Since middle school, Chelsea Stockton (’12) has been passionate about photography. After a school project in eighth grade allowed her a unique opportunity to interview a professional photographer, she fell in love with the art and knew that she wanted to continue learning more. In high school, Stockton was co-editor in chief of the yearbook and was taking multiple different photography classes to learn the basics and develop her skills.
“The time I spent in the darkroom really helped me to understand photography,” said Stockton. “My parents bought me my first digital camera in my junior year. I haven’t put a camera down since then.”
When she was accepted at Colorado State University, she joined Rocky Mountain Student Media through the college magazine on campus. Being the few staff photographers and photo editors on the magazine team, Stockton became well-acquainted with the process of digital photography while also studying the history and tradition on photography in her bachelor of fine arts major, concentrating on photo image making and tech journalism.
“Student media really helped me prepare for the real thing,” said Stockton. “The photo program in the art department is more traditional, so it was a good experience for me to learn the digital and more modern side of photography in the magazine.”
When she graduated from CSU in 2012 with a double-major in journalism and media communications as well as photography, she knew that photography was at the forefront of what she wanted to do with her professional career.
Stockton accepted a position at a company where she was using her photo and journalism skills learned at the magazine. However, due to downsizing, Stockton was moved into a sales position where her primary strengths in photography and editing became irrelevant.
“When I got moved to sales I became very unhappy with the job because it was not what I wanted to do at all,” said Stockton. “I kept praying for a sign so I could move on and quit. I just started thinking that if I was going to sell something, I might as well sell my own photo business.”
Within the next week, Stockton was laid off from her position at the company.
Shocked and embarrassed, she didn’t know what to do next. With the versatile skill set she had developed, Stockton decided to take this as a sign to follow her passion and start her own photography business.
While just starting out with this new business, Stockton was approached by a woman in need of a photographer for the Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant in Greeley, Colo. Being such a new business, Stockton jumped at the opportunity. Although she was unfamiliar with the culture of a western lifestyle, she fell in love with photographing the pageant. “It’s become a new hobby of mine and the people have just turned into my family,” said Stockton.
Over time, she made connections with many people involved in the pageant, eventually leading Stockton to her husband. “It’s actually kind of a fairy tale. We met, fell in love, and then got married, which is what brought me down to live in Beulah full time,” said Stockton.
Stockton soon realized the layoff was a blessing in disguise. With the skills she learned in school as well as those in her first job, she was motivated to follow her passion and pursue her photography business. While doing photography work, she also found a fulfilling position through James Enterprise Inc., a company she says goes above and beyond for their employees and a place where she uses her skills daily as a marketing media specialist.
Stockton’s primary role involves photographing products, making videos for various social media channels, and creating marketing designs for the company’s websites. She is also at the forefront of the company’s brand, interacting with customers and growing an online social media community.
“The market was so saturated with people with my degree in northern Colorado, but in southern Colorado, I was very lucky to find my new job,” Stockton noted. “But I wouldn’t have gotten it if it wasn’t for the skills I learned at the job that laid me off in the first place.
“Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, just follow your gut and your heart,” said Stockton. “If you have a feeling that you’re not on the right path, it’s totally okay to change it, no matter how scary it sounds. I ended up with a western fairy tale and I couldn’t be happier that something I thought was so disappointing actually ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.”
The Department of Journalism and Media Communication and the Department of Art and Art History are in Colorado State University’s College of Liberal Arts.