Katharine Haring is a photographer and administrative assistant at Shark Shredding Inc. living in Tinley Park, IL – she never thought she’d be photographing portraits, but she loves working with people, learning their stories and capturing their memories. Read on to learn the major life lessons two life-threatening health events taught her first-hand, why Germany is her favorite place and the next thing she’s going to teach herself!

** All photos courtesy of Katharine Haring (and taken by, where noted).

Sunset selfie Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - Katharine Haring Photographer in Chicago
Photo taken by Katharine Haring.

Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are now.

I started taking photography classes in high school and decided to pursue it in college. I attended Northern Michigan University and graduated with a bachelor’s of fine arts in art & design, photography. I honestly never thought I would be photographing portraits, but discovered my love for working with people, learning their stories and capturing their memories.

I initially worked for a large studio and realized that while it was a great start, I felt like I was drained creatively most days, and decided to look for something closer to home, as well as, to pursue my business more on the side. Now at Shark Shredding, I still get to use my design and photography skills while also using some of my other skills. In my free time, I love to get on the lake up at the cabin in my kayak and take in all the beauty nature has to offer. Nature is something I connect with and helps me reset and clear my head.

Epic views - Katharine Haring Photographer in Chicago

What made you want to pursue your profession/area of focus?

Photography is something I can remember falling in love with young. I remember my grandmother going on her trips and showing me all the beautiful photos along the way with the little trinkets she brought home for us. I mostly remember when our family got our first digital camera and just always wanting to document with it when our family went places. In high school, I fell in love with the process of working in the darkroom – developing your own image and the art and time that goes into it. My passions also encompass using my photography skills to give back to things I am passionate about, like volunteering with and bringing more awareness to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

“I fell in love with the process of working in the darkroom – developing your own image & the art + time that goes into it.”

What gets you excited to wake up every day?

The fact that each day is something new, which means 24 hours of new chances and possibilities.

What’s the best/most important thing you’ve learned or taught yourself? Why?

This is a loaded and emotional question for me. I have learned some of the most valuable and important life lessons through some extremely eye-opening personal experiences. Up until I was 21, I had never even really thought about death (for myself); I had experienced others’ losses and my own family losses, but hadn’t considered the fact that I could go. A few weeks after I had turned 21, I was dying and no one knew it. A few trips to the ER – a misdiagnosis or two – and on my third trip to the ER in 2-ish weeks, a nurse practitioner figured it out. I had been clotting, primarily all throughout my lungs.

After this, I realized I really needed to start living my life, so I just kept telling myself to “Live Infinitely” – to live my best life, despite any challenges that may come, to be less afraid to take a leap of faith, to take each day and live my life to its fullest and just be thankful for each breath I get to take. A few years after that experience, I got sick again. I was lethargic, out of it, and not feeling myself for weeks. I can’t pinpoint exactly how long. I was forgetful (not like me) and I could barely even stay awake at work some days. I went in and my doctor noted I had high levels of calcium in my blood. After further appointments with specialists, a terrible biopsy, and a wonderful second opinion from another specialist, they found nodules on my thyroid and parathyroid glands, which had caused things to go completely out of whack. I ended up having surgery to remove what was necessary (as it can eventually lead to death) and once again, learned life is truly precious and that you really have to take each day and be thankful for each breath.

It has become important to me to continue to just live my life the way I see fit, continue to listen to my body when I’m feeling off, and to give back to others as much as possible. When I say give back, I don’t always mean monetarily either. I serve in many shapes and forms: bringing awareness to groups I am passionate about, sending a virtual treat to a friend afar, dropping off a coffee before work to a local friend who may need it that day, volunteering my time, and many other things. I have learned to take the time to explore locally and internationally. And truly, to live life and take each breath peacefully and thankfully.

What’s the next thing you’re going to learn or teach yourself? Why?

As a creative person, I find therapy in using creativity. I have been continuously learning calligraphy and hand lettering over the past year. My previously Instagram-only-turned-real-life friend, Delaina Doshi, is a local calligrapher; I took a few of her classes and have fallen in love. I am still definitely learning and have a lot of practice to do. During the recent quarantine, Delaina hosted happy hours on Wednesdays, teaching the basics of hand lettering and practicing words. It is something I ended up clinging to on the days where I needed a creative release, writing random names or words across paper. I want to keep learning and strengthening this skillset!

“I serve in many shapes and forms: bringing awareness to groups I am passionate about, sending a virtual treat to a friend, dropping off coffee before work to a friend who may need it that day, volunteering my time, & many other things.”

Do you have advice for finding a strong mentor/ building a relationship with one?

I was lucky to have found my first two mentors in college and continue to keep in contact with one, as the other passed away a year and a half ago. Both Lindsay and Carl were pivotal in teaching, strengthening, and broadening my leadership skills. They were not just singularly mentors though, they became lifelong friends. I still look up them and their accomplishments. Lindsay is a big reason for who I am today and definitely always found ways to challenge my mind while teaching me valuable lessons.

As for finding a local mentor in my post-collegiate life, I have met a few photographers through the wedding studio I worked for. My biggest advice is to ask questions. Look for local chapters of the things you are interested in and align with your beliefs, join a local Chamber of Commerce and go to their events to meet others in your field. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to form a bond, ask questions, and learn from your connections.

I would consider even my current employers mentors. The two of them built a business with a lot of grit and sweat. They have told me their stories from early on and I have learned more about networking, what it takes to stay consistent, and what it takes to continue to build a business while also supporting me as I build mine. I have learned so much from them – their guidance even helped me through my first bid and contract with First Midwest Bank last summer. 

Favorite resources for ongoing learning?

Creative Live has great classes to continue learning and – as odd as this may sound – I have learned a lot from Facebook. I am in a few local groups for photographers – within those groups you can ask questions, see how others shoot certain things, and get pointers and critiqued on your work.

What’s your favorite spot where you currently live & why?

Snowshoeing in the winter Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - Katharine Haring Photographer in Chicago

I’m not sure I necessarily have one favorite place. I deeply connect through my senses and memories and can close my eyes to visualize most all of my memories. Something I have done many times over the years that I still love to do when I need to clear things out is what we called “Country Cruises”.

Growing up on the edge of the south suburbs also meant I wasn’t far from dirt roads and wide-open spaces. There were many nights we would drive with the windows down, blasting all of our favorite songs. Sometimes we’d end up hanging out on the back of some old dirt road watching the stars, sometimes we’d end up in a small town along a river and listened to the water making its way down stream. I feel like I’ve connected with nature for a long time, which is probably also why I loved going to university up on Lake Superior surrounded by miles and miles of woods and love going to Brad’s family cabin now to hike, kayak, and fish. 

Related: escape the city and get into some wide open spaces – check out more things to do in Illinois here!

Out of all the places you’ve been, which has been your favorite and why?

I absolutely loved Germany; it was the first place I traveled primarily solo. I had made friends with some international students at my university, so I went to visit. The two previous times I had been to Europe were class trips in high school so we were constantly on the go, following every tour guide, etc. Germany was different. I stayed with my friends, had home cooked meals with their families, still did the tours I wanted, but got first-hand experience of their favorite places, too. It’s been almost ten years since I was there, and I can’t wait to go back. I also deeply miss my friends who live there and cannot wait to see them in person again one day.

Learn More about Katharine Haring