Tomorrow our planning team gets together for a planning retreat! I’m so excited to work with this team. Each of them is an incredibly talented photographer, great at communication and organization, full of innovative ideas (plus some practicality to bring me back to earth), and most importantly, a great friend to me.
Inspire 2013 marked a big change for me personally in “Inspire” as Matt and I decided to shift our roles in the planning and production of Inspire. We’ve leaned heavily on an amazing team of volunteer studio owners for the first several years of our events. We felt that we’d grown Inspire as much as we could without impacting our Grazier Photography clients and responsibilities. As we went into the 2013 planning season, we decided that in order for Inspire to continue to grow and flourish in new directions, and to allow the project to be ushered forward by our team, we needed to distribute ownership of this project to our team-members. So Matt stepped down from planning duties, and the rest of the team and I formed Inspire Photo Retreats LLC. I knew that logistically this would be a smart move, but I had no idea how much new energy this would bring to our event! I think that the new sense of ownership and responsibility brought our planning team members up to a new pace that I hadn’t really thought possible! (considering that they already put their hearts and souls the first three years!) This was mostly invisible at Inspire to anyone but ourselves, but for us there was a remarkable and exciting new energy in the air, and we definitely attribute this in part to our new team organization.
In producing 2013 I realized that some of our best successes happened by way of letting go. Letting go can be hard right!??
The first “letting go” moment was obviously the shift in Inspire “ownership” to our planning team members. The other huge a-ha moment for me happened when I observed the quality and level of leadership and expertise that our instructors brought this year. It became more clear to me than ever that the more we do to inspire and enable them as instructors, then step back, the more unique and exciting our curriculum will become. For the whole group of our Inspire 2013 instructors, they approach teaching as a craft. And they are experts at this craft. At one point towards the end of the conference I told people that our instructors are all talented chefs – we threw raw ingredients at them in the form of attendees, space, and ideas, and they created a masterpiece. The Inspire experience was cohesive yet individualized for each person there. I attribute this to the skill and craft and generosity with which our teachers approached their courses.
There is always a free fall moment for me in Inspire: it starts after breakfast on that first day, and ends partway through those first classes. This free fall is the transition period where all of organizational ropes that my planning team members and I have been holding onto are shifted into the hands of our instructors and the big magical organism that is the “Inspire community”. During this period after breakfast the whole community hasn’t quite gelled (and I guarantee it DOES gel by the end of that first day); all our attendees are anxious about where classes will be, what the instructors will push them to do, what they will learn, whether they’re prepared or experienced enough to be there… For our attendees it’s definitely an exciting and nervous “buzzing in the belly” feeling, and I feel this buzzing anxiety too! During the first 20 minutes or so of these first class sections, one can find me anxiously tiptoeing around the halls, peeking into each class, eavesdropping, and looking for stragglers. This year, after I did my wandering, I settled into David Murray’s class, and then Michael Donnor’s class. By the end of these two courses, it was clear to me that our instructors were a stellar crew, and it was also crystal-clear that our community was already rock-solid. What an amazing feeling.
So the third “letting go” moment for me at Inspire 2013 happened when I simply sat back and savored and watched everyone else savoring the community that transpired. This shouldn’t be a surprise. We expect community to emerge. A huge reason that we run Inspire is because we love community. I love community, thrive on building it. One of my great passions is to create an opportunity for a group of people to come together and experience something together, find commonalities, and move forward in their lives with a whole new web of relationships and resources. This web of interconnected relationships and resources is the definition of community. We deliberately make a lot of decisions about our schedule, space, and course instructors in order to foster community. But the actual culture and experience that emerges is always a surprise. My favorite part of Inspire is to observe these connections, special moments, and memes that emerge as highlights that define our community.
Thank you to EVERYONE who was at Inspire. You all contributed to this safe space where so many of us could stretch and grow in all the various ways that we needed to this particular week.
