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Photo studio owner inspired by place

One of Amy Louhela's favorite places is Jay Cooke State Park, and that is often the setting for her clients at Amy Louhela Photography.

"I go to Jay Cooke every day," said Louhela in an interview in her studio. "I love taking photos of animals and rainbows and owls."

Louhela just celebrated 13 years in business. She had a previous career as a counselor. She quit a solid government job 13 years ago to start her own photography business.

"I had no schooling and no experience, but that's what I wanted to do," she said.

And yet, Louhela was not totally inexperienced. "My uncle bought me a little pink camera when I was 5 years old," she said. "That's when I started doing photography."

Her fledgling talent came from her creative family.

"My grandpa loved photography," she recalled. "He always wanted to be a National Geographic photographer."

To gain knowledge and skills as she started her new career, Louhela decided to go to school, earning a Master in Fine Arts degree for photography through the Academy of Art University of San Francisco. The master's degree enabled Louhela to teach photography at the University of Northwestern. "I loved teaching, but I am too busy now," Louhela said. "I don't teach anymore."

Once she was ready, Louhela set up her studio but then had to close down last year because of Covid. "I worked from my house for a year and almost had to go out of business," she said. "It was tough during the shutdown."

When the Covid restrictions were lifted in the spring, Louhela rented part of the former print shop at 308 Chestnut Street in Carlton and set up her studio .

Walking in the door, Louhela's creative touch is evident. The reception room is decorated with an eclectic hodgepodge of colors and patterns, including many different styles of furniture she's accumulated. Somehow it all works together.

Samples of her photographs are also on display, ranging from portraits and family photos to wildlife and landscape images.

That reception room is also going to be her future gift shop.

"It will be an itty-bitty gift shop that is called the Three Birds," Louhela explained. "I haven't quite got that going yet. I've been too swamped with photography."

Her studio in the next room features backdrops at one end and props at the other end.

Her specialty in child photography is evident in the wide selection of children's chairs, a doll buggy, a bench and small wicker chairs. Backdrops are attached to the walls.

Business has been booming, despite the fact that most people carry cell phones and take many photos of their families.

Louhela explained that professional portraits and photos are of higher quality.

"People can't get high-quality photos with their phones, and not of their families," she said. "People need that personal touch."

Babies and children are Louhela's favorite subjects. She said they respond well to her.

"My sons call me the 'Baby Whisperer,'" she said. "I don't know why babies like me, but they do."

Louhela has a grown daughter and two grown sons. She is grandmother to her daughter's six children, whom she adores. Those grandchildren are often the subjects of her photos.

Potential clients are encouraged to take a look at Louhela's Facebook page, Amy Louhela Photography, and view the wide variety of photos of stunning nature scenes, animals and people, and even a video of a sunflower field that Louhela took with a drone.

One set of two photos shows what she can do with an old and treasured photo memory that is wrinkled or marred in some way. "I do photo restoration," Louhela said. "I can colorize photos too, add color to black and white photos."

But Louhela's favorite backdrop for her photos is just down the road a few miles.

"I love Jay Cooke Park," she said. "I shoot many photos there. I shoot a lot of photos of my clients at Enger Tower and the Rose Garden, or I can go to people's homes. I've also done real estate photography and commercial photography."

As she continues to develop her skills, Louhela is working with a new system that enhances and seals photos. She explained the new technique.

"I took this photo of an owl," she said. "It's sealed in resin and wax. It is called encaustic photography. I just love it." In encaustic photography, the surface of the photo appears to have a matte finish, with shiny surfaces in places. "It is supposed to be that way, even if it doesn't look perfect," she said.

With the upcoming Halloween festivities, Louhela has been busy taking photographs of kids in fall or Halloween settings. She's had a booth at Boo at the Zoo in Duluth, and plans to be at the downtown Carlton trick-or-treat event 1-3 p.m. on Halloween with her camera and props.

And she is making plans for the upcoming holiday season, starting in November.

To contact Louhela about prices and to schedule a time for photography, visit her Facebook page, or on Instagram, or call 218-348-8604 or email [email protected].