We had the good fortune of connecting with Maya James and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maya, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I’ve always been a creative person! Even as a kid I was always interested in the arts (coloring, learning the piano, singing) and my parents both supported that interest. My mom enrolled me in a performing arts school for middle and high school because she saw the passion I had. Those years at that school were pivotal because it gave me an opportunity to not only hone my craft but also network with other creatives who had made their art their profession. So once I graduated high school I knew that I wanted to be a creative full-time and I went to college to pursue digital film.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I’m a wedding photographer and videographer based in Phoenix, AZ but I enjoy traveling to new places.

I initially got into wedding photography while in film school. I thought I would be the next Steven Speilberg! While training in film, though, I took a photography class and started working as a lighting assistant for a wedding photography company and fell more in love with weddings. It was awesome getting to learn from the lead photographers and I still chat with a few of them today.

Like every college senior, I couldn’t wait to graduate, only to realize that the job market in the summer in Arizona is almost as dry as the environment we live in. So after a few months of sending cold leads, I decided to start my own business and even recruited my best friend to help me pick up the photo and video equipment. I didn’t really have a plan when I first started out. I knew I wanted to focus on photography and video production but I hadn’t niched down. I did everything myself, including creating my own logo, website, and business cards (boy did they look terrible). I had a few connections but I didn’t know how to build relationships with them. I pretty much spent my first few years saying yes to everything just so I could create content, but after 2018 I knew that my true passion was weddings.

Attending my first wedding workshop conference in 2018 was a big step for me in legitimizing my business. I was surrounded by other photographers, learning from full-time professionals, and the experience was a BLAST. Taking some of those teachings and implementing them in my business really helped and in 2019 I photographed around 10 weddings under my own business. I joined a wedding photography group on Facebook and was able to network with other wedding vendors inside my market and beyond.

2020 was a weird year because while I postponed almost all of my weddings due to COVID, I was also able to pivot and do more elopements. Along the way, I started outsourcing, had my website and branding professionally done, and invested in business coaches and mentors.

So far this year, I have photographed 20+ weddings which is the busiest I’ve ever been, and have finally put systems in place that help prevent burnout and allow me to focus on the parts of the business I’m most passionate about.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Places to eat: Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles, Mi Patio, CIBO, The Sicilian Butcher

Places to visit: The Phoenix Art Museum, Wonderspaces, Grand Canyon, Arcosanti, Phoenix Theatre

Cities to visit: Sedona, Flagstaff, Prescott, Tucson, AZ

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I feel like so much of my success is because of the community around me. My parents are definitely my first supporters. They knew from early on that I would be a creative and never attempted to sway me from that course (even though they both have a STEM background).

My second shoutout would be to my teachers (both high school and college). Being able to learn from them was an absolute gift and I still talk to many of them today.

Website: https://mayapapayapictures.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mayapapayapictures/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mayapapayapictures/

Youtube: https://vimeo.com/mayapapayapictures

Other: https://www.pinterest.com/mayapapayapictures/

Image Credits
Headshots: Marissa Hyland https://marissahyland.com/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.