How this whole chapter of my life came to be still amazes me. The pieces that came together to give me this experience and lessons of a lifetime seem surreal at times. Since my return I have wanting to journal and it seems that I have finally found a moment….
This all began with an article I came across in the PPA magazine several months ago. An article about a photographer and her passion to reach teen girls and help them see their true beauty. I saw a woman, not shooting to shoot but to reach out, make a difference and give back. I believed in her passion and decided to just send her an email and thank her for her vision and her beautiful work. I also let her know that if she ever needed any help with anything, I was just a state away and I’d be on my way with a cup of Starbucks coffee. Not expecting to hear back from her, Tasra Dawson emailed me back- thanking me and inviting me to be a part and help with a booth for Teen Identity during the Suwannee Book Fair. OF COURSE! I was on my way! I had the privilege of meeting and helping Tasra, the TI team and her family. During dinner, her husband Ron Dawson and I chatted about life and my photography. I shared about my little league shoots and a very special senior girl I was shooting that was battling Ewings Sarcoma Stage 4 cancer. I shared openly as I had nothing to hide.
Left Atlanta thinking that was it……
(photo credit: Teen Identity)
To receive an email from Ron shortly after. He expressed he had read my blog postings on Ashley and wanted to do a video. He really didn’t say much more and I didn’t know the details…
So the Dawson family came to Nashville and Ron did a video on my little league sports and Ashley and I . They had the opportunity to meet her and see what an amazing young girl she is and get a glimpse of what she has taught me. The time I had with her once again- was priceless.
They left and I really thought that was it.
It was a Saturday and Ron called me. He shared he had completed the videos and said it was one of the most inspiring videos he had done. He stated that the CEO of Pictage wanted to fly Ashley and I to New Orleans to the conference where this video would be shared and be a part of his Keynote speech.
Shocked and excited. I had never been to anything like this. Sad. Sad because I knew Ashley could not come. She could not travel in an airplane or stay in a hotel or be far from the Children’s Hospital. She had given me this chance and I would have to go without her. It was hard.
I was nervous for I knew that I would not know anyone but Ron. I did not know photographers names or work that they were known for. I didn’t know much of any of that…
So the day came, I flew to New Orleans. Sat next to a sweet young girl whom did marketing for a photographer in Atlanta and was coming to the conference too. I was ecstatic, I now knew someone else besides Ron.
I called Ron to let him that I was there. Came down to meet him and was greeted with a great big hug from Jim Collins, the CEO of Pictage and Ron. I felt so welcomed. Loved the fact that we were all “huggy” people. (is that even a word?). Jim looks at me and asks me if I would like to watch the video. Of course! In my mind I was still trying to figure out how this whole video would come together…
I couldn’t hear it well and Jim was so kind and considerate of my hearing needs. He handed me headphones, put the volume on loud and placed the lap top in front of me. He wanted to make sure I heard it all. He wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss a word. I didn’t want to miss any of it. There I was, listening and watching. Tears just streaming down my cheeks. Overwhelmed with emotion. The video Ron had created was amazing. He had captured it all and left me speechless.
From this one moment of stillness that I had till I got on the plane to head home- it was non-stop. Photographers everywhere. Sessions every hour or so. Food. Drinks. More photographers. I was in awe. I could tell most had been to something like this. They knew how it flowed. I often just stood there and took it all in…..Jim Collins, the CEO of Pictage.
Speaking about Where Y’At? Giving us some hard questions to ask ourselves that many of us may have been avoiding. Where Y’At? Complaining about all the photographers out there. Struggling with pricing. Fighting for your life. Where Y’At?
Challenging us to change the idea of a client looking for just a photographer to looking for you. To choosing the right strategy of riding it out. Experiential Differentiation. Visual Differentiation.Jim, his lovely wife Angie and I.
Meet Joe Buissink.
Truthfully be said, I did not know who he was or what his story was until I saw the video and listened to him speak. A simple man with a topic about Keeping it real in an increasingly challenging world. Not perfect…just real, as he said. Through his eyes and his body language you cannot help but notice- his “realness”.
I have seen the video repeatedly and read my notes and I still feel like I learn from Joe. I have taken a photograph that I have captured along with a glass of wine and learned that he’s right. Long behold, after awhile you will find a piece of you in there.
I was also blessed to meet Shari Zellers and learn that we shared much in common. That there was someone else besides me that would sit in the front row, read lips and understand many of the challenges that I faced. When Ron told him, that I was one of those that did not really “know” photographers names and all that they had accomplished. He looked at me and said, “Don’t change”. I just smiled.
Carlos Baez. Totally okay with my simplicity. My way of life. Loved getting to meet him and listen to his story. A year in the life of a fearless photographer. With complete openness and honesty, he shared with us his fears, regrets, anxiety and passions. Leaving us with words of encouraging us to trust in ourselves and have courage to overcome the obstacles that life will bring. I was getting ready to head out and I realized that I needed a picture with Ron Dawson. So we improvised. Ron, a videographer and filmmaker, created a piece that I will always treasure. As I was passing by I caught a glimpse of Ashley and the photographers. So grateful that she will be able to give them a piece of what she has given me. A view of life through her eyes and words.I wasn’t expecting anything. Jim calls me to the front and presents me with a gift. A gift that shows a story, tells a story and takes me back to that very moment. An album filled with images of Ashley and I. I lost it. Lost it in front of 450 photographers. I was given a gift that would be shared with all and cherished.Ashley Scott. Thank you. For this chance. Waiting for this detour to end and shoot your senior pictures…