A vibrant desert landscape leaps at you from the glossy cover of a magazine. Maybe it’s one of Cheyenne Rouse’s many photographs.
Aside from taking a photography class in high school, Rouse is self-taught.
“I have people ask me what school I went to,” she says. “That always boggles my mind since this is who I am. I feel like having a camera in my hand is what I was put on this planet to do. It just feels right and the thought of going to school for it just doesn’t compute with me.”
Born and raised in Miami, Rouse moved to the Southwest after visiting the region with friends in 1989. She has been an Arizona resident for the past 3 years, but her journey wasn’t easy.
Rouse and her twin sister owned a successful design business in Miami, and she had never thought about leaving Florida until that trip.
“When I traveled around northern New Mexico and southern Utah, I was floored by what I saw and knew that I had to live out West,” she says. “The light, the colors, the smells, everything about the Southwest intrigued me, so I went back to Miami and broke the news to my twin sister and family.”
She remembered how photography was her favorite subject in school and decided she would photograph the wonders of the desert.
“My family pretty much thought I had lost my mind and told me I could never make a living as a photographer,” Rouse says. “‘It just isn’t something someone does for a living.’ ‘Watch me,’ I told them.”
In 1989, Rouse began her career purely using film. She enjoyed a steady income in the 90s, and her stock photography was used in magazines, national advertisements, books and more.
But the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed everything.
“After 9/11, the stock photography segment of the business took a real hit, add that to the oversaturation of free and low-cost stock photos that flooded the web, and my income virtually dried up,” she says. “I was in shock since I thought I would be shooting photos for the rest of my life.”
She put down the camera in 2003 and tried her hand at other careers. Rouse became a personal trainer and eventually earned her real estate license, but it was impossible for her to leave her passion forever.
“In 2008, I finally broke down and bought my first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera),” she says. “The red Canon box sat on my kitchen counter for several months before I took the camera out to fiddle with it. Then my new camera and I went on a short trip to Moab, Utah and everything changed. I had found love again, and this time, it was with a digital camera.”
Instead of doing stock photography, Rouse now devotes herself to the fine art segment of the business.
“At one point back in the day, I had ten top stock agencies from around the world representing my work,” Rouse says. “Today, while I don’t actively submit my photos for stock anymore, Getty Images continues to offer some of my older images as stock.”
She plans on doing exhibitions in Scottsdale this winter and will be taking her show on the road in the summer. She has set up a Kickstarter to fund her tour. Supporters will receive limited edition prints of her work. It ends Dec. 5.
“Having owned my own gallery for a few years in Old Town Scottsdale, I am eager to hit the road for the various art shows that I have signed up for and want my freedom back,” she says. “As much as I loved having my own space, it is after all retail, and you have to be there every day. The road is where I thrive and where I create my best work to show with the world.”
Any advice for aspiring photographers?
“I guess my advice would be to never take no for an answer or let anyone tell you that you can’t make a living with your camera,” she says. “This business is ripe with rejection, and unfortunately, the art of photography is not looked upon as highly as it used to be, since pretty much everyone thinks they’re a photographer now. But follow your heart if photography is your true passion. Become savvy at the business and find your niche.”
Connect with Rouse:
Blog - www.CheyenneRouse.com