Presented Without Context: Heather Gallagher
I started following Heather Gallagher on Instagram after meeting her husband, the owner of a local brewery, who gushed about his photographer wife and made her sound like a goddess. As soon as I clicked follow I knew he was right. Heather Gallagher is a goddess. Her online presence is littered with women thanking her for speaking out on important things like normalizing breastfeeding and celebrating the beauty of the female form post-partum and beyond. When you walk into Heather’s online living room you feel instantly at home and instantly accepted just as you are. How one person can cultivate such a space of welcoming by showing the beauty in the everyday in an internet world that is littered with over-curation and comparison is beyond me but she does it with ease.
1. What are a few things that you want us to know about you?
I am a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult). My mother is deaf and my father is hearing. Deaf culture is very much its own and it is half of who I am and how I move thru the world.
Although I often "pass" as white between my skin color, features and name, I am half Chinese and very proud to be so.
I grew up in Maryland saying "Y'all", I didn't start when I moved to Texas!
My favorite thing in the world is to be entertained. For my 25th birthday I hired a magician to infiltrate my party and surprise guests with up close magic. It. Was. Awesome.
I'm a Murderino.
2. Do you remember the first time you remember being emotionally affected by failure? Starting in my senior year of high school and thru the majority of college I went from one unhealthy relationship to the next. I was disrespected and cheated on several times and I lost my confidence. I let these experiences derail my whole life for years and make me feel small and unlovable. I used a lot of drink and drugs and was unkind to myself. Ironically, it was thru the serendipitous meeting of my now husband that I got my power back. He loved me enough for the both of us and I eventually reclaimed my confidence and learned how to be vulnerable and lean on someone. I now know I wasn't a failure- I just didn't know how to listen to my gut and trust myself. I now only surround myself with the right people and it's been life changing.
3. What’s the biggest accolade you earned while you were in school?
In High School I co founded the girls varsity soccer team and founded the varsity swim team and was the captain of both. I also created a photography course where I was the only student and an after school photo club. I went to a wildly underfunded public school on the border of Washington DC where the arts and any sport but football or basketball were not prioritized. In my Senior year of high school The Washington Post featured me as the Athlete of the Week and it was the first time anyone from my school had been featured for any sport. I learned recently that both teams still live on, 15 years later. I can't tell you how proud that makes me.
4. What does your day to day look like in your occupation?
Every day is so different! Depending on the time of year or whether I'm on hold for/at a birth or not, my days can be completely administrative/editing, completely filled with shooting or both. I work every single day (weekends included) although I'm trying hard to set up firmer boundaries and establishing some off days.
5. What does your morning routine look like?
This greatly varies, too dependent on what's going on in my work schedule. Some days I wake at the crack of dawn for a shoot and am back at the office by 9 am and go right into admin or editing. Other days I sleep in until 9 or 10am (yes, my husband seriously holds it down with our 4 year old), take my dog on a long walk in the neighborhood or go to the Y and then shoot back to back for the rest of the day. Either way, I always have two cups of coffee in a row and start listening to podcasts almost immediately.
6. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? Your parents are imperfect humans, too. See them for who they are and not who you want them to be.
7. Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
My work has always been about showing how we are all more alike than not and I want to begin photographing public figures in my documentary work to create more realism and transparency in how we interact with celebrity. I'm currently manifesting this.
8. It’s a random Tuesday and you have the day off and no plans, what do you do to fill those hours?
I'm a workaholic and the mother to a 4.5 year old so there is almost always something that needs to be done, BUT if the weather is cooperative, I will always find yard work to do. It's my favorite kind of therapy! If the weather is crap then I'm definitely moving all the picture frames around in my house. There's millions of nail holes in every wall!
9. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one failure from the six months?
I've been experiencing a ton of growth in the last year and as a result I've not been as on top of responding to emails, DMs, voicemails, etc., in my notoriously fast turn around time (previously within a few hours). This came to a head when I failed to notice that for almost a week my voicemail wasn't correctly set up on my new phone. I was able to forgive myself for my voicemail not being set up- it was an honest mistake, but what I could not reconcile with was the fact that one of my clients thought I was lying and purposely ignoring them. They saw this as permission to accuse me of several things that simply weren't true and I was crushed. Trust is huge for me. I can take criticism about my work all day long but when someone attacks my character, I can fail to love myself through it.
10. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one success from the past year?
I've finally created a business model that doesn't compromise my personal shooting style, brings me my ideal clients and gives me a steady, predictable income month after month (which is huge for a freelancer). I offer a year long family documentary package that took me about a year to really get off the ground but now I have multiple families signed onto.
11. Who is the most ‘successful’ person you know? What do you think makes them successful?
Does it sound awful to say myself?! Here's the thing: I don't measure success by how much money or fame one has, I measure it by how inline you are with who you want to be. I am 100% truly living my passion and fulfilling my childhood dreams of being a professional photographer, shooting exactly what I want, making a good living and I have a beautiful family. How incredible is that?! Far more talented people than me don't get to make their passion their life and I know rare and special this is.
You also seem to be inline with who you want to be and that's really fucking beautiful.
12. Describe your relationship with failure?
Every experience, good or bad is an opportunity to learn and grow. I do my best to embrace failure by having the hard conversations with others or myself, doing the work to determine what changes need to be made whether it's in practical application, who I surround myself with and how I interact with clients.
13. Describe your relationship with success?
I see success as a group effort and something that should constantly be received with respect. My husband and I both own and run our own businesses and fully recognize that if it wasn't for the support of our friends and family, community and each other, we wouldn't be able to do what we do. We make it a point to give back to our community in the form of sponsorships, volunteering and supporting local businesses. Karma is real, y'all.
14. What parting words do you have for us?
If what you want doesn't exist, create it.
15. Where can I get a good slice of pizza?
Luigi's Pizzeria on Dekalb ave in Brooklyn. Bonus: if you stand around there long enough, you'll likely be an extra on an episode of Law & Order.
Heather Gallagher is an award winning, published and internationally exhibited family photojournalist, editorial and commercial photographer. She resides in Austin, TX with her husband, 4 year old son and boxer mix but hails from the east coast and misses a true winter. When not behind a camera or computer screen you can find her exploring the Greenbelt with her family, mowing her yard while binge listening to true crime podcasts or wandering around parking garages all over Austin wondering where the hell she parked her car.