They say a snapshot tells a thousand words, and this month, we have three local ladies proving those words are true. From weaving stories of seniors headed out of school and into the big world, to celebrity shots, and photos that celebrate woman’s bodies, these photographers speak their subject’s truths and share them with the world, while telling their own tales in ways unique to them.

Sarah Kathleen Leader:

Sarah fell in love with being behind the camera 27 years ago but turned her favorite art form into a career 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She explores her subjects through boudoir sessions, elopements, and playful, unposed family portraits. She also loves to get her camera lens on delicious snacks and delightful beverages.

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Sarah Kathleen Leader

Atascadero News Magazine: How did you get into photography, and what made you want to make it your career?


Sarah Kathleen: “I fell headfirst into photography as a child of 8 when my parents got me a hot pink 35mm film camera for my birthday. I’ve spent my life teaching myself the art form of photography and storytelling. At 16 years old, I entered the world of wedding photography as an assistant to a local wedding photographer. I fell in love with documenting people and their stories. By 19 years old, I had started my own photography business and booked my first wedding, which rapidly became 22 bookings in my first year.” 

ANM: Can you tell me how storytelling and photography go hand in hand in your mind?

SK: “As a neurodivergent human, I see things differently than anyone else. Sometimes, I feel like I’m looking through a pair of goggles or glasses that no one else has on. I see colors, emotions, and movement more vividly, deeply, and dramatically than the typical eye. And people’s stories are wrapped up in all of it. Stories of love, grief, joy, heartache, mental health battles, and self-evolution. I am a deep feeler and am not afraid to sit with people through their brightest and darkest hours and document whatever comes up for them. On a wedding day, that could be happy tears or a graze of loving fingers during a stolen moment exchanging private vows. During a boudoir shoot, that could be a woman who’s fought and won her battle with breast cancer but lost her breasts in the process. With a family, I don’t chase the perfect Christmas card photo but instead invite the parents to let their kids be kids and document their unique family dynamic and relationship.”

ANM: In addition to all the other photos you take, you also take boudoir photos. Can you tell me a little more about that?

SK: “I have been on a mission to photograph and empower as many women through my art form as possible. Women have been making themselves small, invisible, and quiet for centuries. And what I call a “Bare Session” (because boudoir doesn’t quite fit anymore) is an invitation to let go of old narratives and step into your power, to take up space, be loud, and not apologize for it. I’m in the business of showing women they are beautifully and wonderfully made and don’t need to “lose 5 pounds” or “tone up” before doing the photo shoot. You only get to be this version of yourself once, and she is worth documenting. Over and over again.” 

ANM: Can you tell me a story about one of your favorite photos that you’ve taken?

SK: “Oof. I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of photos. That’s tough. Can I pick two? For two very different reasons?

The first is a portrait I took of my little sister (not by blood, but we’ve been best friends our entire lives) after she was sexually assaulted several years ago. Life was really, really dark for her. She asked if I would photograph her in her darkness. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be one of the most powerful sessions of my life. We went down into the creek behind my parent’s house in Atascadero; she moved and held her body in ways it needed to move and be held, as I held space for her darkness and documented it as it moved through and out of her. 

The second is a portrait of my mama. She attended one of my Persephone Unleashed retreats on the island of Maui in 2023, and photographing her was a really special thing for me. Leading up to the retreat, she said several times that she didn’t want to do the photo shoot, thinking that she would have to be sexy and wasn’t about it. But what she didn’t know yet was that a Bare Session doesn’t have to be a sensual thing. The only goal of a session like this with me is to be wholly yourself, to try on different pieces of yourself that maybe you forgot were there (or didn’t know they were there in the first place). I’m so grateful she trusted me and stepped in front of my camera despite her anxiety. She danced the whole time, and I saw my mama step out of a grief she’s been carrying for years and years. And it was magic.” 

You can find Sarah online at

Janese Hockman:

Janese moved to Templeton in 2010 and, a year later, started her business. Though her main form of photography is portrait, with a heavy emphasis on high school portraiture, she also dabbles in marketing and lifestyle photos. 

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Janese Hockman

ANM: When was the moment when you knew you wanted to make photography your career?

Janese Hockman: “It was right after I had my first child in 2003. I was trying to take a decent picture of him for his birth announcements and just couldn’t get it the way I liked. I went online for some inspiration and saw the difference between my amateur point-and-shoot and a professional camera. I couldn’t afford a professional photographer as a new young mother, and it was then that I wanted to figure out how to do it myself. In my ignorance, I thought if I just had a fancy camera, then I could take professional pictures. I quickly realized it took more than a big fancy camera to take good photographs. I self-taught and trial-an-errored so hard until I felt confident enough to open my photography business in late 2011. It all came full circle in 2022 when I got to photograph my son as a senior in high school and again this year for my daughter, who graduates in June.”

