The Studio at City Center: The woman behind the camera

LaDawn Hodges, right. All Photos Courtesy Of LaDawn Hodges.

By Alexandra Wilson

LaDawn Hodges fell in love with photography from the moment she grabbed a camera. She began taking photos right out of high school. Hodges’ passion for photography came from her mother, who was known to take photos everywhere from special events to funerals. Years later, Hodges would have her own photography business and studio.

Raised with her sister by their single mother, Hodges remembers having a wall of portraits when they lived in New Jersey. As a child, she was active in track, basketball and volleyball, but her passion was always for art. 

Hodges specializes in maternity, newborns and family photos. She enjoys capturing the important milestones in clients’ lives. It gives her great joy to watch newborn babies grow.

Before opening her business full time, Hodges worked at Sears Portrait Studios for more than 17 years. After bringing her niece there one day to have her photos taken, Hodges fell in love. She says she was “mesmerized that the photographers were able to get my niece to be quiet enough to take photos.” Carolyn Fite was the studio manager at the first Sears where she worked. She and Fite formed a close relationship, and Fite was influential in Hodges getting behind the camera. She began working at the front desk, but taking photos was where she was meant to be. In two years, Hodges began taking pictures for Sears.

Hodges’ career at Sears grew with her as she built a family. While working there, she married and gave birth to her children. She became district manager, running 22 stores. She enjoyed her time there and was able to travel, receiving many awards for her work. When Sears closed, she began working for Mom 365, photographing newborns for as many as 16 hospitals. Although it was a huge learning experience for Hodges, her time at Mom 365 was brief. The company was restructured, letting her go just two weeks before Christmas, and as Hodges says, “promoting me to my own business!” 

Perseverance and determination run within Hodges’ blood. She took her layoff at Sears as a sign that she needed to open her own business and that’s what she did. In 2013, struggling at first, especially being a woman in a male-dominated industry, she worked diligently, and within two years, with the support of her husband, Hodges transitioned from corporate America to her own studio. It was like night and day and adjusting to the business side of owning a studio wasn’t easy. 

To cover some personal expenses, Hodges took a position as an attendance associate at a middle school. Although she wasn’t taking pictures, she says that working at the school “became a ministry” for her. She would work during the day and operate her business at night. 

Currently, Hodges co-owns The Studio at City Center with her friend, Leighann Workman. They rent the space to local photographers and for special events. Hodges’ sister brand is The Portrait Studio, which she co-owns with another friend, Alycia Sawyer. Hodges is also photographer for Woodside High School. 

Hodges hosted her first workshop for local photographers at The Studio at City Center in May. This was an opportunity for her to give back to local photographers, teaching young photographers to make those memories as well. Hodges, the woman behind the camera, is thrilled to be creating magical memories for her clients. 

The Studio at City Center
Address: 11835 Cannon Blvd., Ste. 104, Newport News, VA 23606
Phone: 757-323-7677
Contact: LaDawn Hodges

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