February 27, 2012

WPPI: The Recap!!

I’ll be honest. Just the sheer enormity of taking on a post of this epic nature scared me.

Which is really fitting when you think about it. Because just the sheer enormity of taking on something like all that we had planned going in to this year’s WPPI terrified me to my very core.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to go about explaining to you what this past week was like. How all the parts had to fit together just right. How at any moment, any combination of a million different tiny problems could have reared their ugly heads and had the whole thing come crashing down.

And how….it never did.

To say we were audacious may be the understatement of the year. With all the things we were hoping would come together literally down to the wire, foolhardy might be more accurate. After all, who were we to hope for so many big, BIG things in the space of just one week? But like we said in the talk, who are we (who are any of us)… not to? I believe in miracles. With my whole heart I believe in them. Not just the big, grand walk on water kind. But the million tiny little ones that make up each and every day. The ones that most of the time go unnoticed. Yet but for them, none of the big ones would ever get a chance to matter.

A shipment that was delayed indefinitely showed up inexplicably at our hotel room door right on time. A keynote that was crashing every two minutes just decided to start working and never crash again. A voice that was lost, returned. A computer that had completely died, came back to life. Friends stepped in at the last minute. And mountains of work divided up among their six steady hands, suddenly seemed more like mole hills. Prayers were said. Deep breaths and hugs were given. Faith was restored.

This past week was not a miracle my friends, make no mistake about it. It was a million of them.

And I am grateful for each and every one.

I guess it’s best to begin at the beginning, which for us really got started on Monday night with our J&M Walk Through Alum Mix & Mingle. We had everyone meet up with us at Centrifuge, and somewhere around 9:30pm I looked up and we were suddenly surrounded by 40 friendly faces. People we have just met over the past year or two, but when I look at them all I see are friends. Allies. People I feel grateful to have standing in our corner. And as I took a step back to take it all in, I have to admit a few tears got away from me. To each and every one of you, I am so lucky to call you friends! And I am so, SO proud of all that you are doing. And just so you know, Justin & I are already planning next year’s party….I’m thinking this time we may have to take over a whole suite!!

Huge thanks to Christy Tyler for the two pictures above and all of the production stills from the shootout!

The next morning around 4am on three hours of sleep or so, my alarm went off so we could get ready for our Sunrise Shoot Out. Liz & Ryan would be at our door around 5:30am for Liz to put on the Chaviano Couture dress, and to finalize hair & makeup. And from there we headed down to the lobby, where 20 bright eyed photographers (who are all total troopers by the way!) were ready to get their shoot on. As soon as we got down to the lobby, we were met with some crazy exciting news….but that’s a different post entirely. So stay tuned tomorrow afternoon for that. :)

From there we went out into the frozen tundra of Las Vegas before the sun was fully up, and through chattering teeth Justin & I talked about The Why and redefining the word “posing” to mean something more.

Justin, aka the light whisperer :)

Yea, it was early. I was loopy.

And hilarious. Clearly, clearly hilarious.

Work it. Lemme work it.

Our GORGEOUS models Liz & Ryan working it like nobody’s business. Honestly, with these two there….we were pretty much cheating.

This is most of the crew, but we did miss the first few people who had to tag out for their next class. To each and every one of you, I want to thank you for signing up, for showing up, and bringing hearts so willing to learn. You rocked my world. Through and through. And just so you never forget, you & you alone made it possible for what’s coming next. I adore you for that.

Tuesday night was a bit of a blur. But the one thing that I will always remember is sitting on the floor with Liz & Ryan and Alicia tying bows for about 5 hours straight…..and talking about life. About what’s next for this industry. About what it really is to be a leader. And Ke$ha….I’m pretty sure there was discussion of Ke$ha. :)

The next morning, like clockwork, I woke up at 4:30am and began the long wait to that afternoon and our platform. Around 11am, Still Motion came by to shoot some getting ready footage for their video, and then it was time to go sound check. Justin takes charge of making sure all the light & sound is just where it needs to be, so I had some time to just sit & breathe.

During the talk, there were actually going to be TWO film crews recording: Still Motion & Jeremy Mitchell (more on that to come in a second!). So yea, there were a few cameras running around. :) Which means, had I literally gotten up & fallen on my face….there would have been ample evidence of it!! Noooooo pressure!!

About an hour before the talk, Liz, Ryan, Emilia, Alicia & Stephane came to help us put everything out on the seats, bag up the gifts, and be on hand to help hand out the surprise we had put together for all of our pre-boarders: J&M custom tins of Thinking Putty since the talk was called “The Big Think.” Boom. :)

After that, we gathered in the back for a quick prayer, Alicia walked me through some deep breathing, we left a few extra minutes for them to get the sound working again :), and then it was GO time!! Whew. Here we go.

I’m not going to lie, that room was big and scary. And I was really, really grateful for the bright lights so I didn’t have to look at everyone right off the bat. :)

It made it a lot easier to find a groove.

