Entrepreneur Profile: Myriam Nicodemus
As a child, Myriam Nicodemus moved to South Bend from Guatemala with her family, seeking political asylum. Living in a new country where she hardly understood the language and knew no one, visual storytelling became her comfort. She was obsessed with the slick photos in magazines and narratives of movies and documentaries. This love for visual storytelling carried her through transitions in her life – particularly moves across the U.S. and to Germany as a military spouse and young mom. Ultimately, she found a way to make this passion her career. She is now the founder and CEO of EM EN and Commercial Photographer for her photography and videography business, Myriam Nicodemus Photography/Film, based in South Bend.
Her love of documentary film is what led her to a career in photography. Myriam’s son had just begun school, and she looked at her career options. She was told that photojournalism was the best first step when starting a career in documentary film, so she walked down to the local newspaper, the Waynesville Daily Guide, and offered to take photos for them – for free and with no experience – eager to learn anything and everything.
“I walked in – I don’t know how the hell I got the guts – but I went in and asked ‘Can I shoot for you? You don’t have to even pay me; I just want to learn as much as I can,’” Myriam said. “I don’t know if she saw how excited and driven I was to do it, or if she saw something in the photos, but she called me back and said, ‘I can’t let you do it for free – I have to pay you.’ To me, I had just scored my dream job. I was paid $15 per photo and was tasked with weekly features. Now I get to get paid, work for a newspaper, and have my photos printed, which is such a big deal to me still.”
Two years later she was promoted to staff photographer only to have the military assign her then-husband back to Germany. This meant, as with every move, Myriam once again needed to start over. She volunteered her time as the Historian for the Grafenwoehr Military Spouses Club, and got to photograph for the Bavarian Times and the 7th Army JMTC Public Affairs Office in Grafenwoehr, Germany, before starting a home-based photography and videography business while stationed there.
She built her business by documenting once-in-a-lifetime moments for other military families stationed overseas that they weren’t able to share with their families back in the States. She volunteered for the Grafenwoehr Housing Office, making videos for military families introducing the area to help make moves easier. Her love of documentaries was reflected in the footage she caught in these brief glimpses of personal family moments, far away from home, as was her ability to relate to the often-solitary lifestyle of military families. Then came the call that would change the trajectory of her career. She thought it was a prank at first. A production company out of California contacted her looking to use her footage of military members and their families in a series of Veterans Day ads for Walmart to be aired nationally.
“With that money, I bought gear I needed that I still use to this day,” she said. “I have no idea how they found me, this random company in California.”
In 2014, she moved back to South Bend, and once again had to start over. She had a new market to learn since the bulk of her entrepreneurial experience had been overseas. During this time, she participated in local programs for entrepreneurs, learning about business practices in general, but found the best teacher for her creative industry was hands-on experience and trial and error. Myriam’s mantras have always been the two key mindsets that developed over her life.
“I have the immigrant mentality of ‘anything is possible through hard work,’ and then add to that the military mentality of ‘you don’t have time to waste, life is fragile’” she said.
She found her primary local competition in commercial photography and filmmaking was established marketing agencies. For an up-and-coming artist to break into the market was difficult, and even more so for a woman in a male-dominated field. Myriam saw an opportunity to help level the playing field between the agencies and the artists needing work, which led to the founding of EM EN. Myriam wanted to create a physical space for the independent artists to work out of – not only as a studio space that could be used for shoots but as a conference room available for meetings, event space, and a space to host workshops related to the industry. She wanted to give artists an opportunity to present themselves as professionally as the agencies to help freelancers be taken seriously. She also wanted to refocus the relationship between regional artists from competitors to a connected circle of talent in the photography and film industry that shares knowledge, support, and equipment with peers.
“I needed to create a space where anybody who does have questions can come and ask and not have it be a secret,” she said. “I will have professionals in our industry come and hold workshops on very specific topics and as a result, we all level up as a creative community because we all now have the tools to create for a living. Now we know something we wouldn’t have as easily learned because of not working in larger markets such as New York or L.A. that have amazing resources.”
As EM EN – named after a combination of Myriam and her son Ethan’s initials, also a creative – becomes more established, Myriam is currently working on programming centered around building professional artists in all fields, not just photography and film. EM EN’s goal has always been to be a resource for creatives so that they can work in their industries full-time.
“EM EN began as a resource for photographers and filmmakers and is now building programming for many more disciplines and creating job opportunities for other creatives such as audio engineers, actors, models, and content creators,” she said. “The best part is that local businesses will be able to afford content and thrive along with us because of what we can now offer to them with all the different skill levels in our community, not to mention being able to partner with marketing companies and allowing them to offer more services as well – all while creating jobs for creatives in our region. EM EN is also looking to provide all of these opportunities and hands-on experience to students in the area, with the hopes of inspiring and showing them that it is possible for them to pursue their passion for being professional artists.”
Back when she was looking to get a foot in the door at the Missouri newspaper, she had to search to find representation among women in the industry. Thanks to her editor DawnDee Bostwick at the Waynesville Daily Guide, she was provided an opportunity to work and learn in her dream job industry. A Google search of female National Geographic photographers helped Myriam find her inspiration, and now she would like to inspire young women in turn.
“You have to put yourself out there and you have to go and meet young girls, so they can see other versions and possibilities for themselves,” she said. “I don’t want to create programs that are only for girls, I just need to find more of them to join all of us. They have to be out there. There has to be others excited about his career field.”
To learn more about EM EN, visit www.emen.co.