It's a sentence so many of us dream of saying but aren't sure how to manifest: "My hobby turned into my dream job."
"In mid-life, when our children were in college, I had the 'empty nest syndrome' & needed to find some hobbies. I took up golf to spend more time with my avid golfer husband, Kevin. I also picked up the camera to take photos of my other new hobby, birdwatching."
Meyer's photography grew into a beautiful business, and now she's passing a love of Northeast Iowa's changing seasons and an appreciation for nature onto her grandsons. In fact, sharing that love has become a passion that's radiating throughout the Driftless region and beyond, through Meyer's stunning body of work.
Joyce describes the moment she first considered her love and passion could extend beyond hobby status. "When I received the copy from my first photo assignment from "Our Iowa" magazine in late 2006, was the day I decided maybe I could start my own nature-inspired photography art business. It was days later that I noticed I had also gotten a photo of our black lab leaping up in the snow into the portfolio section. It was also the day my husband and I decided I could retire early from being a school librarian."
While Meyer certainly loved working with her young students, it seemed the light for shooting was perfect most days as she drove to work. It was heartbreaking for Joyce not to stop and capture those iconic Iowa moments when the light hit the woods or the fields just right. After she began submitting her work to magazines, Meyer achieved publication after publication and now has eleven national magazine covers under her belt. She also began selling her vibrant work on canvas, metal, metallic paper, and note cards at galleries, coffee shops, and other businesses. Throughout this period, Meyer continually marketed and grew her business.
"Wasn't long and I was doing gallery showings all over the Midwest and going to art shows and places that people who may not see my work at galleries would go, like Winneshiek Farmers Market in Decorah-- when not on the road traveling."
The last three years haven't been without challenges for the Midwest photographer. Three knee surgeries put a hiccup in her traditional long walks. Meyer is grateful for a supportive husband "Who had to do most of the setting up for shows." The hardest part of shows, according to Meyer, is being at them while she and her husband would both rather be out enjoying nature. Still, she recalls what makes it all worth it "When a little girl comes over & counts her money so she can buy a magnet for her mom... Days we have people come in with their mouths open in awe & they thank us for giving them the opportunity to see my work. It makes it worthwhile."
Part of Meyer's mission is to encourage people to immerse themselves in nature, to show them what they are missing when they're spending too much time in front of a screen. "Go for a hike, go fishing, canoeing, golfing. Go camping. Vacation. No matter what your age you can enjoy nature, either by taking in local or national parks with a scenic drive, participating in a sport, or hiking the trails. Stop and smell the roses. Life is too short to sit at home watching the world go by. Step outside, even if it is just your backdoor. It doesn't take any money to sit outside and watch and listen to the beautiful songbirds. It will fill your heart and de-stress you after a long day at work."
Joyce's adoration of Iowa's unique Driftless region is palpable. "I love the ever changing moods and seasons of our area... How lucky are we?" Still, Meyer's work seems to transcend the region. It's accessible and relatable in its own breathtaking and unpretentious way. The photographs seem able to do this because they're about feelings. Meyer wants to take your breath away. She wants you to smile and remember a moment of joy. She wants to bring the past into the present through her shots of historical sites, linking one generation with another through the conversations these images can evoke. While Iowa centered, the scope of her work is far from niche. It's broad and winding.
"I spent many wonderful years roaming the countryside, making my own adventures. Our grandmother lived with us when she was elderly and we spent many hours in the garden and apple orchard, in the kitchen preparing our bounty together. I came from a large family and am one of five siblings. But since I came late in life, I felt like an only child often times." When Meyer met her husband years later, they had a great deal in common, including a love of maintaining a home base while still traveling. "When we were married he promised me we would travel. And we do."
In addition to traveling for pleasure and adventure, Joyce and Kevin travel around the Midwest to art shows. He helps set up and take down and is her cashier and biggest fan. Kevin also drives Joyce to location photo shoots and "Makes sure I don't get run over or fall off a cliff." When the Meyer's aren't taking Joyce's show on the road, you can find them exploring their own backyard with grandchildren, binoculars in hand. Meyer credits landing her dream job with hard work, dedication, and a sincere love for the natural world around her. It's impossible to view her work and not see all of that come shining through.
Photo Credit: All photos in banner image are details from Joyce Meyer's original Photographs at JoyceMeyer.me.