I know Fridays tend to be the days for lighter posts as we all head into the weekend. But today I come to you with a heavy heart & a really important cause that I hope you guys can help me support. We received an email a few days back from the amazing Rita Wiebner letting us know about a photographer in her area who was lost very suddenly & just months before his wife is due to have their third baby. When I heard that, my heart honestly broke & I can't even imagine what that would be like...it just made me want to go and hold on to Justin as tight as I can.
Rita & her husband Joel have done the amazing thing of setting up a charity auction to help raise money for the family as they deal with this terrible time. We have donated a seat to our upcoming June 11 & 12th Walk Through a Wedding workshop, and tons of others like Mike Colon, Melissa & Jerry Ghionis, Denis Reggie and Sean & Mel McClellan have joined in too. I want to ask you guys the HUGE favor of going over & seeing if there's anything you'd be willing to bid on. If you've been thinking about coming to Walk Through & haven't had the chance, this is the opportunity to not only come but to know that every dollar is making a huge impact in somebody's life who really needs it right now. If you want to big on the auction, you can do it by heading over HERE. The auction closes on Sunday so the winner can make it up to CT in time for the workshop...so be sure to head over before then!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart you guys!
The national wedding & portrait photography community has come together to support the family of photographer Daniel Mast. Daniel's passing on May 21, 2013 was sudden and tragic. There has been an overwhelming amount of donations and support, and items to be auctioned off include (but are not limited to): photography workshop seats, mentor sessions, WPPI convention passes, photographer goods and products. All proceeds raised in these online auctions will go directly to Daniel's wife, Rebecca, to help support her and her 2 boys, and the 3rd baby which is due any day. We thank you for your support!
On May 21st, 2013 we lost an amazing friend. Daniel Mast was a man of God who was passionate about life, his family and photography. He was an adventurer, a free spirit and the kind of friend you hope everyone is lucky enough to have in their lives. He leaves behind his wife Rebecca and three children, Ryan (4) and James (2) and a third child due to be born in June. Daniel lived life fully, he dreamt big and loved bigger.
Wherever you are today, I hope you are bbq-ing something good, sipping something tasty, making time for the people who matter most...and wearing something preppy! :) I hope you get to walk on a beach collecting sea shells, as the smell of sizzling hamburgers wafts through the air. Or sit in a backyard listening to Van Morrison, and drinking homemade lemonade just before you head to the hammock.
But above all, wherever you are today and whatever you're doing, I hope we all pause to give thanks for those who are called to serve. For our generation's protectors and defenders, and the ones who came before. For the ones who gave us the freedom to only have to worry whether it will be hot dogs or hamburgers, beach or backyard. Today we remember again as always, that freedom does not come for free.
A year ago during our WPPI Platform we showed this video that told Sonya & Steven's story of how he was deployed in Afghanistan when she was pregnant and gave birth without him back in the States to their first child, baby Grace. Then we surprised everyone in the room and brought them up on stage.
These guys knew they were there to surprise everyone in the room, but what they didn't know is that once they were up there....we had a surprise for them. We said that since they had missed out on the magic of sharing the first few months of Grace's life together, we thought we would do something to bring a little magic back. So we gave them 4 days & 3 nights in Walt Disney World, and Justin & I would fly down to do a shoot of them while they were there.
We scheduled the trip for this year right before the What's Next Tour, and right before Steven had to deploy again. When we saw them, it turns out that Sonya is now pregnant with their second child. And everything- the deployment, the due date, how long he'll be gone after- is lining up to be just like the first time. That Steven will be out serving his country when he misses the birth of now his second child. When I asked them why they would do this, knowing how hard it was to be apart the first time....they both simply said, "Because we want our kids to know our life was about something bigger than ourselves."
Gah! I LOVE these guys! And for me, I think the best surprise that came out of all of this had nothing to do with WPPI or Platform talks. It didn't even have anything to do with Disney World or mouse ears. The best surprise for me is the friends for life we've found in these two. And what an honor it is to know them. Because honestly, they make us want to be better people! Ladies & Gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you, Officer Steven Verblaauw, his wife Sonya & (not quite a baby anymore!) Little Miss Grace!!
