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Conversations with Kaitlynn Polen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaitlynn Polen.

Alright, thank you for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us how you got started?
Photography wasn’t my plan. I graduated from high school in 2015, attended East Carolina University as a political science and international relations double major and started learning Russian. This season of life brought the most adversity I have ever faced. Grief, stress, and trauma had raised my blood pressure so high that in July 2017, I was admitted to the local hospital. I was in active and severe renal failure, and there was a chance I wouldn’t see the other side of it. I lived to tell the story, and picking up the pieces afterward was a long process. I had to start over. I moved back to Maryland and started working two jobs. I was enrolled in classes when I could be. I wasn’t sick anymore, but I wasn’t well, either. Answers came in the form of a few chronic illness diagnoses, and I was finally starting to feel like I wasn’t sprinting to stay in place.

I met my husband, Caleb, shortly after moving back home. Most of my free time up until this point was spent on stage singing, playing music, or telling jokes. I spent the rest of it with a camera in my hands, taking photos for fun or casually for family and friends. I just always wanted to be making art and creating something. I started pursuing photography and planned for it to be something that helped me pay my way through school. It was a side gig while I worked at an oncology institute through the height of the pandemic. Caleb knew I was tired; of doing too much, of patients becoming the best part of my day and not coming back, and of still not having a degree. With my husband’s encouragement, I quit my full-time job in February of 2021 in pursuit of more time to do the things I needed to do for my life to be fulfilling. I had been working and going to school almost non-stop since I was 13, and I needed a break. There were a few hurdles, but I did what I set out to do and became a full-time photographer. I fell in love with it. That year, I earned my first degree from Frederick Community College with my husband, parents, siblings, niece, nephews, and the best friends a girl could ask for in my corner. Immediately after, I enrolled in a university and had my first 4.0 semester. Since then, I’ve traveled abroad for the first time, networked worldwide, and have been to more states than ever before. I started spending more time with friends and family, seeing live music, going to karaoke nights, and experiencing so many things I never had – and I did it all while building The Old Line Collective.

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As a chronically ill business owner, student, and wife with ADHD, the road has been far from smooth. I don’t think we have enough conversations about ADHD in adults. I struggle a lot with deadlines and motivation. Editing, marketing, and answering inquiries are tricky because they require me to sit still and focus for long periods. To be completely transparent, they can be rather monotonous. When you add those tasks to schoolwork, household tasks, and all of the other fun things that come with adulthood and require executive function, I tend to become overwhelmed and let things pile up. I also think most small business owners can struggle with work/life balance. I know I do. With a few exceptions, nobody can replace me when I’m going through something in my personal life, and it’s hard to set boundaries and not spread yourself too thin. Most days, I can’t just call out; if I do, I have twice the amount of work sitting and waiting for me the next day. It’s taken me a lot of time to catch up and keep everyone happy in the past when we’ve had emergencies, a death in the family, or I’ve had a few days where I’m flaring up and feeling pretty ill. In July of this year, my mom was diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma, which forced me to look at how I’m running my days and what I prioritize. I’ve been trying hard recently to start setting boundaries, managing my time better and planning to have more flexibility and structure so that I can meet deadlines, take breaks when needed, and be there for her when she needs me.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I specialize in weddings and elopements and photograph families – mostly maternity. I’m working on a few projects to help grow The Old Line Collective, such as launching a boudoir brand and eventually learning videography. I’m well-known for being out of the box and trying not to do what everyone else does. I take a lot of pride in offering a complete experience for clients and put a lot of effort into bringing their vision to life. I’m always all-in on every session and help with everything from styling clients, providing a client closet, and helping with locations. Recently I learned I’ve become the go-to for boho – so I think I’ve done a pretty good job at building my brand in the 3 years I’ve been a photographer, and I’m proud of it. I call myself a storyteller and most of my galleries are a mix of epic, dramatic shots and captures of the little in-between, raw moments. I live by the idea of leaving people in better condition than I found them, and I can confidently say that I’ve helped many photographers find their place in the industry. I’ve helped many people see that they deserve to be photographed and their lives are worth commemorating. I’m most proud of that.

Pricing:

  • Weddings starting at $2500

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Headshot: Morgan Schrader

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