The first blog of 2018. It’s only fitting that January 1st I was on a plane with a very excited (yet very quiet, read: she had no voice!) bride to be. Kristie’s voice finally came back in time to say I Do under a bright sunny sky, with friends and family tearing up alongside them. Thank you to Kristie, Chris, and all your friends and family for making this photographer feel right at home, while miles away.
Now, you think I’d just end this there, with a quaint introduction? Oh hell no – you know this mouth has a story for everything. SO. Picture this – it’s the morning of the wedding day. I go to have a shower, as one does. We had previously switched my room to be closer to the rest of the wedding party, and I hadn’t used this room’s shower yet. I reach in, turn on the water, and close the glass door while the water warms up. I undress, do a little stretch, and pull open the door.
A TIDAL WAVE OF WATER POURS OUT ONTO THE FLOOR OF THE BATHROOM.
I am completely nude, running around my room gathering towels, mopping up giant pools of water. I turn the shower off. I chuckle. Of course.
Friends, if you know anything about me, it’s that this kind of thing happens all the time. No, not specifically showers flooding; but somehow, I’ll always have a story to tell. No, I didn’t get my shower that day (bird baths in the sink are surprisingly refreshing) but man alive, did I ever have a good laugh. That’s what this is all about, right?
I will always be a romantic. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will always make me cry (it’s the damn golden retriever, I swear) and the Royals will always give me the warm butterflies knowing they’re all finding love and having extravagantly ridiculous nuptials that you end up looking at like a car crash (I CAN’T NOT LOOK AT IT).
This year has really given me a lot to think about. Like, far too much. My little brain has been whirring and stirring and meandering through all sorts of ridiculous processes, and it wasn’t until the other day that I let myself do something I haven’t done in a very long time. I looked adoringly at wedding dresses.
Ok – full stop – I’m not crazy, I’m not getting married, and I’m not in the market. (Now – if there’s a dress company that wants to sponsor me… I’m your girl.)
I realized that I’ve been preventing myself from truly letting myself enjoy things. Whatever it may be that has stood in the way, grief or loss or frustration, I’ve been preventing myself with the understanding that I need to be fully healed in order to let myself be happy. What kind of backwards thinking is that, brain? I thought we had this under control here.
It felt almost clandestine to open up the BHLDN website and sneak a peek at their latest bespoke gowns, with gentle fabrics and whispers of lace and incredibly delicate necklines. I actually felt my heart sigh and realized – I LOVE weddings. I love details. I love fashion, and all things beautiful and I’ve not let myself love these things from a dark, bitter place that I’d rather not see again.
If you’ve met me, you know I’m not necessarily the picture of femininity – I’m a rough around the edges, I’m messy, I swear like a trucker, and I would rather get muddy with my dog than pampered on any day. But man, show me some delicate tulle and I’m a puddle on the floor.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as to why I’m in the business I’m in. Someone posted on Facebook asking photographers why they photograph weddings. Never have I let myself say out loud, “It’s because I love weddings!” because that’s not cool. Or so my brain said so. But honestly, after that brief affair with BHLDN I’m coming out to say it – I love weddings.
I love the storyline. I love the fairytale. I love the fact that on that day, in front of your closest family and friends, you are making a promise to your best friend that you will travel the rest of time together, because you honestly can’t picture not having them in your life. I’m not a fan of the extra-extravagance, don’t get me wrong here; I’m a fan of the quiet whispers. I’m a fan of those tiny little details and storylines behind the scenes of mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, and the mess that can be family and the force of friends. I’m a fan of the light falling on the letter he wrote to you that morning, and the quiet shake of his hand as he takes it in yours. Or her hand. Or their hands. I’m just a great big fan of love.
Weddings were not the original plan – I did not set out to become a wedding photographer. I did, however, set out to take beautiful, timeless images of couture and humans in their element; somehow, some way I ended up finding that in weddings.
I set out to write this post to exclaim my thankfulness for this past year and the year to come. In normal fashion, I’ve rambled a bit more than I’ve meant to. But I do want to express my gratitude to anyone whom has stepped into my life this past year and beyond; anyone who took the time to check in, took the time to distract and take me places to shake me from the funk of reality. To the man who has now seen me cry over poorly made coffee and has picked up my pieces time and time again, and still comes to the rescue with that damn smile every time. You’ve seen my posts on social media of the wonder that is mental illness, and it takes a village of support to give me the good days that I have been having more frequently – so thank you. To all of you. You all know who you are.
