Our Story


Hi – I’m Ben.  Photographer and owner of Shirk Photography which is located in my small hometown of Wilton, Iowa.  The many creative pathways I have treaded in my life have greatly influenced my passion for photography…

As a child, I always had a pencil in my hand, drawing whatever I dreamed about.  I spent much of my time in school drawing the people around me… people reading, people listening, people sleeping… my notebooks were filled with people.  I was always trying to capture the moment on paper.

In high school, I found that special someone to draw.  It was 1996 at a high school volleyball game when I asked my future wife to homecoming.    We became inseparable… best of friends…  After high school I headed off to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes.  Sara joined me at Iowa a couple of years later.  She majored in Accounting, I majored in Art.  What do they say – opposites attract?!

Shortly after college graduation, Sara and I got married and moved back to Wilton.  We bought a large home that needed a little TLC… okay maybe a complete renovation.  So the remodeling began while I worked as a mason and finally landed a job in graphic design.  Sara commuted to Iowa to finish her degree and soon after found herself an accounting job.

Drawing remained my creative outlet until shortly after our first son Kaden was born.  At that point, I picked up a camera and have never touched another pencil!  My first portrait sessions were held in our livingroom, with family and close friends as my subjects.  I spent my days working as a graphic artist for a newspaper, where I honed my design skills on the computer. Portrait sessions were held nights and weekends.  Very quickly, my hobby began to fill more and more of my time.   After our second son Mason was born in 2007 I made the leap to full time portrait artist.

I began investing much time in improving my skills and mastering my craft. Business continued to grow faster than we had ever dreamed. But my creativity and passion alone do not run a business.  Where my specialty is creativity, my wife’s is perfection. I know it sounds corny but like the movie “Jerry McGuire” where Tom Cruise says to Rene Zellwieger “You complete me.”- that’s Sara. She has been the manager, the researcher, the editor, the accountant and everything else I have ever needed.

Sara and I were putting many hours into our growing business and quickly we realized that running a business while trying to raise a young family is a complicated balancing act!  We decided it was time to bring another graphic artist into our studio in hopes of gaining some more family time.  In July 2009 we were fortunate to have James Hetzler join our team and help lighten our workloads.

In August 2010, the perfect opportunity came about for our studio and we purchased a downtown retail location.  Get out the construction hats once again!  In the midst of all of the renovations, our first daughter Brynann was born in January 2011 and Sara decided to leave her accounting job to focus her efforts solely on our business and our growing family.  After a year of renovations, we were finally able to move into our new studio location in August.  We have fallen in love with our space!

I consider myself blessed to have found so much happiness in life.  I recognize how fortunate I am to have found success in a career that is also my passion.  I am always striving to create something unique & original for each and every client… to portray not only their outer beauty but also their inner beauty.  It is so fulfilling to be able to create portrait art while preserving such precious memories.

The Shirk Family - Ben, Sara, Kaden, Mason & Brynann