It's been a week to the day since I stood at the front of ballrooms 309-310 and got ready to take the stage.
Ten minutes earlier, one of the projectors had gone out. I don't know what it is about me & technical issues at WPPI, but I'm beginning to think I have some sort of conference curse. Because last year about five minutes before I was supposed to go on stage, the left speaker blew out and died. I don't know, maybe I have some sort of magnetic field around me like that guy in X-men that makes all technology within a fifty yard radius fail. That would be a really terrible super power. :)
But thankfully, like it always does, it got fixed at the last minute and the show did go on!
I'm pretty sure this is me saying, So this projector and this speaker walk into a bar...
We led off my talk this year with a video of some of our favorite people in the world telling us the difference between making a living and making a LIFE.
After that, I told the story of my new (but destined to be lifelong friend) Hannah Brencher. Hannah is the founder of "The World Needs More Love Letters" movement, which she started when she was just 22. She had just moved to NYC to chase a dream of writing and instead found herself very alone & lost. So one day she picked up a pen & started writing a letter to a stranger on the subway. 50 countries and 12,000 letter writers later, it's safe to say the world is better because she's in it. I'll let her tell you more of her story.
Near the end of the talk, we told the story of another new (and destined to be lifelong!) friend, Baltimore photographer Natalie Franke . For now, we're going to leave her story with just the people who were in that room until Natalie is ready to tell it herself. But let's just leave it at this girl is amazing. Even through some incredibly scary & hard times, her biggest goal in life is to "Help other people sparkle." And that's exactly what she does.
After we showed her video, we surprised Natalie & brought her up on stage. Where I read a letter to her from Hannah.
Truth told, I don t know you apart from pieces of a story I’ve gathered along the way on the path towards finding the courage to write you this letter. Surprisingly, even after writing hundreds upon hundreds of letters, there is still an anxiousness that rises from my stomach every time I sit down to the page. There is still this hope stirring that I will write the right thing, that I will somehow find a way to stitch together the words you need to hear in this moment.
You are a bright one in this world. I know that much is true. There are just some people who are called to be lights and lanterns and guides for others who have lost their way or need to know there is a reason to push on. I don’t need to know the laughter lines of your yesterday or the places where scars are still living inside of you to know that you bring other people out of the dark. Your story speaks of it. Your heart radiates of a goodness that makes the world blush and the stars grow jealous at how you outshine them so effortlessly.
I know it’s not easy to believe this. I know, I know, that there are days where you want to curl up in a ball and curl your hands into fists at the disbelief of it all. We all go through that. We all doubt our impact. We all want to unfurl from our calling sometimes and chalk it up to never doing enough, never touching enough people, never saying the right things.
Please, in this very moment, know yourself for what you truly are: a miracle. A rare presence in an overcrowded room. A Someone who shakes souls, and tests the heartstrings of adversity, and makes others fall in love with a life that had previously been seeping and sopping with grey. You are the kind of person that stirs people into a thick brew of gratitude, and faith, and anticipation for the beauty of what tomorrow will bring.
Keep pushing on. Keep pressing on. Don’t let anyone in this wide, wide world ever try to snuff out the light you bring. Other people will find themselves coming home because of you, home to a life they used to find so much joy within until the days grew longer and the challenges grew thicker.
You are remarkable. You are needed. We—the ones who get to stand beside you, or read of you, or hear fragments of your journey from across the room—we are the lucky ones.
Sending light and love,
And then finally, at the very end of the talk- which was all about bottoms lines & how the REAL bottom line is what you do with it- we gave everyone in the room a $1 bill. And challenged them to go out and do something for someone else with it by the end of the week. To not wait before they've made a six-figure living before they go out and make a difference. But instead, to start with their very next dollar.
I am SO grateful for every single person who was in that room! You are the leaders of right now....and I can't wait to see where you lead this industry.
We were really lucky that there was no other talk in our room until the afternoon, which meant we got to hang out afterwards and talk to everyone until the last person was gone.
SO grateful to always have him by my side. And to the amazing Liz & Ryan for grabbing these pictures for us!
