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West Texas Photographer

LISTEN TO ME READ TO YOU HERE. Madison Luikens podcast MADISONCARY

Well hey there! It’s been a minute since we’ve greeted one another on this version of the internet. I don’t really know where to begin, other than to say thank you.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for evolving with me, seeing me through the growing pains, the awkward stages, the seemingly-never-ending sabbatical, and so much more.

If you are new here, welcome. My name is Madison and I am a portrait photographer based in good ol’ West Texas.

My journey as an artist + entrepreneur (who’s full of #allthefeels) has been quite a rollercoaster to say the least. It’s been my hardest endeavor + my greatest joy, and even though I’ve pivoted more times than I can count, I wouldn’t change my journey one bit.

In order to move forward into this new horizon, I believe it’s important to reflect back on the steps I’ve taken so far that led me here. So, grab your favorite cuppa somethin’, sit back, and let’s take a look in the rearview mirror and get a little sentimental, shall we?

The early years:

I could tell you the same story every photographer starts with, how I was a kid fascinated by family albums, cameras + self-expression, writing poetry in my journal, dreaming up my artist name, obsessed with Real Simple magazine spreads, and the anticipation of sending off your film to see what weird artful masterpiece, accidental butt-triggered shutter capture, or sentimental photo of your favorite pet might come back.

I could tell you about my time in the dark room in High School, fumbling through understanding manual camera settings, navigating InDesign as the yearbook sports editor, and creating random photojournalism projects deemed as #art. (Zach, remember that “Where’s Waldo” series we did? LOL)

I could tell you all these things in detail, but they are only the strike of the match that lit the flame of my artist’s journey into the fire.

The College years:

You may think the camera was my entry point into this world, but experiencing world travel was actually my kryptonite. Something about plucking yourself out of the mundane, routine + familiar, and plopping down into a new culture thousands of miles away suddenly adds an eyes-wide-open type of vibrancy to everything around you.

During travel, you are acting as an observer, constantly taking in your new surroundings: the sights, the smells, the way the light falls on centuries-old brick, the smiles of the locals, and the energy humming beneath it all.

I had the privilege to experience a variety of cultures during college and document it all with my camera as it unfolded, merely as a passerby, a witness.

2009-2011:

I switched my major to have a more spiritual and art focus - not photography though LOL - and continued to experiment + understand the ins and outs of my camera.

Out of college, I worked one year at my first job as a youth director, and eventually left it to become a second shooter for the photographer who shot our wedding in 2010. (love you Helen!) I’m a visual learner (no duh, Madison) and after assisting her on so many weddings I lost count, SO.MANY. I ventured out into building my own portfolio, signed up for a ridiculous amount of online classes, and even took a semester-long Photoshop class at our local college. #GoChaps!

2012-2017:

Which now brings us to May 8th, 2012. An insignificant day to most, but a day I’ll never forget.

You’d think that some earth shattering event took place, but au contraire, it was MADISONCARY’s birthday. (still earth shattering IMO) I purchased the domain, opened a business account, and filed the proper paperwork to make sure I was legit. Hooray Taxes!

Sometime in October of that year, after a photography workshop in Dallas, I launched the first iteration of madisoncary.com and primarily focused on High School Senior portraits. Coming from my youth director background, I loved empowering young girls to feel confident + beautiful, and I figured out that working 1-1 was more my jam than the high stress of weddings or corralling a bunch of wild toddlers for a Christmas card photo.

(Or maybe it was because I still felt relatable to that age, and wanted to come across as the “fun aunt” and be kept relevant via their influence. You tell me! IDK.)

I ran my little photo business out of my home “studio” - a fancier word for office - and quickly became the go-to senior portrait photographer in Midland, photographing hundreds of seniors! #humblebrag #iloveyall

Beyond my seniors, I photographed a local cheer team every year, various charity events, and helped launch a local magazine as one of their contract staff photographers.

