Meaghan Kent - a well-known local photographer - won the Strive: Young Professionals Group Leadership Award at the Strive YPG sixth annual Algoma Visionary Awards gala held on Friday, Jan. 13.
The gala was presented by SooToday at The Grand Gardens.
Strive YPG states that the Leadership Award goes to “a well-rounded young professional who most strongly exemplifies characteristics of a great leader, is engaged in their communities, and who mentors others.”
Kent was also nominated for the Young Professional of the Year award, that honour bestowed on lawyer Naomi Sayers.
“It was a very overwhelming win for me,” Kent told SooToday.
“I was not expecting to be nominated and I was not expecting to win either of the awards I was nominated for. The talent in those categories is just astronomical. There are so many incredible young entrepreneurs and community driven people. To just be nominated among them is incredible so to win was extremely humbling,” Kent said.
Kent is no stranger to winning awards for her work and community involvement.
She won the Strive YPG Arts, Music and Culture Industry Award and the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award at the Strive YPG fifth annual Algoma Visionary Awards in Jan. 2022.
She was also chosen as The Sault Star's Reader's Choice Best Photographer and Studio of Sault Ste. Marie from 2019 to 2022, named the Platinum Photographer of Sault Ste. Marie by Community Votes in 2020 and 2022 and the Gold Photographer in 2021, won the Memories Flamenco Cayo Coco, Cuba Photo Contest in 2016 and was a finalist in the inaugural Inner Light Photo Contest in 2016.
Her work has been featured in prominent international magazines, including Women’s World, and in national promotions, including David Suzuki's The Blue Dot Movement.
When it comes to leadership, Kent says she is a leader in the sense of encouraging others to follow their hearts when making career choices.
Kent delivered the keynote speech to White Pines Collegiate’s graduating class of 2022 - she having graduated from that local secondary school in 2007 - encouraging last year’s grads to follow their dreams.
“I encouraged them to follow what they love doing and not necessarily what others want you to do, and what school to go to, but to follow what they love doing. That’s what I’m doing now. I’ve stopped following what I thought I needed to be doing and doing what I love, and that’s photography,” Kent said.
Holding a Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History and English from Algoma University, Kent said she chose not to pursue further postsecondary education and poured her creativity, energy and passion into photography.
“I’ve always loved photography, since I was a little girl.”
“Obviously we need to make money to pay our bills but if you can be happy in what you do, if it’s fulfilling to you, that’s what matters most.”
“To anyone who’s coming out of high school my advice would be ‘try it out.’ When I worked at Algoma University as a recruiter I used to say ‘you don’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on,’ so if you want to be a doctor, volunteer at the hospital, if you want to travel, volunteer with the tourism industry. If you’re interested in photography, speak to myself or another photographer and ask ‘can I volunteer with you?’ and most people would be interested in having someone help them out or speak to them about their interests.”
She operates Meaghan Kent Photography from her studio - based in her own home - and enjoys sharing her skill with and for the community.
She produces 500 to 600 photographic works annually and has raised over $7,000 for Sault Area Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“My four-year-old son was in the NICU and I do a lot of maternity and newborn photography so it’s a way to give back to my clients because a lot of my clients’ babies have been in the NICU too so the money from those photographs goes into investing in that.”
Kent, married to a Canadian Armed Forces reservist, is also passionate about working with veterans.
“I take photos of veterans every year around Remembrance Day for free to cement their story so that they’re not forgotten.”
“In 2021 I had the extremely humbling and incredible opportunity to photograph a mother’s final wish at ARCH to see her daughter in her wedding dress. I wanted to be able to capture that for her. To me that’s the biggest thing is helping someone remember something, the way it was, forever.”
“I love being able to give back. I love this job. It’s not just a job to me. It doesn’t feel like work. It’s a pretty amazing experience to get to photograph babies, weddings and meet amazing community members.”
“I’ve always loved photography, since I was a little girl. Now, what I really like is capturing moments in time for people and it’s something that cements them in history. On your wedding day for instance, after you’ve said your vows, 10 years from now all you’re going to have left from that wedding day are those photos.”
“I want to thank my supporters, the community, those who nominated me, my family. It’s been an incredible seven years in business and I never imagined in my wildest dreams being where I am today. I am so incredibly humbled and grateful for it and I just have to thank everyone who has supported me along the way and who continue to come back year after year for photos.”