I graduated from Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne in 2012 with High Honors and a BFA in Photography, with a minor in Fine Arts. Throughout my years in school, I've gotten more than my share of awards and recognition, but none of that matters much or is what makes me who I am today, so I'll rewind a bit and start at the beginning. I grew up in an old farm house in a little town south of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I am the youngest of five kids, and I grew up with both of my parents and my grandma. The house often felt a bit crowded to me so I spent lots of time outside, and as I grew older, I wandered farther and farther from our home into the fields and forests around us. I fell in love with nature and animals and this quickly developed into a love for taking pictures of what I found. I guess you could say I'm a country girl at heart. I loved having the open fields of the country while knowing that we were still so close to the city. Now I actually live in the city of Fort Wayne, which I have begrudgingly adjusted to. It wasn't easy at first, but now that my husband (I'll get to that story next) and I have bought a house in the city, I am finding that I actually like it quite a lot. The fact that we have such great neighbors definitely helps.
I am 31 years old, and I have been married for over 8 years to my first crush, Joe Wilhelm. But I have to say, our story is pretty cute, so I am gonna hit rewind on this too. Joe and I met in 6th grade, and we both quickly liked each other. We became good friends, which naturally turned to best friends. Despite liking each other for many, many years, it wasn't until our freshman year of college while Joe was at Purdue and I was at IPFW that we started dating. It didn't take long for us to know that we wanted to get married, but in order to appease our parents, we agreed that we would wait until after we graduated. When it came time for Joe to pop the question, he put together an elaborate scavenger hunt for me. I was given clues that took me to meaningful places for us where I met with special people who had played some important part in our lives. After a couple hours reminiscing through our past, I made it to the last location where Joe was waiting for me on one knee with a ring. I obviously said yes! Fun fact: I decided to go by Rachel Wilhelm for my senior project despite the fact that I was not yet married and therefore, that wasn't my legal name. I had business cards and other materials printed, and I bought a domain all using this name. My professors advised against it fearing that if the wedding never happened, I would be stuck in an awkward situation. I bet on love and have absolutely no regrets! While this incredibly short summary of our love story easily sounds like a perfect fairy tale, I'm sure you are all aware that we live in a broken world that causes heartache. Over the years, Joe and I have been through lots of tough times together, but we have only grown closer to each other and to our Lord Jesus Christ who has been so faithful to us through everything. I promise you that I am not immune to the heartaches of this life we all share, but as I have grown older, I have found a way to freeze some of the fleeting beauty that can so often go unnoticed.
“Beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known, but somehow know our hearts were created for.” This quote from Stasi Eldrigde epitomizes why I was drawn to a career in photography: as a means of capturing the beauty that surrounds me. I got a degree in photography to learn how to most effectively share this beauty so that others may be as captivated as I am when I look around at God’s creation. When I am taking pictures of a newborn baby, I see a glimpse of the perfect life that was in Eden. I see it in the innocence of the baby's eyes, and I hear it in every coo they make. Truth is, a newborn grows so fast and if you aren't careful, you'll realize you blinked and now your baby is actually a toddler. In the midst of being angry because your toddler can't seem to get the hang of potty training, seeing a photograph of your tiny newborn can instantly transport you back and help you remember that this too shall pass. You no longer have a tiny babe that needs you every moment of the day, but a child that is becoming more independent every day. Photographs are such a valuable way to hold on to those fleeting moments that we might otherwise forget. So I hope you can understand why I have this passion and allow me to show you the beauty of life the way I see it.
If after all those stories you are still curious about me, then let me introduce you to my furbabies! We have a doggo named Beren and two cats, Kira and Arien. These three love playing together and getting into trouble! Beren was adopted at about 7 weeks old from a Border Collie breeder near us. He unfortunately has VSD and is blind in his left eye, but we love him and do our best to take care of him and his needs. Kira was adopted at about 6 months old from a Craigslist ad. She graciously accepted her new sister, Arien, who was abandoned at approximately a week old by a feral cat living on my parents' property, so I brought her home and raised her myself. It was SO much work to hand-raise a kitten that young, but I’m so glad I could save her life! I post pictures and occasionally some videos of Beren, Kira, and Arien on a blog just for them.
I also have had some wonderful hamsters over the years. My first was Tarcil who went on adventures, wore costumes, and was friends with my previous cat, Penny. They were quite the dynamic duo and even got to experience internet fame in their short lives since the blog I made for them attracted interest from around the world. I also wrote three eBooks of Tarcil’s costumes and one eBook of Tarcil and Penny’s friendship. They were loved by so many people, and we all miss them both so much.
After they both passed away, I continued the hamster blog with Nenya, Narya, Vilya, Laurelin, Tarmund, Fili, and Kili. Of those, only Laurelin, Fili, and Kili are still with me. Laurelin is so calm and a natural poser like Tarcil was, so I was able to continue my tradition of Halloween Costumes with Laurelin. She’s quite old now, so she gets spoiled as I enjoy whatever time I have left with her. Fili and Kili are ridiculously difficult for me to tell apart, but I have their bins labeled which helps immensely.
I have always loved animals and have been blessed to have some pretty awesome pets over the years! It’s just too bad that they don’t live longer! For those of you that are curious about the unique names of our pets, the majority of their names come from J.R.R. Tolkien. My husband and I are a wee bit obsessed. :)
Well, I guess we have come to the end of the page. If you are truly so interested in me or my work that you want to know more, as I mentioned before, I do have a handful of blogs you might want to check out where I dump pictures of the hamsters, our dog and cats, and zoo animals. Usually at least one of them stays up to date. :)