We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanne Csakany and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Joanne, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
In 2008 I received a phone call while at work. I had been in a meeting just prior and had heard my phone ringing several times. My Dad didn’t say hello, just 8 words.

Jessica died in a car accident this morning.

It’s so crazy, you hear of others’ life-changing moments of loss. Where they are in denial and they stutter not knowing what to say. But then when it’s your moment, you find yourself in disbelief not knowing how to accept this new reality. Jess was my younger sister, we were four years apart. Jess was 28. She died instantly when her neck broke as she was ejected from the vehicle. The toxicology report was clean. We still don’t know what happened or why.

The day before her funeral I saw a monarch butterfly fly to me, circle my head and then flutter away. I knew in my heart it was a sign from my sister that she was free and in her most beautiful state… the kind with wings. She drew butterflies as a kid on the cement all the time and was wearing a boho butterfly ring the day she died, one of the wings broke in the accident. The next day was her funeral and my dad asked me to get a few items of her for him to keep, one was her church Bible. Jess wasn’t religious, but she had been staying at a religious women’s shelter when she died that was known for helping women escape toxic relationships and substance abuse. I took the Bible, and opened it on the way home, to my surprise as I flipped through the pages, I saw a 2×2 inch piece of paper with a monarch butterfly on it and her writing below, “the change of life.”

To me, this inexplicable sign meant something… and so monarch butterflies have followed me around along with the symbolism of metamorphosis. So much so in that, I was in a documentary that has traveled the globe about monarch butterflies and how they ironically appear sometimes after a loved one has passed. The documentary is called Muerte es Vida.

At that time I was working in marketing with my Graphic Design/Fine Arts Degree. I had been doing photography on the side for about 7 years, mostly working weekends and when I could fit it into my already demanding full-time career. It was a dream I wanted to pursue and eventually make a full-time job, but I was too afraid.

Loss changed all of that. Of course like most I went through a period of different emotions that are all tied to loss. And about a year after the funeral, I decided that life was short and unpredictable… that I start living more intentionally. Part of that required me to stop sitting pool-side on my dream career. So on May 10, 2010, I left corporate America and began my own full-time photography business. My logo and branding of course.. a monarch butterfly in honor of my sister.

Pain happens to all of us. Loss happens to all of us at some point as well. What do we do with it? Do we lay down in our pain or use it as fuel? The hero and the villain are really the same people, they both experienced something tragic that changed them, the difference just does it change them for the better or the worse?

I’ve been self-employed now for almost 12 years full-time. My focus is photographing women and making sure they exist in front of the camera – celebrated and confident. I’ve built a sisterhood of women on Facebook with my group of women, Mariposa by Josephiney. So where I am lacking a biological sister earthside, I have over 8 thousand symbolic sisters in my group for women. I help women embrace their fears and step through them in order to find wings of confidence, self-love, and mostly, empowerment.

I also lead retreats for women because for me personally, travel has been an imperative form of healing for my heart. I speak often of my loss and the beauty of how without loss we have no growth. That seeds like caterpillars have to be isolated and “planted” and then cracked open to push out towards light and growth. That darkness is really just the container for that growth. The most important factor behind my success is being authentic to my story, and sharing even the hard parts, embracing the loss and sharing the hope that you can use pain as a catalyst to live a fuller, happier life of gratitude by just being intentional about being here. We get one go round…

Life is a gift.

I hope in the time I am here, living with purpose, that I am able to share this message with every woman I work with:

Love yourself through the journey you are trusting, and know that life is a series of metamorphosis’ – may we never stop changing into the beauty of our wings.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is ethereal, light and dark, a little vintage, dreamy and romantic. What sets me apart from others? I offer same day boudoir/empowerment services – so my clients have their shoot and see their images that same day about an hour and a half after their shoot. I got to where I am by just not giving up. Pause but don’t stop. Nothing good is ever truly easy, but working for it so hard is what makes it so valuable and rewarding.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way of running a business. Mostly, don’t take on too much! Don’t burn yourself out if you are trying to live life intentionally. Choose what lights a fire in you and sail your ship towards it. Pivot only to what excites you and show and offer that. Niching into just working with women has been the best thing I’ve done in almost 20 years of shooting.

What do I want the world to know about my brand or story?
Use YOUR STORY to tell clients what is important to you and why you do what you do.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
A weekend getaway? Chicago! It’s 2.5 hours northwest. We would take in the sights of Millennium park, tour the art musem, shop on Michigan Ave, take some pictures on the Riverwalk, stop at Garrett’s for the best Chicago mix popcorn of all time and finish with dinner at Giordano’s for some cheese-stuffed pizza… the kind ONLY Chicago can offer!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutouts to

• My grandmother (who passed in 2016) for giving me a small loan to buy my first camera, a Canon Rebel Xti.
• Ali Alvarez, producer of documentary Muerte es Vida for giving me a platform to share my story with the world and for telling of the incredible and dynamic story of monarchs on their journey and the souls they touch along the way.
• Angie Monson of Derive Retreats for offering international retreats for women that literally change lives. Her retreats have changed mine and now I offer them for women as well stateside.
• My family – my husband and kids are constantly supporting and pushing me to be all that I can and to empower women.

Website: www.josephineyphotography.com

Instagram: @josephineyphotography and @joannecsakany (personal)

Linkedin: Joanne Csakany

Twitter: @josephineyphoto

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JosephineyPhotography

Other: alignable: Joanne Csakany

Image Credits
All images are mine. Josephiney Photography, LLC

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