…. my brother. That is now my calling. I had to put everything on hold to take care of my children and instead shifted my focus on capturing their moments in photos. I later turned that into a business since I was well versed in photography. I am now currently working with children who have Autism as well as a professional photographer.
One funny aspect of my life has to be my dog. I am a huge nerd and I grew up reading Harry Potter. My Golden Retriever’s name is Snitch which is a play off of Harry Potter and most of his commands are Harry Potter spells.
Tell us about your Photography business. How did you start and why? What do you specialize in? Would you go back and do anything differently?
I honestly began my photography business to do something for me. I had lost my identity being a stay at home mom and was suffering from postpartum depression. I had no family to help and was left alone most of the week with the kids and no real way to vent or even have contact with another adult. My friend kicked my butt into gear and forced me to start. She was actually my first client! I invested in educational resources to become better and here I am now. My business name is KM Ivelisse. The reason I decided to name it that instead of your typical “first name here” photography was because everyone does it and with my name, Phoenix is a popular name used. I decided it would be better to name it after the females in my life that I loved most, which are my two daughters and my mother. My oldest daughters name is Kailani (that is the K) and my youngest is called Moana’leia (that is the M) my mother’s middle name as well as both girls middle name is Ivelisse. I just put it all together and hoped it would work. So far so good.
What many people do not know is that I have actually been using a DSLR (the big cameras) since 2007. My friend was in photography school and he taught me everything he knows. To this day, I can still message him for help and his knowledge is always priceless.
I specialize in families. That includes everything from getting engaged to the pregnancy, newborn and family milestones. I like to do high end portrait work as I love to retouch and perfect an image. These sessions usually help me decompress as it is something that I can zone out to and have free reign.
If I could go back and do anything different would be to start sooner and believe in myself more. As a creative we are all extremely protective over our work and constructive criticism hurts even when we know it’s true. We tend to dwell on the negatives of our work instead of the lifelong memories we just captured for you. Constant reassurance of our work is what we crave for so we continue to try and post a better picture than the last. Us creatives constantly are trying to approve and seek validation to help encourage and motivate us to do better.
Has it been a smooth road? Have you encountered struggles that you could share?
I just moved from Hawai’i and it has not been smooth for me. Networking in the midst of finding a place to live, finding a second job so I can continue working with children who have Autism, taking care of two toddlers who are not school age yet, trying to gain client base, learning the new rules/ permits for the state of California etc. It has been extremely frustrating, expensive and demotivating.
What do enjoy the most about what you do? What do you enjoy the least?
What I enjoy is hearing how happy my clients are. Knowing how much they love their images and just how much it means to them. That alone is all the validation that I need. The part I enjoy the least would be taxes! Haha, especially here in California, it seems as everything is taxed, permits are needed just to set foot on the ground, etc. To make my business profitable so I can keep a roof over my children’s heads has been tough.
What inspires you?
Cliche but my children. I try as hard as I do to make sure they never need anything. I want to be able to buy donuts or go bring them to the zoo without worrying how I will buy groceries or put gas in the car. Another thing that inspires me are my clients. Many have incredible stories as to why they are wanting these images taken and I love hearing them all. From the parents that have struggled with getting pregnant and now have their newborn, or families that have battled cancer or even families that have just lost a loved one and they want to do one last thing to continue their legacy.
What is your farewell piece of advice for someone interested in taking the first steps toward entering into your field?
Don’t give up. Seriously, if I showed the images I first did many would cringe. I am sure the images I am posting now I will cringe at them next year. Invest in yourself. Being a photographer, there are so many ways to do one thing. Learn the way that works best for you and improve it and make it your own.
What is your favorite Candy Bar?
KITKAT hands down!
What is your favorite Childhood Memory?
Playing in the backyard of my aunts house with my cousins. We would play in the mud, run around, climb stuff… was fun. Before my family used to be very tight knit.
You are a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be?
I would be a swirly crayon of a red hue and black. I can be extremely passionate and explosive but do find myself battling anxiety and hiding from the world.