Today’s post is definitely quite lengthy, however, it is about an experience that is very near and dear to me. So, if you want to skip the story-time and head straight to the pretty pictures, don’t worry I won’t be insulted. 😉
A year ago I decided to embark on a journey to one of the most beautiful places in the world, to attend Elizabeth Messina’s “A Lovely Workshop” in…none other than France. It was one of the quickest and easiest decisions to make, and here’s how it happened:
Last February in the middle of the night I woke up around 2am with the strongest feeling in my gut saying, “You should go to this workshop…you need to do it.” And before I go any further, I would like to explain a couple of things.
As a seasoned photographer, I fully believe in constantly evolving my craft. I think every artist should do it regardless of their accomplishments. Any kind of art especially photography is fluid and is constantly ever-changing and growing. This is one of the things I LOVE about photography. It is safe to say that I have been eating, sleeping, breathing, and well yes, drinking this form of art ever since I can remember. I can’t tell you how vastly it has grown, changed, been my therapy for so many times in my life. I am certain that throughout my journey in life, the coming and going of relationships, joyous and trying times, photography will always remain a constant element of expression. I remember reading a quote from one of my most influential photographers Annie Leibovitz mentioning that photography is her relationship, it is her marriage. I feel exactly the same way.
And like many times in our lives as artists, we go through periods of feeling burned out, lacking creatively, and feeling at an altogether stand-still. During these times, the best and most important thing to do is feel it out, keep your eyes and heart open, for the next sign or opportunity is just around the corner. I know, so cliche right?…Well that’s exactly what happened to me. All artists admire and are influenced from other artists. For me, it began with the work of Annie Leibovitz and Joyce Tennyson, then onto Ellen Von Unwerth and Richard Avedon. More currently, having been in the wedding industry, I have found Elizabeth Messina’s work to be very influential among others. Her approach is feminine, intimately graceful, and engages the pure and humanistic emotions of her subjects. I can safely state that when initially venturing into weddings about 7 years ago, the art of wedding photography was not as appreciated and valued as an art form as it stands today. Thankfully, with the influential work of talented and pioneering photographers like Elizabeth Messina, Joe Buissink and Denis Reggie to name a few, have helped society recognize the craft of Wedding Photography as a respected form of fine art.
Back to my story. I began looking up flights to France and by the time I fell back asleep in the wee hours of the morning, I had already decided that I had to make this journey happen. Before I knew it, time had fast forwarded to mid-May. The day before my big trip, I was attending my best friend’s wedding as a bridesmaid, nonetheless, about three hours outside of my hometown Orlando and more importantly, where my flight was taking off early the next day. My bags were packed and passport in-hand. I gave my freshly married B.F.F. a hug and kiss, headed to the airport, hopped on my flight, (exit row-window, my usual), ordered a glass of wine, and dreamt all the way to Paris.
Now at the Paris airport, I met up with a couple other amazing photographers Jennifer Fariello and Leah McDonald who also arrived that morning, and we began our trek to the exquisitely beautiful Chateau St. Julien l-Ars. To paint the picture…the atmosphere was peaceful, birds chirping, breezy and cool, with tall trees who’s leaves peered out just over the towering 17th century chateau. Towards the back of the property, there was a massive lawn with tall trees canopying over, perfectly shading the cool grass below. And placed in the center of the lawn, a tiny French statue humbly sitting amongst all it’s greatness. I was shown to my room located at the top and was presented with a lovely little tag with the words “Sweet Dreams” written at the top with my name in Calligraphy in the middle. My bed rested below two large French windows secured only by a small latch, (got to love France), and opened up to a gorgeous view of the grounds. I immediately grabbed my camera, met up with the rest of the photographers, and began shooting my heart out. This is exactly what I needed.
I will always remember the 6 glorious days I lived in this magical French chateau, feeding my soul with photography, and being surrounded by such inspirational people. I kept saying it didn’t feel like a workshop, but rather a retreat. Not only was it amazing to be learning from Elizabeth, but the friendships that were formed strengthen myself as a photographer and a person. I formed relationships with a group of awesomely talented photographers, blog / magazine editors, stylists, makeup artists, headpiece designers, models, florists, and round-the-clock working chefs. It’s funny, for that week, titles, positions, and accolades did not matter. We just had fun and shared the love of photography. Having had the opportunity to attend “A Lovely Workshop” was well…quite lovely. Yes, I took home some new techniques and nuggets of knowledge, but more importantly, I left confident and the feeling of electricity was back.
Now one year later, to the date, I am finally posting 50 of my favorite images from “A Lovely Workshop”. I am normally much more time-sensitive with posting my latest and greatest, however, with this experience in particular, I needed some time for personal reflection.
xo – Abby