Top row (left to right): Joanna, Lisette, me and Shea (we apparently didn't get the memo this was the happy picture, not the crazy one). Bottom row, Cristi and Kara. Absent from photo: Amelia, Trina and Lee Ann.
You know you've got a good group of girlfriends when you can go to Vegas with them, win $1,018 on the penny slots (yes, I was that hysterical person, fanning myself furiously with 20s while simultaneously shrieking in shock "Oh. My. God. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!), and that isn't even the highlight of the trip.
Between a surprise bachelorette soirée complete with limo and list of cheesy challenges (you know that scene in Harry Met Sally, now act it out Strip-side, e.g.); impromptu marriage proposals (if you met her, you'd want to marry Cristi too); discovering we had a benevolent benefactor who dealt in desserts (thanks, Brandon Gresham); a quiet afternoon exploring Red Rocks; my first In-N-Out burger (obviously with fries and chocolate shake); dancing, dancing and more dancing; VIP service at Wolfgang Puck's signature Spago (where my dear high school friend, Kyle, is a chef); and constant conversation (and giggling), there just too many "best thing ever" moments to mention of my recent trip to Sin City with the Alpha Kappa Camera girls (that's Amelia Strauss, Cristi Owen, Kara Purtell, Joanna Garcia, Shea Halliburton, Lee Ann Fuller, Trina Knudsen, Lisette Price, of course me and special guest star, Graham Yelton.)
Given the fun and friendships fast formed we'd had when our ad hoc photography sorority started last summer with a stay seaside in Charleston, South Carolina (you can read all about that trip here), I expected more of the same for our reunion at WPPI, our industry's largest trade show and convention which brought 15,000 plus wedding and portrait photographers to Las Vegas.
It was even better!
Simply put, there was something so special (and surreal) about all nine of us (all professional photographers from around the country from Maine to Michigan, Alabama to Arizona, and California to Clarksville, Tennessee) intentionally being back together, stuffed into two adjoining swank suites at The Signature (about as far from the charms of the sweet, sunny South as you can get in this country), making a concerted commitment to continue the personal and professional network that began 2,283 miles and seven months before. As if meeting up again, here in this place among thousands of other photographers, validated AKC and our sisterhood; it wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan, one time thing, but something meaningful, and lasting. It's even more unbelievable than putting in 75 pennies and walking away with more than 100,000 of them that nine women with such different backgrounds and foregrounds could come together so seamlessly and develop such deep friendships and collaborative partnerships so quickly. Yeah, it's true: we all genuinely adore each other.
While the AKC is all play, we're also a little bit business (and a little bit country and a little bit rock'n'roll too). Luckily, we love what we do, so that combination comes naturally for us. And we've also made a commitment for it to continue. While in South Carolina, much of our greatest learnings as photographers and businesswomen came over coffee or 3 a.m. conversations on our sprawling sun porch, in Vegas we decided to make who we are, and what we would become, official. In between the aforementioned fun, cruising the trade show floor to check out the latest gear and products and attending some seriously motivational and meaningful classes, we managed to come together and hold our first chapter meeting to decide our direction, complete with goals, voting and note taking- though in true AKC style, it was formally informal (or is it informally formal?) with many of us still in our PJs and and a certain beautiful bride-to-be curling her hair for the better part of the agenda.
I share this with you, because many of the conclusions of that conversation will have a clear impact on Samantha Warren Weddings, and my clients. For starters, we have committed to continuing AKC, with an annual summer retreat (locations rotate annually among the members- Maine in 2015!!!) and attendance together at one convention, likely WPPI again. While we are founded on our friendship, we believe that nine up-and-coming photographers from around the country have much to teach each other, and so these annual retreats will have time carved out for group education, with each of us getting the opportunity to teach and learn. This is a decision I am especially excited about, as there is much I admire about each of these women's businesses and I look forward to learning from them. I am equally as eager for this summer's retreat, lakeside in Montana!!!
Of course our learning isn't limited to a week each summer and one in the winter, and will continue with small group work in the times we're not together. It's so nice having a network of like-minded but different-experienced and perspectived women just an email or phone call away who will creatively challenge, coddle and change me as needed, and I know this will help my business and art evolve to better serve my couples and myself.
Part of this includes a promise to support each other as second shooters. With all of us working in different parts of the country, our seasons are quite different which means when my wedding season is slammed in the summer, my sisters sweltering down in Texas and Tennessee will be happy to help shoot seaside here in New England. In the past, I've been skeptical of working with a second shooter, for many reasons but largely because I wouldn't want just a gear gopher and I didn't want to not have 100 percent of my focus on my clients and their families. But given that the AKC women are all accomplished primary photographers in their own right, I can trust they'll provide integral images that will strengthen the day, and the wedding day experience for the couple and their guests. If you are already booked for a 2010 or 2011 wedding and interested in adding a second photographer, please contact me for pricing and details.
We've also begun work on an AKC blog that we'll all be contributing our oh-so-unique voices and vision to and that will be launching soon to provide inspiration and insight for both brides and grooms, and for the photographic community. More on that later! Until then, I just have to share some snaps from the photobooths around Vegas that we violated. With all those photographers, apparently what happens in Vegas doesn't stay there. Can you say, ridiculous!
And for the record, no. It is not a prerequisite that you've got to be gorgeous to be in the AKC (?how the heck do you think I would have gotten in if it was?) but seriously, if you want to get free drinks and club cover waived, this is the group to roll with.
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