What Happens When Storytelling Photographer Meets Health Chef at ModernWell
From the start, ModernWell’s mission has been to create an environment where women are not only discovering their best selves but also supporting the work of one another.
That mission is unfolding and lighting up each day here in our vibrant co-working haven like a garden of luminous blooms.
Take, for example, Emily Maxson, a trained chef and health coach, and Belén Fleming, a photographer and visual brand strategist. Their new collaboration exemplifies the boundless opportunities available when you bring together a growing pool of diversely talented women like we have at ModernWell.
Emily wasn’t exactly sure what her focus would be when she joined ModernWell. “I had taken a break for four years from my detox business. But now that I’m almost an empty nester, I felt ready to get back into something in the health and wellness industry,” she said. “I had a lot of ideas that I needed to flush out and research. ModernWell was the perfect place to figure it out.”
Her first goal was to create a blog, Emily’s Fresh Kitchen, featuring recipes primarily for people with dietary restrictions but that could also be enjoyed by anyone.
In 1998, Emily was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and had surgery to remove part of her intestines. Over the next ten years, she struggled with digestive issues, abdominal pain, and fatigue until she got back into the kitchen again and started experimenting with new ingredients.
“I found healing with dietary changes, and I wanted to share that,” Emily said.
To effectively launch her blog, however, she needed a photographer. Because what’s a food blog without mouthwatering photographs?
Naturally, she browsed the ModernWell Community board and discovered Belén Fleming, the woman behind the lens at Belu / PHOTOGRAPHY, based in Excelsior, MN.
Many of us have come to know Belén for her professional headshot sessions offered to ModernWell members onsite, taking advantage of the floor-to-ceiling natural light, which Belén describes as “literally heaven for a photographer.” Her portfolio also includes families, newborns, lifestyle, and personal branding.
But she’s so much more than a photographer. First and foremost, she’s a storyteller (and a mother to a 5-year-old and 2-year-old!).
“I see people and I see their stories. I see chapters unfolding and I pay attention to how all of the pieces connect - whether it’s an individual, a product, or a family in front of my lens, there is always a story that needs to be told,” Belén said.
When Emily and Belén first sat down to meet at ModernWell, it was instant chemistry. And now while Emily is at home whipping up recipes for her blog, Belén is there with her camera asking questions to get to the stories behind them.
“Food is a connector to your past and memory,” said Belén. “It can instantly take you back, for example, to when you were 10-years-old sitting on a pier on the outer banks of North Carolina eating Blue Crabs in your bathing suit and a beach towel. So, I always try to dig in to understand the associations Emily has with her recipes.”
Prior to becoming a full time photographer, Belén worked in brand marketing and before that she worked in the wine business. Because of her background, she is also now helping Emily with visual Instagram strategy.
“It’s felt great to have this opportunity to try something new and to learn together,” said Belén, who says she has been photographing the experience of food forever with her phone but never for commercial purposes.
“It’s been a great collaboration,” Emily said. “I’ll tell her my vision. She gives me her input. Then we figure it out together.”
When asked about their advice for women launching businesses, here’s what they had to say:
“Most of us have two voices going on in our heads: The voice of truth saying you can do this and your ideas are valuable. And the voice of lies saying you can’t do this. We have to learn to listen to our true voice.
Also, meet with people in your field. Take them out for coffee or lunch. They’re happy to share their experiences. Glean bits of information from each of those meetings, and then keep moving forward with little steps.”
“The biggest piece missing for me in the beginning was that I forgot that it really takes time to build your new network. It’s not a six-month thing or a year thing. For me, it’s been two years building the foundation and building new relationships. I finally now feel like the wheels are turning and new relationships are forming (also a huge part of the magic of the women at ModernWell)! Allow yourself that space and time to grow, learn, and change—but don’t give up. Like Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.”