It is officially January over here in my little office. I have been crazy busy laying plans and building frameworks for the year to come. I’ve met with my accountant. I’ve met with my attorney. I’ve sat down with my “ideas” notebook and I’ve brainstormed and evaluated and considered and then evaluated some more. I’ve read blogs and books and websites all filled with advice and structures to help a photography business be all it can be. And every single one of them begins with the commandment to “define your style.”
Style? My style? Do I have any style? Fashionistas would answer that question with a quick and resounding “no!” but I guess they weren’t asking about my clothing choices. Or were they? Doesn’t a person’s personal style influence and ultimately determine her photographic style? Don’t I approach my subjects and clients from the paradigm of my own life? My own “style”? Uh-oh. What if I’m Chacos and Carhart overalls one day and J.Crew the next? What if I love-equally-my classic pearl earrings and my royal blue manic panic hair dye? What if I am constantly engaged in a battle of my conflicting parts…my inner Martha Stewart winning out one day as I learn to sew slip covers and arrange the peonies I can’t get enough of while the part of me that craves a solitary trail on a mountain or a spanky new tattoo winning out on another? What if somehow that combination of the various versions of me, all equally loved and nurtured, IS my “style”? Then what? Insert state of semi-panic here.
And then it hit me. That IS my style! Not the conflict so much, but the reconciliation. The ability to be whatever I am in that moment. When I am feeling all Jackie-O, I put on the pearls and I love it. When I am feeling more Edward Abbey, I strap on the Chacos and I love that too. And it works for only one reason: it’s real. I am, at my most authentic, all of those things (and possibly more that I haven’t even discovered yet!). And THAT is what defines my style. As a person. As a woman. As a photographer.
As a photographer, you ask? Yes! I’m ever more surprised and delighted at how perfect the name “Cuppa” is for my business. I chose it initially because I connected several semi-defined ideas to it…I wanted my photographs to always be like coming home, like a comforting “cuppa” tea at the end of a long journey or rough day; I wanted it to be as social as a gathering of friends over a “cuppa” coffee, filled with the laughter and memory building that comes with shared moments over something warm to drink; I wanted it to be as personal and individualized as how a person takes their coffee; I wanted it to be full of energy; I wanted it to connect to my own obsession with the caffeinated stuff. All of these concepts swirled a bit hazily at first, but have come into ever sharper focus the longer I’m in business. And I realize that my style as a photographer reflects not only my ability to be what I really and truly am at any given time, but also to pick up on “the real” in the lives of others, whatever is-for them- their own special “cuppa tea” of the moment.
On the surface it would appear that my clients have little in common. One wedding will be full of sweet, southern, uber-traditional details and the next will be almost indie. It seems that I don’t attract one kind of couple. And I love that. But there is one major theme that runs through every single wedding, every single portrait session: the real. My clients have been a total mix of interests and regions and tastes, but every single one of them has been totally authentic. And will I photograph a super traditional wedding the same way I do an indie one? No. A shy and private couple the same way I do an exuberant, outgoing one? Nope. But my approach is the same…connect, learn, get to know the couple, embrace what they are at this moment, whether pearl earrings or manic panic hair dye, and enjoy the variation and uniqueness that every couple brings to my life and my work.
So as I sit here in my warm and comfy Carhart overalls and think about trying one of the meringue recipes from this month’s Martha Stewart Living magazine, I can rest easy with my new one word definition of “my style”: