Every day is a struggle for Essex artist Katie Paquette. Yet each day, she finds light in photography — a medium that has changed both her career path and way of life.
Paquette, 36, lives with an autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, as well as fibromyalsia and myofascial pain syndrome. Sjogren’s causes dry eyes and mouth, fatigue and joint pain. The chronic pain, which often consumes Paquette’s life, is offset by her growing photography interest.
“When you have the passion for something and then when it’s like a therapy for you, it just changes your mindset completely,” said Paquette, a Milton Artists’ Guild member. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
As a child, Paquette enjoyed taking photos of her family’s German shepherd and her home’s natural surroundings. When she later moved to Finland with her then-husband, her eye for capturing new landscapes blossomed. But it wasn’t until she returned home to Essex in 2014 when her true desire for the art came to fruition.
She kickstarted her small business, MomentsByKate, in March 2017. She made an Etsy account, Facebook page and joined the guild. Opening herself up to the world was frightening, but she says the positive support she received masked her vulnerability.
Paquette says she’s grown tremendously since her 2013 diagnosis. As a photographer, she’s enthralled to spread joy and happiness to her followers.
“In the last year and a half, I just really feel like something changed and I’m starting to see more things in ways I never saw before, and it’s really cool,” Paquette said.
Each morning, Paquette wakes up not knowing what journey her body will take her on. So every day, she makes an effort to make one picture that lifts her spirits. This could mean going to the store and buying a bouquet of flowers to document or stopping on the side of the road to capture a picturesque scene.
Her most memorable moment was a few weeks ago driving from Jeffersonville to Essex, where she spotted Jericho’s Old Red Mill. The barn is a popular subject in Vermont photography, and Paquette wanted to capture it in a meaningful way. As ice glistened on the surrounding rocks, the frosty air pulled her out of her vehicle. The angle was worth it, even if she couldn’t feel her numbed finger clicking the button on her Canon T7i.
Down the road, she also halted to capture Camel’s Hump peaking into vision along Route 117. After Paquette posted these photos online, a classmate from her Essex High School days who has since moved to Minnesota contacted her to purchase a little piece of home.
Curating this connection was a touching sentiment for Paquette, who once struggled to garner the self-esteem necessary to market her talent. Now, she’s letting the fear of rejection slip to the back of her mind as she posts daily photos to her Facebook page that ignite creative conversation.
Nature currently dominates Paquette’s work, not that she refers to it that way. Going forward, she plans to explore portrait-style shoots. All of which she says helps her fight through her everyday pain.
On Monday, Paquette felt physically fine. But without photography, she doesn’t know how she’d handle the bad days.
When she’s frustrated with her immune system or the negativity online, she says photographing something beautiful can completely change her mood.
“I get so excited that I don’t think about the throbbing pain in my leg or my head or my shoulders. For just that little while, I don’t focus on how much pain I’m in,” she said.
Some days, you might catch her on the side of the road in her hunter green winter jacket, laced with a faux-fur hood, sporting a pair of pajama pants. You can bet her camera’s in hand.
“It’s absolutely terrifying,” Paquette said of advertising her work. Despite a tendency to want to shy away from attention, “I just keep throwing myself out there,” she said.
So far, she’s garnered about 560 followers on Facebook, and she’s excited to keep the momentum going. Between countless doctors’ appointments, she posts photos from her past travels, eye-catching pieces of nature, animals and more.
Photography has served as a positive alternative therapy to the less effective support groups she formerly attended.
“I’ve had a lot of tests done, and it’s not fun but I just feel like I’ve grown so much as a person since all of this that I wouldn’t really change anything,” she said. “I have such a better understanding of who I am and what I love.”
Though she may not know what pain tomorrow will bring, there’s one constant she can rely on to keep her steady: Another photograph.