I know, I know. I’ve built the hype to this blog post and have only now just delivered it. So….
WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED IN THOSE MOUNTAINS….
What was All You Witness
Lets start with the basics, what is “All You Witness”. AYW is a photographer retreat hosted by Nate and Jaclyn Kaiser of The Image is Found, Jeremy and Ashley Parsons of We Are the Parsons and Wyn Wiley of Wyn Wiley Photo aka Pattie Gonia. This was a 4 day intensive unlike any other workshop I have ever heard of. We deleted social media off our phones, we didn’t bring cameras, we took notes in actual notebooks with pens, we made lots of eye contact and really connected with each other, not just each other’s followings. There were no styled shoots, no ‘hacks about marketing’ and no talk about algorithms (well…maybe at night after a few glass of wine).
We learned about the history of wedding photography and how we got to “this place”. The place of Instagram hyperreality, burnout, overwhelm, and constant comparison. We learned that the photographer feedback loop began back in the days of forums (the place before blogs!) and how our industry got twisted into creating images for ‘likes’ instead of for our clients. Did you know that basically no one outside of the photographer’s industry knows what the hell “Dirty Boots and Messy Hair” is?! Did you know that clients don’t go to those remote wedding blogs to find photographers or look up publications? I know, it hurts. All those hours we spent, basically #notworthit.
We learned that our egos have been driving the car up until this point, continuously never satisfied, always wanting more and always telling us that WE matter above all else. We learned that the “service” we have been providing clients of posing and controlling has been robbing them of their true memories and that we (by no malice at all) have inserted ourselves into their memories instead of just documenting their memories.
We learned that these photographs we take will outlive us. That our name will fade in time and the gift we give of memory preservation is more important than any publication feature could ever be.
We learned how to take this deeper understanding of what our jobs truly mean, where these images will end up and how to bring that out in our work moving forward. To make it short and sweet, this is what I carry with me into every shoot now: “What happened, who was there and what mattered?”. Answer those questions with your visual story telling and you’ll never go wrong (mostly).
“SHUT UP, GET OUT OF THE WAY, KEEP SHOOTING”
What Hit Hardest
When Ashely Parsons shared the story of when her father was sick. On the day of his passing, Ashley’s mother brought in her parents’ wedding photo and placed it next to his bed. In an instant, she realized where these photos would end up. Decades after they were taken, on deathbeds, at funerals and in the hands of loved ones. I realized where these photos would end up long after the people in them were gone. I realized how big a photo’s legacy is and how suprifulous Instagram ‘likes’ are. In 50 years, if you have any memory of how many ‘likes’ or comments you got on a photo….you’re doing this all wrong.
What I Came Home With
I truly felt like a new person as I drove out of Estes Park with new friends, a new perspective and a wolf pack that had my back. I felt my calling deeper than I ever had before and truly resonated with a new purpose. I felt peaceful. I came home with the sense of responsibility to serve my clients and my couples better. To step back, shut up and keep shooting.
It hasn’t been easy because lets face it, as an Enneagram 1 I’m all about my control. I want to know what I’m doing and I want to know it’s working. But humans are messy, things don’t go according to plan. People are awkward and don’t know what to do with their hands. Documenting people in their “realness” or in their true state of being means being vulnerable with them. It means sharing a human experience…and that has no control within it.
Our job as wedding photographers is to show up, serve, and tell the truth.
What I Hope to Share
I hope to share this gift of appreciation with those around me. I hope to document not just my clients but my ACTUAL LIFE. In another post I’ll talk about my switch from Canon o Fuji (AHHHH!), but this new set of tools has sparked my joy in shooting again. My canon was heavy, cumbersome and just not what I wanted to take with me as I traveled or explored new places with friends.
With my new tools, I’ve loved documenting friends hanging out together, my parents cooking in their kitchen, my husband gaming in our living room while our fur babies snuggle on him. It’s the moments in life that I will want to remember and share with my kids and their kids.
What You Should Know
I want you all to know this is GREAT NEWS! I feel reinvigorated with the joy of my job, I’m excited to deliver an even higher caliber of photography because it will be based in reality. Not some crazy “art” or “epic shot” that I selfishly want for myself, but beautiful images that my clients can cherish and have as their legacy within their own families.
I want you to know that you can ask me ANYTHING. If you have questions, if you’re curious about this new style OR if you’re a client and freaking out about what to do with your hands…don’t worry, I got your back. Seriously friends, I’m an open book. And also an extreme extrovert and a chatty Kathy 😉
If you’re a fellow photographer, I want you to know that there is freedom in relinquishing control. That there is a side door out of the funneled chaos that is social media. I want you to know that you need to get your a$$ to All You Witness and know that it’ll be worth more to you than you’ll ever know.
A Quick Thank You
I want to take a moment to thank the Kaisers, the Parsons and Wyn for sharing this knowledge and redirecting my photography path. They could have kept these golden nuggets of goodness to themselves, but instead, they saw the need within the industry and said something. They took what they had learned, what they had experienced and converted it into the best experience possible.
I truly feel like I have a community based in a shared experience that is open to all who are willing to listen. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
*wolf pack “AWHOOOOOOOOOOO”*