Photographer uses Facebook to hook her clients


Photo by Phil Botta.

Adrienne Savoldi

When you first meet her, Debra-Lynn Hook is friendly and open. As you converse with her further, you realize not only is she exactly what you thought, she is also extremely knowledgeable and willing to share her knowledge.

Hook is a syndicated writer and freelance photographer. Her column, “Bringing Up Mommy,” a play on the movie title “Bringing Up Baby,” has been picked up by several newspapers. She also makes a name for herself as a freelance photographer taking pictures of weddings, senior portraits and other events. She said that two years ago, her work was displayed as part of an art exhibit at Starbucks.

Hook said most of her photography work is Facebook-driven. She gets her photography jobs through Facebook advertising.

“I think (Facebook) is an amazing tool for marketing,” she said.

Hook is also unique as a photographer in that she is not a fan of Photoshop.

“I can’t make stories up,” she said. “I’ve always been somebody who wants to understand truth.”

When she was 7 years old, Hook wrote her first story and in seventh grade her teacher told her that her work would end up in Reader’s Digest.

“And I did make it into Reader’s Digest,” Hook said with a smile. “I really like words.”

When she was 19 years old, Hook said she dropped out of college for a couple years and worked as a traveling photographer on the East Coast, photographing shriners and their families.

“I learned about composition, light and connecting with people,” Hook said.

Hook eventually made it back to school, majoring in English, but then switched to journalism on a teacher’s recommendation. She also took some photojournalism classes.

“I wasn’t a big fan of the darkroom,” Hook said, laughing.

Hook said she attended four different colleges as her parents split up when she was a teenager. She and her mother moved from place to place. Hook worked her way through college by waitressing at bars, restaurants and even discos. She also said she found it easier to relate to students who also had to work their way through school than to those who didn’t.

“It’s really important in college to find some sort of social group you can attach to,” Hook advised.

Hook said she worked her way up to the biggest newspaper in South Carolina and she always had a photographer with her on assignments. She eventually learned more about photography.

“It all came together at that point,” Hook said.

Hook said she was in newspapers for 15 years. She started writing her “Bringing Up Mommy” column when she was pregnant.

“My editor really liked it and ran it every two weeks and then the syndicate picked it up,” Hook said.

Every two weeks, Hook still writes this anecdotal column. She said her work is also picked up by blogs and sometimes the USA Today online. She also has a blog of her own called “Get Up Offa that Thang.”

Hook, originally from New Orleans, said she and her family were brought to Kent because of her husband’s job as the chair of the political science department at Kent State. They have lived here 14 years.

“I’m the ‘trailing spouse,’ so they say,” Hook joked.

Hook has two sons, 22 and 13, respectively, and an 18-year-old daughter, who is a Kent State freshman. Hook admits sometimes working and raising a family has been difficult over the years and that she has not worked in an office for 15 years.

“Sometimes I will go to Panera and spend eight hours there just to get out of this environment,” Hook said.

Hook hopes to inspire feeling into those who see her work. She said she likes when her writing makes people cry because it means she touched them somehow.

“I like it when I validate the human condition for someone else,” Hook said.

She also said her favorite part of her job is connecting with other people. She developed a friendship with the parents of a young girl who was raped and murdered when she covered their story.

“I’ve developed a niche for going behind the scenes and some of my best moments were when I transcended the line between journalist and subject,” she said.

Hook said she enjoys freelancing better than working under someone else.

“I prefer freelance because I’m the boss,” she said. “There’s something to be said for stability and regular paychecks, but I love living for myself.”

Despite her accomplishments, Hook is also extremely humble about her gifts and talents.

“I don’t ever want to present myself as more than I am,” Hook said. “Just because I wrote a column, doesn’t mean I have it figured out.”

Hook admitted she was concerned that her career wasn’t as “lucrative” as somebody else’s, but she is pleased with her work.

“I have followed my passion,” she said.

Hook acknowledged that it’s a difficult time for students to enter the journalism world, but said there will always be a need for human interpretation of events.

“Continue to pursue (journalism) with the realization that you have to be ready for change,” Hook said.

Hook hopes journalists will maintain authenticity in their work.

“Don’t lose your ethics,” Hook cautioned. “It’s very important for journalism that we stay close to the truth.”

Contact Adrienne Savoldi at [email protected].