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Business profile: Seven Winds Photography

Sevenwinds01NAPLES — Becoming a new mother 16 years ago turned Tammy Billie into an instant shutterbug and put her on the path to professional photography.

“I wanted to capture every moment,” said Billie, of Naples. “Pretty soon I realized I was spending hundreds of dollars on disposable cameras and getting the pictures developed.”

That’s when the 1995 graduate of Clewiston High School began purchasing real cameras. Her first was an off-brand automatic point and shoot.

Six daughters later and a full-fledged Nikon camera user, Billie blended motherhood, family and tradition to establish her photography service, Seven Winds Photography – “seven” for her seven daughters and “winds” because they are of the Wind Clan.

The business took off about seven years ago when Billie received a phone call from then Immokalee Council Liaison Elaine Aguilar to photograph a community event.

“Before you knew it, Tribal residents started calling me and we’ve been rolling with it since,” Billie said. “I don’t push myself for more work. With the children, sports, rodeo and church, I just go with the flow.”

“The flow” means juggling family with the business of weddings, family reunions, quinceaneras and sweet 16 parties, portraits for any reason and countless Seminole events. This year’s Tribal assignments included Mother’s Day, the first Ahfachkee School prom, Father’s Day on the Big Cypress Reservation and Easter and Christmas parties for the Tampa community.

Documenting Tribal happenings is important to Billie. She calls the job “a responsibility” and tries to deliver more than asked. Almost every job ends with a CD of all photos and a complete photo album.

She arrives on the scene of a shoot prepared with extra lights, batteries, lenses and a few daughters to help. The six girls, ages 7 to 16, are learning how to use photography equipment and how to print photos for same-day distribution to event participants. Billie’s seventh daughter passed away when she was a baby.

“Eventually, when my daughters get really good at the job, Seven Winds could be a family business. It teaches them responsibility, that they have to earn their dollar and that they have to have some kind of skill to fall back on in the future whether it’s photography, beading or sewing,” Billie said.

All the girls, mom included, wear traditional Seminole clothing to events to represent the family, culture and business.

Billie’s biggest challenge comes from subjects who want pictures for memorable life events, like weddings or family reunions, but who do not enjoy being photographed. With patience and understanding, she takes time to put them at ease to enjoy the experience.

“I’m really grateful to God for giving me the talent, skill and a good eye to capture the perfect moments,” Billie said.