I was going to write a simple short story here about how I got started in photography, but as I started to write, I realized I was only telling a very incomplete version of my story. My art goes so much deeper then the typical (I picked up a camera and found I was a natural) story. So, to help you understand it better, I wanted to dive into the deep nostalgic connection I have with my art and my childhood, and particularly the relationship I had with my Dad.
This may be kind of long, so, let’s get started.
Hi, my name is Phillip Haumesser, I was born in St. Louis Missouri in June of 1987, and this is my story.
I am one of eight kids in our family, there are seven of us boys and one girl. I’m the third oldest. I was also the last hospital birth, the rest of my siblings were born at home.
We had a small little three acre farm outside of St. Louis, but my parents wanted a bigger farm and wanted to get away from the commotion of a highly populated area. So when I was six years old we moved to a one hundred and twenty acre farm in the Ozarks. We loved it! There was so much open space to run around and explore, we could be out in the woods for the entire day going on new adventures.
My Dad stayed behind in St. Louis where his job was, but he came to the farm on the weekends. It wasn’t always going to be this way, Mom and Dad had a plan to save enough money to buy a flower shop in our new small town so Dad could come home.
Mom and Dad decided to homeschool us. Mom was always sort of an artsy person, so she decided she would start teaching us art class. This was a very important time in my life, I must have been around eight. She had very specific instructions for us, we were to draw a boat. It didn’t need to be elaborate or realistic, she even had a simple example picture for us to reference. But in my head I had a much different picture and that’s what I wanted to draw. So I began, but to my disappointment I discovered it was not coming out the way I had envisioned it in my head, and the harder I tried the worse it got. I become frustrated and my Mom couldn’t understand why I was making this so difficult. Long story short, Mom threw up her hands in frustration after I burst into an uncontrollable state of sobs and tears and said “that’s it! We’re never doing art class again!!!”, and we didn’t, and my brothers and sister hated me for it, and for good reason too.
I never lost that crazed desire to create and build things, but I learned to keep the uncontrollable bursts of anger inside when I couldn’t get it just right, mostly! My mom did continue to encourage my art though, in the many forms that it took, be it drawing, music, photography, cinematography, CGI and woodworking, and I owe a lot of that to her.
Dad was my hero! He always made sure we were well provided for and had what we needed, but most importantly, he made sure we knew that he loved us. He made every effort to spend time with us and play games with us, even though his time was limited, his family is what was most important to him.
He loved music and played several different instruments including the piano, trumpet and guitar. He also loved to take photos. I remember he took the whole family out into the field one day to take photos of us. He would try to use the timer on the camera but it never seemed to go off when he expected it to. We made so many great memories.
Even as a kid I knew what I wanted to be more then anything when I grew up, I wanted to have a family and be a fun and good father and husband to them like my Dad.
On April in the year 2000 the unthinkable happened. There was a tragic accident and my Dad passed away. I was twelve years old when my world turned upside down and nothing has been the same ever since then.
The flower Shop
Mom and Dad had purchased the flower shop two weeks before Dad passed away. We had to sell the farm and move into the basement of the shop. We lived there for two years before we bought a bed and breakfast that was converted into a home. Mom had to sell the flower shop, it was just too much for her to run the shop and homeschool eight kids at the same time, so she decided to buy the bed and breakfast and open it back up for business after us kids moved out.
About a year later one of my Dad’s childhood friends started coming around. It didn’t take long to realize that he was interested in Mom. He seemed like a great guy, we knew him for a while, but not very well.
They decided to get married. Everything seemed great for a couple of weeks, but something started to change. He started to get angry and bitter with us, we started to realize that maybe we didn’t know this guy like we thought we did.
Without much thought, he bought 200 acres out in the middle of nowhere! The land was over grown and worthless. We moved out there and lived in Campers and tents for the first two years. We didn’t mind this experience (or though it was hard on my Mom) we were always the adventures types.
He sold the bed and breakfast and we made the homestead our permanent residence, even though there was no building to live in.
We bought a small band sawmill and began cutting down trees and milling them into lumber. We built foundations out of the stone in the area and started building houses and out buildings and a wood shop out of the lumber we were cutting. We made everything by hand and from scratch.
We loved this kind of life, but our step feather became worse and worse making it very hard to enjoy anything we did. We began to feel trapped, all we did was work, which wouldn’t have been so bed if he would at the very least appreciate the work we did. This made us like machines while he was around. He didn’t even want us doing school anymore, he said that working for him was the best education.
We tried to love and respect him but he became extremely verbally abusive and was becoming an alcoholic. This was very hard for us because we had a Dad who loved us with all of his heart and was willing to sacrifice everything for his family.
It became so bad that Mom had to ask him to leave until he could find help or change, because he was unwilling to admit that he had issues and would not listen or take advice from anyone.
Doing our time on the homestead I continued to improve and have more interest in anything artistic. I became obsessed with music, always wanting to play the piano and I begin writing underscores for sort films and documentaries. I loved any kind of woodworking, I started to do a lot of lathe work. I also became very interested in filming snd CGI and started making short films of our own with my brothers.
