It’s funny.  I am coming off the best season of my wedding photography career. A milestone year.  I had no idea I could experience such rich connection as the photographer–a hired professional–at the weddings of individuals I am only just getting to know. From an early morning private vow exchange on the shores of Lake MacDonald, to swimming fully clothed at 1am at a pool party after party with all the guests to end 15 hours of shooting, to winning awards I never thought possible–2017 you were a year. Sitting here, firmly footed in 2018 I have fewer bookings than I have ever had this time of year and I have vacillated from: stressed, to calm, to if you build it they will come, to finally doing a deep dive into why I’m experiencing what feels like a drought on the coattails of the best year yet.

Sure there are a lot of wedding photographers, but there have always been a lot of wedding photographers in the 7 years I have been doing this.  And this business of mine has flourished in these 7 years. It has allowed me to not only work consistently but to also build the life I want to live, one where I was able to buy my first home, save for retirement, pay for a running coach, travel to France, get the healthcare I need, buy the best vegetables at the Farmer’s market–and all of this has been built in a fairly nontraditional way.  I didn’t even have a website for the first two plus years (nor did I save for retirement or buy the best local vegetables), and this was pre-Instagram where basically everyone had a website. I had a Facebook page. I have always succeeded through referral and word of mouth. Once I paid a small fortune for SEO help and the guy ended up being less than honest. In the end I decided that my time and energy would go into my clients and the people I worked alongside–it made business sense but more importantly it made heart sense. I have tried so hard in this world of pretty grids to only buy into what resonates in my soul. Sometimes I’ve laid awake worrying that I’m missing out on jobs by not following the status quo. But then I have a bride over for dinner and she tells me about her fears of cooking and what the cauliflower steak I cooked for her means to her and I say screw it to those worries. When she needed space to make boutonnières for her wedding and literal space from all the wedding festivities I lent her my kitchen table.  I make meals for clients because there is no greater form of connection and community than sitting at a table for me. Sometimes it feels like work when I get started and then when they arrive or we take our first bites I remember why I do these things with my business AND my life. Staying up to 2am drinking cheap Prosecco with a bride whilst trying to figure out how to make paper cones filled with lavender, a DIY Pinterest assures us is easy, is messy and beautiful and sometimes tiring. But, all of these things, they are what inspire me. They are why I do this. Yes, wedding photography pays for my life but at the end of the day I am only still here desiring to tell your stories because I have been able to make true and lasting connections with so many people over the years.

When you are in business for yourself and the roof over your head and the peanut butter toast you eat daily is fully funded by said business there are times when you take work that doesn’t really resonate with your heart. You take jobs to pay the bills. You compromise. And I have happily and luckily been able to do that. This year, even as I have struggled to fill my wedding calendar in the usual way, I find myself resistant to say a resounding ‘yes’ to the work that just doesn’t feel quite right.  I put off sending the requisite email back promptly. I hear a should voice in my head that says, you should take this job, because retirement, because savings, because you’re lucky to be able to do the work you love.

I chose the word evolve to be my theme word for 2018. Because I could feel the unrest, the destructive phase that I was already in and I knew was only going to get thicker. I figured I might as well choose a word in line with what was coming, what I was already in, as opposed to standing in further opposition to it. But it turns out I misunderstood the meaning of evolve. According to Google, it means: develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form. Had I looked up the definition before making this selection I would have likely tried to find another word. Gradual? I am impatient. I am ready to do it all and transform my business and figure out just what else I’m going to do. Basically, I’d like some magical answers today. Please and thank you. But the thing is, while I am in this phase where I am both a willing and unwilling participant in the deconstruction of pieces of my life and my business it is not in a burn it all to the ground, flashy dramatic way. It is slow. I can feel it. And anything else would be another form of resistance in itself. Because everything else in my life is pointing to patience, to slow, to space, to taking time, to granting myself the gift of time free from an expiry date. This scares me. What if I don’t figure it out? What if I can’t save for retirement this year? What if I fail? What if my new ideas don’t work? What if 2019 is worse? What if I can’t pay my rent? Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and these fears consume me.

In the third year of my business I learned about and implemented specialization into my business. I do believe this concept has a lot of merit to it from a business standpoint but as I highlighted above, I have not made it this far because of playing by the business rules. I have made it because I have been me. If I continue to operate from the simple and specialized place of ‘wedding photographer’ I am not honoring the creative storyteller I am. Sitting here, drinking peanut butter frozen hot chocolate, I feel more like a photographer and storyteller than I have in years. I feel so ready to tell wedding stories and I feel ready to tell the stories of women, of small businesses, of farms, of projects and people I haven’t even thought of or met. I feel ready to remove the rigid definition of this space and let it evolve, to chase my curiosity and the people and projects it leads me to. I have a suspicion that curiosity will lead me to more couples that I cook cauliflower steaks with and jump into pools at 1am with. I’ve just started photographing my Black and White Women’s Portraits from the experiment I launched in winter and already I can feel it taking a more permanent hold of my heart. I want those portraits to be a part of what Tori Pintar Photography is.  Another bead of curiosity led me to a farm to talk about collaboration and telling their story. Another bead led me to writing to you from upstate New York as part of a three week east coast trip that’s a mixture of photo and writing projects. I have wanted to photograph women and farms and small businesses forever. But I have played it safe.

When it comes to weddings, I am also shifting. I have realized that I am best at capturing destination weddings and typically smaller intimate weddings. As someone who has spent a lot of adulthood exploring new places I have this innate understanding of what it’s like to take an adventure. This changes the dynamics of a celebration. It changes the dynamics of the community you’re creating with your wedding for that weekend or week. I am able to see, observe and feel the nuanced details that set a destination celebration a part from the local one. I want to tell more of those stories.

I’m only taking two more weddings for 2018. If any of what I have written has resonated with you and you’re planning your celebration I would love to hear from you. Or if you have a friend you feel is looking for exactly what I have described and what I am uniquely able to give, please share this with them. My goal is to not be limited to the boundaries of the state I call home. Or if you are a woman and you want to find out more about my Women’s Portraits please write to me, actually just call me right now at 406-600-2090, I want to talk to you. Or if you have a small business and you’ve been thinking about the importance of your story but have been afraid to really invest in telling it, write to me (or call me, or both).

So this is a year of slowing down of giving space to both experimentation and the fear that comes with it. I will acknowledge the latter but not let it rule me and push me back in my own evolution. Already the stories I am lined up to tell this year are incredible, some are surprising and unexpected.

Thank you for all your support these seven years. For reading these words today. For journeying with me up to and for continuing on the journey of this heart and community centered business/life of mine.

Much love,

Tori

Me in 2014, 2016 and 2018 (Photos by Carina Skrobecki, Kristen Marie Parker, & Erin Griffith respectively)