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Career Profiles
Heather Horton
Graduated: 2003
Major: Visual Arts
Freelance Photo-Stylist

Choosing a Major
“I had absolutely no career in mind when I chose to be an art major,” Heather admits. “I did it because I love to paint and I was sure I could tackle art projects better than I could write a lab report or a research paper. Basically I focused on what I was interested in right then, rather than trying to decide my future career and then working backwards to plug that career into a specific major. I knew I’d have to enjoy my major for four straight years, so I chose something that I thought would hold my interest.”

The Messiah Experience
“I tried a bit of everything,” Heather explains of her extracurricular pursuits at Messiah. She ran track, tutored, went on missions trips, and “spent a semester abroad living in a convent in Italy painting” through the Orvieto study abroad program. Heather also embraced the local culture of the Harrisburg area, taking trips to the shore, Washington D.C., and Baltimore, attending rugby matches, and making runs to Paul’s Pancake Barn every Tuesday for half price pancakes. “Outside of class,” Heather says, “I really wanted to experience everything I wasn’t studying about—to kind of round life out.”

“Art is about seeing, appreciating, and creating beautiful things, “Heather says. “This appreciation and awareness to beauty can be carried into all areas of life. I’m a freelance photo-stylist. So I am asked every day to compose a beautiful photograph out of ordinary people and things.” Heather picked up useful knowledge for her vocation from more places than just her major, however. “At Messiah I learned to become an individual,” she says. “I gained confidence in myself as I learned that everyone steps into life with different skills and purposes. We’re all able to use the talents God’s given us to do amazing things as long as we don’t hold ourselves back.”

What to Do Next
Heather did not have a hard time deciding what to do after graduating. “I had been working as a prep-stylist since the summer after my first year,” Heather explains, “so I was already on the path to becoming a photo-stylist. My connections were already there; I just had to call them when I returned home to Minneapolis after graduation.”

“My neighbor approached me the summer after my first year of college,” Heather reveals. “At the time, I was painting a mural on the garage of another neighbor, and she came over and asked me where I was working that summer. I told her I was a Merry Maid. She immediately said, ‘I know a much better job for you that will use your artistic skills.’ And she started the ball rolling.”


• "Study what you love. Jobs will come. No worries; you will find the perfect job for you."
• "Get to know as many different people as possible."
• "Research as many careers as you can."

Dynamic Process
Heather held many odd jobs in her career in addition to her significant work as a prep-stylist. However, because she went into photo-styling right after graduation, she has not held any other jobs.

A Typical Day
“A photo-stylist," Heather explains, "is a person that works with a photographer and an art director on commercial photo shoots and basically compresses the photo for the photographer to light and shoot. Being a freelance photo-stylist means that I pick where I want to work and when. I have done catalogues, Sunday paper magazines, in-store signage and packaging designs for Target, Marshall Fields, Trimark, FingerHut and GEM corporation. Lately I’ve also been set designing for the home shopping network ShopNBC. A typical day of work is hard to describe because they are all totally different based on the job, the client, and the product.” No matter whom she is working for, however, Heather must always immerse herself in the photograph, even days before it is taken. Whether she’s looking for a model, steam cleaning bed sheets for bedding packaging shots, scouting for locations, or color-coordinating, the larger vision of the picture is always in Heather’s mind. A typical work day can consist of anything, but it always revolves around the same principle of how to get the greatest shots possible.

A "Why" Moment
“Like I said, I love what I do!” Heather passionately asserts. “When I’m walking out to my car after a shoot, I’m really thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this.’ And the people I work with are really phenomenal. It’s a ‘we work to live’ atmosphere. We’re all freelance, and once we make enough money to pay that month’s bills, we take days off to make actual bona fide art. Many stylists and photographers are photographers in their free time as well as ceramicists, painters, mixed media artists, graphic designers, mural painters, videographers, etc. I even have a group that meets at my painting studio once a month to bring work and critique it, and the group is made up entirely of people who work in the industry.”

“I do my job the best I know how,” Heather says, “and I just try to care for these people as people, not just as co-workers. Once in awhile, people ask me how I can care so much and then I have the opportunity to tell them about me and what I believe. But mostly I try to serve God by using the gifts He gave me to the best of my abilities. Beauty is one of His gifts to us, and I try to appreciate it and imitate it wholly.”  Heather finds inspiration in the words of Maryanne Williamson, as used in a speech by Nelson Mandela:  "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."  Heather keeps these words by her bed, and they remind her each day to shine her light and live life to the fullest.

Dreams Still Dreaming
Heather has her sights set on her ideal photo shoots: “I dream of styling for Pottery Barn and West Elm catalogues out in San Francisco. As far as catalogue home furnishing work is concerned, they are crème de la crème. Plus, they’ll fly stylists out there to work for a month at a time, and they’ll provide lodging. Beyond that, I’m just going to keep on acquiring clients and enjoying the here and now.”


Profile by Angela Kriebel, 2005


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