Spotlight on a student from Embracing Your Inner Artist and Project Development & Fine Art with Deb Schwedhelm


Today, I wanted to take a moment to feature one of my students, Meghan Endahl Meghan won a seat to my ‘Embracing Your Inner Artist’ (EYIA) class and later went on to enroll in ‘Project Development and Fine Art’ (PDFA). One of the most gratifying aspects of being a teacher is watching your students not only grow, but completely blossom — and that is exactly what I have observed Meghan do over the past year.

Meghan came into EYIA with gorgeous imagery but from the moment she started sharing, I knew that there was more lying under the surface of what she was sharing. After numerous questions and some in-depth discussions, her imagery began to evolve as the days of instruction passed. As do all of my full-participations students, Meghan received lots of feedback and heartfelt guidance about her photography and possible direction for her future imagery. By the time EYIA came to a close, I wasn’t completely sure where Megan stood with her thoughts regarding moving forward but I did know that the seed was planted to trust herself and her own voice and vision for her work.

Next came Meghan’s participation in PDFA. I remember so clearly when Meghan photographed the wilting yellow flower (see below) and shared it in class. She loved the image. I loved the image. But when she shared it on her social media, she wasn’t receiving the validation that her previous work had received. Meghan came back into class and voiced her frustration, which also led to some doubts with this new work. I again stressed to her how external validation does not define if an image is good or bad, strong or weak; the validation needs to come from within. Together, we moved forward through lots of class discussions and by the end of PDFA, Meghan had a few unified images, an overarching concept of ‘intimacy', a ridiculously strong drive and dedication, and the launch of a project. Meghan has continued to work so hard and I have loved watching this body of work continue to evolve and expand. I couldn’t be more proud of Meghan and all she has accomplished but more than that, I’m beyond thrilled that she has found the confidence in herself as an artist with a voice that is unique and special. BRAVO Meghan and congratulations on your recent award that you received with this body of work — keep on keepin’ on!!

Deb Schwedhelm | instructor of Embracing Your Inner Artist and Project Development & Fine Art


Before Illuminate Classes, I was absolutely just another face in the photography crowd. I found myself lost, pretty quickly, in this vast community where many strive to have the most beautiful images that look and feel a certain way. I was desperate to be like everyone else, and yet also very aware I couldn’t be like everyone else. After taking many photography breakouts, Illuminate Classes was recommended to me - specifically Magic of Light, instructed by Summer Murdock. As we know, the class is so well loved that claiming a spot is basically like getting into Fort Knox, but somehow I managed it. Magic of Light was my first step toward this path that I’m now on. It helped me realize that I have an eye for light and from there I was able to shoot the way I wanted to shoot. That wasn’t enough, of course. I was still in this community where finding one’s own voice is so very difficult, sort of like searching for one particular voice in a crowded subway. I let myself get caught up in what everyone else thought was beautiful and in turn found myself creating fewer and fewer pictures until I stopped going on social media altogether. That’s when I saw an email about entering a contest to win a seat in Embracing Your Inner Artist - and let me tell you, I jumped on that opportunity. I’d been following Deb’s work since taking Magic of Light, always telling myself that, someday, I would be in that class. I won that seat, and this was one of the greatest things to happen to my photography journey.

EYIA helped me learn not only more about the art of photography itself, but most importantly, that I’m not alone in this struggle, and also that we each have choices to make regarding the artists we want to become. Deb’s lessons helped me completely let go of expectations and - literally - embrace ideas and instinct and transfer those from my mind to my camera. The images I was producing at the end of class were almost completely different from the ones I’d submitted in the beginning, and you know what? Those images at the end were me. They were the art I’d been dreaming of creating and I couldn’t just stop there. Of course, the only logical next step was signing up for Project Development and Fine Art. Those two weeks were amazing. I finally felt like my photography “belonged” somewhere. With Deb’s dedication and instruction (which is invaluable), I was able to piece together my first project. In EYIA, we’d discussed the word “intimacy” in relation to my images, and “intimacy” was the word that carried me through these next steps. After PDFA ended, I took Deb’s advice and changed out certain images, replacing them with more appropriate ones and, with more confidence than I’d ever had before (even in class), I named the project: “The Intimacy of Motherhood.” On a whim, I submitted it to a tiny art exhibition in my parents’ hometown, and was accepted. Never in my life did I think I’d have my photos on display for literally hundreds to see. But here I am.

The project itself is ongoing, as most art projects should be because we, the artists, are constantly changing. The underlying foundation of my images, however, is my desire to communicate the intimacy of motherhood. My love for light and shadows (strengthened by my time with Magic of Light, EYIA and PDFA), has turned out to be key in telling the stories of the photos. Each image is meant to be a very quiet, still moment, wherein the observer feels the weight of emotion a mother feels. I have purposely included my macro images of flowers, some dead and some alive, because to me, flowers symbolize the juxtaposition of the strength and resilience we require as mothers, and our fragility.

Without the culmination of these classes, this project wouldn’t have happened. Deb has helped me articulate my photography in a way I didn’t think possible. Her honesty and knowledge and vision so carefully takes you from a place of the unknown, where we are insecure in our our work and our own artful desires, to a place where we can say “this is who I am, and this is what I can do."

Meghan Endahl

If you are interested in taking Embracing Your Inner Artist or Project Development & Fine Art with Deb Schwedhelm, they will both be offered this fall. Registration will open on August 22 at 12 noon EST HERE.