The couple–Gia & Nolan, their seven (yes, seven) guests, and the two of us gathered and rubbed our hands together to keep warm on December 7, 2002. We were waiting for the officiant in a rose garden near Gia’s sister’s home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This was the setting for our first wedding as Holland Photo Arts and as professional photographers.
We were hooked.
We thought the next year might bring another seven weddings, maybe ten if we were lucky. Imagine our surprise when, thanks to the wonderfully kind words of our past clients to all (and we mean all) of their friends, we shot 37! And subsequently collapsed with a Scotch whisky (Bill) and vodka cocktail (Annie) at the end of it all.
The next twelve years were a whirlwind. Within nine months we were both full-time on the business, and so grateful to those who shared their knowledge and wisdom with us. In particular, Allegra who served as a mentor and gave us an incredible opportunity to build our portfolio as a guest photographer at her weddings.
When you start a business on your own, you’re passionate for the art and the craft, not necessarily because you want to run a business. We were the same way, and of course we made mistakes, but with every wedding we always endeavored to get better—to create more positive, memorable experiences for our clients.
Now, nearly 400 of you.
We could not have imagined a more richly emotionally rewarding time. We smiled and laughed with you, we cried with you (a challenge to sometimes shoot through tears), and yes, on occasion we danced with you. We celebrated the births of your children, and mourned the loss of your siblings, parents, and grandparents, sometimes your spouses, and even occasionally your marriages.
We always knew though that the time would come and instead of staying past our welcome and beginning to resent or hate weddings, after much soul searching this year, came to the difficult (& scary!) decision that we were both ready to close this amazing but all-consuming chapter of our lives. We also wanted to go out while we still love shooting weddings. We always want to give our all to our amazing couples—you deserve nothing less from us.
You were and are the intensely colorful threads in the rich fabric of our lives. We’re better people for knowing you.
We also worked with some of the most amazingly talented and loving professionals we’ve ever had the honor to meet, many becoming life-long friends. The wedding industry itself has changed a lot over the years–in some ways encouraging, in other ways not so much. We chose to adapt in some ways, and we held our ground in others.
Our sole goal along this path has always been for our wondereful couples to simply celebrate the wedding they wanted for themselves. To feel true to their souls. To share with their friends and family the experiences they wanted to share. It didn’t matter if it was a pot luck for a few dozen loved ones atop a mountain, or an urban extravaganza for 400, as long as it felt true. We endeavored to honestly and artfully capture it all.
Along the way, we shared with and shepherded several students and up and coming photographers through the Foundation Workshop, where we were once students as well. We were proud to serve as teachers and, for a few years, with Bill as the workshop’s executive director.
We’ve witnessed great change in the professional photography community along with the wedding industry over the past several years (film to digital and back to film, atmospheric rise in social media, and Google Analytics and SEO; just to name a few) and while we’ve been thrilled to see so many photographer friends flourishing, we’ve been saddened to see so many others struggle and be forced to close their doors before they were ready. We were and continue to be incredibly blessed that our studio was successful year after year and that’s in large part thanks to all the love and support within our wedding community.
Closer to home, we were thrilled to mentor three generous and kind souls as they completed post-production work and assisted us at weddings (thank you, Kelly and Eric!). Karen, in particular, has been with us for five years now after we shot hers and Michael’s wedding, not to mention growing her own successful studio. Karen, thank you for all you were and are. We love you and are so proud of your ongoing accomplishments.
Through it all, we paid for our own health insurance (an increasing challenge for small business owners), contributed to our retirement (alas, no employer matching), took whatever vacation we desired (unpaid, of course), had a couple of hospital visits for wedding-related injuries (one each), and missed innumerable family events and birthdays.
As much as this profession may have taken away, however, it repaid us back in spades. We’ve been the recipients of great love, respect, trust and long-lasting friendships. Our reward may not be a big cash payday a la Facebook’s IPO. But we wouldn’t have traded it for all the tea in China, because we’re leaving an even greater legacy–the knowledge that one day our couples’ great grandchildren will find their wedding album in the attic and get immense joy from seeing them, perhaps as they’ve never known them. (Young and spry for one!) A price just can’t be put on that.
So, as 2015 has drawn to a close and 2016 ramps up, it is time for us to say goodbye. Well, mostly. 2016 clients, never fear, as we can’t wait to celebrate with you! And we’ll accept a very limited number of additional commissions this season, as we otherwise explore new personal and professional challenges in our adopted home state of Colorado. Our small business consultancy The Art of Delight continues to thrive and we both will continue to have professional photography in our lives, Bill with landscapes and Anne with travel photography, as well as a project she’s been working on that she look forward to sharing soon. We’ll also still consider couples for Something Teal, our free wedding photography project.
And not to worry…we’re not going anywhere just yet. In addition to our 2016 weddings & events, we have lots of Summer & Fall 2015 wedding goodness to share on the Journal. We’ll still be accepting inquiries for a few dates in late Summer/Fall 2016 and still be doing albums for previous clients.
We couldn’t be more delighted to have had you–all of you–in our lives. You’ve affected us more deeply than you know. Thank you truly from the bottom of our very full and happy hearts.