I’m sitting in a café attempting to write this biography for the millionth time. Attempting to write about my life within a few paragraphs is the challenge. Now I have my soy chai latte and sourdough toast to lift my mood, let’s start from the beginning.
Hello, my name is Sarah Jane Hollow, but you can just call me Sarah. I was born in a quaint little suburb outside of Melbourne city, Australia, some twenty-something years ago (a lady should never reveal her age!). The city is like any other really, full of grey box-like buildings, but there is something quirky about Melbourne; perhaps it’s the hidden alleyways filled with cozy cafes, and you feel as though you’ve stepped into a backstreet in Paris. That’s what I love most about living here - there is always something magical and surprising to stumble upon.
I grew up in a modest little cottage an hours drive from the city, the five of us crammed but living comfortably. I spent most of the waking hour outdoors, with the solace of the forest surrounding us, enticing me for endless adventures with my siblings and often finding ourselves lost in the dense bush land. Maybe there is a wildness to me because once you wake up with impossibly tall gum trees outside your window, life seems to become far more adventurous than you ever imagined. I am forever indebted to this peaceful forest; it became a place of escapism from serious health problems I faced, and endless hospital trips. Every child deserves a special place just for them. If you’ve ever read “The Enchanted Wood” (by Enid Blyton), you’ll understand what I mean. It feels as though you’re stepping into another world, one in which is just for you, and you alone. There’s endless space for creativity, and this is where ideas and magic grow.
I whole-heartedly believe that if I had not have grown up with the view of impossibly tall trees and wildflowers outside my window, I would have grown up to become a completely different person. Maybe I would be much less creative and passionate. I have so many fond memories in my early adolescence of writing journals under gum trees, the endless hours bird watching in long itchy grass, and I even remember the exact moment I discovered my Father’s Minolta film camera under my parent’s bed. Who knew that all these special moments would become the underlining theme of my life?
If you ever accidentally find inspiration somewhere, just as I did a decade ago, my advice is to always say yes to it. Allow this inspiration to take ahold of you, and I promise you will be in awe of the places it will take you. Follow your curiosity. It seems as though all these innocent discoveries of writing and photography have become my permanent obsession, and now I have made a career out of it.
I have met some of those blessed people who have always known what they wanted to do. When I explain to people I kind of “just fell into it”, I’m met with a look of baffle. I’m being completely honest though. I was just lucky that both writing and photography found me, especially in a challenging chapter of my life, of surgeries and heart problems. Mind you, I don’t claim to be a writer in any case, I’m just madly passionate about documenting life - in all of its beauty and ugliness. There is always something meaningful to be learned. I have found that writing transforms my life for the better, whilst photography has become my identity.
The greatest decision I ever made was starting my blog and business, Whimsical Dreams Photography, at the age of eighteen. Intertwining words and pictures became my daily ritual, but I yearned to make a living from my passion. Meanwhile, I had just begun studying my Bachelor of Education (K-12) and suddenly found I had new challenges in figuring out how to balance both. I somehow managed to get through a long 5 years of books, essays and exams, with copious amounts of chai lattes, and of course, falling asleep somewhere in the uni library by the end of the week. All the while, I was growing my little business into something bigger than I ever imagined.
It wouldn't be called 'early twenties' if it didn't come without it's usual heart aches, and after an exhausting amount of bad dates and one very volatile relationship, I finally met my soul mate (or dream boat, as I call him). And just in case he's reading this now - that's you, Pete! I was just reaching a point in my life of throwing my hands up in the air and settling down with a hundred cats, when Pete came into my life with a bang. Actually, more of a buzz, as my phone rang and Pete messaged me to book a photoshoot. I can happily say, that photoshoot never happened, and instead I fell in love all over again. Just when I was starting to doubt if there were any good men left in the world.
Pete arrived like a knight in shining armor, though admittedly into a tremulous time of life. It hurts to admit that home life was far less than perfect, and I prayed many nights for something to change. And if there is a God, I believe my prayers were answered the moment I met Pete. I was bewildered that someone like him could love someone like me, with all of my health troubles, I was sure it was all too much for him. Hell, it was even too much for me. But he stayed, unchangeably, and loved me for all the parts I deemed unworthy. For the first time in a very long time, I felt safe. I no longer had to worry what the next day would be like. Eventually I moved in, and life began to settle like the calm ocean, with its occasional waves of course, but it was peaceful. I used to believe that if something felt too good to be true, it usually was, but all my silly worries were washed away the met him.
Life finally began to shift for the better. I had finally finished studying. I spent more time in our little art deco apartment located just outside the city. I began obsessively working on my website, writing late into the night until Pete's warm hands would pull me back to bed. I rarely slept. I was always buzzing with inspiration and wanted to see - to photograph - more. Soon, we began travelling together throughout Europe (from the city of Paris, to the French Riviera in Nice, to the heart of Berlin). Travel changed us. Somehow, becoming lost in foreign cities seemed to help us find each other in the most inexplicable ways. We weren't just lovers anymore, we became inseparable best friends.
When we arrived back to reality, our little apartment, we decided we were ready to start our own photography business together, Two Little Wrens Photography. Like all beautiful beginnings, it came at the perfect time for us both. Pete had quit his job. At this time, I was working as a Kindergarten teacher, and though I absolutely adored the children, it wasn't what I thought it would be.
Quitting a job shouldn't be a big deal, but it was to me. This was my career as a teacher that I was ending, and it had only just begun. In a way, I grieved a little but I listened to the wise voice that gently reminded me of a Dr. Seuss quote, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and carried on with life again. My career had not been a waste, I learned more about the kind of person I wanted to be, what my soul truly desired, I knew I had to trust this timing in my life.
So, you've made it inevitably to the most important chapter of my life. And if you've read this far then here's a big high five - I didn't intend for this to be so long!
I can now happily say I have arrived back to my true self. My identity. What truly makes my heart and soul glow with happiness. It's always been photography. My camera has been firmly in my hands with every change of season, the challenges, the highlights of my life. The viewfinder gives me a fresh set of eyes, looking at the world with such love and passion. My heart chases different things now. I have photographed my own life, my own story, and now I'm ready to photograph other people's stories. Weddings. Engagements. Anything that involves love.
Now life is back to it's familiar chaos; organising photoshoots, travelling to beautiful forest locations, writing blogs in local cafes, and photographing anything and everything in between. My philosophy is one that is plain and simple - do what you love, and love what you do. I don't drink my chai latte's luke warm, so why should my life be? Chase your dreams, with full force. I am eternally grateful for discovering a life of creativity, without it, it wouldn't have led me to love, to travel, to meeting strangers and making new friends, and to everything good in this world.