How Focus Changed My Photography Business

by guest blogger Dawn Whitmore

Embracing a cause and a purpose took this photographer from unknown to memorable. Dawn Whitmore shares her story and how she gained traction in a niche market.


Photo of an old barn in Virginia by photographer Dawn Whitmore

This barn is still used each year for hay storage. It is near Chancellor’s Battlefield but a subdivision has been built behind it.


Like most photographers, in the beginning my work was all over the place. I described myself as a landscape and nature photographer. However, what I found was that people liked my work, but didn’t connect in a memorable way. My artwork lived in a world with a plethora of faceless and nameless “landscape & nature” photographers. Fellow artist Corrina Thurston shares in one of her books, “Just having beautiful artwork unfortunately won’t make a successful business.”

After attending an art and business seminar in Washington D.C. in early 2016, it became apparent my business needed more.  My artwork won awards, but unless it began connecting with people, my business would flounder. The pleasant surprise is that my niche of Century Barns had been waiting for me to embrace it.


Historic Pennsylvania barn photographed by Dawn Whitmore.

This barn in Pennsylvania has been restored into a community center.


It started simply enough, back in 2011. A move brought me back to where I lived on two different farm properties as a teenager. While traveling through the area and reminiscing, a sad reality was revealed. The two farm properties where my family resided back in the 1980’s were gone. As my focus on barnscapes grew, it became apparent that people were resonating with my cause, “to preserve barnscape and agricultural history for future generations.”


Spotsylvania Farm by photographer Dawn Whitmore

This property’s owner lives on the West Coast but a caretaker has been taken care of the property and growing crops for years. This farm is across the street from the farm I lived as a teenager, which is now a subdivision.


People began to remember me and my work. They also connected emotionally to the artwork. That emotional connection led to people who not only bought my work, but also began supporting my cause, Century Barns. My barnscape photography of Century Barns has earned me the title of The “Old Barn” Lady. A laugh is shared, as I emphasis, it is the barns which are old, not me…at least not quite yet. Now, individuals no longer see me as someone who only wants his or her money. They see, Dawn Whitmore, The “Old Barn” Lady.


Dawn Whitmore's photos of historic barns on permanent exhibition.

Dawn Whitmore’s Artwork on Permanent Installation at Brittany Commons Apartments Leasing Office in Spotsylvania, Virginia


The “Old Barn” Lady’s mission is two-fold: photograph Century Barns and share the history of those who are the caretakers of each barn. Even though agricultural is consistently in the top five industries in the state of Virginia, our agricultural landscape, including barns, is decreasing each year. Farms are larger and alternative methods are being used for storage. Barns are seen as an unnecessary expense. The tragic decision is made to tear down instead of choosing upkeep or restoration. However, throughout not only Virginia, but also the United States, people are stepping forward to save old barns. Why do old barns, especially Century Barns, matter?

Century Barns matter to our area and beyond for several reasons:

  • Nostalgia: People always share stories and memories of family farms when viewing my barnscape photography
  • History Buffs: Our region is rich in history (especially Civil War and Revolutionary)


Dawn Whitmore's rural photography on exhibition in Virginia

Dawn Whitmore’s Artwork is part of an Invitation-Only All Photography Exhibit at Jarrett Thor Gallery in Colonial Beach, Virginia


Through embracing and marketing my niche of Century Barns, my work has been recognized and rewarded:

  • An upcoming solo show at the oldest gallery in Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • A book in progress
  • Connections with people who care about Century Barns
  • Artwork in both galleries and exhibits in Fredericksburg, Colonial Beach, Stafford and King George, Virginia
  • Interviews and writing opportunities

To have a successful business by finding my niche was a definite step in the right direction. Focus definitely changed my photography business!


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  1. Awesome Photography. Love the barns, farm buildings. These are the subjects I love to draw and paint. Congrat’s

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