2017-2019:

Throughout 2016, I began to experience some major creative burnout. I didn’t feel inspired, and the motions of running a sole-subject business took a toll on me. At that time, I was also heavily into my wellness world by coaching at a gym, working on a farm, and building a wellness blog - shoutout to Nourish & Namasté! - and could feel the candle that was burning at both ends quickly approaching a white hot center that would just leave us with a pile of weird melted wax and some burnt string. To say I was worn out is an understatement.

Thankfully, the perfect shift began to happen in 2017, as my hubby Zach accepted an opportunity to work in Austin, a place I always wanted to live but never thought possible, and I accepted some contract work with the fabulous designer + dear friend, Sarah Wilson of Sarah Briggs Jewelry. It was a match made in heaven, and a chance for me to grow as an artist, without having to hustle for new clients in a new city.

I laugh because Sarah always wonders what she did for me during those years, (she is the best hype girl BTW) but I gained so much experience in doing commercial/editorial/branding work for her. Traveling at least once a month (sometime more!) to Dallas and getting to step into a more high fashion work setting - or in Sarah’s case, LAID BACK LUXE - really pushed me as a photographer, artist, and business owner. My passion for branding + design really began to bloom, as I loved diving into the creative process of matching feeling with a mission through imagery.

Around mid-to-late 2019, old burnout came to knocking once again, but thankfully I was able to catch it before it kicked the door down and causing me to fall flat on my face. I recognized the constant travel began to wear me thin (#homebody anyone?) and as Sarah Briggs grew, they needed an in-house photographer to take over and grow with them.

2019-2020:

And then I got quiet. REALLLLLLLLLL quiet.

Like, quieter than crickets kinda quiet.

A wise old guy named Albert once said…

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Thanks, Al.

In life, and art, we all experience something called Resistance. That road block, that negative voice, that self-doubt, that crippling fear, that “I’ll get to it later” type of mindset. (Two great books to read on this topic are: The War of Art and Art & Fear, if you haven’t already.)

I’ve learned over the years that these types of things will constantly resurface, especially if you don’t address them head on. So, that’s just what I did. I stared at myself in the proverbial mirror, and did a deep soul swan dive into the murky waters of every corner of my heart. (My middle-school diving teacher would be so proud.)

I rested. I read. I reflected.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I had the privilege to take time for me, and lots of it.

I practiced the art of giving myself permission:

  • To ask for what I needed.
  • To release what no longer served me.
  • To forgive.
  • And to give myself space to heal.

It’s an interesting combination to have to balance, being the artist + the entrepreneur.

As the artist, you want to follow the flow and explore everything without limitation. You want to create masterful works that mean something. You want to see and be seen (but not criticized, LOL).

As the entrepreneur, you want to create systems and schedules. You want to innovate and try new things. You want to be profitable. You want to provide a service or product that is highly sought after.

It’s a delicate dance between these two, lemme tell ya. Especially as a highly sensitive person, it’s hard to navigate when to follow the feeling, and when to follow the formula. But that’s just the way it goes, I suppose. We learn the fluidity of the process, of when to follow, and when to lead, occasionally missing counts or stepping on toes along the way, but learning to assess, shake it off, and practice once more. Or maybe just straight up freestyle it in your living room solo, if that’s your vibe, too. 😉

2021 –

Which now brings to me this present moment.

Today.

MADISONCARY has evolved just as much as I have. The lines are blurred where I end and MADISONCARY begins, because we are one in the same. There is no separateness, no matter how much I try to compartmentalize my life. It oozes from my very being. It’s the heartbeat, the rhythm from which I dance, the fullness of who I AM, with all of the beautiful + messy parts.

I’m in the business of co-creating honest + love-hazed moments that are full of real connection and soul. I love telling stories the way I see them, and helping you tell yours. And you better believe we’re gonna have fun while doing it.

I can’t wait to share this next iteration with you, for what I believe to be my greatest chapter yet.

*Cue the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield + drives off into the sunset with LC*

Happy Lauren Conrad GIF by The Hills - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Look in the Rearview Mirror: The Evolution of Madisoncary

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