KINSMAN – Rebecca Nieminen considers herself a writer first and a photographer second, although she is best known locally for her landscape photography.
Nieminen, 50, of Kinsman, majored in professional writing and editing at Youngstown State University “because they didn’t have a journalism degree at the time,” she said. She wrote for YSU’s newspaper, The Jambar, and interned at the Vindicator in Youngstown as a copy editor until she graduated and was hired as a full-time reporter.
“I did this for a few years until I had my daughter, who is now 20,” said Nieminen.
While raising her family, she was always independent at The Vindicator, and continued to do so until several years ago.
Shortly after having her second child, Nieminen divorced and then returned to YSU to earn a master’s degree in English. She taught at YSU as an adjunct professor for a few years, but wanted to start her own business and have a more flexible schedule, she said.
Nieminen had studied photography at YSU and it had always been a hobby, so she decided to try to make a living from it. It’s been nine years and her photography business, Storyteller Photography: Images by Rebecca, has grown into a full-time job.
“It was pretty big when I was trying to come up with a name for the business. I’m still a writer. I’m still a storyteller, even though I do it through pictures.
Nieminen considers herself self-taught when it comes to digital photography and editing, as when she studied photography in school, she shot on film and developed photos in darkrooms.
While Nieminen does a lot of portraiture as well as weddings and other events, her photographs of local landscapes have really caught the eye in northeast Ohio, where her work has been featured in local galleries including Conneaut Arts Center and Trumbull Art Gallery.
“Sunrise and sunset are usually when you get the best photos because of the light,” said Nieminen. She gladly braves bad weather for the perfect photo, and especially likes to go to Lake Erie when the winds are blowing to capture images of the waves crashing on the shore and around the lighthouses. She’s learned to take her camera with her at all times – it drives her crazy when she sees something beautiful and can’t take a picture, she said.
“I have always appreciated nature” said Nieminen.
She may well get it from her Finnish ancestry because Finns are known for their love of nature, Nieminen said, and she identifies with the culture.
In 2019, Nieminen traveled to Finland and met her relatives there and saw the farm where her great-grandfather lived before coming to America. Of course, Nieminen took a lot of photos on this trip.
She said being a photographer isn’t just about having the right kind of camera.
“Obviously that’s part of it, but it’s also the person behind the camera and their way of seeing the world and the kind of editing they’re going to bring to the picture.”
Photography occupies Nieminen, of course, but she has not forgotten her writing. She hopes to do more projects that combine the two forms of storytelling, she says, in the form of a book of poetry and photographs or a photoblog like the popular “New York Humans.”
Like many writers, she also has a few unpublished novels waiting for her attention.
She said writing requires “take a lot of time just in solitude, and you shut down everything else.” For Nieminen, it’s often easier for her to create with images rather than words, she said.
“I think I can produce images better under stress” she said.
Nieminen is also interested in history and antiquities. She moved into her 100+ year old home in 2010 and has been fixing it ever since. “Sometimes I wonder if it will ever happen” she joked.
She keeps chickens and a friend “guard goose”, and also has dogs and a parrot.
She loves to travel, but she also likes to emphasize the importance of finding the beauty around you, no matter where you live.
“There are so many beautiful things, if you just open your eyes to them” said Nieminen.