Alumni Spotlight: Tara Shupe

Graceland alum and professional photographer Tara Shupe `11

There is a reason why people choose to be on one side of the camera and not the other. Peering through her Nikon D810, Tara Shupe ‘11 shies away from being in a photograph and struggles to reveal her accomplishments, but she is finding success capturing the world from the other side of the lens. Freelance photography careers are not very linear, and success comes in surprises. Tara is open to gathering creative energy at every turn and thankful for the broad artistic base she received during her Graceland years.

Tara is sponsored by the well-known Lowepro, a camera bag distributor, which was one of the benchmark accomplishments she set for herself. After working in New York (another benchmark) for a stint, she is based out of Kansas City and works for 435 Magazine and a wide variety of freelance clients.

In high school, Tara got interested in photography but entered Graceland as a business major, thinking it would be a better degree to get a job. She took a Graceland film class from Dennis Piepergerdes ’61 and loved it. She followed her heart and switched to studio art and visual communications.

“I bought a camera on eBay, and it became my voice. I made the majors fit around my photography. It was good because it taught me all the background and design programs. In every project, I used my photos with words, which was actually very realistic to my first job at an ad agency. I was well prepared.”

Tara worked with SIFE (now Enactus) and did an Outreach International internship, for which she traveled out of the country – something she had never experienced before. “Graceland introduced me to humanitarian work, and I don’t think that would have happened if I went somewhere else.” The adventure of travel sparked a different side of learning that she really loved: the planning and working with new groups of people with a clear mission involved. At Graceland, she participated in many different clubs and organizations, which prepared her with a wide variety of experiences.

“So I didn’t go to a photo school where I learned everything about the specific craft. Instead, I got to mess with all these different, creative things that really built up my scope, which made me want to start up our business adventure, Wild Creatives; an idea that is much more than photography. It’s about being creative – in any area – and spending time together with other creative people, celebrating creative energy.”

Tara just returned from India, where she combined three of her passions: working with a nonprofit, traveling and photographing a new culture. While working on an earlier project, Tara met a video photographer from Colorado who shared her humanitarian interests – something her time at Graceland instilled. She invited Tara to be on a team to create materials for a nonprofit. It was a whirlwind trip to the headquarters of Indian Christian Ministries, and Tara stayed on several days to gather photos to add to her portfolio.

Beyond the bread and butter photography shoots, Tara enjoys new adventures in traveling and photography and is capturing the world with her Nikon. Her artistic scope, broadened through Graceland’s influence, helped to prompt her entrepreneurial adventure with Wild Creatives, linking artists of every genre to explore the creative energy when they gather.

“Graceland introduced me to humanitarian work, and I don’t think that would have happened if I went somewhere else.”
~Tara Shupe '11