This is the reason for doing all of the work. The things you want most in life are visiting you daily, but until you flip your switch and see the world through that porthole, you will never see, know or appreciate that. Let me explain.
Last year a friend of mine asked me to photograph her wedding. I am not a wedding photographer. Honestly, if you asked me today what I am, I would be hard pressed to say. It once was modesty or a lack of self esteem, but today it feels like you are just dealing with a person who has never quite thought "in the box." Or really, as an old friend used to call me, I supposed you are just dealing with a "spoiled brat." I studied and am trained in photography. When it came to choose a money making field within photography, I could never make peace with enslaving something I love to someone else's vision. In other words, I wanted to shoot what I wanted to shoot not what you wanted me to shoot. I know that was limited in scope, vision and belief, but at the time I could not see a way around it. Gently, I reminded my friend what my photography was like. I said aloud, "I am not a Wedding Photographer."
I don't remember how she convinced me.
I do know it became apparent that, while I was avoiding putting myself at risk .... (Which is essentially what I was doing, swimming like a very large fish in my pond built for one.) ..... apparently at least one person was watching because it became clear she knew a bit about my artistic sensibilities and really did want me to be her wedding photographer. So I agreed.
Of course it is one thing to say you will do a thing and quite another to actually do it. When I agreed, the wedding was nearly a year away. I did take a Saturday or Sunday and shoot something called the "Save the Date" photo. That photo is at this link:
The year passed. I lived my life and gave very little thought to the wedding. I went on not one, but two unique "bucket list" style vacations. Mardi Gras in New Orleans and an Alaskan Cruise. The latter fell just two weeks before. It was arguably the best trip I had ever been on. The "at sea" days contained Abraham-Hicks workshops; the port days contained fantastic excursions. In between there were amazing views and staff always looking out for you, squirting Purell into your palm and asking if you would like anything to drink.
Right before I left on the cruise, the bride sent me an email with a list detailing the formal shots she would like me to take. My eyes swept over it and my brain said, "I'll think about this when I get home." In that moment, I began building a platform of "I don't know what I'm doing" inside me and when I finally took a good look at it, a week before the wedding, my self confidence fell like it had been hurled out of a 747. For a couple who had said they weren't really into the formal shots, there were a lot of them. Or at least it looked like there was to my ever widening, frightened eyes. I spent nearly the entire week leading up to the wedding seeing it as this terrible, uncomfortable thing I had somehow tricked myself into believing I could do.
At the same time, I have always been a fighter, so I began strategizing and planning how to make it happen. The fear strangling my mind in its frozen grasp began thawing and my creativity began blossoming. I enlisted two friends to help and be my "photographer's assistants." Since they are both photographers themselves, I gave them official duties. One was in charge of setting up and maintaining two GoPro cameras I wanted running during the wedding and the reception. While it wouldn't give them what I considered the typical wedding video and I hadn't volunteered to shoot any video in the first place, I thought it would give the couple unique and contemporary footage of the event. I had also seen a wedding video online where people attached a GoPro camera to a whiskey bottle and then passed it around the reception, asking guests to give the couple a unique toast. I thought perhaps I could get something fun and interesting if I simply passed the word among the guests that I had two GoPro's running and they were invited to stand in front of one at any time during the reception and voice their best wishes for the bride and groom.
The last item on the bride's list had been the couple's desire to have a photo of each of their guests, so I put my other assistant in charge of creating "faux selfies.". Once again I hoped it would be fun and contemporary and I could combine them with the more traditional portraits that I would shoot.
I was beginning to feel more optimistic and excited about shooting the wedding, but it was when I began picturing how I would present the photos to the couple that the real shift or "pivot" as Abraham-Hicks would call it, happened. Back when I had been a bride a million years ago and "Save the Date" photos were called an "Engagement Photo," wedding photographers used to sell packages that included a book that organized the photos together. Some years ago I had taken Christmas vacation photos, printed them in a Shutterfly book, and given copies to the friends who had also been on the trip. I realized that could be a good solution here as well. That decision opened up my creativity. The next thing I knew my mind was playing with the potential rather than fearing the worst. I had shifted from negativity to positivity and optimism, from scarcity to abundance. Even better, I remembered who I was and why I was at the party. I realized that, while the bride's list had simply been meant to be helpful .... (in fact, the bride had done some work as a wedding photographer and provided me with the list she had always wished her clients had given her) ..... I had twisted it into an edict of duties I had to fulfill to be "A Wedding Photographer." I had forgotten the essential detail.
They hadn't hired "A Wedding Photographer." Knowing who I was, knowing my work; they had hired me. Simultaneously I realized something else. I was so busy trying to figure out how to be what they wanted that I was in very real danger of not giving them what they had requested.
Like I said, it was one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life. I have always been a people pleaser. Essentially the people in my life would tell me either in words or in action what they wanted from me and I would try to fill those shoes. It had become second nature. Yet here, at a wedding, which I consider one of the most rigid parties you can ever throw, the powers that be (aka the bride and groom) weren't asking me to jump through standardized hoops. They were asking me to do what I do naturally. They were asking me to be me.
I'm not sure life gets any better than that.
I would like to publicly thank Josh and Susan Needleman for giving me the great compliment of asking me to be their wedding photographer. May your life together be long and blissful.
The book delivers in about a week, but here is a preview of my two favorite pages.