Annie Varland: Just me.

Imagine this. You’re in the kitchen making dinner and you’re boiling water to cook something. You have some good music on and the kids are playing nicely in the other room. The water is almost there – you can see the little bubble starting to creep up from the bottom of the pot, but it’s not really boiling quite yet. Then from the other room, you hear a loud crash. Instinctively you turn off the burner and put the pot on a cool part of the stovetop. The water will just have to wait. The cries coming from the other room tell you that right now, even though everyone will need dinner soon, the mess is what needs tending to.

That’s pretty much what my life was like in 2016… Toby and I were separated. I was working as a Certified Nursing Assistant full-time at a local hospital and was in school full-time as well. My life was legitimately a hot mess. Instead of being a cornerstone of my life as it had been for so many years, photography became something that I had to put on the back burner. I still did some sessions here and there and I cannot even begin to thank those clients who stuck with me through the hot mess. You allowed me to hold onto a piece of something I love very much and I can’t thank you enough. I carry you guys in a special place in my heart.

Once the dust began to settle and I took stock of my “new normal”, I realized that photography was too important for me to give up on completely. I needed it in my life even if it wasn’t to the same degree as it had been. I knew to make that possible I would need my own little corner of the Internet. I wanted a place to share the work that I was doing, write if I wanted, and generally keep alive my love of capturing life… a passion that has been a huge part of me since I was in grade school. The hang up was this: I needed a new name. Something in my heart hurt when I thought about keeping Love in Real Life. Sure, I was still drawn to the meaning behind it, but it was a brand that we’d built around our marriage that was now falling apart. It brought me more sadness than joy and I needed a change. I thought about something simple – just Annie Varland – because really at the heart of my business was… well… me. My clients come back year after year because of the way I see the world and the way my heart is in every photograph that I take. They come back because they’ve gotten to know me over the years and knew that despite my world collapsing, I was doing my best to still pursue my passion for the art of documenting love. It seemed to make sense except for one thing: I didn’t know if my name would always be Annie Varland.

At that point Toby and I were on our way to divorce and I just didn’t know if in five or ten or twenty years I would still be a Varland. Sure, I was planning on keeping “Varland” at that point, but what if that changed? What if it became too painful to keep it? What if in ten years I decided to remarry? The idea of rebranding again after putting my heart and soul into Love in Real Life literally brought me to tears. I knew it was something facing me in that moment, but I didn’t ever want to be back in that place again.

So I settled on something that didn’t depend on my last name. I came up with Honey and Waves – a name that I liked a lot. With my love of honey and the ocean, it suited me well. I decided to not overthink things and just went with it. I got a website up and scheduled sessions. Life was… ok.

Fast forward almost two years and my life was changing again. This time, for the better. This time, for good. God healed our family and for a while, we basked in the new status quo.

Once Toby and I had been reconciled for over a year, I started to get that old nagging feeling that something wasn’t right in my corner of the Internet. After leaving school and my job at the hospital to be home with the kids, I was able to pick up more photography work. Now that the kids were older, my flexibility increased exponentially, giving me a new ability to deliver work much faster than I ever had before and prioritize customer service in a way that had been difficult to do with two toddlers running around the house while I worked. But even with all of those good changes, I continued to feel more and more lackluster about using a name that wasn’t actually my literal name.

So here I am. I’m embracing both my journey and my roots, combining little pieces of who I am and where I’ve come from with a simplicity that feels peaceful. My last name is front and center both because I’m committed to keeping it until death do we part and because it’s where we started back in 2007 when Toby and I began Varland Photography. I kept the tree of life from Love in Real Life because it not only continues to represent what I strive to capture, but also me as a person: changing and growing, but with the same roots. I kept the color of the ocean because well… that’s basically where my heart lives. I kept a design that’s simple and straightforward because I’d rather the pictures and words speak for themselves.

This is me… just me… which is kind of perfect because that’s the exact kind of artist I am. I don’t want formal or posed. I don’t need styled. I don’t want overdressed. I don’t need fancy. I don’t want to constantly try to portray myself and my life in the context of a brand. The best things in life are born of authenticity, whether they be photographs, words, or relationships. I’m all about messy buns, leggings, the occasional no-makeup day, and my Birkenstocks. It may not be for everyone, but I’m fine with that. So just know that when you’re meeting me for a shoot, coffee, a chat on my couch, or even a visit to my cozy corner of the Internet… you can just be you. Relax. Breathe. Be peaceful. There’s no judgement here. Just come as you are and I’ll do the same.

Welcome to annievarland.com.

With lots of love,
Annie

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