All it takes is one comment, one word, one little nudge to get you out of a funk. That’s all it took for Christina Cannon Boteler. On a trip to Ireland 14 years ago to run a marathon for the Arthritis Foundation, a team mate noticed her photos shot with disposable cameras. “You really have an eye,” he told her. And it took hold. That one comment. Boteler would tell you “it seeped into her veins.”
Twenty three and a district manager for Cups at the time, Boteler would say she was in a rut. She loved her job, her bosses and the people she worked with, but knew there was more to life and she was itching to find it.
“So many people spend their lives looking at their phones and the car in front of them,” Boteler says. “I’m curious — like my mom and dad.” Until young adulthood, she says she was very shy. “I would think a lot and my only outlet was writing.” When photography came along, she found another outlet to express her curiosity. “The world is an interesting place and a photo can say a lot.”
It was a photographer and his black and white photo exhibit at Cups that propelled her. Boteler, then 25, approached that photographer, Howard Barron, and his wife Marianne, whom she now considers mentors, friends (and her One Blu Wall Gallery partners) about learning his art. “I heard he had taught here and there, but who was I , this young girl asking to take lessons from him?” she remembers. Boteler says she had dinner with the Barrons, went into their photo dark room and fell in love with the images. “I loved to travel, loved photography and dreamed of how to make a living at it.”
Boteler studied photography with the Aegean Center For Fine Arts in Greece but says it was perilous. “I didn’t have wealthy parents, a huge savings account or even a job to come back to,” she says. “I took a financial risk to study abroad.” But she calls herself a faithful person. “A lot of where I come from is grace,” she says. “I’m reminded of that quote ‘Faith is not understanding but doing it anyway.’”
In her last month in Greece, she was sending resumes to papers and magazines back home. She says “I took every little job I could get. I took pictures of cars and houses for the Clarion Ledger but I didn’t care. I was using my camera. At night, I waited tables. It’s what you do.”
It’s been ten years since Christina Cannon Boteler has officially been in business for herself as a photographer. But ask her the July anniversary date and she doesn’t know. “That’s the artist in me,” she laughs as she sits in her Fondren Corner studio, office and gallery. It’s a space she came to five years ago, once occupied by Max Furniture, but it was more space than she needed. “Mike Peters (Fondren Corner owner) was so gracious to me and said ‘We’ll put up a wall here and a door there.’ I love this space and love the natural light.”
Boteler, who married Kirby Boteler in December 2012, says she has been very fortunate to travel to many places, most extensively in Europe. She has recently returned from a riverboat cruise in Germany, Austria, Budapest and Hungary then three days to Paris, all celebrating Marianne Barron’s 80th birthday. The Paris leg was an easy one. Boteler counts it as her favorite destination and was just there for her honeymoon six and a half months ago. Her most exotic trip was a couple years back, to India, with her church, for their Mustard Seed Faith Foundation.
Asked to recount her most interesting or challenging assignment, Boteler says there’s no contest. “It was in trying to photograph children with Down Syndrome,” she explains. A friend’s mother is a special needs teacher in Lafayette, Louisiana and was hosting a Halloween party with her students. “There were 20 or 25 of them and the only thing that kept me solid was a camera in front of my face. It was probably the most edifying thing I’ve ever done.” In fact, she’ll take on the challenge again this fall. “You see the child and not the disability. I’m happy those pictures turned out, but it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. It challenged me. I wasn’t concerned about the lighting; I wanted to embrace the subject.”
Fourteen years after that trip to Ireland, Boteler says she questions her surety of self everyday. “I’m not as confident as I thought I was,” she explains. “(At a young age), I had been so fortunate to land myself in positions I didn’t feel equipped to do but people believed in me. I had confidence but photography humbled me.”
She says having her own wedding photographed changed her. “When someone pays you well to document the most important day of your life or someone brings in a new baby, it’s humbling and I’m honored. There’s always that bit of ‘I hope I can pull this off.’ If you don’t feel that way, you’re in trouble. There’s always something to learn everyday, every photo shoot.”