I love this work I do. I love meeting families. I love documenting their relationships and their happy times. I love seeing their kids grow from year to year and providing them with images that they can look at years from now to remember these fleeting days. I love it when I come home from a session and I upload the images and I see THAT image. The one that speaks to me, that tells a story all on its own.
Back when I worked in advertising, I worked in an ugly brown cube. I hated that cube. But I loved that I could pop my head over it and chat with my friendly neighbor. And while I love this work I do now, once I’ve spent my time with my wonderful client families, most of the rest is solitary. Me. And my iMac. Culling. Color correcting. Answering Emails. Placing orders. Designing birth announcements. Entering numbers in Quickbooks. Paying liability insurance bills and sales tax. No one on the other side of the cube. And sometimes I miss that.
So I do what I can to get out there and get to know other photographers who understand the both the awesomeness and the struggles of this path we’ve chosen.
I have a great photographer friend (or “Picture Pal” as my kids like to call her), Amy, who lives one town over, and we try to get together as often as we can. We text message each other a lot. We share images for feedback. We make plans to do each other’s head shots, but somehow we never get around to it. We pass referrals on to each other. Sometimes we’re shooting in the same location and we swap lenses. But it’s hard to really dig in and talk about all the things that this business entails when we have kids we need to feed, or dinner to make, or carpools to drive. So sometimes you just need to go away for a few days and talk shop without interruption.
Last year I went to WPPI. The big photographer convention in Las Vegas. I had the BEST time. With four other awesome women/photographers/friends. I saw legendary photographers speak, I walked massive trade show floors, I laughed. I danced (a lot). I discovered that Las Vegas is not exactly my cup of tea, but it has its place.
But I kept hearing about this thing called “Inspire“. Since 2012, my friend, mentor, sometimes boss when I assist her at weddings, Krista, has been telling me I needed to attend this photography retreat/conference. I heard it was small, and that there was a great sense of community among the photographers that attended. But to me, small meant I could not be totally anonymous like at WPPI where you just blend into a crowd of thousands. I was worried I wouldn’t fit in for whatever reason or that my work wasn’t as good as everyone else. I also heard that there was random seating at dinner, so there was no traveling in a pack with the people you know. Um. Yeah… That was enough to make me want to run in the other direction. But I know how important Inspire is to Krista and this year I felt like I finally had to experience it.
So two weeks ago I found myself with a giant suitcase full of enough clothes for just about any situation, a six pack of beer, a bottle of wine, my laptop and my camera… driving to Sturbridge. I’ll be honest. I was nervous.
What I found was great classes on everything from how to run a profitable and sustainable business (i.e. – the numbers.), to perfecting your composition, to finding ways to make your dreams a reality (my new favorite word: Dreammunity!).
Beyond that, I found a whole lot of friendly people. Including a small handful of people I knew. But mostly, the friendly people were strangers. Some of whose names looked familiar from Facebook groups, some whose work I followed online already. But many of those people I knew nothing at all about before I arrived. And we said hello to each other, and talked about work, our families, our dreams, our goals for our businesses, and our struggles – personal and professional. And there was dancing. And karaoke (which I’m sad to say I missed because I went to bed).
What united us in this very quirky little hotel in Sturbridge (I won’t soon forget the gazebo graveyard) was our love of photography (and our livelihood). And though we each have our own unique voices as artists — using the medium of photography to to tell stories, to document, to stop time in very different ways from one another — we are all people and business owners. Many of us are one man/woman shows. And we need a community of peers to support us beyond the solitude of our iMacs and studios and offices.
And I feel so fortunate because that community does exist and Inspire really celebrates and nurtures that. We are competitors, but we’re not. We need each other to keep our own businesses strong. We help each other. We learn from each other. And I’m so thankful it’s not just me and my iMac out there on our own.
Thank you to to the entire Inspire Team for everything that goes into making this retreat a reality! I can’t wait for next year!