I have some really terrific news to share: I am a 2022 PPA Diamond Award Winner and Master Photographer Candidate (it’s not “officially official” until I walk across the stage in Nashville in January to receive my degree.)

For those not in the know, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) hosts an annual International Photographic Competition (IPC) which is akin to the “Superbowl of Professional Photography.” My Diamond status means not only did my entire case of four images “merit”, but they were also selected to be part of the esteemed Imaging Excellence Collection, the best of the best. Of the 5,000+ entries, only about 20% of images receive the IE distinction, and HOLY COW, I had four! My images will be on display at the Gaylord  Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, during Imaging USA, the premier convention for photographers, and published in the Imaging Excellence Collection book.

Almost two years ago, I was struggling with the loss of my mother, trying to find my “new me” without the person who knew me the best, motivated me, and helped to shape me into who I am. In typical Susan Proctor fashion, I set a ridiculously high goal for myself – and then not only beat the odds, but exceeded them as well, becoming the first Vermont woman to achieve Diamond. This one’s for you, Mom.

I decided I would work to earn my Master of Photography degree through PPA. For most it takes many years of hard work accumulating enough points to receive the high distinction. Me? I crazily wanted to do it in two years. I learned and worked hard towards this degree, all the while battling depression and anxiety, raising a precocious preschooler during a pandemic and running a business. I learned to give myself time, grace, and the space to create as a form of therapy. I tried new ideas, created lots of terrible “art”, and pushed past insecurities. Despite all I had against me (which was mostly myself) I stepped it up and took life lessons made of lemons and made them into a sweet, sticky and sour lemon meringue pie.

I share this today because my success was no accident. It was hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, and the love of the art. In the process I became hyper-aware of how perfectionism in social media is ruining expectations, and vow to be “real” in this moment of celebration – because I certainly wasn’t shouting from the rooftops when I was down – and I realize many of you have been there, whether sharing it or not. And I just want to say that I’ve been there, and I do believe everyone has a passion that can get them through the hard times, but many are never fortunate in really finding it. Always keep looking for that light.

Now that I will have my Masters, and the highest level of achievement with a diamond award, it is my new goal to help fellow artists and share in my creative-therapy processes, to inspire those without goals and to support those with seemingly unachievable ones. I promise you, they’re within your reach. I’ve felt the lowest of lows, and now the highest of highs, and I want to help others get through their own personal successes.

There were many people in my life that I am so very grateful to for adding their own ingredients to my humble pie. First and foremost: The Hubbs and Kiddo for being my biggest cheerleaders and allowing me those days of locking myself in my studio for the sake of creativity, my Father and brother whom I did not “inherit” my creative skills from, but were always by my side in support and strength, Kelly, my print comp “partner in crime” who has the patience of a saint and the keen ability to accept me in all my weirdness, Wayne who first put the bug in my ear to even try national competition and I consider a lifelong mentor, and Jon who continues to teach me and pushed me further with friendly competition, and last but not least, my family and dear friends who don’t exactly understand what I was trying to achieve but danced with my wins and hugged me with my losses. And, this amazing learning experience would not be possible without the selfless volunteering of fellow photographers whom I admire, whether you realize it or not, you had an influence – thank you for your service: Pete, Wayne, Ken, Nancy, Kristy, Don and Karen and all my photog-friends. I am blessed with a truly amazing community. THANK YOU for all you’ve done – now it’s time for me to join the ranks and pay it forward.