Which speakers do you want us to bring to Inspire 2014? We are seeking visionaries, dreamers, educators, orators, experts who will share their ideas with generosity. charisma, and humility. Our mission is to bring new ideas and insights to our community – in areas of Business, Craft, and Artistic Vision. Please submit your recommendations here.
So were do I begin? My Inspire journey started when I was selected to be a speaker at the 2011 Inspire retreat. It was held at the Colonial Inn in Concord, which was the perfect setting to create a relaxing atmosphere. This was my first go around speaking on the conference circuit so I was really nervous. This was also my first experience with the planning team and it was nothing short amazing. From the get go I was treated with love, respect and professionalism. The sense of family and community was overwhelming. Seriously, it was like something I’ve never experienced in this industry before. I immediately became addicted to the culture that had been created with Inspire, and I was hooked. As the retreat went on, I realized that everyone involved had the same feeling. The energy was contagious and the feel good vibes only intensified. This made the perfect atmosphere for learning, networking and just down right fun. Jumping ahead, once Inspire 2011 passed I was left with a huge feeling of void. There was an empty space in my brain and stomach where Inspire had lit a new fire inside me. This is something I’ve never experienced in any conference I have ever attended, both local and far away. This void left me hungry for more. This void turned me into a progressive minded, proactive machine. This void made me appreciate what I had just experienced.
On to 2012! To say I was excited for the speaker proposal call to go live would be an understatement. I just new I had to be a part of this amazing event and opportunity again. Even if I didn’t get accepted as a speaker, I was ready to buy a ticket. Then it came, the email that is. When I got the acceptance email from the planning team I think I started doing the running man right in my studio. Inspire 2012 had implemented a few changes. Inspire had been moved to the Sturbridge Host. Again, the perfect setting for the progression of this retreat. I was pumped beyond belief and ready to go. Since this was my second go around, I was now able to set an agenda for the retreat. I didn’t really know what to expect on my first go-round but this time was different. Inspire had created such an easy platform to meet and network with new friends, so I wanted to take advantage. I set out to meet or talk to everyone in attendance, it was my goal. I wanted to help and share my knowledge with anyone who was willing to listen. I was ready to get out of my comfort zone. Like so many other talented photographers before me that made a difference in my life and business, it was now time for me to pay it forward. I didn’t think it was possible, but Inspire 2012 surpassed my expectations and blew me away. I made so many new friends, met so many new vendors and learned allot about my self and my business. I now felt that I was part of the Inspire brand.
Hello 2013Riding the wave of progressive and proactive business, I was on a mission. I had heard whispers that there may be an opening on the Inspire Planning Team so I immediately started planting the seed. I was all over this like cherry dip on a vanilla cone. I wanted to be a part of this amazing team and event. So when I got the call, again, I started doing the running man. This time I even threw in a few back spins and a moon walk. It was a one time thing so don’t ask me to do it again. My desire to be involved in the planning process comes from a long line of photographer friends and mentors that have helped me. Years ago I had a life changing event, I saw Kevin Kubota speak at the CTPPA conference. I was young and new in the photography business and to put it bluntly, Kubota’s presentation blew me away! Kevin’s seminar had planted the seed that had been hibernating within me until I had this opportunity. I now knew exactly why I had to do this, why I had to be a part of Inspire. I wanted to pay forward everything I had been given to this point in my career. The advice, the knowledge, the friendships and the open arms that embraced me. I actually had dinner with Kevin last year and I got to tell him how he made a difference in my life as a business man and photographer. He was humbled and very grateful for my words of thanks. This is the attitude I always try to carry with me in my pocket in this industry. With so many personalities and personas out there, I am always reminded of the community and family Inspire has instilled within me.
We (our team) do this because we owe you, we owe the attendees, we owe the industry. Inspire 2013 was an amazing success and we as a team couldn’t have asked for better. I continued my goals in 2012 of meeting everyone at the retreat. I shared so many hugs and smiles, it was amazing. There were so many tears shed, so many friendships made and so many good times. I actually didn’t get to see too many speakers because I was so worried (along with our team) about making sure everything was going off just exactly perfect. When we think of the success of Inspire, I feel our planning team is all on the same page. We get fulfillment in seeing our attendees enjoy themselves and grow as photographers. Inspire is a living and breathing organism that feeds off the positive energy of the photographers that attend.
