I had waited a long time for August 9, 2015. It was the day I loaded my car with equipment, pulled out of my driveway, and began the long drive to Asheville, North Carolina, for Parker Pfister’s workshop. The sun was out, the clouds were dramatic, and it was pretty much the perfect day for a drive. With the music turned up and the windows down, I headed west on 70 and then south on 81. His workshop was called “DO THE WORKshop,” and we had been prepped to be broken down and fail miserably. And through this failure would come success. Before I even got to Asheville, I had already completed eight homework assignments that had completely transformed how I thought of myself as a photographer. And I was pretty much as nervous as I could be. But I was also excited, and anxious, to learn from Parker and the other photographers who would be attending.
The morning of the 10th arrived and everyone in the group began to meet each other. It’s very rare for this to happen, but we all hit it off immediately. Every single one of us. I can’t even remember ever meeting 14 strangers and feeling like they were family. We were all nervous, scared, excited, and ready to take on the challenges of the week. After we sat for a public portfolio review, our nerves started to calm and during an incredible dinner on the front porch of the Albemarle Inn, we shared embarrassing stories and laughed like old friends. Of course some beer, wine, and whiskey helped everyone relax, but no one went too crazy because we knew we’d be up early the next morning so we could DO THE WORK.
Over the next three days, we were tested, put in situations where we had no choice but to fail, broken down, lifted up, and completely reinvented. The way I saw things changed, I started to feel like a fog was lifting and I was being pushed to stop following the crowd. I was finally feeling like I was finding my own voice. And the incredible thing was, everyone else was feeling it as well. Being able to work with accomplished photographers who’s work I respect, and watch them fail right beside me, was about the most supportive environment I could ask for. We laughed at each other, helped each other, learned from each other, and Parker was there with us the entire time. He wouldn’t let us fall back on our “crutches” and made sure we were pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. When we failed, he let us know and when we finally had a break through, he made sure we realized it.
I could write about all the exercises we did, all the things that happened to push us “down the rabbit hole,” as Parker called it, but I’ll leave you with this. At a time when I felt as though my photography had plateaued, and I was stuck in a rut that I may never get out of, Parker pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, I had no choice but to climb out of the hole. I honestly can’t find the words to explain how life changing it was. The photographers who shared the week with me understand. When I tell other people about it, they say how awesome it sounds, but I don’t think they really get it. I can’t say “life changing” enough. Not just on a photography level, but a personal level as well. I’m forever changed by this experience, as is my view and practice of photography. I’ve finally found my voice and can’t wait to start sharing what I see through my lens.
I have to thank Parker, and everyone who attended the workshop. You are all family to me and I’m forever bound to you all. Parker, you changed us all that week and we hope to share your complete love of the craft with the world. #ChangingPhotography15AtATime
Below are some of my favorite images from the week. The professionals who modeled for us, took care of hair and makeup, wardrobe, flowers, and props, were incredible. Thank you all for your dedication to our experience and everything you do.
first and last photograph: Aislin Freya Pax
photos 2,3, and 5: Amanda Swafford
Makeup: Zack Russell
Hair: Zhenya Lazarchuk
Amanda’s Wardrobe: Royal Peasantry
Aislin’s White Dress: Wildflower Bridal