BELFAST — Zelia Correia has wanted to be a photographer ever since high school in Fall River, Massachusetts. Throughout her career, the 55-year-old has worn many hats, but has always retained her love of photography and graphic arts. 

“I now have all these bottles up in the air that I’m building,” she said, referring to several websites she is planning to launch soon to help sell her wares.

Zelia Correia’s award from the city of Belfast. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

She offers photography services for weddings, families, children, students and special occasions, as well as graphic design services. She also makes and sells wall art pieces. Just this year, Correia was given a “Best of 2021” award by the city of Belfast for her work.

Born in Portugal, she immigrated with her family to Massachusetts when she was 10. She attended Bristol Community College and earned an associate degree in business administration. After answering a college questionnaire, she was tapped to work at the Department of Health and Human Services in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Correia holds a slate shingle with one of her photographs printed on it. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

She married, had a son and then a daughter, and later divorced. She suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and chronic bronchitis. She was also badly injured in a car accident when she was 21, when five spinal discs were removed and she developed muscle pain in her legs and hip afterward.

Undeterred, Correia started a daycare business out of her house to make ends meet. In 2003, she and her children moved to Pittsfield, and in 2011 to Belfast. She said she is retired now, though she continues to work at what she loves.

Seated in her home office Dec. 14, Correia pursues the things she loves. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

Correia said she is still disabled, but her doctors have finally hit upon the right medication to treat her illnesses. “There’s never a happy medium,” she said. “I’m allergic to coffee, seafood and peanuts,” and with her lung issues, perfume can send her racing for an inhaler.

While living in Pittsfield, Correia went back to school, first attending Kennebec Valley  Community College and later taking online classes from Southern New Hampshire University, where she received her bachelor of arts degree in graphic design and media arts in 2016.

“I’ve always taken photos and I had forgotten how much I wanted to be a photographer,” she said. “This is what I love to do.”

One of Correia’s photographs that can be purchased as wall art. Photo by Zelia Correia

Correia said she cried when instructors congratulated her on receiving her diploma at Southern New Hampshire. Since then, she has spent 3 1/2 years researching different website offerings and honing her skills as a photographer. 

She uses print-on-demand websites to place her photographs on tiles, rubber coasters, metal substrates, even slate. “It’s all high-quality stuff for people to buy,” she said. 

Photo by Zelia Correia

Correia has provided photographs of store managers for Hannaford Supermarkets, and took pictures of 43 girls in their prom dresses for Waldo Community Action Partners’ Cinderella Project. “I wanted the experience of doing the work to hone my skills,” she said.

“I’ve worked with Mike Hurley at the Belfast Street Party,” Correia said, as well as providing photographs for City Hall and Norm Poirier, director of Parks and Recreation in Belfast.

Her work is currently on display at Perry’s Nut House, 45 Searsport Ave., in East Belfast. With her current work, she has found a way to pull all of her experiences together. “It puts my whole life together, despite my injuries,” she said.

For more information, contact ZeliasDesignsArts@gmail.com or call 505-8278. To see Correia’s work and items for sale, visit artcreationsstore.square.site, Zeliasdesignsarts.mypixieset.com, Zelia’sDesignsArts.com or look up Zelia’s Design Arts or Zelia’s Photography on Facebook.