College for Creative Studies: Photography


Mollie Kwiek

Doner/Kwiek Creative

Agency Photographer; Freelance Photographer/Owner

Photographer Mollie Kwiek recalls making a pinhole camera back in third grade to understand how cameras work. What she learned from the project awakened a passion that has led to a successful career as a photographer at Doner and owner of her own photography business.

“Something around the time must have triggered my love for photography because every year after that, when it came time to sign up for an extracurricular art class, I chose photography,” said Kwiek. “I took part in a photography mentorship program in fifth grade, and then in ArtWorks through the UICA in Grand Rapids in seventh grade. My first job half way through high school lasted only long enough to buy a camera so I could to dual enroll in a photography course at the local community college. The following year, I interned at The Big Event, a commercial photo studio in Grand Rapids. At that point, I realized I was probably bound to become a photographer.”

As an agency photographer, Kwiek oversees all of the photography needs at Doner. On some days, she might be taking employee headshots or documenting events going on around the agency, while other days she is in the studio photographing products or lifestyle sets for client work.

“In the advertising business, creative directors dictate what type of photography they’re looking for,” said Kwiek, “and ultimately I’m there to bring their ideas to life.”

“So far, I’ve touched several different client projects, from NGK Spark Plugs to Spice Islands to The UPS Store to Minute Maid. I particularly enjoy photographing food and beverages, so clients whose product is of the culinary type are my favorites. Even with a particular client, the assignment can range from more artistic shots to straightforward product photography, which really encompasses what I’ve always envisioned doing for my photography career.”

Kwiek originally started working at Doner as a photography intern. Over the course of her six-month internship, she proved herself capable of taking on the role of agency photographer—a position that had never existed before. She was afforded the opportunity to establish a photo studio, which involved outfitting it with her choice of photography gear, from camera to lighting. One month before graduating from CCS, she was offered full-time employment.

“My situation is unique because not everyone can go to an advertising agency and basically create their own position,” she said. “I've worked hard, and I’m very satisfied with my career thus far. It seems like every day there are different people to meet, and I’m always learning new things.”

In addition to her agency work, Kwiek takes on freelance assignments for private clients. She first determines their photographic needs, then does the shoot, processing and retouching, and finally delivers the files and invoice. She currently shoots for Parkview, a Metro-Detroit quarterly publication, and is working on photography for a start-up bakery in Chicago.

“When freelancing, I have far more creative liberty to produce photography that I find appealing,” said Kwiek. “I’m in charge of the entire job from the beginning to the end. I love working in this field and building a name for myself. Eventually, I’d like to focus strictly on freelance work so that I can devote all of my time to food and product photography. Until then, I’ll continue building my portfolio and learning as much as possible.”

Kwiek recently built a darkroom in her basement where she enjoys processing and printing black and white 35mm film—mostly of nature photography that she shoots during visits to state and national parks.

“Early on, someone told me ‘you'll get out of it what you put into it,’” Kwiek recalled. “Following that advice inspired me to learn about everything I could, including the professional equipment and software I now use in the field… While much of my knowledge grew out of experiences I had through internships, taking advantage of professors’ knowledge and access to equipment at CCS definitely rounded out my education and allowed me to begin my career confidently.”

To check out more of Kwiek’s work, visit ;