A few months ago I heard about a little conference that was doing big things for the photography community just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
Photos © Seshu
Called Inspire Boston, it was billed as a hands-on, action-packed networking event, with speakers and mentors from around the New England area and beyond, as well as workshops and vendors. The number of attendees would be capped so that it would stay intimate so attendees could grow and learn.
What I hadn’t heard was that some of my biggest inspirations in the wedding and portrait industry would be sharing their secrets, telling their true stories, and spreading their love in a way that was almost unimaginable!
I’ve been to some of the big conventions like WPPI, but this convention was different. Over the last few years there’s been this overwhelming feeling that the photography industry is hurting in this economy. There is too much competition out there, from semi-pro hobbyists to “Uncle Bob” shooting weddings with his DSLR. Photographers have been carrying around a lot of worry and negative energy at these conferences. Everyone is looking for the “new thing” that will help him or her stand apart from the crowd. Maybe we’ve all been looking in the wrong direction. Maybe this thing is something we’ve all witnessed from our elders and parents, from the generations that came before us. Maybe it’s right in front of us, but it has never even crossed our minds.
Eric Langlois at his mentor session.
As I arrived at Inspire Boston and packed into this cozy dining room full of eager faces, I could already feel the difference. A group of 125 or more people filled the room and anxiously awaited their hot meals and welcome address. I sat next to Kenny Clapp, who traveled all the way from Baltimore to be there and his enthusiasm was contagious!
I then introduced myself to the person on my left, Eric Laurits, who turned out to be the very first speaker of the conference that made me cry. Yup, I’m a big sap… and he got me at the first mention of his Grandparents and how they came to the U.S. from Estonia with one American dollar and two of their treasured photo albums. Eric was himself… raw, authentic and poetic. His story reminded me of my relatives, and how they came from all over the globe with a dream, their memories and our family history. I hadn’t even been at the conference for 24 hours and was already inspired!
Enna Grazier at a lunch talk.
Matt and Enna Grazier (the conference masterminds) continued to spread their warmth and hope for all of the participants to make new friends and to build a larger network. I continued to mingle and sit with new people from the Boston area and I met some New Yorkers as well. A few vendors I’ve worked with through the years just happened to be there, too (Adorama, Pictage, ShootQ). Each had their presence, but not in the form of sales. They were there to offer guidance, support and friendship.
Joel from Adorama talked about finding a community and going out of your comfort zone to grow it and foster it, because you never know who will be there when you need it the most and it very well could be the person you least expect. These are true leaders in the industry and we were very lucky to have them there. Thank you Joel Meisels, Jim Collins and Rachel LaCour Niesen!
The speakers were incredible, and it was so hard to choose which topic to listen to—so many were relevant to my business. Over the course of the workshop I got to see:
- Ralph Alswang and Paul Morse’s session on transitioning from the news world in “White House to Weddings” photography taught me to keep my eyes open to see the whole story.
- “Digital Asset Management” by Paul McNerney caused me to rethink my photo archiving structure.
- Richard Esposito offered advice, tricks and tools of the trade. I felt extremely lucky to have been able to speak with him.
- Peter and Whitney Carlson spoke about everything that a studio should be doing when hiring employees or independent contractors. I took away tons of important lessons for any growing photography studio.
- I finished my conference with the talented Carla Ten Eyck, and I got to see her creative genius at work with posing our models, and the floral design and styling that were incorporated into the shoot.
I left with a list of items that I need to get working on and I feel energized and inspired to move forward and to make improvements in my business.
Jim Collins, Paul Morse and Ralph Alswang listening to Enna speak
Something new to learn
So, why did all of these conference organizers, mentors. and speakers come together to share their knowledge and expertise with us? They believe that there is still something new to learn, friends to lean on, and inspiration to be seen or felt! When we work together, an entire community can be elevated to new levels.
We love photography. We are storytellers. We are artists. Together, we are a community. The act of taking care of our community might be the oldest lesson in the book, but maybe in this digital age we can look at it as our “new thing.” These days, we work at the speed of light to get things done faster and better than ever before; maybe what we need to do is slow down for a minute and take a moment to embrace our community.
I found out in three short days what my community looks like. My photography peers and mentors were there to lift me up, offer me advice, teach and support me. My friends and colleagues, I wish the same for you. So take a moment and ask yourself, what does your community look like?