As a first-generation American, Margaret Rajic looks to her grandmother Baba and Beyonce for inspiration. All born hustlers, they work hard for what they have and aren’t afraid of a challenge. In contrast to her daily hustle, Margaret’s photography slows things down, seeks out the subtle, and makes it sublime. Keep reading to learn more about her future plans, book recommendations, and a farmhouse remodel we can’t wait to see.
You’ve shared that you and your husband recently bought a farm that you’re renovating. From the design to the reno, can you share some of the process with us? Are you capturing it on film so we can follow along?
We are slowly fixing up our little farm and documenting the progress over on our Palmer Farm Instagram. We’ve been lucky enough to work with my good friend and client Kira, of Kira David Design, on our project. She has helped us restore the 1940’s Cape Cod charm that we fell in love with when we first saw the house. From the front Dutch door with original hardware to the foot-wide old plank floors in the living room, our goal has been to help the existing beauty shine. Our property was originally a dairy farm, and the old fieldstone barn and milking shed are still standing. It’s important to us to honor the history of our home and make design choices that feel as if they could have always been there.
Your family has deep roots in Chicago. How does your connection to your home shape you and your work? Do you draw inspiration from your surroundings?
Chicago is home, and I’m proud to work with other businesses that are rooted here. I think there’s something really special about the Midwest. We don’t have coasts, mountains, consistently warm weather, or East Coast charm – but the strong sense of community here is tangible and there is so much beauty. My business and artistic goal of elevating the “every day” comes through in showing that subtle things are often the most spectacular, and slow moments are often the ones that really matter. To quote fellow Chicagoan Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Your photos are bright, yet intimate. How did you develop your style?
The interior photos I’m drawn to the most are the ones that feel like you could step right in. I’ve spent, and still spend, a great deal of time studying the work of photographers I admire. I bookmark images and revisit them to identify common themes that take an image to the next level. I’ve chosen to shoot only with natural light because I believe it portrays a space in the most authentic way.
Has photography always been your #careergoal?
It has not! During my high school photo class darkroom days I distinctly remember thinking that although I loved photography, I never wanted to be a professional photographer. I guess I thought that art school was the only option for that path, and my brain just wasn’t wired that way. For several years after college, I worked in the non-profit arts administration field but was not fulfilled by my work. So I picked up my camera again and started shooting people and places to build up a portfolio, with the goal of running my own photography business. At first, I shot everything: babies, families, events, real estate, headshots, pets, you name it. For a few years, I shot weddings, but eventually shifted my focus to interiors – which is definitely my passion.
What does a typical day at the office’ look like for you?
Every day is a little different – which is one of my favorite things about my work! About half of my workdays are spent at photoshoots and the other half is everything else. All of my shoots are on-location, so I’m driving to different places every week – the city, North Shore, Western suburbs, etc. I love the variety, and seeing the amazing spaces my clients design truly never gets old.
When I’m not shooting, a typical day starts with coffee and dogs (is there a better morning combo?!) before I settle into my home office to answer inquiries, communicate with clients, work on pre-production, bookkeeping, scheduling, social media, and of course editing.
You’re a young photographer who already has a successful business. How do you see your career evolving over the next 5 years?
I absolutely love interiors and working with my residential designer clients, so I don’t see myself ever completely moving away from that work. But it’s in my nature to shake things up—I’m happiest when I have a challenge. In the past five years, I’ve changed careers, moved from NYC to Chicago, and left city living for a farm. I don’t know what the next 5 years will look like, but some of the things on my mind now are business opportunities on our farm and vacation rental investments in Michigan or Wisconsin. Stay tuned as I figure this out…!
Your work has been featured in many prestigious publications. Can you share any advice for photographers who strive for publication as well?
Apart from a couple personal projects, the credit for all my published work goes to my clients. I almost never send in editorial submissions. My advice to photographers would be to focus on serving your clients to the absolute best of your ability – and that hard work will come back to you tenfold in loyal clients, referrals, and publication.
Is there a piece of advice or mantra you revisit when you’re in need of motivation or inspiration?
I’m a first-generation American. My parents were both born in Serbia, and both sets of my grandparents immigrated here with nothing and had to work for everything.
I am particularly close to my grandmother on my mom’s side here in Chicago. My grandma, who we call Baba, is my personal hero and ultimate inspiration. People who meet Baba find her to be extremely outgoing, warm, very short in height, and never missing a beat with jokes. She’s also famous for her delicious Serbian baked goods.
For years Baba worked two jobs as a cleaning lady – one during the daytime and one at night. In between her shifts she would come home, cook dinner for her family, head to my grandpa’s tailor shop to help with customers, and then head back to her second cleaning job. She and my grandfather were able to send their two kids to college and own outright a three flat home on the Northside of Chicago.
Beyonce’s lyrics come to mind when I think of Baba – “diva is a female version of a hustler”. She worked hard for what she wanted and she got it. I want to be that kind of diva.
Where can we find you when you’re not behind the camera? What sparks joy in your life beyond the lens?
I am a big animal lover. In addition to our two dogs and cat, I love horseback riding, fostering for local rescues, and we hope to have chickens and goats or donkeys on our farm soon! I believe any time outside is time well spent, so in my free time, I love trail rides, yard work, bonfires with s’mores, and Chicago’s Montrose dog beach.
What fuels your editing sessions? Do you have a favorite playlist or podcast?
I love my murder mystery podcasts, but recently I’ve really been enjoying audiobooks! One book that has had me turning the figurative pages lately is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. A few months ago I listened to Glennon Doyle’s Untamed and it was so good that I cried every other chapter. Those are the moments when my husband sees me cry-editing and gently asks if everything is alright, haha!
What do you feel is the key to a great interior shot?
I think the photo magic happens when you have the right mix of thoughtful design, creative styling, and natural light to play with. Each component is essential. I’ve recently brought a wonderful photo stylist onto my team, and I’m continually amazed by the impact that good styling can have on a shot.
You’ve invested lots of time and heart into renovating your own home. What does a well-lived home mean to you?
A well-lived home is full of laughter, messes, memories, and dogs. We’ve worked hard on our home so that it can work hard for us for many years to come. I’m a homebody through and through, so it makes me so happy to create a place that is our own escape. I would take a weekend at our farm over a vacation any day.