Building Relationships: a reflection on WPPI 2010
Those of you who know me know that I have spent the last 7 days immersed in knowledge, inspiration, networking and friendship courtesy of WPPI – Wedding and Portrait Photographers International – 2010. As I sit here, the curtains of my hotel room at the MGM drawn back so I can see the Las Vegas skyline behind me, I am reflecting on what, for me, is one of the best things I have ever done with my time, money, career and passion. Choosing photography as a life was a no brainer. And so was following my passion to WPPI for the second year in a row.
And so here I am. Wanting to share with you what drives me to be a photographer. And share why part of that is the ability to connect and reconnect, to make friends, to establish lifelong relationships with other people who share my passion, who understand who I am, who are willing to teach me to be better with no fear of competition, and who are willing to put time and effort into helping me become who I am now assured I am meant to be. This means more to me than I can even put here.
I am reminded this and every year that this business is about relationships. It’s not about money. It’s not about who is better than who. It’s about the clients who become friends: the bride from last year who you haven’t spoken to in awhile who offers to let you stay with them when you say you might be coming to their city. It’s about the new parents who trust you enough to invite you into their home, allow you to move the furniture, take over the house, and have complete creative freedom with your talent and then cry in happiness when they see the result. It’s about the person who connects with your work enough, who loves YOU enough, to become more than a client, to begin building a relationship with you that will last a life time.
But it’s also about relationships with peers and mentors. What an incredible feeling it is to meet others in this industry, people who are fearless and wonderful. This convention is about them - about the conversations started over lunch with someone from Colorado who just happens to be sitting next to you who then goes from stranger to friend in no time at all. It’s about a hello on an escalator from a girl from Connecticut that turns into a photo shoot for her and her husband in the city. It’s about sharing your struggles and fears with the photographer from San Diego sitting next to you in the session. And at the core, it’s about the shared passion. The desire to have a dream in our hearts of a life worth chasing (thank you Justin and Mary for that bit of inspiration). It’s about never ever giving up, no matter how hard it can be to make this passion into a life, because you know that you have support from people all over the world who are struggling like you, who have struggled like you, to overcome and so become some of the best in the industry.
Yes, I am thrilled that I won an award for one of the competition prints I entered - one of 3500 entries. Yes, I am honored that the folks at the album company I trust with my work – Azura Albums – liked it well enough to want to include it on their floor display at the conference this year - the conference that saw more than 14,000 people. But more than anything – more than all of those things combined – is the simple truth that I am inspired to continue - to be better - every year by the interactions and friendships I make, by the words that I hear, by my new and old friends, and by the speakers, whether they know it or not, committed to sharing their all with no fear and no holds barred.
This has been the most amazing week. I had to increase my text plan (no, sadly, I am not on unlimited text), recharge my batteries nightly (literally and figuratively) and function on way less sleep than normal. But in the end, it was worth every minute. This post is dedicated to all the speakers who inspired me this year: Cliff Mautner, JB and DeEtte Sallee, Doug Gordon, Justin and Mary, Nichole Van, Catherine Hall and so many more. But most importantly this is dedicated to my photography family – to the ones I know I can turn to if I need anything - advice, someone to listen, feedback on a great (or bad) idea, a place to stay in any part of the country, or just someone who gets it when no one else does so that I will still pick up that camera every day and make memories, no matter what the cost.
To Gina Marie, for remaining a friend in photography from the time we met in Goldsboro in GAPC until now. For your amazing words about me, my work, and how I inspire you. For letting me infringe on your time with your brother. For saving me a seat or a place in line. To Misty, my new friend from CT, for saying hello on an escalator, for being amazingly outgoing and funny, and for allowing me the privilege of photographing you and your husband in your favorite city – the images are SO cool. To Jeanne for being part of JJJ from the moment we met in last year’s Plus Class with Alycia and KJ, for inviting me to lunch with you and Jason, for your capacity for humor, for your no BS approach to advice , and for your enthusiasm for food. And to Jason – for being one third JJJ, for being a closet foodie, for being encouraging and honest in your feedback and trusting me to do the same, and for being an unexpected kindred spirit found in an unexpected place. Overwhelmed always precedes amazing. And you are each amazing at what you do, how you do it, and who you are. Only with you do I feel unselfconscious about pulling out my camera wherever, whenever (like in the middle of dinner) and making magic happen.