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Three-sport athlete, mother, wellness teacher and photographer lives life in color

By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

She has three children under the age of five, a job she’s passionate about, and a photography hobby that satisfies her craving for art while helping to pay the bills. Sutton Middle School’s Phys Ed and Wellness teacher, along with her share of multi-tasking, knows how to zoom in on what makes her life so good.

“I surround myself with what makes me happy,” she says. “I love my husband. I love my friends. I have a job I’m passionate about. Even though I don’t live in Sutton, I feel like I belong here. It’s such a beautiful community and the kids are the best.”

Hired in 2009, the former three-sport athlete (both in high school and college) has already shot fourteen weddings this year. Despite her rigorous work ethic, she lives life with a holistic attitude that’s, perhaps, more yoga than hard-core. She strives to make every student feel comfortable and tolerant of our varied athletic abilities and offers them a curiosity and patience developed growing up in the small town of Hubbardston, and while traveling cross-country.

Trisha graduated from Worcester State University in 2006 with an undergraduate degree in Health Education, followed by a Masters from Emporia University in Health and Physical Education. Along with that, she had a stack of photography classes and a boyfriend who owned the 1998 Toyota 4-runner that became their house-on-wheels while they traveled cross-country with desire, an open mind, and the camera bag given to her by her grandfather before he passed (while she was in high school). Together, she and Tim spread out paper maps and made memories. Those memories, captured by her Cannon Rebel along the Oregon coast and Grand Tetons would, later, comprise a scrapbook to be presented to her upon proposal.

“I know my search for my soul mate is over. Will you marry me?” Tim would ask in writing, while Trisha’s eyes settled on the last picture of the book, one of him shell-searching at a beach in Oregon.

Trisha recollects their journey with appreciation. “We found talents we didn’t know we had and learned a lot about ourselves and each other. That trip strengthened our relationship.”

They settled in Tahoe, Calif., where she found an opportunity at Squaw Valley Academy, a boarding school located at the base of a mountain. The school, only open until noon, allowed her days to be split between teaching photography and skiing. “Our thought was to drive cross country and ski and not have real jobs and live off the land. But I saw the ad for this school and got to ski for free. I couldn’t resist.”

Tim and Trisha lived there for two years before she was struck with an eye-opener. Her only living grandfather was sick. The distance between them, and her inability to get home in time to see him before he passed weighed down on her. They came back home to live.

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An accepted teaching position for the Sutton Schools in 2009 led Trisha to revisit her athletic roots while residing in the town of Upton, followed by Blackstone. She coached three sports (volleyball, basketball, and softball) both at Sutton and Milford during the first few years of employment until her parenting responsibilities led to the decision to drop one sport (as coach) per child born, finally trading in three sports for three baby girls. Now, Trisha Cullen no longer brings her clipboard to sports events; she has her camera. She has a soft spot for Sutton students, and photographs them on the fields at no charge while offering a discounted rate for senior pictures. “I love their reactions when they see their pictures. I just want them to feel beautiful,” she says.

Trisha is immensely grateful for the guidance and mentorship of Anna Briggs of Anna Briggs Photography (also co-owner of the new restaurant Reunion Tap & Table, North Grafton) who first captured her own maternity pictures.

Trisha Cullen Photography currently takes requests for all photography projects, including weddings, senior portraits, maternities, families, and non-traditional photo-shoots. She is also deeply grateful to Tim Cullen for his encouragement, support, and belief that she would, indeed, turn her hobby into a family-friendly business.

Oh—as far as the proposal went—she said yes! Tim and Trisha have been happily married for eight years. Call her for a photography appointment at 978-257-4729 (or text). You can also email her at [email protected]