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Profile: Wildflowers Photography

by Kathryn Dean on May 7, 2015

in Artist Profiles, Featured

Soul of an Artist
by Kathryn Dean

Above the fireplace hangs a black and white photo of four kids standing among the wildflowers. Wispy hair, innocent faces, and angelic eyes – unassuming but beautiful. The echoes of a howling winter still hang in the air, but here I find the promise of Spring and flowers – a fitting welcome to the home of Wildflowers Photography.

Above the Mantel - Photo by Kielen Simons

Above the Mantel – Photo by Kielen Simons

When I met Joy Prouty, owner of Wildflowers Photography, at her pastoral homestead in northern Washington, she spoke of yearning. A yearning to search deep within for what truly inspires her and capture the beauty of life. There’s an urgency in her soul, even a fear of missing the beauty around her and the sacred moments of life.

While shooting in Cambodia in her early twenties, Joy learned she could communicate her feelings through photographs. The best shot develops when she can capture her feelings reflected in the subject, and when the camera reveals a person’s soul, she said.

“Photographs that spread true hope are never contrived. They are the most honest of them all, the ones that take your breath away and make you want to truly live.” –Joy (on her blog)

As I approached the house and saw the surrounding land it felt familiar from her pictures on Instagram (Joy has more than 51,000 followers).

Her husband, Donny, greeted us at the door as if we were old friends coming for a visit. He ushered us into the kitchen, asked about our journey, and offered us homemade gluten-free pumpkin spice bread and coffee. We made ourselves comfortable in a small sunken family room off the kitchen. The couch  — with a big picture window behind it  — has been the canvas for many a poignant photo of snuggling children, or quiet reading time.

Life continued as usual while we visited. The chaos and emotion of life with small children swirled around us. Every day, amidst this tumult, Joy finds moments of pure truth and vulnerability to be captured on film and to tell a story. When looking at her pictures we see no chaos, only beauty and grace.

Joy’s photography business has morphed over the years to reflect her search for beauty and inspiration.

She started out in southern California and built momentum quickly. She photographed celebrity families and was featured in magazines. Eventually, she married Donny — ten years after dating him in high school. He was her first love. They reconnected, married, started having children, and bought a small house in the suburbs. Donny also owned a business maintaining swimming pools. To the casual onlooker she had achieved success. But, as her family grew and she and her husband worked long hours to make ends meet, they both came to the realization that this was not the life they wanted.

Prouty 2

Joy and Mabel – Photo by Kielen Simons

So with three young children and a baby on the way, they put their house on the market. It sold quickly and then baby Mabel arrived. Joy and Donny looked at each other and said, “What now?”

In the soul of an artist, that question leads to infinite possibilities.

Joy’s popularity had spread and she received requests to teach workshops throughout the country. So, they refurbished their 1950’s Spartanette trailer, put most of their belongings in storage and set off on a journey across the country – six people living , playing, schooling, and working in a tiny trailer transformed by Donny’s handiwork and Joy’s artistry.

“We just thought it would be an adventure,” Joy said. “We were excited about something for the first time. But, we learned to be humble. We had no privacy, so we had to learn to communicate. Sometimes I just needed a walk by myself or I would go insane. These were things we had never practiced living at home. We had space [at the house], but we were separating ourselves instead of conquering those demons and learning how to live life together.”

The time spent in close quarters allowed the family to reassess what they most wanted. Joy and Donny wanted a simpler life where they could put each other first. Where the kids felt treasured and had room to explore their passions. Where belongings were not valued but people and life and art were.

At the end of nine months on the road, they found a homestead that could foster these dreams.

As I walked around the property it was evident that photography for Joy was merely one facet of a vastly artistic heart. The family lives and moves and works in a space that is constantly in creative flux – from the painted floors to decorating with quilts and crochet in unique ways. The whole property reflects her artistry. In this setting the family may flourish and fail and find the creativity that each seeks.

Donny and Mabel - Photo by Kielen Simons

Donny and Mabel – Photo by Kielen Simons

Donny farms the land while everyone else helps to the best of their ability. The homestead has sheep, a horse, ducks, chickens, cats, a large organic garden, an apple orchard, cherry trees, and whatever else tends to grow or wander onto the property.

The outside serves as a continual classroom, and Donny teaches the kids inside as well in a quaint schoolroom filled with books. Joy said they never set out to homeschool, but as they talked about their experiences in school and what they wanted their children to experience, it made the most sense. It also fit well with the simplified lifestyle they had adopted.

Donny’s involvement with school, curriculum development, and woodworking jobs allow Joy the freedom to travel the country booking photo sessions for a week at a time. It also enables her to be fully present when she returns home to Donny and the kids. She schedules five of these trips throughout the year and also hosts sessions on the homestead when the apple trees blossom.

This system has given Joy room to explore her passions and create sessions that reveal the soul of a family. Joy realized she could no longer be content shooting birthday parties. She wants each photo shoot to matter on a deep level. To showcase a family in the midst of living life where the beauty of their story shines through every photograph.

“The most enjoyable part for me has always been getting to know the small, unique details about a family,” she said. “To figure out what makes them truly come alive; and then brainstorming how to tell their personal story through photographs in the most creative, authentic way, while doing justice to the beautiful story entrusted to me.”

This desire to tell a family’s story prompted Joy to come up with something she calls “Harvest Sessions.” Her Wildflowers sessions involve a couple of hours with a family – often with a theme representative of their personality. But for a Harvest Session, Joy becomes a fly on the wall in the house for twenty-four hours. The family goes about their normal routine.

On her website she says, “I want honesty and vulnerability. this will be more than a photo session for me, and I want it to be more than a photo session for you. if there is sadness, I don’t want it hidden. if there is bliss, I want dancing.”

Prouty 4

The Prouty Home for 9 Months – Photo by Kielen Simons

To capture those moments, Joy dozes sitting in a chair through the night in order not to miss a mama waking for a middle-of-the-night feeding with soft light spilling in from the hall, or a child waking needing one more hug and a glass of water. She photographs morning hair and faces just waking to the light of day. She captures the family truly living: playtime, mealtime, bedtime, maybe even some chaos. But amid the tumult, Joy finds the essence of who the family truly is and captures the beauty inherent in all of us.

This is where the artist lives — searching for inspiration and a shadow of the divine.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote: “For the soul awakes, a trembling stranger, between two dim eternities,—the eternal past, the eternal future. The light shines only on a small space around her; therefore, she needs must yearn towards the unknown; and the voices and shadowy movings which come to her from out the cloudy pillar of inspiration have each one echoes and answers in her own expecting nature.” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin)

As I drove away from Bellingham down I-5 with the sunset exploding color out my passenger window, this passage came to mind. It speaks of that same yearning that Joy talked about, a thirst for beauty and inspiration that has been planted in our soul from eternities past to spur us on toward eternity future. We constantly search for a glimpse of eternity to resonate with that part of our soul which longs to be there.

“It’s really not about myself, the artist, or who I am. It’s about pointing to something greater, inching closer to the divine,” Joy had told me.

In my time with her, I had experienced the divine. I saw beauty through the eyes of an artist and learned to seek out the inspiration around me. Joy Prouty lives in that space where the light shines around her, yearning to capture it through the lens of her camera and share it with others.

Joy’s oldest daughter, 8-year-old Gracie, wrote this about wildflowers:

a wildflower faces the sun.
she blooms wild in rough terrain.
she is vulnerable and brave and scatters seeds of hope when the wind blows.

Joy and her aptly named company wish to do just the same – scatter seeds of hope and goodness to the world.

Joy Amid Chaos (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 11
School Room Bookcase (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 7a
School Room Table (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 8 copy
Headed for Adventure (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 10a
Outdoor Portico (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 5a
"Yarn-bombed" Yard (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 6 copy
Farmyard Duties (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 12a
Sunset on I-5 (photo by Kielen Simons)
Prouty 13
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To learn more about Joy or to book a session visit:

Header image from a photo by Kielen Simons


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