ANM: Inclusion and making all different kinds of people feel seen is a large part of your brand that you state proudly and boldly. Can you share why that is so important to you?

JH: “Because aren’t we all tired of living in a box? We’ve twisted and crammed and stuffed ourselves so neatly into this ‘perfect’ little box.  A box that only benefits a specific genre, when in reality, we’ve completely broken and taken people apart, shoving them in where they were never designed to fit. We’ve damaged and hurt people, families, and communities, boxing them up to the point of unrecognization. If there is one thing I’ve learned from photographing people, it’s that they all need space to break free, show their true colors, and experience acceptance in all forms in order for them to believe that they, too, are beautiful and worthy just as they are.”

ANM: What is one of your favorite “I got to do that” moments from your career?

JH: “Honestly, it’s anytime I get an inquiry in my inbox. I am deeply honored that people want me to photograph them. I am humbled that they took the time to reach out to me when there are literally thousands of other photographers to choose from.”

ANM: Is there a photo that you think about often that you’ve taken?

JH: “Yes. It was one of my very first high school seniors. She brought her prom dress, and we shot it at Halter Ranch Winery on their iconic covered bridge. I had my assistant ‘throw’ her dress, and what I captured made my mouth drop. It was right then that I felt like maybe I could actually do this whole photography thing.”

You can find out more about Janese and book a session with her at

Instagram @photosbyjanese

Allyson Magda Rivera:

Allyson fell in love with photography at a young age and has been using her camera to capture amazing moments for 25 years, most of which have been spent in North County. Her photos have been spotted hanging all over the county, with her last series, featuring 40 women over 40, hanging in Spearhead Coffee last year. She’s currently working on the second round and shooting weddings, senior portraits, and everything in between.

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Allyson Magda Rivera

ANM: What was the moment when you knew you wanted to make photography into a career?

Allyson Magda: “While in college, my friend was looking for a job at his school and gave me a number of someone looking for a photographer for their daughter’s wedding he saw on the career board (this is really aging to say this, the internet was pretty new at the time). This was in 1999. I called, interviewed, and got the gig. I had never even assisted at a wedding but jumped in and charged a whopping $10 an hour and $10 per roll of film. I had so much fun and thought, “I could do this for a living.” Little did I know it would evolve into what it has today. The places this career has taken me, I’d never have guessed, as that (UC Santa Cruz) Banana Slug college senior shooting her first wedding 25 years ago.”  

ANM: I know you’ve shot covers for large publications like People Magazine. What has it been like to see your photos on such a large scale?

AM: “My work has been featured on the covers of a ton of magazines over the decades, and it’s always exciting. That will never get old. The Zuckerberg wedding was completely surreal in so many ways. The three images they released were literally all over the world and are still used today. I’m grateful for that whirlwind experience and exposure. I’d never imagined my business and profile would be featured in Forbes. With all this said, there’s at least one notable gal whose wedding I would absolutely love to shoot, and her name is Taylor.” 

ANM: You’ve also taken photos of quite a few celebrities. How did you get into that side of the business?

AM: “The celebrities are nearly always a surprise. Countless times, I’ve been waiting in line for water or salad at a wedding and chatting with a guest, having no clue who I’m talking to, until someone comes up and says, ‘Hey, you know who you’re talking to?’ I  will admit a bit of ‘blond’ in the category of ‘stardom recognition,’ it’s probably a good thing.”

ANM: Are there any other creative outlets that you’re a part of that also bleed into your life in photography?

AM: “We purchased a 10-acre property five years ago with two 1944 farmhouses. It’s been a dream come true to purchase our home on Jack Creek Road. We have the most wonderful neighbors, and I get to walk out the door, shoot, come inside, and eat dinner with my family every week. The backdrops here are stunning; we are cooler than the downtown Paso area, being more coastal and in the Templeton gap, so we have greenery year-round, which is a treat. The land and ancient oaks are very natural and evolve with the seasons, so there’s a constant shift in surroundings to keep the creative juices flowing.The landscape designer and I have planned multiple areas for shooting, keeping the light in mind as we continue to evolve; I am so excited about it all. My favorite place to shoot is at home, and that is so special. I am extremely grateful to be here.”

ANM: I know you have a studio team at your photography business; can you tell me about them? 

AM: “Jill Hewston started assisting me 15 years ago and has been so instrumental in allowing me to build this business to what it is today. Her enthusiasm, talent and can-do attitude helped take Allyson Magda Photography from surviving to thriving. Jill, Ali Dusi, and Jessica Clough  (who have all been associates over the years) shoot weddings and portraits on their own under the umbrella of Allyson Magda Photography.”

You can find out more about Allyson and her team at, and see her “40 Over 40” series at

Instagram: allymagdaphoto


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