MacKenzie Dargie of Paris. Contributed photo

MacKenzie Dargie understands the magic of a photograph.

The 2021 graduate of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School says the power of photographs has helped her regain some of the childhood memories she lost when she had two brain tumors removed 10 years ago at Boston Children’s Hospital.

One example, she says, is a photo of her in the hospital with former Boston Bruins winger and enforcer Shawn Thornton, who visited her one-on-one for 20 minutes one day and invited her to a hockey game to meet the players and sit near the bench.

She recalls that she turned down the offer, but even now, she doesn’t know why. Yet the memory from seeing the photo is one she still cherishes.

“I love photography because it brings back memories and holds amazing stories,” Dargie says.

The 20-year-old, who lives in Paris, has turned her passion for photography into a full-time business. Since launching in the fall of 2021, Dargie has traveled around the state taking dozens of senior portraits, prom photos, and photos for weddings and special events.


The daughter of Andy and Amy Paine is continuing to study her craft remotely at the New York Institute of Photography.

How did you get started in photography? Do you remember the first photo that you took? I started messing around with photography when I was 13. As a Christmas gift, my mom gave me my very first camera a — a Nikon Coolpix L830. In seventh grade, I took a photography class for the fun of it. I used to go to the cheerleading competitions we had at the high school and would mess around with the camera. While wearing my uniform, I would capture shots of the athletes. And I’d use those for my projects. After seventh grade, I set the camera off to the side. Right before senior year, I got my first job. The first thing I bought was a camera through the Oxford Hills Swap and Sell on Facebook. It was a Nikon D3000 in perfect condition and came with so much equipment.

I had no idea how to use it, except turn it on, look through the viewfinder, and press the shutter button. I was outside with my dachshund, Molly. She was running around, and I used her as my little model. The very first picture I captured with that camera was an action shot of her running. She was looking right at the lens the second I pressed the button. I actually have that photo of her in a canvas now hanging on my wall. That is when I fell in love with the camera. I posted the pictures of my dog on social media. Less than a month into school I had two students in my class reach out to me, asking if I could take some senior pictures for them. I did, and I did it for free. At that time, I was still messing around with the camera, still having no idea really how to use it. I signed up for a photography class and learned a lot from it. Throughout my senior year, in my spare time, I would be playing behind the lens. Slowly, kids at school started to know me for photography. Same with teachers.

You took a photo of the entire high school class, which you said changed your life. What was it about the photo that made it so meaningful? Throughout senior year, kids started to notice me and my photography. I had students and teachers ask me if I could photograph the senior picnic at the Oxford Fairgrounds. I was running around with my camera and photographed the whole thing. We had a photo booth set up. And right at the end, I asked the principal if I could get the whole class together for one large photo. And in the photo, all the way on the left, I’m standing in the front with my camera. We actually took the photo with my cellphone. Then four days later, after staying up all night working on pictures. Ninety photos were sent out to my class. Everyone loved them. I had
many (people) thank me, especially the parents. The reason why that photo means a lot to me is because that was the moment when I realized how important a picture can be. That’s the last photo of my high school class together. Because two weeks after that, we graduated and went our own ways in life. After that day of photographing my class, that was when I realized that a single photo can hold so many memories. That picture of my high school class is a special moment that holds such a huge story in it.

How has the community helped you in establishing your business? It all started with high school. Many students chose me for pictures. Then over time, I started getting recommended. I created my business page on Facebook on Oct. 28, 2021. It all grew from social media. When someone posts looking for a photographer I’ll get a notification that someone just tagged me in a comment. Or tagged my business in a post. Many times, like when I go to the store, I’ve had people ask me: “Are you MacKenzie, the photographer?” I’ll have no idea who they are. Last year, after only being open for four months, I was chosen to photograph a wedding in Harrison. Then right after that, I had six seniors book me for senior pictures. Many sessions were taken throughout the summer. I traveled around the state.  The town of Harrison paid me to photograph their Christmas tree lighting event. And as a gift to the community, I did free Halloween pictures at Moore Park. I had more than 100 people stop by.

How do you make a nervous subject relax? Right at the beginning of our session I’ll approach with a smile and greet them. Then I’ll explain to them how our shoot will go and what I have in mind. And if they have anything in mind, feel free to tell me. I let them go at their own pace. And make sure they feel comfortable the whole time. I like to take my time and not rush. And I also like to let them take their time. Wanna listen to music? Let’s listen to music. I’ll do whatever it takes to make them comfortable. Want to talk and get to know each other? Let’s talk. I’ll act like a goofball behind the lens. It gets them to smile and laugh. I’ve done that many times, and it worked each time. And that’s what I love! I love seeing people smile.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself with two certificates from the New York Institute of Photography hanging on my wall: The Professional Photographer in America Course completion certificate and then the final course for the license as a certified professional photographer. Probably (I’ll have) a collection of cameras. I mean I’ve only been doing photography for almost two years, and I already got five. And hopefully, a studio. Becoming a New England photographer is a dream for me, or even traveling the U.S. I’ve worked with two U.S. photographers. One actually travels around the world. They did pictures for me, amazing people. And they love it. I pay attention to their social medias, and they are always on the go! I love traveling.

What do you like to do in your free time when you are not behind the camera? In my free time, outside of work (at Daddy O’s diner in Oxford) and photography business, I’ll be outside, playing the piano, chilling at one of my dad’s businesses or helping out. I love the piano. I found a passion in it after getting out of my brain surgeries in 2013. Can’t say I know how to read sheet music though. Then for outdoors, I love riding around on the 4-wheeler, side-by-side, gardening, fishing and jet skiing.

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