Photography is an art that transforms the way people see the world, and for prominent Knoxville photographer, Sarah McAffry, this hobby-turned career is about more than just taking pretty pictures.
McAffry graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English literature and began her career as an English teacher at Powell High School, but six years later, her desires had changed. For years she dabbled in photography as a hobby, and this interest eventually transformed into passion.
McAffry felt an urge to end her career as a teacher and pursue photography full-time.
“It was very clear that God had another path for me besides teaching, and I was sad to leave it because I loved it,” McAffry said.
In 2009 McAffry resigned from her position at Powell High School, unsure of the future, but confident in the steps she was taking.
“It was a total leap of faith, and literally hours later the door opened for me to step into this and kind of make this my next thing.”
Only a few hours after she quit her job, a friend of McAffry’s called to see if she would be interested in renting her studio while she was abroad. McAffry consented, and proceeded to dive into her career as a full-time photographer.
Despite having no professional training, McAffry was able to hone her skills as a photographer through dedicated practice and simply reading the manual. She began gaining attention as she posted her photos to her blog, specializing in senior and family portraits.
Today, eight years later, McAffry has transformed this hobby into a thriving photography business with a mission. Catering specifically to young girls and women, McAffry hopes that her photography helps her clients to see their own true beauty.
“What they see in their photos is who they really are, and who god created them to be, and I wanted them to see themselves as beautiful.”
In the age of social media, physical appearance is perceived as being the most important thing, especially for young girls, but McAffry wants to challenge this mindset. Her photo sessions focus not only on highlighting the girls’ outward beauty, but also revealing the beauty that lies within.
Initially, McAffry began her journey as a photographer in response to a leading she felt from God, and it is from this very same faith that McAffry’s passion for photography is fueled.
“I feel like having this job is a blessing from God in the first place, and I try to honor him in everything that I do and make sure that He gets the glory and not me.”
McAffry has been recognized as the best photographer in Knoxville by City View and the Knoxville News Sentinel, and although McAffry’s talent is a major driving force for her success, she attributes much of it to the business side of things.
“I really try to equally focus on the business side as much as I do the photography side.”
This full-time career has kept McAffry busy for the last several years. Most weeks consist of three to four photoshoots and lots of editing. She spends most of her time in her recently-converted studio in the heart of Downtown Powell, just 20 minutes outside of Knoxville. Here she edits, conducts her business and meets with clients to prepare for upcoming photoshoots.
McAffry constantly is in search for inspiration and ways to improve her craft. She adorns a wall in her office with dozens of photos from various style magazines to give her new ideas on poses and expressions for her clients, but her main inspiration comes from her family.
“Any time I take pictures of my own family and of my kids, that’s how I’m able to really grow and stretch and try new things.”
As McAffry continues to grow and expand her photography skills and her business, her faith remains as the main influence behind her work as she continues on her mission to empower young girls and women.
“Everything that we do here is not about us, but is honoring what God is allowing us to do here.”
Featured image by Haley Harbin
Edited by Kaitlin Flippo