Photographer Natalie Barrett‘s first paid shoot was the wedding of a dear friend from high school. Years later, Natalie — a Dallas spring show vendor — still cannot believe the friend trusted her and paid her a professional rate to capture that once-in-a-lifetime day. “She had some type of confidence in me that I did not have in myself at that time,” Natalie says. “I am forever grateful for her, because it gave me esteem I didn’t have before. Even though it was really hard, it was so rewarding.”
Natalie grew up in West Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in environmental design, she moved to Dallas to work as an architect. But that wasn’t quite what she felt she needed to do, so she became a missionary, traveling through Central America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. During that time, she took photos of people all over the world, discovering a passion for photography. When she returned to Dallas, she decided to pursue that passion full time, starting with photographing friends’ weddings and building through referrals.
Today, in addition to her wedding photography business, she sells her prints of florals, landscapes and animals under the name Letters to Magnolia. Get to know her a little bit before the show this weekend.
How were you first introduced to Flea Style?
We liked those photos so much, we brought you in to photograph our winter Summit. What was fun for you about the Summit?
The Summit was awesome! I like Flea Style’s passion for bringing creatives together to share expertise. So many times, business seems like a competition, but the Summit is friends guiding friends to success. We need to help each other. I liked all the talk on collaboration, and I loved hearing stories about how people’s businesses came to be and how they grew.
There are a lot of photographers in Dallas. What makes you stand out?
My aesthetic and my workflow, I think. And the way I capture a wedding. People tell me that I have a unique eye. I like to think that when I photograph a wedding, I am not just capturing moments but that I am creating a narrative of someone’s wedding day.
Describe your photography style in three words.
Unforced. Organic. Inviting.
What’s your preferred equipment?
You said “preferred equipment,” not what I shoot. [Laughs.] So I am going to say old, old film cameras. The film medium and old equipment present a really beautiful challenge. You have something really old and worn and maybe or maybe not working correctly, and you are trying to capture something at its best. It’s an odd juxtaposition, and I love the challenge that it presents. It’s not easy to use old equipment — for instance, a 1981 film camera with a light meter. It’s like shooting in the dark, but it’s so magical when you get your film developed. And I really love the waiting — the waiting for the film is fun. It’s like Christmas morning every time I get film.
What’s your dream shoot?
It’s pretty dreamy to shoot in Iceland. I like to shoot anything in Iceland. Especially horses — long-haired horses.
Who is Magnolia? Why are you writing her letters?
Magnolia is my bulldog and my best friend. I made her the mascot of my company because I always think of her when I am traveling and wish I could call her or text her. But, you know, she doesn’t have a phone. So I thought I could write her letters, but she can’t read. But she can see! And so I started taking photos for her.
How did Letters from Magnolia grow out of your photography biz?
I am always traveling and taking pictures that I like just for me. I had the idea to blow up some of my photos and put them on my wall. People would come over and see what I’d done and comment. I realized that the thing I was doing for me, I could also do for other people. The florals I sell on my site now are a project I did with my friend Alicia Rico at Bows + Arrows. I asked her to style some florals for me in a messy, haphazard way and photographed them really up close.
What do people need to know about these huge prints?
The prints are four feet by three feet. They are printed on engineer paper. This is not a fine art print. This is purposeful. Often people are afraid to commit to art, especially big pieces. These pieces make a statement but are so affordable that when you get tired of them, you can move on. You can enjoy it for a while and then give it away or trash it. If you really love it, I also do smaller sizes on deep mat.
What’s your biggest business regret?
The first few years I was working, I was so focused on the work itself that I wasn’t creating relationships with my clients. Now I strive to make those connections and be present for my clients. Maybe that’s the nature of starting a business, but I am now aware that it’s life-giving to me to connect with my clients and have friendships and relationship with the couples I work with.
Best business advice you ever received?
Value your work. And don’t’ compromise style and creativity for what someone else wants.
What’s in the future for your business?
I’ll continue to photograph weddings, and I plan to grow Letters to Magnolia. I recently partnered with AllModern, and I hope to partner with some other big companies and do some real damage this year.
FLEA STYLE SPEED ROUND
Up with the birds or burning the midnight oil?
Neither. I sleep a lot.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee all the way.
Dogs or cats?
Snapchat or Instagram Stories?
Snapchat! You can literally put on Snapchat whatever you want and it fake disappears in 24 hours!
Cookies or cupcakes?
Sunrise or sunset?
Neither. I am asleep. [Laughs.} OK, sunrise because of the colors. People really underestimate the sunrise, because no one is around for them.
Pompom or tassels?
Neither. I am not that kind of girl.