“I think so much of the feminine experience is similar in the way that we move through life, and seasons. We're never just the business owner. We're always the mother, the friend, the sister, the partner. There's so many things to integrate.”
There are people who snap pictures, and then there are those who capture life's essence through their lens. As the founder of The Goldenbrand — a photography studio specializing in remote brand photography — Lisa Haukom teaches women to love and heal through the camera. With a remarkable portfolio that spans photography, editorial content creation, art direction, social media strategy, and brand partnerships, Lisa is a creative force.
Lisa studied at UC Santa Barbara and embarked on a decades-long career in and around Los Angeles before relocating to the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon during the pandemic. Wanting to strengthen her own brand and share a stronger message, she leveraged her longtime passion (and talent!) in photography to take her own self-portraits. In the beginning, Lisa faced stumbling blocks that most women can relate to.
“I did not like anything I was seeing on camera. I didn't recognize myself,” she says. “I had to fight the urge to delete, or filter, or sensor — all the ways that we pick ourselves apart. The whole process taught me self-compassion and self-kindness.”
The crown jewel of Lisa's creative empire is the Self Portrait Studio. It's not just a business; it's a movement. Through this educational membership, Lisa has empowered hundreds of women to embark on a similar journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance through the art of self-portraiture, like therapy through a camera lens. She has created a safe space where women can explore their inner selves and embrace their unique beauty. It's a testament to her commitment to not just capturing beauty, but also nurturing it.
Lisa’s clients have been featured in lifestyle publications like Domino, The Huffington Post, Apartment Therapy, Vogue, Well + Good, Forbes, and many more. But this Hall of Femme honoree isn't just a photographer and content creator; she's also an empathetic and compassionate soul. Lisa offers transition-affirming photography sessions to young members of the transgender community and provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals can express their true selves, free from judgment.
“Nobody looking for a quick fix or to just have really beautiful photos, finds their way into the membership. It's a woman at a particular point in her journey — either with her business, or with herself.”
Below, read more from Lisa on the women who inspire her, the lessons she’s learned from self-portraiture, and how she stays motivated in the face of setbacks.
How did you discover your passion for self-portraiture?
I had been going through life assuming that I would grow into the woman that I always thought I would be. I had a conversation with myself one day where I realized, "Oh, this is not going to happen to you. You have to make this happen for you." I had a message that I wanted to share. So, I was like, "Great, I have a photography background. I'm going to sit down. I'm going to take photos. They're going to be great. I'll have something to publish so I can get my message out there."
What I ran into was really hard. I did not like anything I was seeing on camera. I didn't recognize myself. I had to fight the urge to delete, or filter, or sensor — all the ways that we pick ourselves apart. The whole process taught me self-compassion and self-kindness. I set a 30-day challenge for myself, and what I realized at the end of the 30 days was that I didn't actually know my own face.
I like science; I like to find the answers for why. I learned a lot about psychology, and the reversed mirror image, and the familiarity principle, and how you're repeatedly exposed to the same thing over and over again. Since I only know that reversed image of my face, the one I see in the reflection, it's not the same face that the rest of the world sees. When I realized that all my hang ups about how I looked in photos was centered around me not even knowing my own face, that opened the door for kindness, exploration, and self-compassion.
You launched your business amid the pandemic—no easy feat! How do you stay motivated in the face of setbacks?
I don't take setbacks as a stopping point. When I encounter something that's not working, I don't take the typical road. In the other half of my business, I shoot brand photography remotely, working with people and shooting them through my phone. I'm not even in the same room. And my business is thriving based on something that no other photographer is putting their whole business background on. Any other photographer, I guess, could see that as a setback.
During the pandemic, we moved from Los Angeles, a thriving environment and community, up to a really small, remote, coastal town in Oregon. Everybody here is retired, and I don't have an ideal client. They’re all far away. So for that side of my business, I got scrappy and I started shooting them on Zoom. Then I improved the front end to help them have a photo shoot experience that really reflected them, which was lacking in most brand photography experiences that are just point and shoot.
I love what I do. I jump out of bed in the morning with a thousand ideas to implement and lots to bring into the world. If a pathway closes, I trust it's for a reason and I look in another direction, and there's three more just waiting for me to explore. I stay motivated by having a lot of flow and holding things lightly.
How does Self Portrait Studio empower women from all backgrounds?
