by Ardeana Hamlin of The Weekly Staff Amanda Prouty Photography is relatively new to Hampden — within the last two years — but Amanda Prouty, photographer and owner of the business, is not. Her studio, located in the business plaza at 13 Main Road North, next to Old Hampden Academy, is artistically decorated with one wall painted a bright shade of citrus green. Examples of her photographs are arranged across the top of an adjacent wall. Clients consulting with Prouty about a photo shoot can opt to sit in a hot pink wing chair or on the chair upholstered in a faux zebra fabric. The studio ambience is airy, welcoming and makes one want to stay a while. Prouty, who grew up in Hampden, graduated from Hampden Academy in 1993. She is representative of young people who leave their hometowns, or Maine, to pursue education or a career, but eventually come back to the area where they grew up to start businesses, find jobs and settle down to raise children. Prouty said she became interested in photography as an art form 15 years ago after her niece was born and she started taking photographs of the baby. Today, Prouty still photographs babies as part of her business services, but her interest ranges to people of all ages. “I’m fascinated by how much an image can tell you, how it can bring out emotions,” she said. She also wants her photographs to bring out her own truths about how she perceives those who become the focus of her lens. Prouty is for the most part a self-taught photographer and she views that as one of her many strengths as a photographer. “For me it’s better to be self-taught because it has allowed me to learn to use the camera the way I want it to work,” she said. When she works with her clients, she said, she seeks ways, on the spur of the moment, to put them at ease. With children, she gets down on the floor with them, with teens and adults she asks them questions about their interests and how they see themselves. “Everyone is a photographer in 2014,” she said, referring to the prevalence of “point and shoot” and cellphone cameras. “I try to be a step ahead of that, artistically and creatively.” Prouty is a portrait photographer, but none of her images seem posed. “I’m looking for the essence of who the person is,” she said. She especially enjoys taking portraits of high school seniors. She also does wedding photography as long as the bride understands that her approach to photography is somewhat less formal than that of other photographers. “I specialize in people,” she said. “From day one, I didn’t want my images to be like anyone else’s.” Adding words to her photographs is one of the ways Prouty makes her images unique. If someone sitting for a photograph is too nervous to be his or her natural self, Prouty will ask the person to select from a group of signs, such as Be Yourself, I Change the World by Being Myself, Stand Out, Believe, Strong Women or Don’t be Regular, for example. “I ask them, if you wanted to tell the world something about you, what would it be?” she said. “The most awkward moment [for them and for me] is to have that soul standing in front of that white background.” That is the moment when she must reach into herself to figure how best to portray that particular person. Selecting and holding one of the signs often helps the client relax so Prouty can work to achieve the best possible image. Prouty also uses the signs, which she crafts from recycled cardboard, as part of her studio decor. “Words inspire me. If I can combine words with the photo, it’s that much more meaningful,” she said. Prouty offers several levels of photography to high school seniors. There is the “Get Me Out” session for those (usually boys) who want to keep things simple, fast and easy. On the other end of the spectrum is the “Couture” session for those who want to feel as if they are on a professional modeling shoot. That session lasts for four hours and includes time with professional hair stylist and makeup artist Ashley Clark. In order to make sitting for a portrait appealing to high school seniors, Prouty has designed and printed Senior Magazine which contains information about what a senior should think about before scheduling an appointment and before attending the photo shoot — how to determine if Prouty is the right photographer for what the student has in mind photographically, and what to do with one’s hands and feet during the photo session, for example. The magazine is richly illustrated with photo images Prouty has created of teenagers, and is available at her studio. “I am so exactly where I want to be now,” Prouty said of relocating her business from Orono to Hampden. For information about Amanda Prouty Photography, call 659-1009, find it on Facebook at facebook.com/amandaproutyphotography, at http://instagram.com/amandaproutyphotography or go to amandaproutyphotography.com.