Julia is in 11th grade. She works at Michie Tavern, and likes to draw landscapes. She loves the Percy Jackson book series, as well as Rick Riordan. This...
Photo Courtesy of Alicia Patterson
A Passion for Photography
March 15, 2023
A native of Charlottesville, Special Education teacher Alicia Patterson has the distinction of juggling the responsibilities of teaching, being a mom, and running her own photography business, Simplee Photography.
Patterson attended Charlottesville High School as a teenager where she was involved with the school’s SGA and Key Club, and was also enrolled in the scholar’s program (now known as AVID). Her love for photography began the summer before her junior year of high school when the AVID program allowed her to go to the University of Virginia (UVA) for two weeks and live on campus. She attended courses for photography at UVA that same summer, was given an old film camera, and used it to take photos of the UVA Corner. Her parents supported her by buying her a camera to continue taking photographs.
As much as she loved taking photos, Patterson was on track to attend college, so photography was “kind of put on the back burner,” she said. “The scholar’s program was pushing academics, and they didn’t really let me tap into my creative side,” she explained.
She attended Piedmont Virginia Community College, but took some time off after a year, then joined the working field before quickly realizing it wasn’t for her. She resumed her studies and got her undergraduate degree in criminal justice at East Coast Polytechnic Institute, then two master’s degrees at the University of Phoenix, including one in Psychology, and another for Special Education.
Patterson married seven years ago, settled down in Fluvanna County, and began working at Fluvanna County High School doing mental health counseling through Region Ten. It wasn’t until four years later that she would land her current job as a Special Education teacher in Language Arts. A year after Patterson started teaching, she had a daughter, Aubree, who will turn four this April. Patterson says Aubree is non-verbal and on the autism spectrum.
“Although she has, you know, all these challenges with her, she is the brightest kid that I know,” Patterson said, noting that she is very thankful for her daughter and has learned a lot from her.
In 2017, Patterson attended a gender reveal party for a family member and was asked to take photos of the event on her phone. Her friend saw the photos afterwards and told Patterson, “These are amazing. You should start your own photography business.” Patterson did exactly that, and began by buying a new camera, a Canon t6i. She attended and photographed the same family member’s wedding, and they turned out really well. That night, she came up with her business, Simplee Photography.
While she hadn’t taken photos on a professional camera in many years, she said, “It’s kind of like riding a bike.”
She has had many different shoots since the beginning of her business, ranging from weddings to senior portraits. One time she was approached by a student who asked if she took senior portraits, then asked about pricing and was pleasantly surprised by how little Patterson wanted to charge. Patterson has kept this in mind and aims to not charge too much in order “to capture memories for people.” Her pricing for senior portraits ranges from $160 to $300 for a photo session and package.
“I am more than a photographer. It’s hard to balance and not feel like I’m carrying multiple plates, wearing multiple hats, all at the same time,” Patterson says.
She finds it hard but manageable due to her being “motivated” and so eager to work that she says taking a month off in the summer is difficult for her. Even when COVID-19 struck, she found a way to continue her photography business by offering outside sessions to clients.Patterson said her biggest inspirations are her mother, her dad, and her grandma, who passed away in early 2022.
“She was very influential in my life. She is the one that instilled a lot of things into me and made me be the strong, independent person I am now,” she said, adding that her grandma nicknamed her “Lee Lee” when she was younger, which is what inspired her business’s name.
Today, Patterson has a lot of support from her family, her extended family, and the community that she has built at the high school since 2015.
“That’s why I love Fluvanna,” she said. Her advice to others is “Don’t ever let anyone darken your dreams. If you’re passionate about it, regardless of what society might say, or what people might push in your head, continue to try and fulfill it.”
To learn more about her photography business and the types of photo packages she offers, check out her website.