Rad Friends Doing Rad Things: Vanessa Castoe of Dear Okie

Posted on Mar 13, 2013
My next Artist spotlight is Vanessa from dear Okie. I wish that we lived closer to each other because I feel that we would be fun friends, she is super hilarious and just a fun mom. I love her style of photography, it just feels raw. Check her out.

My obsession with photography started with a trip to Spain I took with my Mom in my early 20’s. I went with my pathetic little film camera and was captivated by the people there, pointing that thing at everything that would let me. Then it was having kids and taking pictures of them with my Kodak easy share, convinced that shooting in sepia made me a professional. That was 8 years ago and I’m so glad to say that I’ve come quite a way since then.
People are my inspiration, without a doubt. I tell people frequently that I consider myself a photographer, not a photoshopper. I love the uniqueness in everyone. The wrinkles in my grandmother’s face, the gap teeth on my kids, the bumps and bruises that all kids seem to have…they all tell a story.
Although I spend most of my time doing family portraits and weddings my heart really lies in those intimate candid moments I see every day. And I’ve recently developed a serious love for street photography. Some of my current obsessions right now are: Theo GosselinVivian Maier, this guy I randomly found on flickr and I have tons of friends on flickr that amaze and inspire me every day. Flickr has single handedly kept me going in moments when I felt like I had nothing left to give in life and my art. 

One of the things I love most about photography is that you can do it anywhere. The world is my canvas. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. I carry my camera with me 99% of the time and have been known to shoot whenever and wherever I want. The editing side usually happens from my bed accompanied by lots and lots of snack food.

Being that it’s a fluid art that can go with me it’s not all that difficult to find the time. The only exception to that statement is when I’m trying to meet a certain goal or project. I’m currently participating in a 52 week self portrait workshop and am currently 4 weeks behind. Having 3 kids means that having to meet certain deadlines can be challenging. But it’s a matter of taking it easy on myself and letting go of the pressure to be perfect.

A large part of what I do is making art for others..taking pictures of their families or wedding day. It will never cease to amaze me that people still trust me to do it and gives me a huge feeling of pride and accomplishment when I receive positive feedback. And as far as doing it for myself? Absolutely. After having my third baby I had pretty severe post partum depression stuff to deal with. Photography saved me in so many ways. It made it possible for me to live outside of my head for a while and share what I was going through in a way that felt safe.

I’m currently working on that 52 week self portrait project that I’m behind on. Besides that I’m just really trying to push myself to shoot more often, no matter what the subject is.

We read a lot of books. We’re a huge family of bibliophiles. I just finished reading the first two books in the Divergent series. Yes, I read a lot of young adult fiction. I’m not really sure what to move onto next, although I have been contemplating reliving Harry Potter again.

 I will always always always be insecure about it all. I’m constantly comparing myself to other photographers. I’m awfully guilty of looking back on pictures that I’ve taken and cringing internally. It’s a constant learning process.

My shyness is constantly holding me back. I’ve been considering participating in the 100 strangers project for 4 years or more, and have yet to work up the courage. Every January I think “this is the year” then I chicken out.

I’m a firm believer that anyone with an eye for framing their shot and the beauty around them can be an amazing photographer. The technical aspects of it all aren’t difficult to learn. The key is to find your niche and shoot as often as possible. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Check more of Vanessa’s photography out 

For past artist interviews check out

Thanks so much Vanessa!


  1. Jeca Creations
    March 13, 2013

    I laughed so hard when I saw the undies pic. My 2 year old girl loves to wear boy underwear backwards as well. I don’t see how this is comfortable but she refuses to wear it correctly.

  2. emily
    March 13, 2013

    love her.


Leave a Reply