By Blake Herzog
We at ROX Media are extremely fortunate to have an ongoing partnership with Blushing Cactus Photography — the only drawback is we have to share them with too many weddings, maternity shoots, families, musicians, dancers, rodeos, sports teams, nonprofits and other clients to count.
Tracy and Jeremiah Scheffer may be the hardest-working couple in photography and they’ve built a large and diverse customer base since Tracy launched the business in Prescott in 2016, soon to be joined by her new love and eventual husband.
Their talent and their dedication to their art and each other have won them jobs and friends throughout Greater Prescott — through their work they remain devoted to the community where they both found healing, along with each other.
Tracy and Jeremiah have surmounted past traumas and an ongoing medical issue to capture the beauty and energy of Greater Prescott and the world around it, and we couldn’t be happier to share them with our readers.
PRESCOTT LIVING: Can you each tell us a little bit about when and where you grew up, your family life and school experiences?
Tracy Scheffer: I grew up in Chandler, where I graduated from Chandler High School and went on to study dance at Arizona State University. That’s one reason I love photographing dance now so much. I might not be able to do it, but I can photograph it and I love just anticipating the movement. My family was supportive of me pursuing a career in the arts. I’ve been very blessed with an amazing family, for sure. There are a lot of strong women in my family, and I am so grateful for that and for learning from them. My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, they’re all role models for me. I was regularly around the music scene in Tempe in the early ‘90s, enjoying bands I would later photograph, such as Walt Richardson and the Gin Blossoms. After college I moved to Connecticut to start a dance company with a friend. And that fell through but that’s when I met the father of my boys, who was in the Navy. Then we ended up moving to California and then to Tennessee, all for his work, basically.
Jeremiah Scheffer: I grew up in San Diego, where I graduated high school and left to go to ASU to study industrial design. Without going into too much detail, I was raised by a single mom, and we moved around a lot escaping an abusive relationship, and were even homeless for a little bit. So growing up I was always going out skateboarding, and to shows to see bands or exploring all over San Diego. In a sense I was looking for positive reasons to get out of the house and a bad environment.
PRESCOTT LIVING: What other jobs did you have before taking on photography full-time? What were your lives like before you found each other?
Tracy: I worked in hospital compliance for years. My focus was on raising my two boys, the oldest of whom was in and out of a wheelchair for many years as he battled through reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a rare, neuroinflammatory syndrome that causes intense chronic pain and functional impairment of the limbs. He did overcome it, and both of my boys now lead successful, happy lives. Eventually their father and I divorced, and I remarried several years later. This is when domestic violence and living in fear became my reality. While he was in jail, I packed up what I could fit in the car and drove to Arizona. I made the decision that enough was enough and it positively changed my life forever in ways that I never dreamed were possible.
Jeremiah: Marriage and kids were not a path I thought I would choose. I kept myself busy and involved in the design community in Phoenix and discovered environmental graphic design, working for a few key firms in this design field. After a very tumultuous year battling depression, and a close friend committing suicide, I realized that my life had to change. This meant having a greater appreciation for life, which took me on more adventures and shifting my mindset to make healthier life choices and attracting growth in my life.
PRESCOTT LIVING: When did you discover photography? How did you find your way to the hobby, develop it and turn it into a career? What were some of the milestones along the way, where you realized you were really good at it and might be able to do it for a living?
Tracy: I started taking photos in college as a hobby, primarily portraits for friends. And then moved into sports photography with my kids, and I would give those photos away to the other family members on the teams. But it was always just something that was just a side little fun thing I did. I always enjoyed it, but I never thought it was something I would make a career out of. It wasn’t until moving to Prescott that I realized photography was my true passion. It was all part of my self-discovery and learning that it’s never too late to follow a dream. I started photographing the bands on the square, and then that led me to photographing at some of the local bars. And then I was asked to shoot more music, and all of a sudden my life just became all about photography. I finally knew what I wanted to be “when I grew up.”
Jeremiah: I started taking photos just after college — capturing my travels, live music and architecture. My first paid gig was a band shoot in Flagstaff, with a bunch of friends who knew I had a camera and they had an idea for a shoot in the woods. Getting to collaborate on shoots with other photographers, makeup artists and bands was a bit of a turning point, since I got to be more creative and create a scene. I still loved design at the time, so I continued to focus on that career path, until photography as a career became more of a reality and my schedule filled up with projects with Tracy.
PRESCOTT LIVING: You both have a love of music that has led to your many shoots of live performances, and it was what first brought you together. How did you end up integrating that into your hobby and your career?
Tracy: I fell in love with photographing one of the most important things in life — music! I love everything about music photography — chasing the light, the composition, finding unique angles, capturing the emotion of a musician, creative freedom. It’s all a rush!
Jeremiah: Photography for me was a way to combine my two passions — music and photography. It was a way to be involved in something greater than myself; sharing that moment in time with everyone at the concert.
PRESCOTT LIVING: What are some of your favorite concerts you’ve shot?
