A moment in time: TSTC alum captures an unexpected dream

BY Amanda Sotelo

A beach, a sand version of a snowman and a borrowed camera is how Texas State Technical College alumnae Marian Bliss Blake’s photography career got started.

The Mexico City native never saw photography in her future. In fact she attended a university in Mexico to study Architecture. During this time she took a job as a liaison and translator between American and Mexican architects working on a renovation project for a major hospital.

“I only took the job because I wanted experience in my field while in school,” Blake said. “Who knew I’d meet my husband?”

Marrying a Cardiologist and Medical Director at Harlingen Medical Center meant that Blake would call the United States and TSTC her new home.

She graduated from TSTC in 1999 with an associate degree in Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics. She even built a home with a design she created in class.

Around this same time, Blake was busy raising three children and helping her husband fight for his life after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

“After going through this time in my life and thinking that my husband was going to die, I began to see everything differently,” she said. “I’ve always loved doing photography, but now I began valuing photographs so much more. They’re stories and memories.”

Blake’s husband survived the cancer scare and she decided it was time to document their lives with photos.

What was supposed to be a family fun day taking Christmas photos at the beach with a sand snowman for a Christmas card turned into a photography session for more than 25 families.

“Word got out among my friends on what I was doing and by the time I knew it I had people requesting Christmas photo shoots,” said Blake. “I had never done anything like this before but I enjoyed it so much. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.”

It was after this shoot that a local photographer saw Blake’s photos. The woman encouraged her to enroll at TSTC and J. J. Vavra’s photography class.

“I’m the type of person who wants to do what she is doing the right way,” said Blake. “If people were going to be paying me for their photos, I better learn how to do it right.”

She returned to TSTC in 2007 and enrolled in Vavra’s photography class, which is part of the Digital Media Design program, and learned the foundation of taking photos and editing them.

After college, Blake became an active member of the Professional Photographers of America, and participated in the World Photographic Cup, an international team competition.

When she moved to Mexico, she and two partners formed the Comité Fotográfico Mexicano and encouraged fellow photographers to join and compete against the world’s best.

“We needed a certain number of photos and contestants and we weren’t getting responses from some of best. Organizing this for Mexico was not an easy task,” said Blake. “But in the end all of the hard work and sacrifice was worth it.”

The first two years of competition deemed successful for Mexico. Blake and her fellow photographers took fifth place as a country and sixth place as a country in 2016 and 2017 respectively. They are now preparing for their third world cup in Australia.

Blake has also taken on many projects in the recent years. She focuses on her business photographing newborns and children and works closely with Operation Smile, a not-for-profit, volunteer medical organization that provides reconstructive facial surgery to children with cleft lip or cleft palate.

Wanting the children to feel accepted and beautiful, Blake photographs before and after photos of children who suffer from this birth defect.

“These children are beautiful and have nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “If I have the ability to help them gain confidence then I’m going to share it.”

Blake credits much of this success to what she learned at TSTC and the mentors she met in the course who opened many doors of opportunity for her.

“It all started at TSTC,” she said. “It gave me the foundation for everything I am doing now and what I want to express with my photographs.”