KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Back in the fall of 2020, a Kingsport photographer built a studio, but what she didn’t know at the time was just how important it would become to her family and community.
In November 2020, photographer Sara Cassidy decided to act on a spur of the moment idea. She would build a greenhouse to use for sessions.
“I woke up one morning and I was like, I really want a greenhouse for my photography business,” said Cassidy. “So I went and picked up all these windows that filled my car, I guess I’ve got it, I’m ready to go.”
Cassidy said she and her father got to work building the greenhouse while her husband, Eric, was away for work.
“I was surprised,” said Eric Cassidy, “The whole floor was already done. I think even a wall or a couple of walls maybe.”
After a few weeks of building, Cassidy held one photoshoot in The Greenhouse, Kingsport in December 2020. She finished decorating in January 2021, but just a few short weeks later, she got the news that stopped her in her tracks — she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“I got diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Sara Cassidy. “Right before I could start really advertising that I had [the studio]…But you’re also thinking about your life. How is your life going to change now?”
Between treatments, surgery and doctor visits, Cassidy said she knew she needed to slow down shoots, but she worried about paying her medical bills. She decided to open her greenhouse for rental to other photographers like Becca Jordan.
“I’ve done Christmas, I’ve done spring, she does all sorts of little setups,” said Jordan, owner of Becca Jordan Photography. “It’s just been whenever she does something new I usually come out here.”
Each season, holiday and event, Cassidy decorates the greenhouse accordingly. Photographers can rent out the studio for a minimum of an hour at a time. She said it’s created a close-knit community of local photographers.
The group has been able to host a workshop and hopes to get together more in the future.
“Sara has really made it a place where I think the people who come here feel very comfortable and feel very loved and appreciated,” said Jordan.
Jordan said the studio is great to work in because it provides natural lighting, but also protection from rain and other weather.
Recently, Cassidy has also allowed the space to be used for small events, something she said she wants to continue doing.
The money the Cassidys have made renting out the studio has allowed Eric Cassidy, who travels for work, to take time off to be with Sara during treatments.
“This has paid my mortgage several, several months, this has helped us in so many ways that I don’t know what we would have done without it,” said Sara Cassidy. “My husband wouldn’t have been able to take off work and I would have been by myself during treatment.”
Cassidy said while filing taxes this year her CPA told her the money they made with the greenhouse made up for any money her husband missed out on taking off work.
“It’s amazing,” said Eric Cassidy, “It really is a blessing.”
There is still a long road of recovery ahead, but Wednesday, April 20 Sara Cassidy heads in for her final chemotherapy treatment. She said she’s been so grateful for the security and community the studio has given her family during this time.