Jeremiah: I know this sounds clichéd, but they’re all kind of highlights. I think even getting to capture local artists like Ponderosa Grove tends to be a favorite. Also having the opportunity to photograph at local music festivals like Pure Imagination are highlights, as well as getting to shoot Ziggy Marley which was a blast. But I think it’s all — whether they’re a big act or a small act, we put the same effort in, I think, for all of them.
Tracy: No matter who is on stage I am always passionate and purposeful about getting the best shots. From the AZ Philharmonic to Collective Soul we enjoy all types of music. One of my favorite moments though was capturing Lukas Nelson at a festival – it was amazing to have him in front of my lens. We love it when people tell us, “I couldn’t go to the concert, but I felt like I was there, looking at your images.” That’s one of the coolest compliments. Even when we’re doing portraits, I tell people, “This is going to be your album cover.” Everybody deserves that cool vibe, that album cover.
PRESCOTT LIVING: Tracy, you’ve spoken in the past about leaving an abusive relationship, which is how you found your way to Prescott. What did you know about the city before you got here? Once you arrived, how did it get you on the road to starting Blushing Cactus?
Tracy: My grandmother has lived here for many years. I first came to Arizona to be with my mom, and I knew I didn’t want to live in Phoenix. Then I found a job in hospital compliance in Prescott, and the moment I arrived here, I knew it would be home. It brought me peace and I was met with such warm, welcoming people, which was exactly what I needed at that time of my life. My therapist here was instrumental in encouraging me to go out and take photos. It helped me to look forward instead of backwards. My focus turned from being a domestic violence victim to being a survivor. I started believing in myself and finding joy in life again. At the time, I was working at the hospital and started doing photography on the side, burning the candle at both ends. It was something I became obsessed with. Absolutely obsessed with. I would go to work at the hospital, be sitting in a meeting, and start imagining what portrait backdrop would best suit each personality of my coworkers. Then at night I would stay up late editing photos, learning as much as I could on YouTube, and practicing. That’s when a rare virus attacked my heart, and I realized that life is too short to not be doing what I love full time, and I created Blushing Cactus Photography in 2016. The name came from a cactus Christmas tree I was gifted by my neighbors. Because I had left behind everything when I escaped, it was the nicest thing I owned and it became a symbol of hope for me. It represented strength and growth in adversity, although we often joke that I’m the Blushing and Jeremiah is the Cactus. We met soon after that while I was photographing a band one night in a bar on Whiskey Row. I had a strict list of qualities I was looking for if I were to date again, and Jeremiah checked all the boxes, plus he was a photographer, which was a real bonus.
PRESCOTT LIVING: How quickly did it start gaining traction? How much faster did it grow once Jeremiah came on board?
Tracy: Once Jeremiah came on board, it took off like wildfire almost immediately. We started photographing weddings, music festivals and other larger events together. We grew together and individually, pushing each other to be the best we can be. The possibilities became endless as our clientele became more diverse. We began shooting for multiple publications, and we haven’t slowed down since. This led us to photographing for international rock stars and highprofile sports figures and events more local to our community like the World’s Oldest Rodeo® for the past five years, the Northern Arizona Wranglers for the past three years and the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona Dancing for the Stars for the past six years.
Jeremiah: Yeah I moved up to Prescott in December 2019 just before COVID-19 shut things down, but I think we have been really fortunate to stay busy and to continue to do what we love. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing about the timing of when we started together full time.
PRESCOTT LIVING: How do you split your assignments and duties for Blushing Cactus? How do you figure out who does what?
Jeremiah: The bulk of our work is weddings, I would say. And for weddings, they hire both of us so we split the duties in half, basically from the start to the finish.
Tracy: We meet with the bride first to capture the hanging of the dress, the jewelry, and all of the flat laid details.
Jeremiah: And then Tracy stays with the bride and I go hang out with the groom and groomsmen, and we get our own kind of shots from that. And then we come together and shoot the rest of the ceremony and the reception and everything together. And as far as the business side, the editing and the communications, that’s mostly split in half. I think Tracy does more of the communications with the client. But as far as the editing, it’s split pretty much in the middle.
Tracy: We usually edit our own photos, but we’re true to each other’s style. Over the years I think we’re to the point where we can’t tell whose photo is whose anymore, it seems like.
Jeremiah: I think that’s what makes us a good team; we can tell both sides of the story in our own kind of way, but also similar, if that makes any sense. And we love our brides and grooms. We’ve been really fortunate to meet so many amazing people and be part of one of the happiest days of their lives.
Tracy: And since then, so many of them have had babies.
Jeremiah: So now we’re doing maternity shoots.
Tracy: And then family shoots.
Jeremiah: And I think that when it comes to other aspects, other parts of the business, I think we share them fairly evenly. There are some projects where Tracy will work on, and I will not, or likewise.
PRESCOTT LIVING: Tracy’s battle with the heart virus and heart failure has obviously shaped your lives to some degree; can you give us any updates on how you’re doing now, healthwise?