I'll end this like I ended the talk...
What if it was not about making an impression but a making a difference.
What if it was not about the take aways but the leave behinds
What if it was not about how many facebook friends you have but what kind of friend you are in real life
What if it wasn't about the cool kids table, but about sitting down at a table where there's room for everyone
What if it was not about being a celebrity, but being a leader
The first time we went to WPPI, I spent a lot of time lost.
No, like literally. I don't mean some deep, soul-searching, life-reflecting, what am I doing with this one wild & precious go round I've been given sort of lost. That came in the years to follow. But I mean, literally physically lost. When I was supposed to be on the second floor, I was on the fourth floor. When I was going up the escalator, 9,999 people were coming back down. And when I finally, finally found my way to the Starbucks, every last one of them was in line ahead of me.
Yea, that kind of lost.
I can remember Justin & I hearing about all the cool parties for the cool kids with the cool clothes that were supposedly going on at super secret and extra, you guessed it, COOL locations. And we've never felt so out of place. We, I kid you not, stood standing sheepishly by this one vendor's booth for about 45 minutes in the hopes that they would see us, feel bad for us, and give us one of their super-secret passes to their super-secret party that night. They did not.
It turned out later, they were actually giving them out to everyone who came by the booth. All we had to do was have the courage to walk up and ask. Annnnnd major life lesson #456 was learned right there.
This year we are going to WPPI for our sixth time and speaking for our fifth. And to be honest with you, I still feel pretty lost when we go. I still get nervous, I still get shy. And most of the time if you want to find me, it will not be out at some wild party in a super swanky suite....it will be in my hotel room wearing the fluffy robe they give you & ordering room service. Hey don't judge, the asparagus risotto is delicious!
Each year, we learn a little more about how to get the most out of WPPI and I think one of the biggest lessons we've learned is this: spend time with the people who actually want to be around you & who you actually enjoy being around. That's it. Don't worry about anybody else. Don't worry about where you should be. Or whose elbows you should be rubbing. Don't worry about the scene or being seen...just put your BS meter up and hang out with the people who don't set it off. Trust me if you do that, you'll be worlds ahead of that girl who sheepishly waited 45 minutes for someone to let her in on the secret.
This year, Justin & I will be speaking on Wednesday, March 13th from 8:30-10:00am. Yeaaaa that's right. The early morning slot after the biggest night of partying. Thanks for that, WPPI! :) We'll be giving a talk called The Bottom Line and if you've heard us speak before, you've probably already guessed that it has a double meaning. We'll be giving both practical, hard-hitting tips on how to increase your bottom line in a saturated, price-shopping market....but then we'll flip it to the other side: that the real bottom line is that it's what you do with it that counts. That it's not just making a living doing this thing you love that matters, but making a LIFE and leaving a LEGACY you can be proud of. Last year we gave away a trip to Disney to a deserving soldier in our Platform class...I can't WAIT to show you what we have up our sleeves this year!
And since we know first hand what it's like to go out to Vegas for the first time and not know where any of the cool parties are, we decided to put on a little soiree of our own just for the folks who are coming to WPPI for the very first time this year!! We're calling it the "J&M Newbie Soiree" :) and we're going to open it up for 25 people to come and mix, mingle, talk a little business, drink a little bubbly, and heck....we may even rub each other's elbows if the night gets really crazy. Or y'know....order some room service risotto!
Here's the deal. Because we want to keep it intimate, we are only opening it up to 25 people. The soiree will take place on Tuesday, March 12th from 8:30-10pm, after the classes are over and early enough so everyone can still hit the parties after should they want to! It will be absolutely free to attend to everyone who wins a spot, and to enter we are only asking that a) this be your FIRST time attending WPPI and b) you leave a comment below telling us a bit of your story....what it took for you to start your photography, what it took to start your business, and to get yourself to WPPI for the first time. We are going to be picking the 25 stories that stand out to us the most, so make em good! To enter you can either write an entry for yourself or on behalf of someone you know who will be attending WPPI for the first time to nominate them. We will announce the winners on Friday!! One entry per person please. And.....GO!!