The beautiful thing about that is the feminine experience, but I'm also learning the human experience because men want to get in on this conversation too, which shocked the heck out of me — I did not make this community to support men. That’s why I launched the course, which is the core of the membership as a standalone. I can send men there and they get support, but they don't have community access, because it is a space for women. I think so much of the feminine experience is similar in the way that we move through life, and seasons. We're never just the business owner. We're always the mother, the friend, the sister, the partner. There's so many things to integrate.
The women that come in the studio have tried other things: maybe they've hired somebody to do their branding, or they've worked with some other coaching, or they've done some shortcuts, or read self-help books to be more confident, or they've tried to push through the thing, which is exactly how I started my story. They realized that there's another pathway to explore, and they're ready to do the work on themselves for internal growth. They have that self-awareness.
Nobody looking for a quick fix or to just have really beautiful photos, finds their way into the membership. It's a woman at a particular point in her journey — either with her business, or with herself. She realizes that maybe she's the roadblock to her business growing and then is mindful enough to say, "I need something different, and it's me. I need to do some work with myself."
Where do you find inspiration for photo shoots?
They're usually about stretching. We build mood boards together on Pinterest, but I let them put what's comfortable on there. As we meet, I'm already seeing what they're trying to hold back. The mood board is a tool that allows them to envision what they look like in that, embodying that, whatever that feeling is. By the time we finish prepping, and build out the wardrobe and everything to support it, they're seeing it. They show up to the shoot ready, and not in the mindset of, can I do this?
I just had a session with somebody who said, "I want to have elevated images. I want people to see my brand and say, 'I want to be her.' I don't want to come down anymore, I want them to be inspired to come up." And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, yes. That's amazing." So we had our mood board, everything was great, and we got into the shoot and she's just mugging. She's got this big, people-pleasing, bright, megawatt, Julia Roberts smile. And her smile's great, so it was hard for me to say, "This is not matching what you wanted to bring out. What's going on?"
She said, "What do you mean? I'm not going to not smile. People are going to think I'm horrible." And I went, "Well, wait a minute. There's a lot in between smiling and not smiling." We talked about the shades, and then I could reference the inspiration that we put together specifically for her. Then she tapped into it and it was really, really cool. So, Pinterest [laughs], and what the humans need.
When you were a young girl, what were the narratives you were exposed to about women and women's rights?
So, my mom has passed. She was not a diagnosed sociopath, but there were a lot of narcissistic qualities, and she was also an alcoholic. I grew up gauging the temperature of every room, walking on eggshells, learning exactly what someone needed to hear from me and giving it to them. I was running into that with some of my client work when I was in the brand strategy space, and that's when I literally closed my laptop and looked at myself in the mirror, like, "At what point did my mom decide ‘This is my life?’"
I'm 50, and this was right before my 49th birthday, actually. I saw so much of her, and I was like, "I could easily just wind down, or I could do all of this." I did a lot of shadow work and inner-child healing, but I didn't even know how to tap into my own needs. The self-portraits were my gateway to myself, and the Self Portrait Studio has been great for me because it keeps me very honest.
I learned this a while ago, and [my clients] are learning it with fresh eyes. Being with them with such regularity keeps me not apart. I always want to be in it with them, and just remember that experience. I would've run from that before, so it's taught me a lot.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
I honestly have so many, but before, I didn't have any. I didn't allow myself to be inspired by anybody. This is going to sound terrible, but I just wanted what they had in a really envious way. I was so lacking in the belief that I could create things for myself. I'm in the Dreamers & Doers membership, and when I was accepted, I was like, "I think I'm in the wrong place. I think you all are so freaking incredible." I'm inspired by those women every single day and really honored to have a spot in that world. The women who aren't afraid to give and share of themselves, and don't expect anything in return, those are the women who inspire me the most.
If you are thinking you can’t be part of that kind of group for some reason — I spent most of my life feeling like I was on the outside — it's usually there. There's some form of it there and accessible to you at all times.
What's a ritual in your life that you swear by?
Walking. I walk four miles every day [with my dog]. She's my four-mile-a-day buddy. If I don't get that, I'm just so unmoored for the day.
What's your favorite way to celebrate a win (big or small)?
To stop and notice it! I think sometimes we set the goal for the thing, and we think and think about it, so when it comes, we've already had that dopamine hit ahead of the excitement that it's on its way. And then when it comes, it's like, "Oh, this is great, but now I'm already thinking of this thing over here."
I'll grab my family and tell them what's happening. I let them give me love and reflect it back. Then I receive it and it's like, "Okay, on with the day." That's all I need. I don't necessarily need a big night out. I think noticing goes a long way.
You can follow Lisa on Instagram.