Tracy: We’re living life to the fullest and full of gratitude. My heart condition is a reality, but it doesn’t hinder me from doing my job. We don’t have any big Grand Canyon hikes scheduled in our future, but we’re great at pacing ourselves. I closely monitor my symptoms, take my medication, watch my diet and exercise. We are very mindful not to push it too far and rest when needed. I love my cardiologist, Dr. Rizk, and hug him every time I see him. He saved my life when he discovered my heart failure. It’s because of him that I’m here today to tell my story. My heart condition was a reality check that life is short, and it was truly a catalyst for leaving my desk job to pursue photography full-time. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. It has changed how I observe the world around me so much more — colors, textures, light and the way I see people. The very idea that we can provide people with something so special in a single image is incredible.
PRESCOTT LIVING: You’ve been a very communityfocused team, but you’ve also done a lot of traveling together for your work. What have some of your favorite out-of-town jobs been, and do you have any more coming up?
Tracy: We love traveling to photograph weddings and have been everywhere between California to Virginia to capture that magic. We have also really enjoyed traveling all across Arizona to photograph stock images for various cities and counties for their tourism and economic development offices. Even with our love for traveling, we take every opportunity to bring our clients to Prescott for photo shoots and share our beautiful city with them.
PRESCOTT LIVING: Where do you plan on taking Blushing Cactus from here? Do you want to grow it, bring on more photographers or other employees? Are there other types of commercial photography you want to expand into?
Jeremiah: Yes, we have discussed the possibility of bringing on associate photographers and assistants to help us cover the volume of requests we receive. One of the hardest things as a growing business is to say no to potential clients because our calendar is already filled up on the dates they are looking for. So, we are in the process of expansion and also have plans for the future involving nonprofit work. We have recently had the opportunity to bid on some projects that are more commercially based and would involve traveling as well.
Tracy: Since Day One our mission has been to give back to our community in big ways and share our heart through our art, one photo at a time. We have plans to partner in the future with nonprofits to provide portrait sessions to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it, giving them a chance to capture a moment, a memory…and a whole lot more. This might include homeless families, a single mother living in a shelter with her children, children with medical conditions, and domestic violence survivors to help them to see the beauty within themselves. All of these scenarios are close to our own stories. For some, they may have had to leave all of their family memories behind to escape a life-threatening situation. This portrait is about starting over and it’s more than just a photograph, it’s a sign of hope. We can easily see this leading to a photography mentoring program for homeless and disadvantaged children, to teach them to keep their heads up by looking through a lens at the beauty that surrounds them. So many children today have parents who are fighting alcohol and drug addiction. We want to give those kids a reason to smile and to believe in themselves.
Jeremiah: We partner with US Vets, Boys and Girls Club, CASA For Kids, Make-A-Wish, and so many other nonprofits. It’s part of our vision and our business model to be involved with nonprofits like these, but we are working on an idea for a passion project that will directly impact another specific sector.
PRESCOTT LIVING: What do you guys do in whatever spare time you have?
Tracy: We always joke that our date night is when we are out shooting for an event or live music. We are working on more of a balance, but it is hard to go to a concert and not photograph it because we’re always looking for “the shot.” In our very rare down time we enjoy spending time with family and friends, we love hiking the many beautiful trails around Prescott, and traveling together with our little dog, “Furry” Murray.
PRESCOTT LIVING: What are your plans for the future? Do you think you’ll stay in Prescott for the duration? We saw that your first grandbaby is on the way, are you going to be doing some more traveling to visit family back in Tennessee?
Tracy: My kids live in Tennessee, and with a granddaughter on the way we will definitely be planning more trips to visit family. We also have some work connections in Nashville and have plans to combine our family visits with photo shoots. I am so proud of my boys, my oldest son Dylan works for the Mayors Office in Chattanooga, and just received the Latino Leadership Award. My younger son Matt just earned his Masters and works for the National Diversity Council.
Jeremiah: Prescott is our home and our roots are planted here. We love this community and plan to be here for many years to come. We are very excited about the future of this City and the many great friends we have here. We both have had to overcome adversity in our lives, which has been a driving force to make us who we are today and believe it has only strengthened our bond as husband and wife. Prescott has played such an integral part of our story that we are focused on how we can continue to look for new ways to build up this community.
Tracy: Our pasts have helped us to have empathy in our marriage, to understand as closely as possible what is going on in each other’s mind and heart. We’ve been there for each other to unpack some pretty heavy baggage and never imagined having a life partner and best friend that we could be so completely ourselves without judgement. We can also empathize with others in our community who are experiencing domestic violence, depression, shelter life, and if sharing our story can inspire them not to give up on hope, than our story is worth sharing.
PRESCOTT LIVING: We know you photograph a lot of exciting events, what is it like and where can we find your work?
Jeremiah: Through the blogs on our website, we try to bring people into our world and explain what it’s like to capture a bull rider on his way out of the chute, or a football player as they are flying past our lens and into an endzone.
Tracy: Yeah, we shoot many different events, and I often say that if it’s fun we photograph it. It’s all about capturing those unique and exciting moments that can’t be found anywhere else. We thrive most in high energy environments.
Jeremiah: Please check us out on our Blushing Cactus Photography social media accounts, our website and blog, and in various publications like Prescott LIVING!