For me, it’s an experience I never want to end and I hope you’re all there with me in 2014 to share more good times.
Where to start? I was going to talk about the conference time in February, but I can’t because Inspire is a year in the making and it takes planning and a ton of time, but the conference is so worth it! The time we spend planning Inspire for me is my “fun” time. Everyone on the team has become close with one another so we enjoy the camaraderie of the team and building a new conference every year.
We had many changes earlier year, and the first big change was forming a LLC partnership between Carla, Eric, Enna, Krista, Paul, and I making us all equal partners in Inspire. I really believe that this was a big catalyst in making this the best Inspire yet. We all love and respect one another so much that we really want to work our tails off.
OK, now we’re at Inspire in Sturbridge! WTH!!!! Why do we have to have a good old nor’easter over the weekend! Hey, the shoveling took off a ton of calories that I could make up for with G&T’s and great food!
When we all arrived on Sunday on the tail of the blizzard we could only laugh and have fun when Carla arrived in snow pants from digging out all afternoon. It made me laugh out loud to see her like that, but on a serious note it shows the commitment we all have. Carla, you can work a snowsuit like no one I know!
Monday began as a blur, before I knew it we were at doing registration for all the Monday classes which just set the tone for education people would expect through the conference. Jared, Allana, Jason, and Jared really knocked the ball out of the park with their afternoon intensive classes. Jared’s class was one of the classes that sold out in under one minute when it went live for sign-ups, and I know everyone was ecstatic when they walked out.
Every year we plan and plan and plan, but there is always something we did not expect and this year it was Amy Deputy! She just blew the conference wide open with her openness, honesty, and willingness to share on that first night. Come on I know everyone was either crying at some point or acting tough and pretending dust got in their eye. Who doesn’t like a big hug? How could anyone miss Chris Riley and me hugging it out at our table. As Mainers we are confident in our masculinity and can hug it out anytime!
I walked out of the opening night thinking “holy shit! This is going to be an intense couple of days” and it was everything and more.
I love meeting new people, and the assigned seating at dinner was awesome! I had some great conversations at meals, mentoring and just grabbing a beer and having a chat! A shout out to Catie McDade, Jeff Turner and the crew at Blackthumb Studio of Alana, Kayleena, and George, along with Matt Wood, Chris Riley, Kate Preftakes, Smita Jacob, Katie Noble, Jessica, Maureen Cotton, Tom Flint, Maria and Erin Obrien, David Murray, Amy and so many more that I had the opportunity to hang and chat with!
The nights went late with all the fun everybody had with karaoke on the first night and the DJ and the band on the second night. I saw some hilarious dancing, (thanks for the dance lesson Sharona) but it was great seeing everyone having a blast. I mean who doesn’t enjoy letting out their inner Bon Jovi after a couple of pops.
The portfolio reviews with David and Amy were on another level. WOW…just WOW. It started as an impromptu session where people could watch the review, and the reviews wound up stretching to close to 11 on Tuesday night. It was awesome seeing the dedication of all involved in wanting to improve their craft. Thank you David and Amy for the time and thoughtfulness you put into the reviews.
People really came prepared to work hard at learning their craft and business while making true friends while having and having a great time in the process, and the talent level at Inspire this year was off the charts. The entire conference was just chock full of talented people.
I spent much time running around, but I did manage to see David Murray’s class on the edit of a wedding, and I love to see how he sees a wedding and what he considers for a deliverable image for the client. Beth Fitzgerald was just fabulous, and it was just chock full of great information for running your business in a competitive environment. Tomas Flint’s “Seeds” talk was the final class I attended and It was a class that made you look inward and required contemplation of the classic who, how, why. It really made me look at why I love photography and what I can change in my life as a photographer.
