Written by: Willow Arthur
If the day could embody the #BessExperience, it would be the natural beauty of sparkling golden sunlight filtering through the trees to cast shining rays across the ground at our feet. Sitting with Robyn Bess, of Robyn Bess Photography, I caught the first glimpse of how the desire to capture beauty in all its forms can blossom into a thriving business. With earnest pride, Bess reveals the story of her business – a story of empowerment, motivation, and passion.
For Bess, photography is not simply about taking pictures. It is about giving her clients an experience unlike any other, an experience where they not only feel beautiful in front of the camera but feel confident after leaving it. She explains how she wants her clients to “feel a level of confidence and energy to conquer the world” – a self-love that comes when the natural essence of their beauty is delicately captured through her photographs. The emotion rises in her voice as she tells me, “I just want them to feel like they can do anything.”
This sense of empowerment is one that Bess strives to bring her clients through every shoot in order to give them the confidence she has finally learned herself. She sits back slightly to explain how she never felt fully confident in her appearance – growing up with dark skin and glasses led to childhood bullying – and how while she knew she had a great personality, she could never figure out how to get other people to see that from the outside. She goes to explain that her dark skin tone made it difficult to feel confident in front of the camera, as the shots would either be too dark or too bright – causing her to never quite feel like herself in photos. It is because of this that she aspires to give every client a personalized shoot that allows them to feel stunningly comfortable in their own skin. “I think I expose a lot of people’s natural beauty and personality through my pictures from the energy and experience I can provide,” she says, smiling softly at the recognition of what she is bringing to each of her clients.
Her ability to bring out beauty through photography has been a long-standing one; a childhood filled with the desire to take pictures blossomed into a business only when her family and friends pushed her to see the value in what she could do. Bess nods nostalgically as she thinks back to the beginning stages of her business; “You have to understand that when you start a business, there are going to be other people in your market that may be better than you or have more experience than you, so what are you going to do to push yourself to have a sustainable business and be a student?” A question that left me blinking in awe at the discipline and motivation she has shown through the creation of her enterprise.
While the journey has been one of passion and dedication, it has not always been one of ease. Bess reflects on the struggles she has faced with her business and admits that “I’m my biggest critic.” She goes on to explain the pressure of a creative business, and the stress of hoping her clients see what she is able to. “The hardest struggle is continuing to tell myself that while there are always areas to improve, the work that I do is good, and I have to recognize that,” she says, speaking both to me and herself.
Understanding her value has been the hardest thing to remember, and yet Bess explains that it is the growth she is able to see in both herself and her business that has kept her going. Seeing what she has learned and how she has improved has motivated her to continue pushing for greatness. She lifts her chin proudly as she acknowledges how far she has come, saying the best part is knowing “the work you’re putting in is giving back to you through the universe and the people you are touching.”
When looking to the future, Bess is thinking big: having her own studio, spaces that other photographers can rent out, workshops – anything that can expand her knowledge and enable her to touch clients and other artists in order to inspire them to grow in themselves. The main question as she plans ahead is “How am I going to differentiate myself, how am I going to push myself to be more creative and how can inspire other people to be creative?”
These same questions are what she would ask any student attempting to start their own business – what makes you different? What are you going to do that puts you ahead? She advises students to have a business plan, to know their values and mission before they begin. “Expand your knowledge,” she says, making a note to look at the resources students have within themselves and their community. “You’re in college, fuel from the knowledge you can get while you’re here,” she stresses; advice she is taking herself as she embarks on the completion of an arts entrepreneurship minor in order to educated herself further.
It is this desire to learn that has led her to establish the brand she has – a brand that she is proud of. “Stand in your value and know what you’re worth, because that is what will be sustainable for your business,” she says, folding her arms thoughtfully, “it can be hard to swallow when people aren’t ready to believe in you, but you can’t go back on your value. For those who won’t, there are always those who will.” She speaks a message to students to know your value and stand in your worth, and to always believe in what you can do.
A message of perseverance and empowerment that she captures in the face of every client through her photography. Like the #BessExperience, Robyn Bess exudes the essence of beauty, dedication, and confidence. She creates a picture not only of success, but of inspiration and awe – the picture of a woman to follow.
Robyn Bess, a senior in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is majoring in Communication with a concentration in Media and a minor in Arts Entrepreneurship. While in college, she also began and currently owns Robyn Bess Photography and hopes to continue this pursuit after she graduates.
Written by: Willow Arthur
Willow Arthur is a student at NC State pursuing a degree in English: Language, Writing, and Rhetoric. She enjoys journalism, creative writing, and poetry – along with food, fashion, travel, and approximately 100 more interests that come to mind when attempting to choose a select few to list. She is the assistant literary editor of Windhover magazine and a weekly writer for the Odyssey at NCSU, while also doing creative work for Platform magazine. She is always open to opportunities to spread creativity and enjoyment through her writing! For all writing inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.