Susan Symonds, Owner of Beacon Street’s Infinity Portrait Design, Shares Her Story at BHWF

October 18, 2018
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On Tuesday, Oct. 9, members of Beacon Hill Women’s Forum (BHWF) gathered at the Hampshire House for the second speaker event of the season.

The opening Neighborhood Narratives speaker was Julianne Kiley, “lady pub owner” of The Sevens on 77 Charles St., who has been running its operations for the past 16 years.  BHWF members enjoyed learning about its history and the heartwarming “We Met at the Sevens” book of stories of married couples who went there on their first date.

It has remained the same beloved, cozy, family-owned neighborhood pub since the decades that her father previously owned it, with the exceptions of trendy craft beer and chic wine additions and integration of social media technology.

Kiley can be spotted behind the bar on Wednesday evenings as she serves patrons, the majority of whom tend to be locals that particular day of the week.

The keynote speaker was Susan Symonds, the portrait artist/photographer who established Infinity Portrait Design on Beacon Street. Her talk, “Oh, The Things I Have Seen!  Behind The Lens,” provided an overview of her life path from a child who was drawn to light, to now an esteemed portrait artist with a thriving local business.

A native of “Kodak country” Rochester, N.Y., and raised by a father who worked at Eastman Kodak and was an avid photographer, Symonds grew up immersed in the world of photography.  She recalled that her mother was also an artistic inspiration and that both her parents and her grandmother instilled the importance of diligently completing each task with pride and being a good citizen.  As a child, Symonds’ extraordinary ability to steer her own life, entrepreneurial spirit and leadership skills were evident.

When she decided that she wished to spend the night observing the moon and stars from her second floor bedroom window, she went door-to-door selling Burpee seeds in order to win a telescope prize; in her middle school, she was the first female student to be selected in the safety patrol group; as a Girl Scout, she led her team to knock on doors to sell cookies.

Aspiring from a young age to dedicate her life capturing “moments that matter,” she embarked on her professional path in her field more than 30 years ago when she matriculated at Endicott College to major in photography. Her sendoff gift from her parents was a Canon single-lens reflex camera, her first with which she remembers having taken thousands of photos.  Since then, she has never left the Boston area and continues to be an influential portrait artist locally and beyond.

After graduating from college, Symonds initially worked for a company, however her strong innate desire to have her own business led her to open her first studio on Congress Street in 1991.  Three years later, she met her now life and business partner, Annie Landry, while shooting the sports medicine brochure for Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In 2005, with a motto she inherited from her parents, “always do work that matters” in mind, Symonds established the popular boutique portrait studio, Infinity Portrait Design on Beacon Street. The name stems from her objective to “create timeless photos.”

When she is not in her Beacon Hill studio with her clients, she is on the other side of the city at the Longwood Medical area creating commissioned portraits at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, or capturing historic moments of triumphant social justice accomplishments locally and in Washington, D.C.

Throughout her extensive career, Symonds has constantly strived to remain at the forefront of the rapidly evolving art form.  From the darkroom to an iMac, her expertise encompasses both analog and digital mediums, and she has continually incorporated the most current techniques used by leaders in the field.  At the BHWF event, she showcased a portrait of a child from her most recent line of work that entails a mixed medium canvas print, incorporating paint enhancement onto digital photography.  Furthermore, members learned of her on-going work, “Of Healers and Visionaries” a series of portrait panels of medical doctors who have made notable impact in the field, including Nobel Prize winners that has captured the interest of the Smithsonian Institute.

Members enjoyed continuing conversations stimulated from Symonds’ talk at the “Afterglow” gathering at 75 Chestnut.

For more information about the plethora of events offered during BHWF’s 2018-19 season and to purchase membership, visit www.beaconhillwomensforum.org.

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