Don’t maybe later your dreams. I keep coming back to that notion, over and over again.
Five years ago, I was sitting on my couch in my Chicago apartment (while my friend and neighbor celebrated her elopement in the basement below me). Sounds of celebration floated up through the wooden floors, as I was scrolling through instagram just looking for a little beauty in the bleakest week of my life. My dad had died that week, and the funeral had been the day prior.
Through the strange rabbit hole that is the internet, I stumbled upon a photo of a couple in Joshua Tree, caught in a moment of laughter, the sun exploding into a sun-flare behind them. I was immediately taken with the image. And after living much of my life loving wedding photos, and being the daughter of a photographer, I found myself on this photographers website.
She called herself an adventure wedding photographer.
I had never heard of such a thing before, but knew immediately that it sounded like the greatest possible job to exist on this earth. “I wish I could do that,” I remember thinking.
And then I thought about how my dad always told me to do something with my photography. Badgered me to put my work in a portfolio. How quickly life can change and how we don’t have an unlimited amount of somedays we can store for later.
So in that moment, as the quiet music from an elopement below me tinkled on, I said: No. I’m *going* to do that. Starting tomorrow.
And I did. With my little Rebel took myself to the Chicago Botanic Garden the very next day and started inhaling every piece of education I could get my hands on. I wasn’t starting with much. Just a starter camera and a boldness I didn’t know I had.
And now. Five years later, I’m sitting here, thrilled, humbled, and more than a little shocked to announce that I have been named one of The 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography by Rangefinder Magazine.
For those that don’t know (and even explaining this feels not very humble at all), this award is one of, if not *the* most prestigious award in the industry. You must be invited to submit- each nominee was nominated by a previous winner or top industry professional, and you have to have been full time for less than 5 years. The judges sift through the 200+ nominees work and name 30 photographers as winners. Many call it the Oscars of Wedding Photography.
This all feels very bizarre. Surreal is probably the best word for it. I have *such* a clear memory of learning about this award and seeing the portfolios of past winners. I remember being in absolute awe, how the photos were freaking art, and if thinking if I could have produce work half as good I would be over the moon. It truly felt like an Academy Award- and I felt just likely to win an Oscar as I did an RF 30.
This award is a massive honor. I genuinely can’t even wrap my ahead around it; sometimes I think about it real hard and start nervously laughing cause it feels so unreal. I feel damn proud (and have to skip right past how my dad would feel, because the second I start to think about that I get overwhelmed. With lots of different feelings).
It’s funny- before I was a photographer I was a therapist. I don’t talk about that a lot on here for a number of reasons, but I keep thinking about how between my two careers I’ve been present for peoples most difficult struggles, some of their worst days. And then after a career pivot, there for the biggest, happiest days of their lives. I have been witness to the great swath of human existence. And I think all of that, plus how I stumbled into this work to begin with, influences not just my approach to business but to life.
Don’t maybe later your dreams. If something calls to you, insists itself to you, run towards it. Whether that be starting a business, eloping someplace beautiful and wild, or something else I can’t even think of… *do that.* Start moving in that direction. After all, we don’t always have an infinite number of somedays in which to do it.
There are a gazillion people I wish to thank. Not just for this award, but for the entirety of the journey, from that moment on the sofa to right now. Rangefinder just gives me a reason to give credit where credit is due. ::cue Oscar acceptance speech::
To my friends and family for their unflagging support- for being absolutely sure this wacky career path would work out even when I doubted it. To Rob, who has been this dreams #1 cheerleader, and who takes how weird my work life is now in total stride :).
To other folks in the industry who are constant sources of education and inspiration, especially Maddie and Abbi, whose workshop in Page truly *truly* acted as the springboard for me to dive headfirst into this job. If I were to go back and pick a moment where I really *started*… it would be your workshop.
To my fellow Rising Stars of 2022? Your work is incredible. I’m so honored to be among you.
To my couples. This is very important. Getting to go back through all my past work and relieve your days was honestly in and of itself reward enough. Your trust in me with this most important day is something I hold so dear. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your joy, love, and greatest adventure yet. Truly, none of this would be here if not for you.
Thanks to my dad, the OG photographer in my life. I wish you were here to see this. You would get *such* a kick out of it all.
And finally, as cheesy as this is, thanks to past me. You were bold in a way I never though possible, in potentially the most important moment possible. I will try to learn from you… for forever.
And now? The images. In order, as I submitted them. I do like this portfolio- full of color, fun, odd juxtapositions, small moments, big landscapes, and most of all love. I hope you enjoy them.
— Ryan + Styhiln