Heather Karp Goldan ’01 Turned Photography into a Career,
While Maintaining Her Family Balance
By Matt Morgan
Parents who approach Heather Karp Goldan ’01 aren’t always sure how to describe what they want out of their child’s photographs. They don’t expect perfection. They’re not concerned with a spotless outfit. They just want their child — their personality, their heart, what makes them them — in a 5 by 7 frame.
Sometimes perfection might be easier, but Heather, owner of Sleepy Owl Studios in Clinton, N.J., loves the challenge. Her photo shoots are informal, more of a play session with the kids than a posed setup in the corner of a department store.
Her camera is secondary, only popping up occasionally as the child runs or grabs for a treasured toy. Then, without anyone knowing, Heather will — click — get the shot that escaped the parents’ vocabulary earlier.
“When I can get that in a picture and the parents say, ‘That’s my child,’” Heather says. “That is the best part for me.”
Lisa Reed Basara ’01 is one of those parents. A Moravian graduate and Heather’s former roommate, Basara has employed her friend to photograph her family twice.
Basara has twin boys, Patrick and Dominic, who were two years old when they had their most recent photo shoot. The brothers are like most boys their age — loud, energetic and hard to corral. The exact client you’d imagine would be most difficult for a photographer.
But 10 minutes into the shoot — right about the time Basara apologized for the 20th time — she remembers Heather calmly looking at her and saying, “Don’t worry. This is what I do.”
Heather has a relaxed nature that puts everyone at ease, Basara explains. She knew how to engage with the boys and make the process fun. Heather even let Patrick take a few photos with her camera.
“What photographer lets you do that?” Basara says.
The results were even better than the experience. Basara cried when she first saw the images. A photo of Dominic, who is autistic, holding his Lightning McQueen toy is her favorite.
“It just completely captured him,” Basara explains. “It still gives me goose bumps.”
ABOVE: While her photography business has thrived, Heather continues to make family and her three boys — Carter, Grant and Landon — a priority.
ABOVE: According to Lisa Reed Basara ’01, Heather has a relaxed nature while photographing children and families that puts everyone at ease.
Three years ago Heather was a stay-at-home mom, a former elementary school teacher who left the classroom to raise her three children. She never planned on rejoining the workforce — she loved being with her kids too much — but a conversation with a friend made her wonder if she could have both.
Heather has always loved taking photos. She grew up using an old Polaroid camera and her interest in photography continued into high school and at Moravian. Despite being a sociology and psychology major at the College, she enrolled in photography classes. She credits Moravian for allowing students to study topics outside their majors, letting them to pursue their own individual interests.
As a mother, Heather was always the one with the camera, scratching the itch by chronicling her children’s lives.
After that conversation, she decided to take photography from a hobby to a career. Within six months she was full time. Today, she’s booked four months in advance and never needs to advertise.
“It’s been an amazing three years,” Heather says. “I never feel like I work.”
Heather is a family photographer, but she’s best known for her work with newborns. Her images are on permanent display at two hospitals, St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem and Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J. She considers it an honor to be involved in such a special time for parents.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Heather’s journey is that her new career hasn’t affected her family life. She purposely schedules her work assignments to ensure that business never comes before time with her boys. And she never misses a special moment, often with her camera in hand.
“My kids are super proud of my business,” Heather says. “I think it’s good for them to see that their mom can be at their games and cook dinners, but also have a great career that other people are proud of and they’re proud of, too.”
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