Dendra Chavez, a Calista Corporation Shareholder, enjoys capturing moments and looking back on them later in life. Her desire to preserve special milestones piqued her interest in photography but it was a life-changing portrait that prompted her to get behind the lens. In 2007, Dendra had a professional photographer take a family portrait, it included her father who had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
“We took the picture in August and one month later he passed away,” said Dendra. “I’m so glad I have something nice to look back on and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do this for my family,’ and that sealed the deal for me.”
A few months later Dendra purchased professional camera gear from a friend who was shutting down her photography business, Dendra Chavez Photography. The friend gave Dendra tips and she spent hours researching tips and tactics online. At the time, Dendra was working for the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel. Her first client was her niece and a group of her friends who needed senior portraits.
“My heart was pounding,” said Dendra. “It was trial and error, and doing a lot of research but it all turned out well and they used them.”
The girls gave Dendra a gift certificate as a thank you but the session gave Dendra much more, the confidence to start working professionally. She now specializes in senior portraits, weddings, outdoor photography and infants. She books about eight photography sessions a month, which she does on weekends because she also works at Southcentral Foundation.
A busy life is a happy one for Dendra, who says being an entrepreneur is in her blood. She’s owned several businesses with her husband including currently owning the ACE Auto Repair in Bethel. She juggles work with a busy family life; she has three children and a brand new grandbaby, but family and photography often blend. Dendra enjoys taking photos of her family and her daughter is often Dendra’s second shooter, operating her own business doing senior portraits.
Dendra enjoys teaching people interested in photography. She works as the professional advisor of photography at the King Career Center, in Anchorage. Her best advice for photographers looking to make a living doing what they love has nothing to do with composition or lighting and everything to do with savvy.
“Find your style and learn your skill but really learn about business,” said Dendra.
Dendra dreams of opening her own commercial studio within the next 10 years. But until that happens she will continue to juggle family, photography and a full-time job. But as life and photography have taught her, she never misses a moment.
“I found my passion and carved a path to attain success in business and in life which I attribute to three core values, hard work, dedication and perseverance.”
(View other featured leaders here)