We had the good fortune of connecting with Toki Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toki, what life experience do think has had the biggest impact on you?
18 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my camera became my lifesaving force during a vulnerable and frightening period of my life. Making photographs of people, places and things uplifted me and kept me focused on the beauty around me. Photography as a career was never a consideration but once I healed, I knew I could no longer go back to working in a corporate setting. I felt the need to find work that had meaning and made a difference in people’s lives. I believe photographs are truly powerful and beautiful. I believe that we must exist in photographs. I believe that being a portrait photographer is an honor and by far the best job in the whole world and have not looked back!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” I think this quote from Aaron Siskind perfectly explains what photography means to me. I am emotionally connected to my subjects and passionate about making portraits of people. I believe we all want to be seen for who we are and when I hold up the camera, I can truly see the person in front of me and that’s magic!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ventura’s Historic Downtown area is an absolute must for anyone visiting the area. The vibe is surfer-chill to sophisticated and it is nestled beneath hillsides, just off the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean. There are eclectic family owned stores, cultural arts, thriving music and foodie scene, not to mention perfect weather. It’s an ideal place to spend the day, weekend or even a whole week! There’s something for everyone here and I love bringing out-of-town friends here to hang out.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Well since you asked… I have to give a huge shoutout to my 16 year old sons Chase & Tristan who are the loves of my life. It’s these two humans that have given my life depth and breadth of meaning. I may have physically survived cancer but was emotionally broken. When my twins were born, my shattered heart was healed and made whole again. So yes, I would have to give them the biggest credit. They bring out the best in me… my desire each and every day is that I am providing them with strong roots and giving them stealth wings.
Toki Lee Photography