Haverlee Colyer (Haverlee Photography)

headshot from joey.jpg

Haverlee is a mom of three boys, an avid reader, and a gifted photographer. While her photography is stunning, I think her outlook on the world is just as beautiful. 

Photo courtesy of Joseph Leaming  

Over this past year, I've watched as your photography business has grown into something quite special. I can't imagine how rewarding that must feel to you. 

It still feels very surreal. I remember just two years ago when I got my first inquiry for a photo shoot from someone I didn't know personally. That felt like a huge deal!

Honestly, every time I see an email come through from my website contact form, it gives me a little thrill of excitement. I don't think I'll ever be that person who expects people to choose me but I'm so honored when they do. It took a handful of years to finally start producing work I'm really proud of. I'm definitely not where I want to be yet but I imagine I'll never stop striving for the next best version of my work. To have something I've built all on my own (with a little help from my fellow photog friends and my God-given gifts) that's beginning to find its footing in the Des Moines market is definitely very rewarding.

Most of my life feels like a hot mess with a side of disaster. Being a single mom of three kids, working full time, and running this business on the side leaves my head spinning. My life has been reduced to the basics. I try my best to focus on the important stuff and have let go of SO much in the process. And I often feel like a failure in a lot of areas. But for whatever reason, this business continues to grow and people continue to book me and it leaves me humble and grateful to experience such tangible success in one area of my life. 

I think one of the challenges of being a Midwesterner is finding beauty in these ordinary places we call home. But I see from your work that we do have beauty here. Is it difficult to find?

I really believe seeing beauty around you has so much more to do with your heart and attitude than the actual scenery itself. I just read a quote by Jeff Buckley, "I have no advice for anybody except to, you know, be awake enough to see where you are at any given time, and how that is beautiful...even places you hate."

I've tried to train my eye to focus on the dancing sunlight on the kitchen floor rather than the dirt and crumbs collecting in the corner. This is essential to my life and to my business. Of course I wish jaw-dropping backdrops of mountains and rushing rivers were right outside my door. But I photograph people. People's faces and the way they connect with each other is so beautiful to me. So the backdrop really isn't the most important piece for me anyway.

Iowa has a simple and quiet beauty. I love our rolling fields in the country that are vivid green against a blue sky in summer and gold against a gunmetal gray sky in winter. And our magnificent sunsets can't be beat. And I love that I'm forced to be slightly more creative than some other photographers living in places with grandiose beauty in nature.

Instagram is where I first became aware of you and your work. What did IG teach you about speaking to and engaging with your audience?

I am passionate about written word and stories. The more I shared the real and raw version of what was happening in my life, the more people were interested in connecting. We get the buffed up shiny version of things way too often. Magazines, movies, or carefully curated Instagram feeds of people who have way more money and time than we do are everywhere. People crave a little authenticity and the opportunity to say, "me too".

I am a messy, flawed, insecure person who's slowly growing into my own voice and skin. Life is so very hard and simultaneously breathtakingly beautiful. The minute I stopped keeping all the ugly bits tucked in and hidden away was when I gained beautiful friendships with other messy, creative, passionate people. I'm still trying to figure out how to translate some of these components into my photography, whether it's sharing more stories about the people in front of my lens, or taking more photos that aren't perfectly posed but stir up emotion. I know I'll keep evolving and find my clear voice in my art over time.

I noticed you have a pay-what-you-can package for single parents. Why did you decide to offer that as an option?

I've been blessed tremendously over the last few years as a single parent by people who've come into my life and helped me in some way. My first camera upgrade was given to me as a gift by a dear friend as I was trying to build a photography business with almost no money to my name. Any chance I have to pay it forward, I do. I hold all of this loosely. I know all too well the things we value come and go. But I believe it's the way we love people along the way that will have some lasting impact.

Being a single parent is so hard. The pressure is crushing some days. I don't have much to give these days but I do have this very easy way I can bring some happiness and levity into the life of another single mom. I leave every session feeling energized and filled up so it ends up being a gift to me too. 

Last question: describe your ideal Saturday morning in Des Moines.

Sleeping in, not wearing pants until noon, and brunch. That really sums up my life goals: make enough money so I can sleep in and eat brunch every day. Thankfully Des Moines has so many great spots that serve brunch on the weekends. I don't care where I brunch as long as it involves bacon.

I also splurge on Horizon Line coffee on the weekends. I drink tea all week long and look forward to that oat milk vanilla latte (always hot) on Saturday. If it's a weekend I have my kids, I fry up eggs and bacon at home and we find some sort of adventure for the late afternoon. My kids are at such fun ages and life feels simple and sweet on Saturdays.

photo courtesy of  Austin Day

photo courtesy of Austin Day