We had the good fortune of connecting with Cody Sowa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cody, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I spent most of my life, like many of us, thinking that I had to get a certain job in a certain industry based on our society’s traditional gender, social and economic norms. So I’ve been a PGA golf professional, EMT, business coach and consultant and spent a lot of time trying to get on a fire department. While I did fairly well at all of those careers, I always felt like my life was missing something. I didn’t feel fulfilled when I talked about the work I did or the projects I was working on. It was always a job or a career to fund things I was passionate about. Since sometime around 2012, I started to struggle with understanding and embracing my creative side. I tried for years to just apply my creative and ‘outside the box’ mindset to the work I was doing and it was almost never well received in a traditional corporate environment. I lost count of the amount of times that I heard the business growth killing phrase, “We do it this way because that’s the way we’ve always done it and it’s worked for us thus far.” To be fair, it’s a great strategy for keeping a business going when the industry and/or society isn’t adapting and changing. Once you have a strategy that’s given successful outcomes, why would you fix something that’s not broken? Thankfully and sadly our lives, and the way we interact within it, are changing constantly and quickly. So successful strategies need to be broken down on a regular basis and adjusted in order to remain successful. After years of painful internal and external creative battles, I decided to put my artistic side to the test and started doing photography on the side. After a short time, I realized that I was showing up to my desk job and daydreaming about my next photoshoot. I secretly researched and studied photography concepts, lighting techniques and planned photo challenges on every break from work that I had. I loved that I found something that had no form of perfection. There was always something, and still is, new to learn. No two photographers take the same picture, even if they’re standing in identical spots. There was no “right way” but somehow plenty of wrong ways. That concept alone still intrigues me to this day. I see so many amazing photographs every day and know that I’d take that same photo in a completely different way and it would look entirely different. Photography was beautifully simple and complex, all at the same time. It’s both easy and incredibly difficult. I love that. I live for that. I also realized that I live for the excitement a well shot photo gives a person. I don’t do drugs, but I can’t imagine a better high than that.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What separates me from most photographers is the combination of customer service and up front pricing. When I got into the industry and researched other photographer’s pricing, I found that there were a lot more hidden costs than you’d expect. Galleries were delivered with a maximum amount of images and if you wanted more images, you’d have to pay extra. Many (not all) photographers are primarily artists and have been most of their lives. I started out in the business world as a consultant and coach, so I tend to operate more as half artist and half business minded. For example, the average gallery delivery time for a wedding is about 8-10 weeks after the event. I aim for 3 weeks or less and put it into my contracts. Couple’s are excited to see and show off their wedding photos and I aim to get them to them while they’re still riding the high of being newlyweds.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If a friend came to visit for a week, I’d probably hook up the teardrop trailer and take them to the remote parts of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona to experience the magic of the desert southwest. I’d plan a vague itinerary of visiting a few National Parks and Grand Staircase Escalante, but leave plenty of room for spur of the moment side-adventures. Anyone can fly into to denver and look up the hundreds of articles of the cool and hip spots to eat and drink at, but seeking out the remote and quiet parts of the most beautiful landscapes our country has to offer…… how can you beat that!?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people that deserve shoutouts in my journey. Picking one person, group, book, etc. seems unfair. So I guess I’ll go a slightly different route. I’d give a lot of credit to my Cancer experience for my growth (pun intended) and motivation. I’m a stage 3 pleomorphic sarcoma survivor and had a very difficult treatment plan. While the entire experience was incredibly painful, stressful and almost deadly, it also helped me put a lot of things into a more clear focus for me. While many of us know and have uttered the phrase “life is short,” the majority of us don’t fully understand that phrase in its entirety. My life was almost cut short at 35 and came out of nowhere. I was healthy and very active at the time. Just like 2020 and COVID have shown us, it’s not just sick and unhealthy people that expire too early. After my realization that life is short and can also be even shorter than expected, I decided to go all in on my dream and passion. If not now, then when? Will there be time to chase that dream later? Who knows…. So here I am, 2 years out from treatment. My hair has grown back and my life has returned to (mostly) normal. I’m a full-time portrait/wedding/event photographer who gets to be creative and plowing my own way through this entrepreneurial journey. There are friends, mentors and groups to help along the way, but so much of this is on my own. It’s a weird path to be on, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!