I love what I do. Hopefully, that’s apparent in everything you see me put out. Aside from shooting and working with couples though, I have found a deep fulfillment in recent years towards teaching. It’s not something I do as a side gig but rather it’s something that has become part of my brand, my story, my voice and it’s been my outlet to say what I believe I’m meant to say to the world during this time of my life. Just like the feelings I get when clicking a shutter, I feel the art of my teaching. It’s personal for me and because of that, I strive to teach in a way that challenges people’s lives or their perspective on it rather than just in a form of sharing helpful information. With that, everyone who comes to me knows that my mind is open and that I want to promote discussion rather than a definitive way of doing something. We all have a unique voice and we all are meant to stand out, I just, unfortunately, find that few people actually do stand out due to the form of education we’ve possibly received.
I recently had an opportunity to share to a room full of people during a five-day conference on the east coast called Forest & Falls. It’s the first year they’ve held this event and the founders of the conference did an unbelievable job knocking the entire week out of the park. One of the afternoons was set up to be a Live Shoot where each of the speakers took an area of a dilapidated baseball field, was assigned to a “model” couple and then the gates were opened for the 200 attendees to choose the educator that they wanted to learn from and shoot alongside for the next few hours. We were all then dispersed to go anywhere we wanted. Around 15 creatives gathered around me which was far more than I had expected due to the other photographers they could choose from. Being wrapped up in the moment, it wasn’t until it was time to start that I realized that I needed to create what I typically do, in a moments notice, in front of strangers and with a couple that I had only just met…
Photography is a very personal art for me. It’s not something I believe can be entirely formulated or systematized and my style and approach has been crafted over years of striving to be intentional towards the couples that ask me to come into their energetic space and shoot something real and moving for them personally. That has lead me to a very intimate look within my imagery that almost feels like it should be private at times. All this to say, this doesn’t happen in 5 minutes and when I do start a session, my couples know it’s a process.
So jump back and I’m teaching 15 people how to pose and shoot like I do – this model is the bain of my existence as I believe people don’t learn by seeing what you do but by understanding why you do it. An hour passed and we got a few good images as Danielle & Conner, our amazing couple luckily had been in front of people modeling before. We finished up our little mini shoot and everyone dispersed to other educators. I shared that I was going down to a waterfall in about an hour with Danielle and Conner in case anyone wanted to join. Everyone walked off and this is when the magic actually began.
It started with Danielle & Conner trying to relax by pouring some boxed white wine off the back hood of their rental car. Conner is an introvert so “modeling” is something he’s entirely stoked on. They offered me a cup and of course, I accepted. As we drank, we started talking about the shoot and about the philosophies behind this model of showing up and expecting images to instantly be mind blowing. We’re so drawn to the now and to the shortcuts of life. I told them about how awkward it was for me, although I know how to make something work in a moments notice and exude confidence the entire way through, it was beautiful but almost felt lifeless to me. They agreed. This conversation turned into their stories, how they met and what made them who they are. It evolved into us sharing stories about our upbringing and childhood, emotional baggage we’ve been carrying and what love really means between two people struggling through a broken world. After 45 minutes, none of the original photographers had returned but we figured we’d meet them at the waterfall so we drove a few miles down the road and parked in a little side lot before the trailhead. The conversation continued.
Fast forward another hour plus and we noticed the sun was setting pretty quickly. By this time we had gotten in thick, sharing things we typically wouldn’t share with individuals we had just met. No one else showed up to shoot. We sat in my rental car in this really beautiful energetic space with a mile or so hike ahead of us yet with no one to actually teach at the bottom. It was in that moment that we all three felt the same thing. This wasn’t supposed to be a shoot to teach but it was supposed to be a shoot for Danielle & Connor. We got our things together, headed off down the trail and began shooting.
At the bottom, there happened to be a few photographers from the conference there who slowly started shooting alongside me and asking questions. I felt a bit like a fraud with some of the questions as I didn’t quite know how to explain that Danielle, Conner and I just spent two hours sharing intentional space with one another and how that was the only reason why I could ask them to do certain things and why they were so comfortable with doing some of those actions in front of my camera. After we were a few frames in, we started to move spots and Danielle shared that she loved when Connors’ hair is down, so of course, we took his man bun out. Come to find out, this is the first shoot they’ve ever had together in which Connors’ hair is down. It was learning experience for me on how I will be approaching live shoots going forward and it was yet another reminder about why relationships change everything.