What a wild year.
2017 was my first year as a wedding photographer, which a lot of people don't know, and looking back I am so blown away by how much a single year can hold.
By the fall of 2016, I quit my part time job and was pretty set on becoming a full time photographer, ready to take on all the risks of completely failing for the sake of doing what I actually love. Right from the beginning, I had a surge of success booking weddings through the summer and fall, getting my work featured on prominent photography blogs, and feeling so lucky that I had decided to go full time.
But by the spring, all the summer wedding deposit money had gone into building the business, updating my gear, and paying bills - so we had almost no money, and my husband and I were planning to move to Portland with really no idea how that was going to happen. I was on my way to teach my first photography workshop, feeling completely under qualified, under achieved, and terrified.
What I realized in those first few months was that this amazing, yet very vulnerable career of being not just a "business owner" but a "creative artist" capturing the most valuable day in a person's life is not going to be as easy and dreamy as it all looks on instagram. I am an introverted, sensitive person trying to create a unique and meaningful experience for people I have never met, while showcasing my work to mostly other photographers online whose work I cannot compare mine to or it will crush me, and engage in an online community whom I rarely meet or genuinely connect with in person, all the while maintaining a personal life, running a business, teaching photography, promoting my work, promoting other people's work, and preparing for the next year in the midst of it all. Well... I took 70 flights to 10 different states and 5 different countries, photographed over 75 couples, gained 15 lbs, and lost contact with most of my friends in the process.
I came to a point where I stopped and asked myself - WHY? Why am I doing this? You'd think that being your own boss meant less work and more time to watch Netflix, *ahem* just kidding, I meant more time to be creative, but that's so far from the truth. If anyone reading this is a wedding photographer and has experienced a couple being disappointed in their photos, or even someone who just doesn't say anything back to you once they see them, you know how much it turns your stomach inside out, and all you want to do is hide in your closet until everyone forgets your a photographer. I'm even having a hard time sharing all these photos from 2017 because there's a million things I wish I could change in each photo, and the self-critic in me wishes I could take all the mistakes back. All that to say, why am I choosing a career that is so insanely vulnerable and kicks my butt all the time?
My answer came to me in the most unsuspecting way. I asked a friend of mine if I could tag along while her and her husband went on a camping trip in the mountains, just to get some relaxed, laid-back, non-wedding photos so I could take a break from the pressure I was feeling. She agreed, but wrote to me the night before, a little nervous because she didn't think they were as cute or in love as all the couples on my instagram looked. I told her don't worry about it. I was kind of tired of the cute and perfect anyways and wanted something real - I wanted them exactly where they were in their relationship. I met up with them and we cooked food over the fire, talked about how different marriage was than we both expected, and took some casual photos as the sun went down over the mountains. Once she saw the photos, she posted this.
"I can't fully explain what this photo means to me. In our 3 years of being married there have been some long seasons of struggle, loneliness, frustration, and feeling in the dark. Marriage is just hard. That being said, A very wise and important person to me told me a long time ago, "keep a community around you who will remind you just how great and wonderful your spouse is. There will be seasons when it's hard to remember that on your own." Well, who knew that a photographer could not only remind me of that, but literally help me fall in love with my husband all over again. Looking through these pictures, I had forgotten the way I look at John, I had forgotten just how deeply and strongly I love this man." - Wendy
This is why.
I will so happily put on 15 lbs, fly every single weekend, work 80 hr weeks, and have no social life to pour my heart into creating images that are so simple but can have this much meaning. It has opened my eyes to seeing my photography not as a "pretty perfect moment" but as small moments and experiences that hold deep significance to someone. It also means that doing meaningful work will never be easy, and every hard thing about this job is every bit worth it when you know why you are doing it.
For my first Year in Review, I don't want to just show you all the amazing shoots I did and places I got to travel to, but to share the moments that meant so much to me, and to the people I made them for, and to hopefully inspire other couples and photographers that this is what it's all about.
I wish I could share all the stories behind every photo, I already can't get through it without crying as I relive all these moments I've had with strangers, friends, and families. So... enjoy!
After hours and hours spent compiling these 200 + images, I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of how many incredible moments I had the opportunity to be a part of.
Thank you to everyone who has trusted and believed in me, I really couldn't be here without all of you. And to every couple that I had the chance to work with this year, you have such a special place in my heart.
Now, looking forward at 2018, I am so ready for even more adventures, friendships, and yes lots and lots of flights.
Love you all! x