WILLIAMSBURG — Monica Sigmon’s start in professional photography was pretty standard. As she tells it, hailing from just outside Washington D.C., she came to Williamsburg to attend the College of William & Mary. Officially her major was in psychology, but she had fallen in love with photography as a hobby.
What Monica started doing as a hobby three decades ago, she has since built into one of the most respected portrait studios in Williamsburg. “The studio turns 21 this year,” she said. “We are super excited and proud of that. We are really grateful that we were able to live and work in this town, with this community that has supported us.”
Over the years, Monica and her husband, Michael Taylor, have taken the “less is more” approach to the Sigmon Taylor Studio.
“We’re not a high volume studio,” she noted. “We are not churning people through. We are that way by design because we want to spend the time getting to know the each family. We don’t want to photograph each one the same way, we want to tell their story. So the most exciting part for me is getting to know them before the session and seeing that dynamic from the session, showing them the results and all the way up to the installation of the wall art.”
Another benefit of being in business for multiple decades is that not only does she regularly have returning customers, but she has been able to watch the subjects of her portraits grow.
“We have these families that have kids that I have photographed since they were little and now they have kids, ” she says with a smile. “It’s really rewarding. I don’t know a lot of professions that you can have that kind of relationship through the years. Every time they come we are humbled and honored and we never take it for granted.”
While most people would have found running a successful photography business to be challenging enough, Monica has some how found the time and energy to quite a bit more. She travels the country speaking to groups of amateur and professional photographers, as well as take on whatever projects pique her interest. She has earned several trade accolades including Kodak’s Photographer to Watch in 2007 and the Craftsman and Master’s Degrees from the Professional Photographers of America.
In 2019, the technology giant, Sony, chose Monica as one of six Alpha Female Creators-in-Residence. She was chosen from a pool of 6,000 applicants. To go along with the title , Monica received $21,000 plus $5000 worth of Sony equipment.
With that prize she was able to bring her next project to life on a world stage during a year that was shut down by the pandemic. On June 9, Monica released “Art of Motion: The Virtual Exhibition“.
Initially, Monica had started the project just before the pandemic started.
“Dance had always been something I admired from afar,” she remembers. “I had photographed a few dancers and I loved it. I loved their personalities and how they approached their art. I think most artists love working with artists, and I think dancers are a beautiful combination of artist and athlete.”
When the pandemic hit, Monica paused the production and waited for the dust to settle. Then she began taking applications from local dancers who wanted to be in her exhibit. Dancers came out in droves for a chance to be in her project. Monica took the same approach to these pictures as she would with any clients. Through interviews and during the shoots, she would get to know the dancer. What their personalities were, what they loved about their art.
Over several months in late 2020 and early 2021, Monica shaped her labor of love into a virtual museum of 81 portraits of dancers celebrating their craft. By accessing the site, the patron can move around a palatial art museum and admire the portraits, learn about the dancers. Access to the gallery is free, but there is an option to make a donation, all of which goes to the dance studios in the area.
Through the Art of Motion, Monica hoped to shine a light on this artform that was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. On account of social distancing regulations, most studios could not convene in person for rehearsals, much less perform for a crowd of people packed into a theater.
“The most rewarding thing has been watching how it has effected the dancers themselves in a year where all their stages had gone dark,” Monica says of the exhibition. “It’s been really rewarding to hear from parents how this has helped their children through COVID. That has been an unexpected and beautiful byproduct and it helped me through COVID, too. I think as artists we are all happier when we are creating and COVID shut that down. So to have these individual one on one sessions and projects kind of kept us all going.”