Stopping the Scroll
Salene Mazur Kraemer says in a high-stress field, photography is a saving grace
Published in 2021 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine on May 26, 2021
Salene Mazur Kraemer says her “obsession” with taking photos is rooted in her own changing visage. “I was born with a cleft lip and palette, and had 19 surgeries,” says the Pittsburgh bankruptcy lawyer. “My face kept changing every year as an adolescent, and I think that has a lot to do with my interest in photography.”
Finding herself with some extra time on maternity leave in 2007, Kraemer dusted off her camera and reignited a lingering passion. “As a lawyer, there is so much demand—it’s push, push, push,” she says. “Then I found this three-month window to do something I wanted.”
She ventured into industrial photography, focusing on the iconic, decaying steel mills of her hometown of Weirton, West Virginia. When she started hanging her images on the walls of her solo law office, she noticed something: “My clients cared deeply about the town and these places,” Kraemer says. “Seeing my photos, they understood I was just as invested.”
Kraemer also discovered something else—she had stumbled into a “stop the scroll” pursuit.
“There are so many lawyers to choose from,” she says. “But if you have something that stops the scroll between you and everyone else—an interesting hobby, a unique niche—that means something. I can’t express how important it is to have one of those things for business development purposes.”
The steel mills gave way to fashion shots from the sidelines of New York Fashion Week, thanks to a niche she picked up helping distressed fashion brands turn it around. Even though she was just shooting with her iPhone, when she posted the images on LinkedIn, she found not only did people like the photos, but they also began to be interested in her business.
More recently, in 2016, she branched into portrait photography, and this year, received her professional accreditation. “I’ve really gotten my skill level up,” she says. Now a partner at Bernstein-Burkley in Pittsburgh, she’s been able to marry her two passions.
“Some of my most lucrative business clients turn into photography clients and vice versa,” she says. “I keep the two completely separate, but my business clients know I bring an added bonus of having this other skill that goes toward building their brand and telling their story. It’s a way for them to like and trust me—you hire the people you know and trust.”
She admits the work she puts into both sides is time-consuming and challenging, particularly as a single mom of three children. But it’s also necessary. “The practice of law can consume you,” she says. “At times … photography has been a saving grace.”