Dream Believe Create is an online magazine for women entrepreneurs, creatives and change-makers. It’s for women who want to start sustainable, mission-driven businesses or creative practices without sacrificing their principles and avoiding the profit-at-any-cost / business-as-usual model that we’re all so tired of.

Grace Costa: Photographer, Business Owner and TEDx Speaker

Grace Costa: Photographer, Business Owner and TEDx Speaker

{4 minute read}

Grace Costa will never forget the day she finally left her secure government job. As she walked down the steps, away from the institution where she’d spent most of her working life, she felt a sense of transformation and freedom. It was something akin to a metamorphosis, as though she was changing from caterpillar to butterfly, and with each step, she became more convinced that she had made the right decision.

Until just a few months ago, Grace was working as an official photographer for Australia’s Department of Defence. While she quite liked her job, she knew that it had never really fulfilled her creatively and so she’d begun developing her own photography business on the side. Now she was ready to pursue her artistic passions on a full-time basis.

Still in this slightly euphoric state, Grace stopped to chat to an older Brigadier who crossed her path. He and Grace had a passing acquaintance, and somewhat to her surprise Grace found herself opening up and explaining that she was leaving the department to follow her dreams. Her announcement led to an unexpectedly candid conversation.

The Brigadier revealed that not only did he not have any dreams of his own, but that he had absolutely no idea how to even begin to dream. The two began to talk about some of the ways he could start to connect with what he really wanted for his life, and with what would make him happy.

This was a profound moment for Grace. She felt she was inspiring this man to open his mind to the possibility of fulfilling a dream for the very first time. Life is short, and she knew that she would always follow her own dreams and inspire others to follow theirs. She would dedicate herself to the projects that were meaningful to her and to the work that comes from her heart.

That decision led directly to her current project. It’s a short film being made in collaboration with the Sydney production team, TEN ALPHAS. The film is an extension of Grace’s photo-based artwork featuring horses, and her recent TEDx talk entitled "Connecting to your creativity through personal story".

The film centres on a young Italian migrant recently arrived in Australia and living in 1950s Canberra. One listless day, he was approached by an older Australian boy, and his horse. Although language differences made it difficult to communicate at first, the Aussie invited him to pat his horse. Thus began a lifelong friendship that connected the two boys, not only to each other but also to horses, for the rest of their lives.

These men went on to become two of Canberra's most successful horsemen, and along the way, they built a relationship that has lasted more than 60 years. It’s also the story of Grace’s father and his best mate.

Today, Angelo and Ray remain the best of friends. They have built lifelong careers learning and inspiring one another as they work with, and dedicate their lives to, understanding the language of horses.

I asked Grace what drew her to this particular story. Why was this the story she needed to tell the world? She said it was because she wanted to honour her father and his friend’s achievements as individuals, and because, although it is a deeply personal story, it also speaks of friendship and resilience in a way that will resonate with, and inspire, others.

However, for many years she lacked the resources and knowledge to make the film, and so the idea sat at the back of her mind, unrealised. It finally came to light when she shared the concept with Director and educator Nick Bolton of TEN ALPHAS. He was running a film making class that Grace attended and liked the story so much that he, with his wife, offered to make the film as a passion project. Grace gratefully accepted. Skip to the present day and the film is now almost finished and is due for release in February.

For Grace, being part of the film making was an amazing learning process; especially learning how to translate her ideas into a story and how to work with, and trust, the director’s vision.

The film is also a testament to what can be achieved when you commit to your dreams and connect with your personal story. This realisation has led to further successful projects, most notably, Horse.

Some thought Horse was a crazy idea. After all, it involved inviting 16 strangers {from all over the Canberra region} to drive their horses up a long, narrow and winding mountain road to Canberra’s deserted Observatory to have their portraits taken on location. But Grace was convinced it would work. And work it has! The exhibition of this body of photographic work is Grace’s most successful to date, and it came about because she resolutely connected with her love of horses and to the vision in her mind.

At first, not everyone could understand her concept, but to Grace, because she was so connected to the meaning of this project, the idea had clarity and purpose. The result is stunning, and entirely true to her vision.

Grace’s work shows how your personal story can drive creativity. But how do you uncover the personal stories that matter to you? How do you connect with your dreams?

Her advice is to keep a journal. Use it as a tool to explore what’s important to you and what you think about on a regular basis. Then, when you start to manifest your creativity into the world, keep writing about it. Writing the story of your creative journey is an essential record, and it can be a source of inspiration in the future.

For example, when Grace was invited to speak at TEDx, the first place she went to search for ideas for her talk was to her journal.

Grace’s final word of advice is, if at all possible, keep your day job in the early stages of following your passion. By starting her business on the side, Grace was able to maintain her financial independence. This allowed her to be creatively free, and meant she was willing to take the risks she needed to develop both her art and her business in the ways she wanted.





Issue 04

Issue 04

The  Soloh  Story {Combining Intimate Objects + Ethics}

The Soloh Story {Combining Intimate Objects + Ethics}