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Rising Stars: Meet Kris Strackeljahn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kris Strackeljahn.

Hi Kris, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
In 2014, after three years of volunteering at a few local animal shelters, I began fostering and getting heavily involved in one specific rescue. I worked with photographer David Carlyon on a few photo sessions with adoptable dogs. Seeing the outcome of his images and how much it affected the animals finding their forever homes really inspired me.

I played around with my cell phone and Instagram filters for a couple of months before deciding to purchase a DSLR camera to bump up my game a bit. In February of 2015, I finally saved up and made the purchase! I started out focusing solely on adoptable pets within the rescue community.

I would spend a few hours here and there capturing photos at the shelter or on-location meeting up with fosters at parks near their homes. I learned VERY quickly the passion that I had for photography and received praise from friends and family for my talent. Over the next couple of years, I spent my time taking a basic photography class with John Locus in Collinsville and really soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I LOVED taking photos of pets. In 2019, my husband and I found out we were expecting a new bundle of joy! My third child and his first. Once she was born, I decided I wanted to do photography full time.

I wanted to be a “work from home mom”. My own boss. This way I would never miss out on anything with my children again and I could schedule and work on my own terms. In April 2020, I got my business license and insurance and officially became an LLC! I have tried my hand at every type of photography and have settled in as a Family and Pet Photographer. I currently spend time volunteering my photography services to two non-profit organizations. I work closely with Got Your Six Support Dogs in Maryville, IL, and On Angels Wings.

I am well-known in the are for my “pet tribute sessions”, where I capture photos of pets as they get to become very old, or terminally ill and get closer to their trip across the rainbow bridge. Pets and families and volunteer work remain my passion for photography. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help out where I can and support these incredible organizations.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
For the most part, it has been great! I personally struggle with anxiety and depression stemming from abuse in past relationships. The biggest struggle and bumps in the road have been overcoming my social anxiety and pushing through my bouts of depression. Before most sessions, I am slightly anxious and worry a lot.

But typically by the end of the session, I am smiling and calling my mom or my husband to tell them how amazing everything went! I am surprised by how much being a photographer and putting myself out there has helped me in a way. I have only had incredible clients, so it makes everything so much easier and laid back!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I spend my time taking photos and creating memories for families. I focus mostly on families and pets! My FAVORITE part of my job is watching families and pets interact with each other and seeing the bond and love. I am more of a “PROMPTographer” whereas I give families things to do and games to play. This makes for smiles stemming from laughter showing the real smiles and happy faces (especially in children). I am very well known in the animal world for pet tribute sessions. Capturing the lives and paying tribute to those furry friends in our lives when they get older or sick. I think I am MOST proud of my volunteer work.

Being a military brat and married to a veteran made it extremely easy to decide to volunteer for Got Your Six Support Dogs. I spend time photographing the recipients and their service dogs to help raise awareness for their work. I also spend volunteer hours working with On Angels Wings. We are a group of volunteer photographers that take photos of medically fragile children for families. We have a lot of very sad and emotional sessions, but sometimes we have very touching sessions that lift us up. My most recent one was a sweet newborn graduating from the NICU and heading home!

I think what sets me apart from others is that I love LOVE to do creative sessions. Send me fun and funky idea and I am ALWAYS down for it! Last year I did a “Goodbye Earl” by the Chicks-themed session as well as a plague-inspired engagement session. I offered Covid-19 inspired minis for seniors last year with smoke bombs and gas masks as they wore their cap and gowns to remember the weird year of their graduation.

The most recent creative session I did was a plague doctor session for Halloween. I am always down for weird things, LOL!

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
I offer a handful of mini sessions each year that people can book. In general though, just reach out and tell me your vision! I would love to help more families get new artwork for their walls and make those precious memories with pets! I would love to hear any creative session ideas as well.

Never think that your idea is too weird. Weird is my JAM.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Crystal Renee Photography

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