Each of us is a pilgrim on a journey, bound for the same return home: heaven. Yet before meeting the Father face to face, every earthly journey looks different. Brittney Valdez, a photographer and artist based in San Francisco (and serving California, Chicago, Michigan, Nashville, New York, Miami, San Antonio, and London), has walked the path of adventure herself and cherishes the privilege of journeying with her clients throughout their vocations, offering engagement, maternity, and family photography on digital or film.
Brit first picked up a DSLR camera at 13, on a family vacation in Spain. Her uncle, who owned the camera, began teaching her about aperture and taking clear, natural images of people in their daily lives. She was hooked: “Ever since that moment,” says Brit, I found I absolutely loved photographing people, and I wanted to make it a goal to capture them naturally, unposed and being themselves on my travels and in my own city.”
Brit later worked as a photographer and marketing executive at her college newspaper, which led to a job in marketing and sales at AOL. “I prayed about my vocation so much at this point,” she shares, “and I knew deep down in my heart that I wanted to continue pursuing a creative career. I stayed with AOL for a while to learn more about front-end business and sales, which also enabled me to travel extensively and really push up my photography skills, all of which was self-taught with the exception of one class with the LA Photography Center. This entire experience was invaluable to my business today.”
Fast forward several years, and Brit--a lover of extreme sports--fractured her tailbone snowboarding, destroying nerves in her spine and leaving her bedridden and struggling to walk. It was shortly prior to this time that Brit admits,
“I really started to pull away from my faith; I really just got lazy about Mass and personal prayer time and, quite simply, stopped trusting in Jesus' plan for my life. As soon as I got home from the hospital, I remember crying for hours and hours, seemed like days, because of the situation and wondering how the heck I got into this position. I just thought about how much on the brink of death I was and how incredibly blessed I was to still be breathing. The doctor said I could've been completely paralyzed from the neck down, or I could have died if I hit just a few nerves up from what had been damaged.”
A week into her recovery, Brit picked up a Magnificat missal and began daily morning prayers, desperately asking for the strength, courage and trust to be put on a path to live every day like it was her absolute last. The Lord wouldn’t leave her wanting.
In Brit’s words: Shortly after, I accepted a job at Google working in business partnerships in San Francisco. During that time I went on a three-week volunteer trip to Bali (booked while I was recovering in bed from the fracture) and met my future husband, Jose. I never stopped creating, traveling and praying: always picking up my camera to photograph the beauties of life ahead of me. I continued to paint like a madwoman. I embarked on many trips to far ends of the earth, and continued going to Mass and becoming involved in the San Francisco faith community.
[After three years at Google], I felt an extremely strong calling to leave my full-time job and start my photography and visual art business full time. In that same period, Jose and I got married; he is honestly my strongest advocate! I owe the strength, courage and trust completely to God, and how much he has led me since I fully gave my life to him. My faith 100% played a role in finding my way to my career.
As an artist, my goal is to capture life simply, extraordinarily and fully for what it truly is; to create photographs that breathe, that move, and that feel.
Along with that, I believe it is my work's mission to find and capture beauty and love in the world, to display it as authentically and wholly as humanly possible.
With that, I want to give clients my whole heart in order to capture their fullness and beauty. I make it a huge point to make my clients extremely comfortable to be completely themselves, whether that be adventurous, timid, courageous. I desire to capture them completely full of life.
My life story, and God’s massive role in it, is the biggest inspiration for my work: to live life to the extreme fullest, to find the beauty in the everyday, to live with passion and surprise. On top of this, I’m inspired by my travels. I love traveling to remote areas of the world and exploring places never walked on, finding the surprising, hidden elements of the everyday and beauty in places I've never seen before.
The love my husband shows me every second of every day really drives me to capture whole-hearted love and the warmth of being enveloped by that love--to demonstrate the love God has for us through the love of our spouses and loved ones.
I thrive best--and I believe the Church does, too--when in community. A huge part I love about my job is that I get to grow with families--from when couples get engaged, on through maternity shoots, and finally through family photos. A goal of mine is to one day shoot engagement photos of a baby I photographed many years prior! I believe Spoken Bride helps foster that [sense of community] within the Church and between artists and clients. It's so beautiful.
An interview with Brit
How does your Catholic faith play a role in your business? My faith community really drives my work, and in community I feel the most alive. I want my clients to feel this way when they’re with me, as if we are working in community. I work to be the most open, accepting and loving in my work with my clients, and in turn the most beautiful things happen on shoots. My Catholic faith plays the full role in fostering this sense of loving community, on and off set.
Favorite saints and devotions: My favorite saint is St. Mary Magdalene, and a saint that warms my heart is Saint Luke the Evangelist. Two of my most favorite devotions are John Paul II's Letter to Artists, (April 4, 1999) and the prayer of Trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Favorite wedding day memory: Oh man, there are so many! One of my absolute favorites was walking down the long aisle at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano with both my mom and dad on my arms, and seeing my husband's face—we didn't do a first look—as if he saw the most beautiful thing in his life. It was the sweetest ever, and I'm so grateful for our photographer, who captured the moment so purely!
On my bucket list: Get my master's degree in Art Therapy and Studio Arts, learn a fourth language fluently and learn to play the violin, complete a residency in another country for painting or photography.
Favorite place I’ve traveled: We are big travelers over here! My husband and I absolutely loved South Africa, and got so immersed in the people there while working with a nonprofit in the Cape Town townships. Others at the top of my list are Indonesia (the surfing is amazing there!), Iceland, Japan, and Kauai.
Music I love: I'm loving Mumford & Son's new album "Delta", Needtobreathe, Jake Bugg, Pink Floyd, The National, War on Drugs, Leon Bridges, Josh Garrels, St. Lucia, Temper Trap, and so, so many more! These artists are who I'm constantly listening to, regardless of the season.
Favorite food: I'm Peruvian-American, so I'm a little biased! I adore Peruvian food. My husband knows I adore a traditional dish called aji de gallina, but it has loads of dairy in it and I'm lactose intolerant. So one day I came home to find him stirring steaming Lactaid on the stove. Apparently he had been stirring the milk for 30 minutes at that point, evaporating the milk so he could make my favorite dish, which I hadn't enjoyed in many years!
Coffee or tea? I stopped drinking coffee about seven months ago because it made me anxious, though I treat myself to a pumpkin spiced latte when it gets cold! Instead I make chicory root tea, which is herbal and tastes exactly like black coffee! I can drink it late at night with some warm milk and it won't keep me awake, which is a huge win.
Love means...sacrifice, unconditional care, and a full giving of yourself to another.