Since I've delved into the world of "wedding photography," I've been a nervous wreck. The uncertainty of "how I fit in" killed me. "Is my art good enough?" "Will I ever be as good as photographer x?" These questions haunted me my first year in business. Looking back at this time makes me sick. Realizing I wasted energy and an entire year worrying about trivial things is quite pathetic. But it has helped me move forward. It has helped me realize I need to spend time crafting my art and style. I'm so thankful that I have gotten over that phase (...well, I'm still working on it) at such an early stage in my journey. Musea really gave me that reassurance as well.
This past week I attended a gathering hosted by Michael Howard , founder and CEO of Musea. I actually signed up a day before it started. I'm a little cautious when it comes to signing up for any photography events. I'm not a fan of businesses shoving promotions and their "latest products to help your business grow" down your throat. Another reason why I'm hesitant to sign up is because photographers tend to form cliques - and when you go to a conference with 50,000 photographers, you can expect 25,000 cliques all keeping to themselves - not getting to know their peers. Makes me feel a little insecure and I can do without that. But Musea is nothing like that. Musea understands the intimacy of a gathering. Musea understands the importance of "why" and not "how." My day with them was perfect.
Michael, a genuine artist, gave us a talk after lunch about keeping things real. Little reminders about staying true to ourselves as artists. The wedding indusry is losing touch with what is real. It's all about "the pretty" now. And Musea, especially Michael, believes we can change this. As he says, "true artists dig deeper" to find the true essence of a couple in wedding photography.
Tacoma's gathering was a two-day talk featuring Kirk Mastin and Ryan Muirhead. I was only able to attend Kirk's talk on the first day but fortunate enough to connect with Ryan. Kirk's talk was a great reminder that "less is more." He advised us to cut out all the things we are not. He made a point by saying he can tell when a photographer is in touch with themselves as an artist by only specializing in one area of photography. And it's true. We can't do it all. We try to be everything for everyone - but we can't. We will burnout. Plus, are we really doing what makes us happy by taking on everything?
I'm not an artist for everyone. I opt out of the mundane. I want to see you in the moment. I want to capture your soul and not your $1500 wedding shoes. Kirk reminded us that for every one couple who isn't for us, two more will be. People hire us to be us. He also emphasized the importance of personal projects. To do more work that makes us happy. It will push our boundaries as artists and challenge us to stay inspired. But the most important part of it all, is to "stay on the bus," as Arno Rafael Minkkinen put it. Kirk's humble approach to this talk reassured me that there are genuine artists who do want the best for us. He didn't hold back any secrets. He was open with his story.
After his talk, we all headed out to dinner and that's where I got to know Kirk and Ryan a little more. I asked Ryan if he'd write down some of his favorite artists for me in my journal and he was so eager to do it! He opened my eyes to more. Richard Avedon. James Nachtwey. Frank Ockenfels. And many more. When he was done listing inspiration, he passed it back to me and asked for it back to write down more 5 minutes later. Seriously! The best. Normally I would never ask for someone to do this because I'm scared they'll judge me for "not being in the know." I know, it's silly. But that intimate connection Musea creates for us eliminates that fear!
Both Kirk and Ryan told me that fear is okay. When we fear something, it means it's the right thing to do. My fears are 1) deleting old content from my earlier work and 2) removing myself from, for lack of a better term, "trend photography" so I can be who I really am. I know it's the right thing to do. When I gave Ryan a ride to his talk the next morning, I asked him for just one piece of advice he could give other artists. And his response was simple: "just keep shooting - the style will find you." He also mentioned not to hold back any secrets. Artists are supposed to be expressive. Why hold back? He seriously put my worries to ease. Everyone I met at Musea wants the best for you. There's no competing. No judgments. No cliques. Just real talk and everything it stands for - all about your art.
Musea helped me put all of this into perspective and back on track. You're probably thinking "oh, okay - so just be yourself. Got it." But I promise it's much more than that! It is a change you will have to experience for yourself at the next gathering in New York City come February 2014. Truly inspiring and life changing! It was truly an honor to hear these artists speak from their heart! Thank you Michael for hosting such an amazing event. Looking forward to growing with Musea!