“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie
Recently I returned from a whirlwind adventure that started at the AMAZING 3 girls photography studio in Edmond, Oklahoma. Once there, I met up with Jen Basford, Nancy Nardi and Cherie Phelps – three women whose vision and drive have made them leaders in the senior portrait industry. While at 3 girls I felt like a kid in a candy store as I was able to see all of the beautiful furniture used in the studio as props, browse through inspiring sets and backgrounds, and discover new innovative business ideas as I sifted through Jen’s cool marketing and promo items and business paperwork.
In addition, I am still recovering from the mind-blowing meeting with Nancy Nardi, the genius co-founder behind the web and technology of Seniors Ignite. I was overwhelmed both by brainstorming ideas with her for the upcoming Seniors Ignite Event in March, as well as by the incredible insight she gave me concerning the launch of my new website. She has actually made building and maintaining my website/blog seem achievable. SCORE! BIG thank you to Nancy!
Undeniably, my time at 3 girls photography was unforgettable and life changing both personally and professionally, but for this blog post, I want to focus on the next leg of my journey.
“If we are not here to make one another better, then why are we here?”– Jonah Lehrer from his book Imagine
After leaving Oklahoma, I headed back with Cherie to her home studio in Gretna, NE, where I had the privilege of spending some awesome time with the entire Phelps family. She and I filled our week together with shooting, talking, and simply enjoying the company of another creative. Creatives ‘get’ each other in a way no one else does. While the rest of the world tends to look at us with their head cocked to the side in utter confusion, we understand each other in a way that needs little or no explanation. This unspoken, creative connection means ideas are formed and problems are conquered much more quickly.
“The thing about ideas is that they naturally inspire new ones, this is why places that facilitate idea sharing become more productive and innovative than those that don’t. Because when ideas are shared, the possibilities do not add up. They multiply” -Paul Rome
One of the projects that Cherie and I wanted to accomplish during our time together was to brainstorm, construct and accomplish a creative, artistic photo shoot. However, with all the normal work that goes into running a studio and maintaining a home, we hadn’t really had the time to come up with any solid ideas. That is, not until one of our outings when Cherie took me to a craft store named Hobby Lobby. It was my first trip ever to this store, and while I had heard great things, once I stepped inside this 55,000 square foot monstrosity, well, let me just say, holy freaking hell that store is amazing!!! I was spellbound as I walked through, aisle by aisle, touching and playing with everything in sight. While walking down the scrapbook aisle talking about different items we passed by (and what we could create with them in our own studios), I picked up some crystal swirly sticker embellishments to show Cherie what I use on my models during my own creative shoots. It was at that moment when inspiration took over, and with an innate ‘creative connection’ between us, we began to formulate ideas for our artistic shoot. Soon we were grabbing stickers, tulle, flowers, lace…and in less than an hour we planned, shopped for, and purchased everything we needed for our ‘Victorian Vintage meets Avant-Garde’ creative session. I remember thinking that this would have taken me days to do on my own, and here we were, an hour later, racing off to the next photo shoot with our entire creative session (sans model) bagged up in the back of her SUV. Brainstorming, preparation, refining and shopping was finished, and it was done better than I could have done it by myself. It reminded me of an excerpt from the book ‘Imagine’ by Jonah Lehrer, which states, “This is not just a collection of individual talents. Instead, it is a chance for those talents to exceed themselves, to produce something greater than anyone thought possible. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
From beginning to end, the session was a creative collaboration. We both have our own strengths, backgrounds, and unique styles that we brought to the table. The makeup room at C.Phelps Photography was alive with inspiration and ideas as Mattie, our beautiful model and 16 year old daughter of Cherie, was transformed and our artistic vision materialized. The camera room was an exciting whirl of choosing backdrops, incorporating the elements that were purchased, and deciding on lighting setups along with the corresponding camera settings,…then changing that set-up…and changing it yet again. The object of the shoot was to create something together; to come out on the other side having equally shared and discovered. Our “go to” production methods, that each of us naturally defaulted to, stopped being the obvious answer, and together we came up with something better. Something amazing.
After the shoot we grabbed some much needed food and sprawled out with our memory cards, Wacom tablets and laptops. We moved right into full-on editing mode, doing complete edits and talking each other through our own retouching processes. The ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ of editing that are reflected in our personal style were all laid out. We were learning and teaching and creating and collaborating and producing amazing results. We were having so much fun with this creative process that we didn’t even realize how long of a day it was, how late it had gotten, or how hard we were working.
Looking back, this was personally one of the most ground breaking days in my career as a photographer. I was proud of what I had to offer and humbled by the amount I had learned. Understanding and trust plays an enormous role in a creative collaboration like this. Neither of us were there to come away shooting and editing like the other or to simulate each other’s styles. Through working together, we were able to individually explore our own distinctive style on a deeper level, and hone in and sharpen our ability and collect more tools that would better allow us to accomplish our art.
As much as I am an advocate of creative collaboration, I do want to stress the importance of finding a group of like-minded artists that understand the purpose and “rules” if you will, of a creative collaboration. I am thankful that I have found this exact understanding in – and have became a active participant and contributor of – Seniors Ignite. It is a living, transforming, creative collaboration of artists that “get it,” and it is designed to cultivate inspiration, creativity and problem-solving in your art and business. The application for entry to the Seniors Ignite spring event is not meant to be intimidating – not in the least. Simply, it was created to ensure that the photographers in our group, each of whom have talents and experiences to share, are ready to learn and able to contribute when we get together. You will be humbled as I was by the extraordinary Seniors Ignite members, whose purpose for being there is to help one-another become better at their craft.