Did you know that Sprout Studio is the only CRM that has custom pronoun fields in our software? We didn’t feel that simply having this feature was enough, so we set out to help educate photographers on the importance of normalizing pronouns in business.
If you haven’t already, learn why photographers are adding pronouns in their business to better understand the topics discussed here.
To represent the voice of Sprout Studio users, Jules, our Partnership and Outreach Coordinator conducted 5 interviews with photographers who have pronouns throughout their business. Included in those interviews was Natalie Chiles (she/her)…
Who is Natalie?
Natalie Chiles (she/her) comes from a long line of photographers in her family; she describes how she grew up with a darkroom in the basement of her childhood home, often admiring the vintage photos of her mother and aunt that had been captured by Natalie’s grandfather and great-grandfather.
With that influence alongside her natural creativity, it’s no wonder that Natalie’s portfolio is filled with stunning images of the families and children she’s captured over the last 10 years of her career. Whether she’s shooting headshots or senior portraits, Natalie describes her style of photography as timeless, in-the-moment, and true to life – and we most definitely agree.
Now when she’s not in her studio taking portraits, you can usually find Natalie spending quality time with her husband and 3 children, or at home practicing music. Natalie’s other creative passions are also a huge part of her story; before she moved to San Diego, she taught music for 13 years:
“California is such an epicenter for the arts and yet the education system is not. I was a teacher in California for nine of those 13 years and I got pink-slipped for seven of them.”
Although she didn’t leave teaching with the intent of opening a photography business, Natalie says she felt drawn to pursue her creative passions again after she became a mother. Photographers seem to run in her family, so Natalie says she’s not surprised that photography is what she gravitated toward, or that it ended up becoming her career in the end.
When we asked Natalie why she wanted to participate in the Pronoun Project, she answered:
“I was super excited to hear about this project with Sprout just because I’ve always been super pleased with how everybody tackles things head-on, Sprout doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics, or the challenging topics, or the new topics. So I just love being on the front end of that stuff and making sure that I’m doing everything that I can, and should be doing.”
The Power of Pronouns
Though she’s no longer teaching music, Natalie still spends a lot of her days with students and teachers as a school photographer. She says pronoun use is becoming more normalized, oftentimes even expected in schools, but progress comes with growing pains that must also be expected:
“People my age and older, I think are the people who really have to work hard to shift their thinking and you know, kind of just go with it.”
She recalls a recent experience while photographing at a high school:
“The teacher says the first [person] I’m sending in, they’re going by they/them. And that person came in and gave me a completely different name, which I totally just rolled with. Then the teacher came back and said, did she show up? And I said yes they did.”
“The school they are attending is in a very conservative area…there are definitely groups of homophobic and other phobic kinds of people. I really feel for those kids that aren’t going to a place where they’re completely accepted by everybody around them.”
Why are pronouns important in business?
Natalie understands the importance of being proactive and wants to ensure her business is a welcoming place for all humans to feel safe. She feels that adding her pronouns throughout her website and social media helps to bring an added layer of confidence for potential clients to work with her:
“They’re not going to have to worry about anything regarding any part of how they present themselves to the world. I’m all about opening myself up to making sure people understand that I’m an accepting person and accepting business.”
“Just having your pronouns listed is like a beacon of “I’m a safe person. I get you.”
Natalie feels allyship begins with awareness and un-learning our current way of thinking, while also staying open to learning from the experiences of others. Because she works with so many different families and groups of kids, Natalie says having conversations with parents who have transgender or non-binary children and listening to their stories has been eye-opening for her:
“Not only navigating that with and for your child, but also the reactions of everyone around you. How they accept or don’t accept what’s going on. It makes my heart ache for kids who have to not only figure themselves out but also figure out how to handle people’s unnecessary comments.”
Natalie touches on why it’s important to normalize pronoun use in our everyday lives as well, sharing how it’s part of an ongoing conversation with her own kids:
“My youngest has a transgender friend and she also has a non-binary friend who recently started using they/them. It was really interesting because I didn’t know that, so I asked my daughter, have you talked to this friend, how is she doing? And my daughter goes, ‘oh actually Mom, this friend wants to go by they/them,’ and I was like, oh that’s so great, I didn’t know that. And she said ‘neither did I but they told me and now I’m just working really hard.’
“It was really cute because she’s 10, so just seeing your own kid go through that shift of okay, I gotta really think about this and it’s gonna be really hard for a while.
“And we talked about what it means and my daughter just said ‘I think it’s great that they felt comfortable enough to tell me and I just want my friends to tell me when they want those changes’. And I said that’s exactly what you need to be, the friend who kids can be themselves with and feel accepted.”
“Who we are as people, who we are as individuals, and what we offer to the world is enough.”
To help someone better understand the importance of pronouns, Natalie says that she relates to the world best through music, so she first recommends listening to the song You Matter To Me.
“The lyric that stands out the most is ‘you matter to me, simple and plain and not much to ask from somebody.“
“Why does somebody dye their hair or why does somebody pierce their ears? If that’s what they want to do, it’s a choice that people make and we have to honor it. Who we are as people, who we are as individuals, and what we offer to the world is enough.
So if someone wants to use different pronouns because they don’t feel that “she” or “he” is the right fit for them, who are we to say that’s wrong?”
When asked what she hopes readers will take away from this interview, Natalie said:
“Just keep doing the best that you can and correct yourself if you make a mistake. I’ve found people are willing to be very gracious. We just have to keep practicing.”
“And I hope people don’t have any questions in their minds that I am safe, I am accepting, and I really just want to get to know who you are and take some great pictures of you. I think acceptance and love are what it’s all about.”
“Keep doing the best that you can and correct yourself if you make a mistake. We just have to keep practicing.”
Other Impactful Stories
Check out our other interviews with equally inspirational, yet beautifully unique stories about pronoun use and gender identity!