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  • Writer's pictureCristina Mittermeier

Photography, Parenthood, and Following Your Passion

If you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, or think it is too late to follow your passion, I have a personal story I would like to share with you from my journey as a young immigrant and mother.

Growing up in Mexico, I was always surrounded by my many siblings, childhood friends, and extended family. Everyone I knew had a face the same as mine, spoke my language, and knew me. After immigrating to America, however, I found myself isolated and lonely. I had two small children and a husband who had to travel often for work.

I struggled to fit in with the suburban moms who thought my foreign accent was cute and who did not understand my culture. I was young, alone, my hands full with raising children; I had lost sight of what I wanted.

For a long time, I felt lost. Of course, I loved my children, and over time, I managed to make a few life-long friends in this new, unfamiliar place. But I had always dreamt of being a scientist, an explorer living a life of adventure. I did not want to resign myself to a life I may come to regret. Then one day, my husband came home and gifted me with an old film camera, and suddenly, I had a hobby I could pursue while raising my kids.

From left to right: my mother, my youngest Juliana, me, my son Mick, and my stepson John

I was lucky enough to be able to travel with my husband on occasion to other countries— often to remote places I had never even dreamed of seeing, let alone photographing.

Cristina Mittermeier young

I dove headfirst into film photography, fumbling with the heavy camera and learning the basics. In our home's boiler room, I made a makeshift dark room and recruited my kids to help with cutting and organizing family photos. I then found myself taking pictures at school events and being asked to take family portraits of the other soccer moms' families. From there, it was weddings and pictures of the local charity run.

My camera became my passport to the whole world, allowing me to experience a whirlwind of new cultures, places, and the most wonderful people. It gave me purpose and the courage to leave the safety of my comfort zone.

By the time my youngest left elementary school, I had made my decision: I was going to be a photographer. I signed up for night classes in the city and took off running. For me, photography wasn’t something to help pass the time– it was a passion. As an immigrant, it was important for me to feel understood. And when words failed, I found that the images I took spoke for themselves. Photography was the key that opened a world of possibilities. It gave me the courage to connect with others, share my story, and pursue my dreams.

It is essential to remember that it is never too late to pursue your passion, no matter where you are in life.

For parents especially, it is easy to become engrossed in the daily duties of parenthood and forget about your own dreams and aspirations. I often felt guilty for not being a stay-at-home mom devoted solely to her children. But I soon realized that it was crucial for me to have something that I loved and that brought me joy outside of motherhood. You must remember that you are more than just a parent. You are a person with unique interests and talents, and it is vital to nurture those aspects of yourself.

There will never be a perfect time to start pursuing something you love. But if you never take that chance, you’ll never know what you can make of yourself. If you had told me thirty years ago, I would be where I am now, I would have never believed you. When I first came to the U.S., everything was a challenge, from trying to fit in with a new culture to mastering English. Then I had children, and everything became ten times harder. Dig deep if you are feeling overwhelmed by life, and you’ll find that you are still you, despite all the challenges.

Take that first step, no matter how small, and see where it takes you.

My partner Paul Nicklen took this photo of me while photographing sperm whales in Dominica. I finally found my calling and now live the life of adventure I always wanted. Even after all these years, with two amazing children and a wonderful stepson now grown, I am still me, and my story is far from over. I challenge you to keep chasing your passion and join me on this creative journey, no matter where you are in life.


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