Photography courtesy of Abigail LaFleur-Shaffer
Once in a while, I will come across someone and decide that I’d like to get to know her better. Hearing her stories, learning about the things that she finds important, and sharing a bit of mutual encouragement tend to make it all worthwhile. However, the best part is when we can talk like we’ve known each other for more than just a phone conversation and see the beginnings of what could be a great friendship. That is exactly what happened when I reached out to Colorado-based photographer and creative Abigail LaFleur-Shaffer.
Abi is one of those people who immediately comes across as genuine and honest. Many people know her for her outdoor lifestyle photography and visual storytelling, as well as for her two furry companions, Kodi and Kuma. But there is so much more to Abi than just the images she shares on the screen, and she was gracious enough to share a bit of her own story, struggles, and triumphs. So, without further ado, I present a little look into Abi’s world.
Who are you, in a nutshell?
I’m not quite sure I fit in a nutshell [haha]. I am Abigail or Abi; I am always dreaming and scheming; I am actively pursuing a life well-lived and a life lived to advocate for the people and the things I believe in; I am human and make mistakes and am always learning and growing; I am strong; I am capable; I want to live life boldly; and I love fun and beauty. Wherever there is beauty and wild things, there you will find me.
Tell us a little bit about your dogs, Kodi and Kuma. (They seem like pretty lovable adventure buddies!)
[Haha] I like to think they’re pretty lovable and super cute! They’re my two best friends. They’ve been there for me through my lowest lows and my greatest triumphs. Kodiak is somewhat an old soul; all he wants is to love and be loved. I feel like he represents a piece of my soul: the desire to love and be loved, the peaceful, calm, always ready for anything —stay in and snuggle, or excitedly romp through forests and beaches—piece of my soul; whereas, I believe Kuma represents a piece of my spirit. Kuma is wild, he is a wayward wanderer, he is independent, he appears to be bold and fierce but possesses a deep softness that takes time to see and experience, and once you break into his pack, he is loyal to you.
How did you discover your passion for storytelling?
I think I’m still slowly discovering it and what it looks like, but the initial realization that this is what I wanted to do with my life was almost ten years ago. I read a story about a young boy from Nairobi—it was a photo essay—and it touched me so deeply, I cried for half an hour straight and made the decision that I would do everything I could to tell others’ stories in a way that inspired change, hope, beauty, and dignity, as well as to share my story in the same way.
What do you hope to capture in a photo?
The true essence of the person or thing or moment in my photographs. I want people to feel something, even if it’s small.
Do you have a favorite wild place?
I have many. I’ve seen many wild places, some more wild than others, but I will always hold Colorado very near and dear. Colorado is my home, it’s where I was born, and no matter how many mountains I’ve climbed here or how many forests I’ve stood in awe in, I will never be able to fully know this wild state.
In the past year, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
This is a huge question for me. At the beginning of this year, I went through a deep and impactful life change. I was faced with a mountain I’ve never climbed before—one that I was never prepared to climb—and I had to learn how to navigate that. With that, I learned A LOT of important lessons because of that hardship. I learned how to love, how to be loved, how to forgive, what is really important at the end of the day, who I was and am, who I want to be, etc. One lesson I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately that I learned this year was how capable and strong women are, and how capable and strong I am.
When life gives you lemons, you…
…thank life for the lemons, then let Kodi and Kuma try eating them while I film their reactions in slow motion and laugh a lot about it.
Do you have any quirky habits?
[Haha] I’m not sure actually. I’ve never really thought about it. I eat popcorn as if it’s a well-balanced meal. I don’t like to wash my hair [haha].
What impression do you hope to leave on people?
I hope I leave people with the inspiration to chase wild things, the outdoors, dreams and passions—no matter how big or small—and the deepest parts of who they are. I hope that people realize how strong and capable they are, especially women of color, and to boldly fight for whatever it is they believe in.
Any big adventures coming up soon?
Not anything set in stone yet, but a lot of dreaming and scheming. Most of what the pups and I are up to is getting avalanche educated and doing more Colorado backcountry exploration. Other than exploring home, I’m hoping to do another shelter trip with the dogs some time this year and getting to the west coast and/or Hawai’i to finish learning how to surf. As far as adventures for myself, I’m pondering some international trips, fingers crossed!
Thank you Abi for taking the time to talk with me and share some of what makes you who you are. I look forward to whenever we can adventure together, whether it be in Colorado or Hawai’i or somewhere in between!
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.