Ah, the epic weirdness of life. For the past 3 years, this exact week, I have been in Maine snowboarding. I chose snowboarding over the popular Inspire Photo Retreat each time. This year it was finally the year to choose the retreat over boarding.
So, I was headed into this much hyped photography love fest with low expectations, a few hopes and a sense of missing out on all the amazingly fun snow.
Luckily, it was much much better than anticipated. Here is how it felt to be there:
Part of my low expectations was that I’ve been to many photography conventions before. I’ve been doing this a long time and it isn’t my first rodeo…I could teach most of these classes. Most photography conventions are geared towards photographers who are just starting their businesses and have no clue what the heck they are doing. This is not me. They are full of rock-star photographers who photograph rock-star people and then give out zero information on how to get there. The bigger conventions just feel like High School.
- Why do I go? The networking and as a way to stay current on upcoming trends.
I went to the Inspire Photo Retreat this year with an open mind, an open heart and with a longing to get someone to be real enough with me to make me cry. This retreat was supposed to be different.
The first day wasn’t off to a good start. I went into an ‘advanced commercial photography’ class, but it was more of a lighting 101 class. During the lunch break, a stranger offered to buy me a coffee (duh, yes!), and with chatting she mentioned sucking at the financial side of things. So, I went and grabbed my laptop and showed her all of my bookkeeping, pricing, album sales and tracking information. We talked about great whiskey, being single and why cursing is so much fun. I even practiced something I suck at: asking for something in return.
New friend: check.
Mentoring someone: check.
Best use of my time: check.
Tuesday was much better, however there were a lot of classes at the same time and it was hard to choose just one. My heart sang when I saw a class for Fine Art Film Wedding Photography! YES! I come from the film days and have switched back to film for my portrait work, so this is right up my alley. It was still geared towards people just starting out (or back) with film, however I did get a lot of great inspiration and tips from Arielle, especially confidence in the market.
Next up: a class on publishing. I thought it was going to be on how to get published in magazines, however it was more about self publishing content on my blog. Most of the things covered, I am already doing, however I took a ton of notes and it reiterated ideas that I let languish in the back of my mind. One part really stood out though: be more polarizing and vulnerable. What? Eek! That’s hard! OK, the polarizing, I’m really already doing. But the vulnerability aspect terrifies me and I suck at that in life.
The afternoon was pretty free, so I took a very long walk around Portland with my film camera. Many thoughts ran through my head. Specifically relating to trusting my instincts (I wanted to switch back to film years ago) and how to open up more in my day to day life (there is a reason I’m not snowboarding in Maine this year).
I made it back in time to meet with my mentor and for the yard sale, where I sold my “beast” of a Mamiya RB67. A sad, yet wonderful day to pass that camera along to the next up and coming medium format film photographer. She also inherited the very first camera bag I ever owned, and that was even harder.
Over dinner, a bunch of us went to a vegetarian pan-Asian restaurant. It was 8 women and one man. Seshu was a total sport, sitting at the head of the table, listening to us all giggle inappropriately. I mean, I was on fire. No idea where it came from, but I was hilarious. Unknown to me, there were two women at my table that would end up being the ones I’d connect with the most… the ones who would finally make me cry.
That night, I held court in a private spot, reading people’s tarot cards. It was fun, yet very draining for me. No one brought me whiskey and I was supposed to be paid in hugs. See, I was back to giving and failing at asking for what I needed.
The last morning, I set up time to read cards for the two from dinner who missed it. Ah, and here is where fate had stepped in. While in the secret room off of the hotel lobby, I sat and read each woman’s cards. Guiding them in their next phase and having a chat.
- This is where the connection finally came, from this intimate moment.
At the same time, they both called me out on a moment when I was about to be vulnerable, yet I withdrew. This spiraled into a basic therapy session and these two really blew the lid off. For the first time in years, I was able to actually cry in front of someone. And more importantly, to be OK with it. They created a non-judgemental, helpful and caring environment where I could really be me and be seen. These ladies really explained the process and rewards of letting my guard down and infusing more of myself into my business and blog. It was liberating and terrifying.
The gist: my strength is my weakness
I need to embrace this. To run with it. To challenge myself to show my weaknesses, which are my strengths. To stop being so strong for everyone else. To let people know, that sometimes I need help too. My incessant giving (or preaching) to others is a weakness, it is draining, and it makes me feel alone. It is of my doing and is a wall I put up around myself. Helping others is easier than helping myself.
So, in the end, to these two women who would call me out, like I call out others… to make me sit and explain and talk about how I feel… to let me (or make me) cry from frustration… to really let me be seen…. I am ever thankful. Thankful that the framework of this convention is a retreat.