We always joked around about how we should have a reality show created about us and the crazy way we were living and the things we were doing on the homestead. Strangely enough, out of a series of odd and bizarre events, we had a production company discover us and was interested in trying to do a reality show on our way of life on the homestead. We filmed a couple of sizzles that would then be sent out to networks to see if any of them would be interested in picking us up. We had a lot of different networks that were interested including Discovory but we weren’t happy with how they wanted to portray us. Ultimately we got picked up by Animal Planet. The first three episodes of our show (later named ‘Missouri Mountain Family’) were filmed, unfortunately, the tests didn’t go very well, so it got put on hold until later. It would be another two years before they finally aired.
At my brothers graduation we met a new family who had a daughter who was also graduating that day, her name was Natasha. The first thing I noticed about her was her accent. She was from Ukraine originally, adopted and came to the States when she was 15. Her father had passed away when she was very young and she doesn’t remember from what. Her Mom turned to alcohol to try to forget about life. Natasha took care of her Mom while also attending school. When she was 8 her Mom passed away in a hospital from liver failure as a result from the alcohol. She then had to live in an orphanage. Orphan girls in Ukraine didn’t have a very good chance in the Orphanage, after you turn 16 you have to leave, most turn to prostitution just so they can survive, or, if you’re lucky, you are adopted before you turn 16 and move to a different country. By God’s grace, an American family decided to adopt her when she was 15, just 4 months before her 16th birthday.
We invited them to visit us at our homestead after we meet them. While they were visiting, Natasha and I talked for the first time. We discovered very quickly that we both were very interested in the same things. We both wanted kids, we believed the same way, we wanted to live on a farm and we wanted to homeschool because we wanted to spend every moment of time with our kids.
We only knew each other for two weeks before I asked her to marry me. I was afraid it was too soon and I would scare her away, but to my surprise, she said yes!
I moved out of the homestead so I could begin to build a life for us. We were engaged for 1 year and 3 months before we got married. We lived in a rental house in town for a little over a year, which was hard for us because we both grew up on farms.
Nine months after we got married, our first son was born in our living room! I could have never been more proud, I had accomplished my dream! I was now a husband and a father! We named him Richard after my Dad.
We didn’t want our kids to grow up in town, so we found a 10 acre farm. It was so perfect and it was everything we ever dreamed of.
Before long we had our second son, Reuben. He was born in the bedroom of our new home.
It was so nice having the farm and watching the boys grow up there. I had to start taking extra jobs to keep up with all of the bills though, which took me away from my family more, which I didn’t like one bit, but I have to provide for my family.
Natasha keeps telling me that we needed to get a camera and start taking more pictures of the kids. I agreed, but cameras were expensive and there was always something more important. But several months later, she surprised me with a Samsung NX500 for my birthday!
I had used cameras before for filming, but I hadn’t experimented with photography yet. I played around with it for awhile taking some pretty mediocre photos and then put it away. A couple of months later I decided to actually do what we got the camera for and take some family photos.
It was a nightmare! First, I was trying to get the kids to pose, (which kids just don’t do by the way), and second, I was getting frustrated with the camera not cooperating. Natasha got tired of the whole thing and called it quits after the kids had fallen apart into uncontrollable fits and sobs. I finally gave up and decided to stop torturing my family and put the camera away again and decided I was never going to take another photo again as long as I lived!
After awhile I started to wonder what went wrong. I wanted to give it another try but not like that. I found a lot of photographers online who’s work just blew me away. One thing I noticed with a lot of these photos was that most of them where candid, the subjects weren’t looking at the camera. So I worked up enough courage to try it again, but this time I decided not to make it such a big deal, we were going to just go out and have fun and not care if we got good photos or not. To my surprise it went great! There were no more poses and we just had fun. I set the kids loose in the barnyard and followed them around chasing animals and playing games. We had so much fun in fact that I would sometimes forget we were taking photos and I would set the camera down and play with the kids, after all, why did they get to have all of the fun?!
I didn’t think about the pictures much until I uploaded them to the computer and started to go through them. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe the difference. I became obsessed with it, learning everything I could about photography and editing by watching YouTube videos and simply experimenting.
I had all of my Dads old manual lenses so I learned how to clean them and bought adapters so I could attach them to my camera and start using them.
After a year of doing this I got featured on The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, CountryLiving and dozens of other sites around the world. This has become one of my biggest passions, but what I love most is that it brings my family together, I get to spend time with my kids making memories that will last a lifetime! I remember my Dad and the fun we had and I have the hope that that will never go away. I dream that one day my kids will want to have a family of their own and love them unconditionally and with all of their hearts and it is my greatest desire to be there for them and be with them as long as I can. But if I’m not, I hope that I was a good Dad and that I will be remembered and missed the way I remember and miss my Dad!
My story isn’t over, in fact, it’s just starting! If you would like to continue following our adventures, subscribe to the newsletter!
I am going to become a lot more personal with my followers and I want to start telling you more about our lives so we can have a more personal connection. Expect to start seeing little short stories about our kids and the daily adventures we have along the way!