I’m positively giddy about this week’s Awesomepreneur(s) We Love because it’s a TWO FOR ONE! Erin and Alicia are the photo poets behind F/Stop Poetry: my favorite spot to surf and swoon over creative, heartfelt, so-good-it-makes-me-want-to-frame-pictures-of-complete-strangers photography. Read about why they chose the name F/Stop Poetry here.
For a quick taste, visit their wedding portfolio: Erin and Alicia’s work lives up to their business name. Pure poetry. Or wait until the end of the post for a F/Stop Poetry reading (i.e. a portfolio sample).
Now, you’ll have to pardon me while I continue swooning. (But you should definitely read this interview before following my lead. Their answer to #7 is not to be missed!) Let’s just say these ladies know what it is to work with heart. And I love ‘em for it.
1. Who are you?
Give us a quick heartography of yourself.
We are two women with old souls who believe in the power of the human spirit. We are both really different as far as personalities go but we have very similar hearts. Our goal has always been to try and represent everyone we photograph accurately and beautifully. We believe in the power of portraits.
2. What do you do?
Describe your heartwork.
It’s a lot easier for me to describe what we want to do. We like to think at our best we are story tellers. We are always inspired by the people we meet and their real life stories of strength and diversity. It’s important to be able to see yourself as you are and feel good about it. Lauren Hill says “people want the fantasy but what they need is the reality.” This is so true to our philosophy. And I can’t say we have it all figured out, each shoot is a challenge for us to try and really get at something deeper about each person we photograph and sometimes we fail and sometimes we are elated with how much people are willing to open themselves up to us. But making timeless images that tell the story about people’s lives as they are right now is ultimately our goal. Ask us in a few years if we have succeeded.
3. How did you get started as an awesomepreneur?
Three years into our business and we still feel like we are just getting started. We both have our degrees in photography and idolized Mary Ellen Mark and all her documentary work. We quickly realized after graduating the times have changed for documentary work. Magazines no longer want real stories, but prefer to have celebrities’ lives the main focus. We got into wedding photography because it allowed us to learn how to document stories of real people. Now we are looking for ways to do more documentary work for social causes as well. Our blog has been our laboratory for trying our hand at this type of work. We hope in the future we can be better awesomeprenuers by being able to make work that challenges people to look at everyone’s story as valid and important.
4. Do you have a day job?
How do you fund your heartwork?
Our Job is portrait and wedding photographers. We love that we get to meet so many people because of our jobs and that we are able to be a part of such monumental parts of their lives. We consider ourselves so lucky to be able to do that, but for us we wanted to also be able to say something about how we see the world, and a lot of our documentary work has to do with that. We are really fortunate to have found people who trust us enough to try and tell their story and allow us to photograph them.
5. What is your biggest work challenge?
When does your heartwork feel like hard work?
There are so many challenges. The saturation of the photography world, paying back student loans, staying positive when you feel heartbroken for people who are hurting, being willing to follow through with people by being there after they open up their lives to you, and then how to photograph people well and represent them well through everything. We feel like we are constantly learning and constantly being presented with new challenges. That’s the beauty of it though, if it were easy everyone would do it. We are up for the challenge.
6. What is the best thing about being an awesomepreneur?
Why do you love what you do?
It’s for sure the people we have photographed. It’s the best thing in the world for us when a woman gets her boudoir photos back and says I never saw myself as beautiful until now. We had a bride lose her brother who was a firefighter in a car accident and she asked us to photograph the memorial so the family would be able to remember him being honored as a firefighter. Those are the things that make us feel like our work matters.
7. What is your #1 tip for working with heart?
What do you want to share with other awesomepreneurs?
We are still making our way and figuring it out so we won’t pretend to know the best way, but what we have done, is ask for help. We send emails all the time asking people whose work we respect and admire to point us in the right direction, or asking to get lunch with them and pick their brain. We feel so lucky to have been able to meet some really amazing photographers and gotten help on projects from them. Steve Liss is one person who we feel is invaluable to us. He has had over 40 photos that have become Time Magazine covers and has covered 6 presidential campaigns and for him to tell us to keep going and to keep digging deeper to photograph what we love has been the kind of encouragement that makes you want to take your work really seriously. There is a Tennessee Williams quote that says, “When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone. “ It can be overwhelming and lonely as an artist trying to make work that is personal and means something to you and then throwing it out in the darkness hoping someone finds light in it. It can seem like every man for himself, and with facebook it seems like we are all screaming into a little box hoping to be heard. but we have found so much strength in asking for help and collaborating with other people who have the same vision for their work and the same passion for creating change. Our biggest tip is to be brave enough to ask for help so you are adding to the conversation instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
Bet you’re ready to enjoy some F/Stop Poetry now, huh? Get the good stuff at FStopPoetry.com or keep scrolling. (We promised you a poetry reading, didn’t we?)
We love Erin O’Donnell Gunther and Alicia Diamond!