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'I'm A Mom and Wife First': For Sarasota Photographer, Focus Is On Family During Pandemic

Photographer Sylwia Ok and her "assistant" daughter Sophie.
Sylwia Ok
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences.

Today, we meet Sylwia Ok from Sarasota.

The professional photographer opened a new studiojust four months before the pandemic temporarily closed her business.  In her own words, Sylwia shares her story of navigating a business during the stay-at-home order and the joy of being able to spend more time with her young daughter.

"The first two weeks of staying home were definitely the most challenging. I'm a mom and a wife first and business owner and professional photographer close second. My daughter Sophie was at preschool full time before the pandemic. On March 18 th I had my last session in my studio and with the way things were progressing with coronavirus in Florida, my husband and I decided to keep Sophie home. At that time, all my remaining March and April projects got postponed for a later date. To be honest, the sudden change was scary. We moved to Sarasota only last summer and my commercial studio in Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park has only been open here since November...

Military life surely has taught us how to adapt to those changes. My husband has been serving in the US Coast Guard for 27 years. With that--we moved every three, four years and we had to start our lives over so many times. He retired last summer and we were thrilled to finally have our forever home. With his current job he works pretty much normal business hours away from home and it was me who stayed home with our active toddler during the day. Being a mom is definitely one of the hardest jobs on the planet. But I'm very grateful for the time I had with my little girl and we try to get the most out of it. I'll probably be a millionaire if I could put a dollar in a jar every time she called mommy...

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My business can finally operate with some limitations. I'm starting scheduling outdoor summer and fall sessions--both can be done safely with proper distancing in local parks, on the beach, or even outside my clients' houses. I have no doubt that the commercial side of my business will rebound soon, but it's still uncertain what the future holds for one of my favorite parts of family portraits. Newborn portraits have  always been my favorite, but they can only be done in a very short time frame, which is usually the first one or two months when a baby is born. You simply can't take this time back and recreate them later in life. To help new parents, I created a complimentary PDF and parents can download that guide from my website...

All my consultations with clients and regular networking events have been canceled for obvious reasons and we all switched to online zoom meetings. I often attend those with my little assistant Sophie sitting on my lap, something I couldn't do before the pandemic. Quite often she's the one that gets all the attention from the group and literally steals the show."

This story is produced in partnership with America Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.