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Lights, Camera, Courtroom - Adventures from Kolkata to Kalamazoo

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Oliver Howell

What do you get when you cross a lawyer with a wedding photographer?

The answer- the very talented, modest, and charming Oliver Howell.

Howell was adopted by Kalamazoo natives Michael Howell and Terri Maurer. He moved here from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), when he was only 6 months old. Growing up in Kalamazoo, Howell believes that he and his sister Lucy experienced some of the best things our city has to offer.

At 29 years of age, art and culture have always been a big part of Howell’s life. As a youngster, Howell took photography classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. He also loved acting in plays at The Civic Theatre, and played Mr. Topper in A Christmas Carol at The New Vic. I also learned that Howell can carry a tune- although his friends today would say his voice resembles that of Kermit the Frog he did participate in The Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus and also admits to playing the piano and scoring a few state trophies. Oh and did I mention Oliver also speaks Chinese Mandarin that he studied at University of Michigan and at City University of Hong Kong in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Howell’s education started off at The Montessori School followed by attending Gull Lake Schools. He then went on to study Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy at James Madison College at Michigan State University before earning his law degree at Michigan State University College of Law. During law school, he spent a summer studying at Westminster Law in London. In 2008 he worked as a law clerk in a Chinese-American law firm in Los Angeles, but Howell was drawn back to Kalamazoo

Howell now practices law at Lake, Parfet & Schau, PLC which offers a full range of services where his role includes civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and close to his heart, business law. Lucky to combine his passions and purpose through work Howell shared he loves his coworkers and really admires their active role in supporting the local Kalamazoo community.

“My bosses are very involved in helping local nonprofit organizations and encourage me in my work as Vice President of the board of directors for Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity, and in my own successful weekend business, Oliver Howell Photography.” Howell smiles as he went onto share, “I am very lucky to be able to do all of the things that I love with their full support.”

A love of photography runs in Howell’s family who own Michael Terri Studios, but it was his dad that first sparked his interest in photography after letting him borrow an old Nikon camera. Howell shared that the summer before college he worked in a bread factory earning enough money to buy his own camera and equipment. Later learned how to be unobtrusive at weddings from his mentor, Kalamazoo Academy of Rock founder, Jeff Mitchell, who also has a wedding photography business www.photomitch.com. Howell explains that this subtle skill is just as important as taking a photograph. He has come to understand how to be ‘fully present and catch those precious natural and spontaneous moments.’

I learned that Howell is a modest man of many talents which have led him to excel in what seemed initially to be contrasting careers. He is passionate about both law and wedding photography. He sees each career as similar in many ways. “Both focus on trust” he explains. “On a wedding day emotions are high and details are important. Clients trust me to be in the right place at the right time, to know the right things to say and keep spirits up. In my law practice, trust is of upmost importance, as well as protecting business interests and counseling clients in times of need. Both services offer my clients peace of mind, but in very different ways.”

Howell’s life is centered firmly here in Kalamazoo. “This is a very special city”, Howell shared. “There is a real sense of community in Kalamazoo. The reinvention of the Downtown area has me excited. We are so lucky to have such a range of wine bars, restaurants, art and culture including the annual art fair and monthly Art Hop. I also enjoy the Gilmore Keyboard Festival and Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra performances. All of this is right on our doorstep with Chicago and Detroit only a few hours away.”

For someone who has accomplished so much already, I asked Howell to look through his lens into the future and give a snapshot of where he would like to be in ten years’ time. Howell gave me a quick smile and replied without hesitation “here in Kalamazoo of course!”

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