Walking into the studio to get graduation pictures taken felt like walking into an old friend’s house. A relaxed Lizzy McAlpine song played in the background as Trevor and Karen Morris welcomed me inside a bright, polished studio.
The pair have been the people behind the camera of many St. Thomas University graduation photos for the last 13 years.
Karen Morris — who is a large part of the business itself — organizes the schedules, communicates with students and does most administrative work, while Trevor Morris takes and edits the photos.
From standard portraits to chaotic group sessions, Trevor Morris has shot it all, and recognizes his love for photography comes from “the sheer joy of creating the images.”
“If you love what you’re doing, do it as though you’re not getting paid for it. That is actually how I treat it a lot of the time,” he said.
As a former mechanical engineer, Trevor Morris was not always interested in photography, but rather in graphic design. His passion for taking photos began 20 years ago when he decided to get a digital camera so he could capture photos of his daughter.
From there, his love for the art form flourished into a business, Morris Photographics, in 2005. His love for his family drove his photography journey from freelancing to eventually starting a business with his partner, Karen.
“I loved when my daughter was growing up; I loved the freedom of being there for every milestone, every school concert and every play and all these things that were important,” said Trevor Morris.
The humble beginning of Morris’s photography is evident in everything from Morris’s photos to his desire to truly get to know every person that poses in front of his camera.
While students sat nervously waiting for their photo to be taken in the studio, Trevor Morris cracked jokes from behind the camera to get them to show a real smile.
To Trevor Morris, it doesn’t matter if you like your real smile or not; it’s about capturing the emotion at that moment and being able to see it on camera.
“We’re having as much fun behind the camera as they are in front of the camera,” he said.
This method also applies to some of the group sessions Trevor Morris does for STU students. For grad photos, most sessions are done on campus, and the Morrises are working “sunup to sundown.”
He recalled one session where a group of friends brought in bags of potato chips to be photographed eating and laughing together. Another session saw some students sit on the STU sign pretending to choke each other.
One student brought in his bong as a prop.
It’s this creation of shared experiences in portrait photography that is particularly impactful for Trevor Morris.
“There is something about portrait photography that is very challenging but very rewarding,” he said.
Unlike other photos Trevor Morris has captured, portrait photography is an emotional endeavour that must balance the subject’s happiness as well as the photographer’s.
This is the challenge but the reward, Trevor Morris said, is being able to make someone happy during a pivotal moment in their lives.
“This is the trophy of their accomplishments or a celebration of having achieved that goal in their life,” said Morris.
For Morris, this is where the emotional power of photography lies. The ability to capture these “fleeting moments” in time is truly where his love for photography stems from.
“Photography gives you a way to share that moment, but also the ability to revisit it,” said Morris.