When you do a viral “Harlem Shake” video to end Inspire you know it’s been a great three days. People were dog tired by that point, but everyone was game for one last bit of fun.
I woke up that Thursday after Inspire, and I was ready to get to work even though I could have slept for two days. We were so eager to get going on Inspire 2014 that we started planning that morning with a three hour meeting before checking out of the hotel. We just couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling for 2014!
This February was crazy. For so many reasons! That Blizzard. Man oh man was I bitter about this, but really only for the shoveling part, otherwise it was kinda pretty.
Aside from 36” of snow the next craziest part of my month was the shake up I got while attending the Inspire photography conference in Sturbridge. I am on the planning team, so nothing about this conference should have been much of a surprise, right. Like, I totally knew what we had planned! Because I helped plan much of it!
The internal shake up that followed- and that is honestly still going on inside of me- is downright ridiculous. I’m not in a ‘finding myself’ phase, or a total newbie who is really still figuring it all out. I am a 10 year veteran to the wedding industry. I have a BFA in Photojournalism. I have a lot of camera gear in a closet in my studio. I have a logo. I have employees. I have taught photography workshops every month for the past five or six years. I am looked at in my industry as someone who generally has her shit together!
But there was something at Inspire this year. Something palpable. Something that this person on the planning team couldn’t plan for. And man, was it awesome. After hearing Amy Deputy’s keynote at the opening dinner? I feel like it was game over for a lot of people. Game over in the sense that all bets were off, the tone was set and try if you may you were going to just open up and connect with people whether you liked it or not! At one point Amy asked us to all stand up and hug one another! Now I am a cuddle bug willy so I absolutely was thrilled out of my socks when we had to do this! But many others? I am sure there was some discomfort there! I wanted to hug everyone there, I swear. It’s such an intimate and personal thing to do to press your hearts together and wrap your arms around another person!
There were other experiences I had, less tangible, more just having an intimate conversation with someone, or just learning something fun and new and random about my table-mates (Smita! Dirty Ziplock!) or how short Sara Wight’s torso is! Or that Sean20 was our youngest attendee or that Drew from Buffalo’s wife surprised him with a ticket last minute for his birthday or that David Murray isn’t fooling anyone with those scarves and crossed arms he is a big teddy bear with a Mainer accent or that we love Mia Clapp as much as we love our Kenny Clapp!! I could go on and on about how Jessica Pegg whooped karaoke’s ASS with some crazy country song or that Tom Flint made, like, EVERYONE cry.
That Michael Donnor, who came out of like, nowhere, just rocked so many people’s worlds with his ties and his genteel ways and his ethereal other worldly off beat work. In his class- of which I was in about half of it- I learned that I can do things differently. I could break free from what I thought I had to do. I could shake up how I saw things. I could wait for when it actually felt wrong, and that’s when I would shoot. (the thought of that still gives me a knot in my stomach, said the control freak) I was frozen, listening to this Michael Donnor. Like, rooted to my seat with stress and anxiety that slowly melted into excitement. My face started to flush as ideas of how to do it the wrong way flooded my brain! Said the control freak! All I needed was permission from this Michael Donnor guy in his awesome ties!
THIS is the stuff guys. These seemingly little things all strung together make for one giant and life changing experience.
I have projects lined up that are feeding my soul in ways that I think I was losing touch in. Connecting face to face in real life; really seeing people and in the process truly seeing who I am.
To everyone that came to Inspire this year: thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming with open minds and hearts and really truly putting yourselves out there!
Inspire 2013 was not possible without all the wonderful people that filled the three days with love, laughter, friendship, tears and joy. Inspire is a year long process in the making and the thanks you’ve expressed over the past few days will just put more of a fire in our belly to make next year even better.
February 10 – 12th, 2014 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Inspire is a retreat-style conference for professional wedding and portrait photographers. The conference is comprised of sessions on a variety of subjects, from business practices to shooting techniques, led by local professional photographers. The next conference is February 10 - 12th, 2014 in Sturbridge, MA.