About the Business
About the Photographer
First and foremost, I want to thank you for taking the time to view my website. Whatever the reason may be that you found yourself here, I greatly appreciate it. While browsing, I hope the photos speak to you the way they do me. In the following paragraphs, I'm to tell you a little bit about what Patriot Images is all about, as well as give you a little bit of background information on the person behind the camera.
Patriot Images was officially established May 14th, 2018. I am located in Queensbury, New York, a town located in southern Warren County and the Adirondack Mountains. I am roughly forty-five minutes north from our State Capitol, Albany.
Many people think when they see the name, Patriot Images LLC, that it's a business. In some aspects it is, but how I choose to operate this "business" is completely unorthodox compared to any business I've ever encountered. A huge misconception is that the name must affiliate myself and others who work alongside me, to a specific political party or ideology. This could not be further from the truth. Let me explain.
Whenever you contact most photographers and/or photography businesses, for whatever the occasion may be, they will provide you with a list of services they offer. This could be in the form of wedding packages, hourly rates, sitting fees, etc. When I first decided to start Patriot Images, the first thing I did was head to the internet and browse other local photographers to see what they offered. It made my head hurt! To read and comprehend what some of the photographers offered in their vast menu of services, you need a degree! I didn't want someone to come to my website and have that same experience.
Another thing I noticed was how much it costs for some of these services. Please don't get me wrong here; I am not saying some of the photographers and their talent isn't worth what they charge. Some of them could probably charge a lot more! That's not really what I'm about though, and it's not what I wanted my business to represent. I didn't want Patriot Images to be about the money. In fact, I didn't want Patriot Images to be about money at all. I did not want someone to ever come to my website or inquire about photos, and leave thinking they needed to take out a small loan. I never wanted someone to be discouraged in asking about services because of a prior experience, misconception, or cost.
Now that I knew how I wanted my business to run, I needed a name. What defined me, the photographer and owner, and what did I want to represent? As you'll read further down and in the section "About the Photographer," patriotism and a love for America is a huge part of who I am. After consulting with some close friends and successful business owners, I decided on the name. After purchasing the LLC for $925.00, Patriot Images was officially born.
So what is Patriot Images all about?
You may be surprised to read that Patriot Images has very little to do with photography. Yes, you read that correctly. You're probably thinking, "Wait, a photographer and photography business saying what he does has little to do with a camera? Seriously?" Yes! Throughout the past five years I have focused on the art of photography, I've come in contact with thousands of individuals while staring through a lens. One thing that I noticed and wanted to really put my focus into was the interaction with the client. So when I say that the camera is secondary, it's because the interaction and trust building with the client is primary and vital to taking photos they will cherish forever. If you miss that, you miss it all and the photos will show it.
The other thing I wanted the business to focus on is the individuals who may not have hundreds of dollars for a set of family photos. Not everyone can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding photographer. These are the people I want to reach. Sure, I've done photos for people in the past where money was no object. I've also done thousands of photos for people who had nothing at all but a "Thank you," and a handshake. Both were experiences that helped shape my business and how I approach each returning and potential client. It isn't all about the money.
Simply put, Patriot Images is about people. It's about establishing that connection and building a long-term relationship built upon trust and communication. It's about meeting people at their level. If the client can trust you and be comfortable with you, that is soon to be a loyal client who will look to you for photos that will span a lifetime and beyond.
Patriot Images, LLC is owned and operated by myself, Stephen Willette. If you read the section about the business, you saw that when it comes to a business, Patriot Images is just an infant. I have however, been experimenting with photography for most of my life. I remember my first camera, a Kodak 110, I received when I was twelve. It got me hooked! I remember going to the Kodak store to have film developed and staring at the beautiful 35mm cameras on the wall. If only I had $35.00 to purchase it! Times have changed however and I would have never thought I would be doing this now, spending over $15,000.00 on cameras and equipment over the past few years. Despite the business and the amount of money invested, I still consider photography to be a hobby. I rarely refer to myself as a photographer, but rather, "A person who likes to take photos." If you go by the terms of "professional" photographers, they will say they're a professional because the majority of their income is from doing photography. Since I do photos primarily for donation, I guess I will just continue to be, "A person who likes to take photos."
I was born and raised in Schuylerville, New York; a small village located in Saratoga County and well known for the battles fought there during the American Revolutionary War. Upon graduating high school, I worked a lot of jobs. When I say a lot, that's quite an understatement! It seemed that no matter where I was working or what job I was doing, I had this void in my life I couldn't seem to fill. I was lacking something and constantly needing a change.
So, on April 3, 2001, I boarded a plane bound for Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I figured if all the jobs I had quit prior to this didn't fill the void, maybe a job I couldn't quit would!
Let me pause the personal backstory for a moment and to reflect on what my time in the service means to me. When interviewing veterans for the "Faces of Veterans" project, the very first question I ask them, is "What does your time in service mean to you?" It's funny because it wasn't until recently when preparing an official statement for public release, that I was asked that very same question. I loved the privilege to serve our nation. Many get it mistaken when they say it's a "right" to serve in the military, when in reality it's a privilege. It was an honor like none other. From presenting an American flag to a family member on behalf of the United States, or folding it above the coffin of a deceased service member, to playing Taps on a bugle, it brought me to a level of patriotism and love for this Country that I had never known. Deploying to Baghdad, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, as well as serving two tours in South Korea, I was exposed to different beliefs, values, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. I can look back on very few occasions during my career and say they were negative. If I could go back and do it all over again, I'd put the uniform on and take the oath tomorrow!
But life has a way of happening and throwing us curve balls when we least expect it.
On April 11, 2016, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It didn't come as a complete shock since there were are MRI's, blood work, and other tests that needed to be accomplished before reaching a diagnosis. When my neurologist called me at 7:45AM the Monday following my MRI the previous Friday, I knew something wasn't right; they usually don't call with great information that soon and that early in the morning. Hearing her words as she delivered my diagnosis, although not taken by surprise, was still like getting kicked in the chest. My whole entire life was about to change.
In January 2017, I officially retired from the Air Force and set my eyes on civilian life. Upon retiring, my family and I moved from Alaska to New York. Here we were in the town I grew up in. People say "home" is never the same as when you left it. They're right. Things just change. People change. The friends you once had, especially when you return at thirty-eight years old, all have families with children, work, and life in general. I did as well. Things and places just weren't as exciting as they were years ago.
I loved being back in the upstate New York area however, and quickly got involved with different organizations to keep myself busy. I began photographing families, picked up some weddings, but really found my passion when I began photographing families and individuals with disabilities and long-term illness. Having MS, it was easy to relate to many of these circumstances.
The wheels started turning.
Despite being around family and new friends, I once again felt that emptiness I had felt sixteen years prior and persuaded me to join the military. I needed something. Like the band U2 sings, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." I began asking myself questions like, "What is my legacy? Where am I headed? How will I be remembered? What can I do to make an impact?" I am 100% convinced that each day when we wake up and before our feet hit the floor, each time we pick up our phone to call someone, send a message, or scroll through social media, we have a simple choice. We have the important responsibility to impact someone in either a positive or negative way. Each action, each word, can affect someone and how they continue on with the remainder of their day. Isn't that awesome? We have that ability! In the Air Force and everywhere I had ever been stationed or deployed to, there was a constant saying, "Leave it better than you found it." Basically, make your mark on where you're at right now. I decided to take that same simple, yet profound concept, and apply it to my life personally. Leave it better than you found it!
Have MS is hard. Quite honestly, it sucks. Not knowing from one day to the next how you're going to feel, whether a new lesion on your brain will take away your sight or ability to walk, wears on you. One of the hardest things for me and what has affected me is the ability to cope with certain things like I used to. I used to handle stress like a champ and be able to bounce back. High levels of stress now put me down for several days. I used to be able to clearly articulate what I was thinking and feeling, either by writing or speaking. I now struggle most with this area. I don't like having to pause sometimes to find a word that used to come easily. I once wrote a twelve page research paper for college, didn't even proofread it, and receive a 98% grade. Now I have to proofread everything and make corrections; even with a post on social media.
In 2011, when I first picked up a "real" camera that had several different lenses, it was to occupy my mind and heal from a nine year dark chapter in my life. Now when I pick up a camera, it focuses me. It became therapeutic for me and when I feel able enough, I am usually out of the house and trying to photograph something new or something old in a new way. Sure, I may have a disability, however it doesn't define who I am. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that will deteriorate my mind and body as I get older. Not today though! You can turn a disability, disease, or life circumstance that has the ability to plunge you into a downward spiral, and use it to propel you towards your passion!
I am blessed. I sometimes consider myself to be one of the wealthiest people I know. No, my bank account is embarrassing to look at, I don't have all matching furniture throughout the house, and I wear a lot of the same clothes I did five years ago. But I am rich. Rich because today I can walk, today I can see, and today I have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others; to inspire them to be a better version of themselves than they were yesterday. That is priceless!
Thank you all for reading, I hope this give you a little bit of insight as to what Patriot Images is all about and who I am not only as a photographer but also as a person. God bless!