I’m listening to Santigold’s new album right now while contemplating what to write about the Feather Love Photography Artist Workshop that I attended in the San Francisco Bay area about a week and a half ago. I originally wanted to attend this particular workshop because of two reasons: 1) it focused on the artistry of wedding photography rather than the industry and 2) I wanted to stop feeling like the last kid chosen for the team in the wedding industry.
Noa Azoulay-Sclater, aka Feather Love Photography, is successful at what she does because she truly does her own thing. Even if you don’t personally like her style of photography, you have to admit there is true intent and purpose behind it. She comes from a place of making art, not just taking on a job. One of Noa’s main points at her workshop is that she found success when she finally stopped trying to do what she thought she should do and started doing what she really wanted to do. In an industry where business is often put before artistry, it is a refreshing viewpoint.To understand why this appeals to me so much you have to understand my story. You might want to pull up a chair.
My own personal journey as a wedding photographer began with not wanting to be a wedding photographer, if that makes sense. For a long time, I thought my artistic journey was to head down a road of independent studio art, making art for art’s sake, living in New York City, but when that prospect began to scare me a little too much (I thought, how do you be creative every single day while you might be starving?) I decided to take the safe route and become a teacher. I still ended up teaching one of my artistic loves, photography, which was great for a long time. But when I eventually became frustrated with the school system, lack of passion, and being confined to a regular schedule, I made the decision to delve into the world of wedding and portrait photography. I knew a former teacher who did just that, and with my background, skills, and smarts, I didn’t think it would be easy exactly but I believed it would be a not-too-painful transition. I had been asked to photograph weddings in the past and had always turned them down, partly because it scared me, partly because I didn’t really see it as a true artistic pursuit, and because I didn’t really like being a guest at weddings. But when I assisted on my first wedding I learned that I really liking shooting weddings–having an important role and a demanding working pace are a pleasant rush for me–and I was good at it. But I still caught myself asking about my artistry. Was this art? Or was it merely artist-ic? How could I make it my own? How could I prevent myself from becoming a clone of so many other photographers? How could I keep my work authentic? I still don’t have the answers to those questions, really, but I feel Like Noa has a good grasp on them, and going to the workshop was one way for me to force myself to grapple with them again, and I need and want to grapple with these questions because ultimately, I am an artist above almost all other things and merging my daily work with that essential quality is my goal. Rather than go on and on about this point, I’d like to share some quotes and notes from the workshop that resonated with me:
“We have a terror of being seen by making choices.” Larry Moss
If you are not in your work you are not making art.
Trends are outside noise.
The industry is what it is. You need to turn off that outside noise.
Should be doing it from the inside, not worrying about what’s happening on the outside.
The only goal to achieve is to be happy with your own work.
See your work as you do any important relationship in your life.
Fear based decision making kills creativity.
Before I move onto my next point ( “I wanted to stop feeling like the last kid chosen for the team in the wedding industry”), let’s pause here for a photo break. Some of the yummy catered food from Square Meals (other delicious treats on day 2–that I ate all up before I had a chance to photograph them– were provided by Batter Bakery):
Workshop video happening right here with cinematographer Drew Dorsey and his super lovely fiancé Rachel:
The first day ended with a magical performance by Tim & Nicki Bluhm:
And now back to the regularly scheduled program. When I started my wedding & portrait business with the thought that it would be a “not-too-painful transition”, I didn’t realize how much I was kidding myself. Pretty much all aspects of the work itself are enjoyable for me. I even like the running of the every-day business that many others complain of. I enjoy the balance of using my artistic side and my organized, purposeful side. It plays to all my strengths. But I really thought I could be good at what I did and business would fall into place, and that hasn’t happened exactly.
I get a decent amount of business but I am often frustrated by not being able to make this my only job, by the not-too-shabby number of inquiries that ultimately disappear into thin air after the first email, and by feeling like I just don’t fit in. I realized early on that networking could be an important part of a successful business, but I often found myself trying to connect with people just because they were in the industry, not because we had anything in common, besides the same job title. If you know me in real like, you know I am a terrible actress and am basically incapable of feigning something I don’t feel. So these connections didn’t work, and I honestly didn’t really want to make them just for business sake. The result was that I often felt really left out and alone, like the new kid who joined the class in the middle of the year. (Side story: When I was really little my family lived in Newport, Rhode Island. One of the family things we would do on weekends was go to museums that were preserved mansion that the state had taken over. There are tons of these in Newport. California really has nothing like it, so when I moved here and would ask my new classmates about visiting mansions, they would look at me like I was crazy. They also made fun of how I said wolf and draw.) So my second point in attending this workshop was to meet people who are in the industry but who I might have a bit more in common with me, like-minded people, who see wedding photography a little bit more like I do.
The rest of the photos are from day two of the workshop. Fog rising up from the Pacifica bay, cigarettes, wine, and cute boots.
Instant film workshop by artist Chloe Aftel (please promise to check out her work):
LOVE the photo fellow workshopper Becka Robinson took of me (second photo from the left in the middle row):
Noa & Anne Sage (blogger/editor/stylist/what doesn’t she do) of City Sage and Rue Magazine checking out some photos Noa took of the style shoot set up for the day (Anne also gave a talk on using social media to our advantage):
A few shots I took of the gorgeous style shoot:
And these last two pics are from a stop on the drive back from the workshop. I gave a ride to one of the other workshoppers Sam, to her hotel and on the way, we were both compelled to get out and enjoy this view for a moment:
This excellent photo of me is by Sam, check out her other work at Shutter Sam Photography:
And that’s my workshop story. Obviously I want to thank Noa for sharing her invaluable experiences and all the other presenters/teachers, but I also want to thank every other single person who attended the workshop for making me feel like part of something. I, along with most other people I think, have a deep desire to be liked and understood and participating in this workshop with you really helped me feel like that was happening. It was an experience that was greater than the sum of all its individual parts. Finally, a huge thanks to Stacy, Noa’s assistant who made the workshop and whole weekend flow seamlessly.
By the way, I think “Pirate in the Water”, is my favorite track on the new Santigold album. (I’ve listened to Master of My Make-Believe about a million times as I’ve written this post so I am kind of an expert now.)