LIHUE — It was the first day of class for aspiring entrepeneurs and the instructor engaged the new students with a fun exercise.
It was sort of a team-building exercise, as first days are likely to be.
Write down your one big ambition, your true goal in life, your dreams, the instructor told the new students.
So Jaime Bley, taking the manifestation course in New York in January, began writing.
“The very first line, and this was something I never did before, I wrote, ‘I’m living on the island of Kauai,’” said Bley, 36. “And I thought, ‘This is so crazy.’”
Crazy because Bley had never visited Kauai.
Hawaii, yes, but even though she’d never set foot on the Garden Isle, she had an inkling it was the paradise she envisioned herself living.
And Bley was in the throes of a successful start-up to her own photography business, Baby Jaime Photography. For three years she had been running her business on baby, family, maternal and children portraits.
“It was pretty clear I had a set style,” she said of her photography beginnings, after earning her associate’s degree in photographic imaging in New York, a style which focused heavily on lighting. “Pretty soon, I was giving lectures at these schools.”
But she couldn’t shake what she’d written down that January day.
She’d also been exploring a new style in photography, layered photography, where she combines pictures upon pictures to create a dream setting with all the rigid detail of a real photograph.
“These pieces are so much fun, they’re so much to create,” she said of capturing the dream environment.
Still, she couldn’t ignore her response to the question of her dream.
And that’s the other part of her business.
It was home and Internet-based. She could pack up and leave, really. All it took for the single mother was courage.
“I said, ‘Why am I not doing this now?’” she recalled. “Am I waiting until I’m 45 or what?”
So she packed up and landed in Hanapepe in August with her 10-year-old son, Gabriel, and has settled in. Using Kauai’s abundant outdoor landscapes, part as backdrop part as artistic inspiration, her “Daydream” pieces have taken off.
Her recent work was featured on babycenter.com
And the reason her art has taken the next step is a simple one for Bley. She’s comfortable here, at home, and when someone feels at peace at home, their true self can come out.
“The one thing that was frustrating about being in New York, was I never felt like I was home,” she said. “I just didn’t feel like I was where I was supposed to be.”
TGI: How did you get into the type of photography you are doing today?
Jamie Bley: I had given birth to identical twin boys (and found) myself in a complete cosmic bomb of perceptions as my son Isaak passed away in my arms at 6 days old.
I was in excruciating pain and I didn’t know how to express those emotions. So I decided to turn the camera around on myself for the first time to express myself. That is the work that really became recognized.
Those self portraits attracted many eyes and many doors were opened for me.
A few years later a family wanted to hire me to photograph their twin girls who had just been born. I had never photographed babies and felt rather inhibited, but they loved my style and believed I’d capture them in the way they had envisioned. Those twin girls changed everything about photography for me. I truly believe my son Isaak led me to them.
TGI: How did you start your business?
JB: I found myself wanting to photograph (the twins) any chance I could get. Their home became my home and their family, mine. In fact, their parents — who have become such good friends of mine — offered to build me a website. “Jaime, this is what you need to be doing,” they said.
Three months later I had a thriving business working with children, babies and families.
TGI: What brought you out to Kauai?
JB: A dream. At 17 I spent a few weeks on the island of Oahu and found myself in tears when we had to return to our home on the Mainland. Everything about the island spoke to me. The Hawaiian culture, the lush nature and the intoxicating vibration of aloha … While taking a manifestation course in January, we were asked to write out our big dream … seven months later, I packed my 9-year-old son Gabriel and I up and landed on Kauai.
I’ll share this: I knew when getting onto the plane in LA to fly over to Kauai, listening to my heart was indeed the wisest (thing I’ve done.) I felt a sense of home already sitting among Kauai residents.
TGI: How has it been since you got here?
JB: Well, everyone will tell you this: Kauai is a magical island. And the spirit of aloha is real. I was having a conversation with a friend back in New York and he asked me what it was like, and I said, ‘Everything here is much slower. Calm. People look at you and deeply. Not just a quick glance. It feels almost as if everyone is in love.’
TGI: Is there ever that cause for concern, manipulating reality versus creating art? Talk about the line between documenting history versus creating worlds as a photographer.
JB: I think that all of us are master creators of our own personal reality. So I think I’m just playing with that dimension on canvass or on print, you know? And it’s so, so exciting and cool … I find that it’s a very magical process, from the moment we start talking about it to the moment it’s finished.
TGI: How did your son react to the move?
JB: Getting Gabriel to understand where we were going from a place like New York was rather difficult. I’d show him pictures of Kauai and his eyes would light up, but leaving behind all that he had only known was difficult.
I fully trusted and claimed this new adventure. I’m really wanting him to understand that this is what life is all about, living! Just days ago, I asked him if he would ever want to move back to New York. His eyes filled with tears and he said, ‘Mom, I want to visit my friends, but I never want to live there again.’ Moral of the story, trust your heart.
TGI: Where do you envision your business going?
JB: Now that I feel like I am home I want this business to expand as much as the love and passion I have for all the people I get to play with through this medium!
I’d love to be able to purchase a home here on Kauai, build magical relationships with my clients who become ohana and make their wildest dreams come true through my art … Art teaches you that you are the creator of your reality. I want to help other people create, to see their dreams come true.
TGI: Any advice for aspiring photographers or entrepreneurs?
JB: Love yourself. Love yourself through it all.