Wrapping up 2017 is a mixed bag of feels. I did not expect to be where I am, this time, a year ago. I can say that I’m having a heavy dose of Dorothy-comes-home-from-oz; the cast of characters who are now in my life are truly irreplaceable and I am just so grateful to have what I have, and do what I do. My stupidly handsome golden retriever is snoring next to me; I think that’s a good place to finish.. so I’ll just say this: To all clients, friends, family and in between, I wish you all a very safe, happy and rewarding New Year – here’s to 2018, and the bucket of crazy that is sure to come with it. //
There is something about a fresh, crisp salad that makes my mouth water and my eyes sparkle. Believe me, I am drawn to hearty, saucy, carby entrees but I just can’t turn down fresh romaine or kale if it’s put in front of me. In the past few years as my system as decided to take a walk on the wild side (aka pain, low energy, sick all the time, you get the picture) I’ve been drawn towards a fresh alternative (healthy eating pun, anyone?) and try when I can to swap the deep fried potatoes for a salad the size of my head.
In comes Hawley Crescent. Catering that is geared towards healthy, but phenomenally delicious meals that are simple, fresh, and clean. They don’t shy away from the greats – lasagna, chicken parm, burgers. But they’re all made fresh, whole, and with a lot of heart. You won’t see a deep fryer in their Whitby storefront location, and as the owners are very familiar with food sensitivities and allergies, there is absolutely something for everyone. Vegan, vegetarian, meat lover and sugar-fiend alike, Hawley Crescent can deliver. And you won’t find a nicer pair of humans like the owners Sue and Roger. Beyond the cafe, Hawley caters to weddings, events, meetings and parties, leaving guests in awe of just how good a turkey burger can taste when done right. All my love to the mighty green salad, and to Hawley Crescent for treating my tummy right.
All photos copyright Hilary Spencer Creative Photography.
There are some days that I just feel full. Full of happiness, or sadness, life, or love. And there are some days that I just feel full of words. Writing has always been a secret outlet that I fail to use efficiently; I write in spurts and bursts and in an inconsistent attempt to empty my brain like a maxed-out memory card. Some days writing is easy, and some days writing is hard. Incase you haven’t noticed, writing has been the latter for me lately. But as it usually does, the bug came back to bite in the wee hours of the morning on an insignificant Tuesday evening.
A lot has happened in the past 6 months. For most, you’ve only gotten snippets from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For some, you’ve been with me the whole damn ride (screaming to let you off, I’m sure). So thank you to those who already know all of this, and a warm welcome to those who don’t.
In July of 2014 I opened a photo studio. Remove the Pinterest-esque image of a photography studio out of your mind; we’re talking an office-sized, square room. Weathered hard wood floors, antique century doorhandles and two walls of windows had me dreaming of simple setups and breathtaking naturally-lit photo sessions. Babies, children, couples, pets; I was completely overwhelmed with what an empty room could mean for my on-the-side photography business. It was a mild summer morning in May, and I said yes. I said yes to leaving a job I was no longer interested in, that took me far from home and drained the life out of me, to the absolutely heart-wrenchingly scary world of “let’s try to pay bills with photography!”. I left a Toronto high-rise in early June, camped at my dining room table on my laptop for a month, and painted that little room with enough optimism I could have exploded if someone tapped me on the shoulder.
I had shoots coming through. I had a few in studio, a lot on location, and the most weddings I’ve had in my career scheduled for the summer ahead. I paid a month’s worth of expenses solely through my new “career”. It was a very weird, exciting feeling. It was also becoming clear that I wasn’t steady enough to be fully depending on this income, so I picked up a part time job as a receptionist at a day spa. I lived my little daydream out loud, spending every waking moment immersed in my passion. This is what dreams are made of, right? Right.
Then an opportunity came along at the end of August. An in-my-face, loud, “you cannot turn this down” opportunity. Not photography related, not one bit. It was a position with a company, full time (contract to start), doing what I had been doing in Toronto, only very close to home with very enticing hours and security that could not be ignored. I went in head first, never having more than the expectation that it’s worth a try. After an interview on a Tuesday (what is it with Tuesdays? So innocent, yet so not at all) I was at my new desk not 24 hours later. It was surreal. What happened to the exciting, scary, entrepreneurial adventure I was only just beginning? Why did I have that sinking feeling that I was somehow selling out?
If you should know anything about me, it’s that I have many different aspects of fulfilment in my little heart. Think of this like one of those children’s puzzles where you have to fit the star-shaped toy into the star-shaped opening. I have a square, a triangle, a circle, a star, and a slue of other shapes waiting to be paid attention to. Photography takes up one of these spaces. And for that little part of the summer, it grew big enough to take up most of the spaces. But you can’t fit the star into the circle, you say! Well, you’re right. You can’t. While I can probably try to jam that sucker in there, it just don’t fit. And it took months of figuring out how to stop feeling like a sellout to realize I can’t ignore the different shapes of my heart. So I now have a photography spot, a day-job spot (which fills an academic appetite that is a very big part of me. The nerd glasses are real!), a fiancé spot (we’ll touch on that later) and a few other unlabelled spots waiting to be sorted out.
