Hi there! I'm Andrea Bell and I am a nontraditional pre-med student, freelance photographer, & mom from Dayton, Ohio. I've been blogging sporadically since 2008 and have never mastered the art of a clever bio. I asked my good friend, Justine of This Little Place, to ask me some questions:
WHO ARE THE HANDSOME MANS IN YOUR LIFE? My sons! Being a single mom is hard work, but my sons are also my fuel to move forward + drink in each day with a grateful attitude. I've done my life in a different order than most people, but we've adapted together as a team. I call these years the Golden Age, from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It's a fantastic season of all of us commuting together each morning, book bags and lunches in tow, that I treasure.
Kevin is twelve and I love learning about who he is and listening to his ideas. He is always happiest when he is creating something- and I'm such a fan of his work. Whether it's a handmade grappling hook or an oversized paper airplane, he is always ambitious about his inventions. He enjoys math & science. I try to encourage his interests but also let him be a kid. He holds the door for me when I have groceries and his manners make me proud. We like riding bikes together and I love his handpicked Spotify playlist of cello covers (esp We Found Love). Love seeing him practice & show enthusiasm about playing cello. He keeps me honest when I can't remember the difference between a manta ray and a sting ray. It's an honor to have conversations about life and how the world works with him, we get each other's humor. He will be a seventh grader this year.
Damian is feisty & sweet. He likes to tell terrible knock knock jokes and loves being the center of attention. Can't stop him from dabbing or flosssing (OMG it's hilarious though). His sense of humor brings much needed comic relief, notice the flowers in his hair in the (iPhone) portrait above. It's really cool to see him demonstrate his own version of creativity, and he makes it look incredibly effortless. He is taking after his brother and mother, and he is a little book worm. He likes his dinosaurs to be tall and fast. He brags that gym is his favorite subject, and always has a group of friends in any situation. The three of us have good memories of playing baseball together and I love watching his games. Even though he is eight, I will hold him until I can't anymore. It's getting harder, but I still carry him up to bed when he falls aleep downstairs. He answers to Ocean and Achilles. I'll tell you about it sometime. He is starting third grade.
They are both resilient and inspire me to be the best version of myself for them.
WHAT IS IN YOUR NETFLIX QUE? Hahaha, my sons have taken over that! By the time I find something to watch I am bored from searching. When I'm on break between semesters I try to sneak in a binge (or two). I loved all of Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, and finally started Parks and Recreation + Arrested Development.
FAVORITE CAMERA? My jokingly 'vintage' iPhone 4, now replaced. It actually taught me a lot about photography & light because of its simplicity. Professionally, I prefer my Nikon cameras & Nikkor lenses.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT DAYTON TO YOU? HOW HAS IT HELPED SHAPE YOU AS AN ARTIST? Dayton has been my home for many years. I am a Sinclair alum and the Visual Communications program gave me a chance to explore myself as an artist in an applicable career. It prepared me to be the photographer I have become. Now that I've returned to Wright State, I'm constantly impressed with how it has changed since my first classes there in 2002. It feels like a new campus, and the faculty have been supportive of my goals. When I went back to school at in my early thirties, I worried it would be a disaster or that I would never keep up. It is probably more work than I initially imagined, but I am lucky to be a student with so many resources a short drive from home.
WHAT IS YOUR RESEARCH FOCUS? I work in a behavioral neuroscience lab on campus, and we examine neuroimmune factors related to the stress response. I love this topic, because we have always heard about how bad stress can be and it's kind of terrifying if we only hear one side of the story. However, we also look at the way our bodies are designed to buffer the stress (change the physiological response and reduce negative behavioral changes) due to the presence of social stimuli (like the presence of a mother with her offspring). It's not a surprise that I like this field, because I'm drawn to anything related to how we can apply physiology to real world applications. I'm just beginning to get a better grasp on the immune system and it's such a cool network. I always look forward to learning more.
WHAT KIND OF PHOTOGRAPHY DO YOU DO? I've scaled back tremendously as my degree and medical school prep have become more time consuming. The nice thing about being a photographer is the variety of assignments I can pursue. I have been photographing weddings & occasional portraits in a boutique fashion since 2009. My original background is in graphic design, so I also have found a niche in working with local (women) owned businesses to help with their online brand development as well as product & commercial photography. I love the challenge of translating their story, hard work, & identity into a visual story. Some of my clients are Confetti, Skin Food by Aubrey, and Taylor Monroe. Understanding design has been a large advantage in establishing my own branding & creating my own websites- like Tether & Fly!
More importantly, I see my background as a creative communicator as an advantage with sharing research & information in digestible pieces. I straddle the line as a recent lay person with no scientific background and someone who now studies and works in academia. I hadn't taken chemistry in about SIXTEEN YEARS when I returned to Wright State, so I was working hard to understand even very simple concepts. I try to remember that as I prepare to tutor students or when I prepared to share my honor's research project with the public. It is important to me to be able to use my artistic background to enhance the clarity of the science I need to communicate. I also want to make it more appealing.
IF YOU WEREN'T A PHOTOGRAPHER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? That is a question I have tried to answer for many years, because photography was only one of many interests that intrigued me. For a time, it was a toss up whether I'd open a bake shop or commit to taking pictures. The first wedding I photographed, I also baked the cake. Not a good idea, and never doing that again. (That disaster is NOT what is pictured above... that was a Jabba the Hut cake for Kevin years ago). Seriously though, as I started to get older and knew that both of my sons would be in school (allowing me more time to focus on work), I started to wonder if photography was the work I wanted to focus on. If photography were to be the sum of my life's contribution to the world, was it enough? It wasn't for me.
When Damian started kindergarten, I also started classes again. It was perfect timing to finish my bachelor of science degree in psychology at Wright State. I started to slowly build confidence that I never had before, that I could take on challenging classes and do well. If I had believed that earlier, I would not have earned an X in Anatomy in 2004. There is so much more to the story, and I try to share pieces when I have time. Returning to college and taking courses required for my pre-med track and completing a concentration in behavioral neuroscience rekindled my interest in helping people with neurological disorders and mental illness. A close family member has a chronic disease, schizophrenia, and it was the catalyst that brought me to where I am. Since his diagnosis almost 20 years ago, I've wanted to understand what changed in his constellation of neuronal circuits to cause his symptoms. That curiosity led me to discover how much I enjoy learning about the mechanisms behind our existence. I am fascinated by the way we are wired underneath our skin. I'm going to begin a master's degree in physiology and neuroscience this fall at Wright State. Working in the emergency department this year has helped me confirm that I want to help patients and use my knowledge to cordinate the best care possible. I'll be applying to medical school & taking the MCAT in spring of 2019.
It's a bit of a hike until I reach medical school, so I am still balancing freelance photography in my schedule: AndreaBelleStudios.com