Shooting the arrangements at her sister’s memorial garden, Monica Sempek felt the gravity of the simple act of recording a moment. Neighbors soon implored her to shoot their own gardens, and as those flowers grew, so did Sempek’s passion and portfolio.
“I was in this middle place where I knew I had a gift, but I didn’t dream a career would come of it,” Sempek said. “I thought God gave me a gift so I could make a difference, then a friend told me ‘no, Monica. God gave you a gift so you could make a living.’”
She began photographing women’s symposiums and conferences, listening to stories of women who had created lives that supported their passions, paid their bills, and made the world a little better for their communities.
“For me, photography is about capturing something really raw,” Sempek said. “I wanted to find the stories people weren’t telling, whether it was a moment they missed during an event, or a whole event that isn’t getting the coverage it deserves. I want to bring people to the experience
It’s a balancing act that Sempek hadn’t even considered before launching her business.
“I started later in life than most, I would say,” Sempek said. “I was 50. I was still thinking, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ It wasn’t what I was doing at the time. It took a while to believe in what was possible, but I think it started with just realizing what I could offer others. If I could offer someone a shot that captured them as they truly are, maybe they would stand a little taller.”
Sempek’s theory was that if you hand a person a little confidence, they could build something. What she didn’t realize was that she was building something of her own in the process.
“I am so proud knowing that people are trusting me with these really intimate stories and moments, that they have faith in me to understand what their story is about,” Sempek said.
Videographers add music or text to tell people how to feel about what they’re witnessing—an endless script explains each nuance. Photographers have the briefest of moments to capture everything, and then it’s gone. Sempek’s ability to tell an entire story with her lens has secured her invitations to Omaha’s most prestigious events, landing her positions not only capturing people’s stories, but finally being given the opportunity to share her own.
“If my journey can inspire one more woman to start creating the life she is being called to, I’ll feel like I’m doing my job,” Sempek said. “Like I’m giving thanks for what I was given.”
The advice she offers anyone who will listen is simple: “Surround yourself with people who lift you up. We can come down on ourselves easily enough, but surrounding yourself with positive, successful people will open doors you didn’t even see there. And you never know when your positive words, your gift, is going to open the door for someone else.”