It’s tricky to put a finger on how I feel about this from a business perspective. While I would absolutely love to pursue photography full time, I can’t ignore real-life necessities and real-life financial stress that bubbles up in my system until I’m balled up yelling at the money-shaped bus that ran me over. If this position hadn’t come along, I would have continued to work part time in order to alleviate that stress, ramping into a potential full-time photography adventure when the time came. What’s nice is, I can still have that option. I can continue to be a “weekend warrior” (it’s a real term, I’m told) and live comfortably while doing so, saving for a wedding (yes we’ll get there, I told you) and subduing that money stress, at least a little bit. One day I will wake up and walk to my home office to work. One day I will be holding a wriggling two year old while I attempt to get some photo editing done, simultaneously maintaining an effortless appearance while doing so (that’s the dream, no?). For now, I wake up and go to an office ten minutes away, put in a day’s work, and come home to the second day’s work. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but when isn’t life a balancing act really?
Now, backstepping to that little perfect room we’re calling a studio. I had the grand opening back in October, celebrating the beginnings of success with friends and family (there you are! Dropping all your names in that generic blanket!) and opening my door (and my heart) to the next chapter of Hilary Spencer Creative Photography. I’d like to think that I am the business, and that the grand opening was an opening of my love for photography and working with such beautiful families and faces, fiddling with engagement rings and fluffing dresses, playing with toy cars and shouting dirty words to make cheeks turn red and smiles explode. I am not the space that I reside in; my work is a product of this little magical thing inside me that dares to speak out and let everyone know: I am in love with making people smile.
I’ve given my last month’s notice to the wonderful owner of the building I was camped out in for those few months. You see, it took taking a huge leap, that one jump out into the world, to push me past all the “what if”s and “what now”s to really find out that I love what I do. I’m so happy that I have spent the time investing in myself, in the business, because it propelled me into the future, which is where I’m now focussed. My future will now hold a photo studio in my home, in a freshly painted finished basement that was sitting empty without any laughter or joy. Believe it or not, I’ll have more room than I did in those four optimistic walls, and I can’t wait to transform my space into everything I had dreamed of for a small-but-mighty studio space. And the bonus? Rent free. Money that can be thrown to new equipment, props, lighting, or hey… that wedding.
This little (not so little, I’m a dirty liar) novella is to air out a bit of what I’ve been holding inside, holding on to, and now letting go. I’m so focussed on each step in front of me, I can’t be bothered to look back for anything else but epic memories. My 2015 season is so busy, we couldn’t plan to fit in our own wedding. I’m burning the midnight (and sometimes 3am) oil almost every night, but I’m exhilarated to the point where I couldn’t sleep if I tried. To my new work folks, you know why the bags under my eyes could be checked at the airport (with extra fees for oversized luggage). And to my photography clients, here, there, and in the future, you are truly what wakes me up every morning (or afternoon, after I’ve strategically power-napped), allowing me to live out my dreams and passions through that lens. Every time I feel exhausted, a little girl will chase me around a room with fists full of crackers shouting Taylor Swift rifts. A newborn baby will grasp my finger, making those heart-melting sleepy noises while I tuck fingers back under blankets. A freshly engaged couple nervously laughs and embraces under a sunset; my own personal movie that I’m directing in the moment. I am truly blessed to be trusted with your memories, and I will continue to strive for perfection in the craft that has called me home. My square is fitting snugly in it’s place, whether that’s in a box, in a room, or in my heart; I’m happy, and you know it.
(And to those waiting for the fiancé update: He said “So?” and I said “Yes.” I bawled and we laughed and I can’t stop looking at my left hand. The story is perfectly “us”, and you’ll hear it soon enough.)
A long, long time ago, in a pair of ratty jeans and skater shoes, I made a friend that made me laugh so hard I’d snort. Somehow, we both ended up liking the same boys, which made things a little tricky, but otherwise I was pretty sure this friend was gonna stick around. And she did; regardless of boys, shoes, and through years of staying in touch from afar. I’m so grateful to have Michelle in my life, and I couldn’t be happier to have shared in her magical day of bliss as she exchanged vows with the one boy I didn’t like – in that way! Michelle and Mike are a phenomenal fit, and I wish them a lifetime of happiness and true love.