The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.

Kaja | Jack Loves Mary & KajaPhoto

It is hard for me to sometimes explain my relationship with Kaja. She is so much more than a friend or colleague, if you have worked with someone creatively, you know it is a very personal relationship. Sharing your own creative ideas can be scary, but with Kaja, I have always felt free to say that insane idea and then together we hone it, tone it down or push it bigger and make sure what we are saying is moving the bigger conversation forward.
Her passion for Photography has been a part of her identity before we even met and I knew right away that she wasn’t in this for the short game, from day one she has worked to make Photography a part of her life and career. She has built up two incredible companies, Jack Loves Mary & KajaPhoto, although both very different aspects of the photography world, both have the same passionate, creative and unique woman behind them.
This interview, besides being with one of the closest people in my life, was extra personal because Kaja’s Father-in-Law, Ron Stewart, passed away during the start of the shutdown. Ron was a man I have known most of my life, he attended the same church as my Grandparents, I went to school with his youngest son and his oldest married Kaja, my creative partner. My grandparents have always adored Ron and his wife Heather. He and my grandpa lived parallel lives; they had worked in similar fields, had travelled abroad to teach other countries how to farm properly, they both had stories abound and LOVED talking and listening to each other. Ron was gentle and kind and my grandfather loved being around him, I know his presence is missed by the Stewart Family as I know my Grandparents miss him too.
 How was it being dropped into the new world of COVID-19 after being distanced from a lot of the information that was coming out at the end of March?

We as a family entered the world of Covid in a unique way. Ron, my father-in-law fell ill earlier this year, and after weeks of tests and appointments we still had no answers. On March 10th we were finally given a diagnosis and he passed March 24th, so this time period was a whirlwind.

Between you and my friend Sarah I was kept up to date on how Covid was impacting small businesses and freelancers. We were spending most of our time at the hospital with Ron and I just couldn’t divide my focus, so I appreciated that. Also, my wonderful assistant Kamara took the reins on some shoots that were lined up which, ultimately were cancelled because the shut-down was extended. Looking back on the month of March and beginning of April, it feels like one big long dream. The uncertainty of the city and the country and the world just seemed to mirror that of my own family.

Have your couples all postponed to next year, are any scaling back and doing a more low key wedding or even social distancing wedding at the end of Summer or Fall?

 All of my couples that had weddings before September have postponed. Everyone has been different, some had specific dates in mind, because that is what their venue was able to accommodate, others have postponed and haven’t yet chosen their 2021 date. All of my 2020 couples and I have been in communication a lot over the last couple of months. For ones who haven’t chosen a new date, I am very transparent about what dates I have open, so they can make the best decision for their wedding.

I haven’t had any social distancing or virtual weddings yet, but I would love to do that. I think I have always attracted the type of clientele who just want to do what feels right and personal to them, despite what their families want or "what they should do." That has been one of the cool aspects of this experience, to see how couples are making it their own. I have 2 couples who are still getting married, legally, on their wedding date, one is getting married at city hall and the other couple is meeting an officiant, which I will be photographing from a distance.

On top of weddings, have you had photoshoots for KajaPhoto that were rearranged?

 Yes, March is a big month to shoot look book shots for businesses, those as well as some editorials ended up being cancelled. There isn’t really a plan to reschedule, because the difference is a lot of these clients are self-employed, and everyone is looking at their year and businesses differently now.

How have you been dealing with all this “free” work time, has it been hard to focus on what to do first with so much unknown? 

This week (first week of May) was really my first week of “free” time, because I had a backlog of editing from March and April. Also speaking for myself, my TO DO list is never not full. There are always certain items that take priority, but I have lots of work to fill my free time. I am actually looking forward to tackling some items on there that always get put off, like my KajaPhoto website has needed to be updated also, I am very excited to tackle my own wedding photos. I took photos on my camera when we got married in 2015 and I haven’t even edited those, so I know myself and my family are excited about that! 

Were there any 2020 business plans you had that have been put on hold or postponed for Jack Loves Mary and/or KajaPhoto?

Not business plans, just shoots that have been affected. If anything, I will be able to accomplish more business goals because I have time. The shoot is just that one day, for me afterwards a lot of the work is editing and getting those photos off to their respective clients. So right now, with no new events or editorials to shoot, I have a lot time to tackle my business goals.

Has this disrupted your day to day routine or are you still able to be creative?

Most people are struggling with working from home right now, where I have been self-employed and worked from home for years, so I know the struggle very well. I feel like people romanticize working from home, but you still have to create your own routine. Everyone else is experiencing this for the first time, I definitely feel more understood by my friends.

As for creating, I shoot people, I always have, but because that is limited right now, I have taken to documenting the world when I am out for walks. We will look back on this as pre and post, so I am trying to take pictures that show our current time.  

Like I said up top, Kaja is one of my favourite humans. She has not only documented/shot and creatively impacted Copious from the beginning, she has photographed our family and documented my sisters family from engagement, to wedding to babies. Her love for photography shows in each photo she takes and I have seen her go that extra mile to capture a true moment in a picture. Whether it has been working with her for Copious or having her there to capture my sister and I before she got married, I can’t imagine anyone else taking our photo. Her passion isn’t just about getting you that shot, it’s about the integrity of that picture, which makes every image she captures, beautiful.

If you are couple recently engaged I highly recommend checking out Jack Loves Mary. Kaja’s eye will get you unique and creative shots for your big day, and if you are business needing product shots, website photography or an editorial, check out KajaPhoto, or just flip on over to any page on the Copious site, because she took them all!

Written by Carissa McCaig

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