Mitzi Starkweather: Beauty Behind The Lens

Mitzi Starkweather, with her camera

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no one illustrates it better than Mitzi Starkweather. Mitzi celebrates beautiful women with her camera, but it’s the beauty of her own soul behind the lens that enables her to see and capture beauty in others.

With her husband and business partner, Jordan, Mitzi turned her love of photography and love of beauty into a thriving business in women’s portraiture. Her clients adore her, and it’s easy to see why. She exudes warmth and confidence, enough to make even the most self-conscious, camera-shy woman relax and smile. Including me.

My first engagement with Mitzi was for portraits with my mother and sister. We had just received the devastating news that Mom had an aggressive cancer, and we wanted mother/daughter portraits to capture our memories together. The diagnosis turned out to be wrong — hallelujah! — but I’m glad the scare prompted us to act. The portraits froze a moment in time and captured our joy in each other. They are a source of daily joy.

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Norma Bartosh

I went to see Mitzi again recently for new branding photos, since my hair has now fully transitioned to its natural gray (that story here). This time was even more fun. Mitzi inspires me! I have artistic dreams of my own, so her success in turning an art form into a thriving business intrigues me. She seems to possess some kind of magic juju, but maybe it’s just a potent blend of creativity, business savvy and authenticity. I wanted to know more.

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Aileen Gronewold

early passion

Mitzi’s creative spark was evident early in her life. When she and her sister, Natalie, made movies in the basement. Mitzi always led design, production and filming, whereas her sister played the leading role, usually a villain, with all the requisite drama. As adults, their careers landed in exactly those roles. Mitzi feels right at home as the creative producer behind the lens while her sister continues to create and perform.

A move to Houston, TX at age 16 upended Mitzi’s world. Leaving friends and everything familiar caused her anxiety and sadness. Bouts of depression that started in her early teens intensified. In spite of the difficulties, however, the years in Houston held a silver lining. In her junior and senior years, Mitzi took a black and white photography class that fueled her passion, strengthened her skills, and gave her a vital mentor. By the time she entered college, she knew she wanted a career in photography.

finding her groove

In 2014, as a newly married college grad, Mitzi found herself back in Joplin, ready to launch her business. Armed with all the technical skills, she set out to succeed by the book. After dabbling in newborn and wedding photography, she found her passion in modern glamour. In a fortuitous merger of preparation, skill and opportunity, Mitzi found the calling she never imagined — empowering women.

“Things really clicked for me when I got to the point where I truly believed the things I was telling my clients,” she said. “I would tell them, ‘Oh, you’re beautiful, just as you are.’ Finally, I began to believe that about myself.”

Facing 30 candles on her cake this year, Mitzi turns reflective.

“I feel like I spent my teens and 20s trying to be someone else,” she mused. “Lately it feels like I’m coming back to who I really am.”

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Taylor Dunham

Mitzi radiates that deep vibe of self love to her clients. As a self-described “recovering awkward person,” she truly understands each woman’s fear and self doubt. Some take more coaxing than others, but she encourages them to get out of their own heads and just BE. One of her superpowers is listening.

Before a client steps in front of the camera, she receives the care and attention of an expert hair and make-up stylist. During this time, Mitzi chats with her to better understand her ideas and concerns.

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Glamour

“It can be really hard for women to say what they want and need,” Mitzi said. “I give them permission to give voice to something they may not have even considered.”

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Mother/Daughter Glam

The reward for pouring into her clients comes at the portrait reveal. And it never gets old for Mitzi. Without fail, there are gasps. And tears. And sighs. Each woman discovers how beautiful she really is, after seeing herself through Mitzi’s lens.

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Glamour in Charge

Feeding her creative spirit

Art never sits still. It’s like a growing puppy {minus the pee on your carpet} or a curious toddler. It simply must be fed. Mitzi identified three loves that fuel her creative juices: bad movies, travel and thrift shops.

Cinema in general inspires Mitzi, especially films from the Hollywood glamour era, but she’s particularly drawn to the artistic Oscar nominees and the more obscure, low budget films. Besides the entertainment value, sitting in awe of the masterful cinematography or laughing at each cringe-worthy B-movie scene helps her better understand which artistic choices work and which don’t.

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Hollywood Glamour
Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Boudoir Glam

Mitzi describes herself as someone on an endless quest for beauty. That quest takes her to romantic places like London and Paris, but also to unexpected places like the local thrift shop. The artist trains her eye to see beauty in unexpected places, so naturally the discovery of this neglected red gown in a thrift store prompted a fabulous photo shoot on the Oregon coast!

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Glamour on the Oregon Coast

giving back

Mitzi’s business success lies in her genuine connections with people. She expresses her gratitude with open hands, sharing her talent by supporting causes in the community. Each year, she donates her talent to the Lafayette House’s fundraiser, Ooh, La Lafayette, as one more way to empower women.

Mitzi Starkweather Photography: Ooh, La Lafayette Event

Mitzi also gives back by mentoring. Deeply grateful for the mentors who continue to shape her life and career, she feels compelled to pay it forward by investing in others. She truly believes the old saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

advice for dreamers

I asked Mitzi what words of wisdom she might offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs. Without hesitation, she offered these tips:

  • The skill has to be consistent. Hone your craft.
  • The rest is self value. If you want others to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.
  • Serve people well.
  • Design your deliverable so it hits your passion. Do what you love.
  • Get over your fear of failure. It happens to all of us. Just keep going.

Whether you’re looking to capture a special event in your life, or for no special reason at all, I encourage you to make a date with Mitzi. What better time to support local small business than this difficult pandemic season? Check her out at mitzistarkweather.com. I promise you won’t be sorry!

Want to see more? Follow Mitzi on Facebook @ Mitzi Starkweather Photography or on Instagram @ mitzistarkweather.

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