By Katie TerBeest —
Although Dahli Durley swears she doesn’t remember dates well, Oct. 8, 2015, is a date she can confidently assure you she will always remember. That was the day she adopted photography as her full-time career.
“Photographs have always meant a lot to me; they are documents of moments in time,” she said. “We need cues to remember things, times in our lives, or people who may have passed on. It’s nice to have those reminders to document—for people’s legacy, for the future.”
The Potosi, Wisconsin, native said that while she has always appreciated photography, she never planned on becoming a photographer. With both a BA in business and an MBA, she was establishing her career in that field but also struggling with feeling unfulfilled. “It just wasn’t the right fit for me,” she explained. In addition, as a first-generation American, the child of a mother who was an immigrant to the United States, Durley explained that it was hard to see a creative career path as an option for her. “It was … okay, you can become a doctor, a lawyer or a business person.” She didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but she was passionate about what photography brought out in her.
“Everyone has a story, and when I photograph someone, it’s a very intimate, raw experience,” Durley said. “A lot of people today don’t have that in their lives—someone looking right at them, focusing totally on them. It ends up being a very intimate moment, because the person has no control.”
Although she admits her first six months as a full-time wedding and portrait photographer were a bit of a struggle filled with plenty of “side hustles,” photography was a way for her to meet new people, cultivate relationships and grow as a person, all of which gave her a sense of purpose. “Photography is a good fit for me. People are interesting—everyone has a story, and I get to help tell their story.”
“Photography has saved me and shaped me in many ways,” Durley added. “It’s taught me to value myself and believe in myself, which also enriched my personal life. I gained self-respect.” Durley made it her goal as a person to lead a life that was authentic to her. “I spent too much of my life doing what others wanted me to do or be who others think I am,” she said. This personal goal translates into her photography, as she strives to document real moments and portray each subject’s authentic self.
“The Ted Talk is going to be a true test of authenticity for me,” Durley shared, referring to the TEDxFondduLac event on Aug. 25, 2018, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. At the sold-out event, which will take place right before this issue of L.I.N.K. hits the stands, Durley will be one of the chosen speakers to deliver a message on the theme “Enough.” While she admits to being a bit nervous to take the stage, she reminds herself that fear is momentary. “Photography has given me a platform to be myself.”
For more information on the TEDxFondduLac event, visit www.tedxfonddulac.com. Videos from the event will be available to watch on the TEDx website in the weeks following the event. For more information on Dahli Durley and her photography, visit