These next few pictures are of people’s faces during the first video we showed of Mary Ann. But that story *really* deserves a post all to itself. So for now I’m just going to bracket it, and say stay tuned tomorrow morning for a whole post devoted just to her!

Raise your hands if you hate The Office w/o Michael Scott. Thought so!

Ok, here we go!! Now it starts to get really good! :) Here is where we unveiled what that “good cause” was that we put on the Sunrise Shoot Out for. We told the story of First Lieutenant of the Marine Corps Steven Verblaauw & his wife Sonya. Steven actually got deployed when Sonya was 7 months pregnant with their first child, and stayed in Afghanistan during the first 6 months of their daughter, Grace’s life. Only ever meeting her over Skype.

And then we showed this video.

Sonya & Steven – WPPI from Justin Marantz on Vimeo.

And at the end of it, we got to surprise everyone by revealing that Steven, Sonya & Grace were actually on hand in the room and we got to bring them up on stage to a standing ovation….

….where once they were up there, we got to tell them that not only were they there to surprise everyone else, we also had a lil’ surprise up our sleeves for them. :)

….that since they had lost some of the magic of those first few months of bringing Grace home together, we thought what better way to return some of that magic than by sending them to the most magical, the happiest place on earth. Disney World, of course!! Where Justin & I will be flying down to join them and do a shoot of them there.

By the way, NONE of which would’ve been possible without the photographers who took a leap and signed up for the Sunrise Shoot Out. So, so much of the credit belongs right with them! Thank you guys again!

I ended talking about my Grandma Goldie. About losing her this past September. And about the scars that we bear. About how short & precious this life is. But how it is the scars that make us stronger. And how we can’t waste a minute of the time that we’ve been given. This one wild & precious life is far too important for that. And standing on that stage, for just that moment right there, it finally felt like I wasn’t.

We were so, SO unbelievably blessed & lucky to have the incredible team of Jeremy Mitchell & Nick along with us all week at the mix & mingle, the sunrise shoot out, the pre-board meet & greet, and the talk itself documenting how it all unfolded together. To be there to tell our story. And what they’ve created for us, the story that they’ve told for us, is something that I can tell you I will cherish the rest of my life. I want to be 90 years old showing this to my great-grandchildren…Justin & Mary, Jr. :) If ANYONE in the DC/Virginia area (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) is in need of a filmmaker for your wedding or a promo video, I can’t recommend these two incredible people enough!! Without further ado… this is our story.

Justin & Mary from jeremy mitchell on Vimeo.

And fiinally, finally, finally… to every single person who was in that room with us, who took a chance in grabbing a seat…..thank you. Thank you for dreaming & doing bigger, thank you for being there, thank you for always choosing heart over swagger. And for leading the brand new era in this industry. It is because of you and what you do, that we get to chase these dreams.

And just so you know, when I count my miracles…I count each of you among them.

  1. Christy

    This gave me mad goosebumps! Love you two! You amaze me more and more every time I see you! :)

  2. Kandise

    Love. So much love.

  3. Tiffany Farley

    LOVE. :)

  4. josh

    I got chills reading this as it took me back to those moments sitting there listening to your speech. Thank YOU for all that you’ve done for all of us. You rock!

  5. Abby Grace

    Darn this work PC- I want to watch those videos!! And bless your hearts for what you gave to that Marine and his family. I just love you guys!

  6. em

    thankful for you guys.

  7. teri pozniak | tPoz Photography

    AMAZEBALLS. Seriously, you guys ROCKED IT!!
    Can you post the group sunrise shoot on FB, for us to tag ourselves in?? xoxo

  8. Sasha Norgaard

    Thank you J+M for being wonderful photographers, inspiring speakers and most of all for bringing your hearts into everything you do. This post was so epic I had to stop drinking my Starbucks for a whole 20 mins just to read it and take it all in. Who DOES that?!

  9. Jeremy Mitchell

    Thank you guys so much for allowing us to peek a little bit into your lives and being able to share these stories with everyone!

  10. Kari Jeanne

    Wow – you are both have such amazing hearts. Seriously, amazing.

  11. Jennelle

    What a lovely post! Mary, you’ve found your calling in life, I think! Looks like you had a wonderful time in Vegas, too.

  12. Joe Don

    When I saw that you posted. I thought I have so much to do. I am not going to get sidetracked and all emotional. It did not work. So genuine and heartfelt are your words and actions. Thank you all so much for being my friend and a friend to so many others. YOU ROCK!!!

  13. Nancy Mitchell

    You guys are amazing! I LOVE your hearts! Way to honor this couple and their daughter! I can’t wait to see the pics from DISNEY! Bummed I miss WPPI but one day I WILL make it there:) xoxo~nance

  14. Elizabeth

    Sounds like a great week…cannot wait to go one year!

  15. ashley barnett

    So awesome. I just sniffled in Starbucks. People are looking. You both put your heart and soul into this entire week and it shows.

  16. Lisa Mathewson

    WOW! Looks like you were busy! Great post :) stop making me cry :)

  17. Lexi McCreary

    OK, so I thought you guys were awesome before, but ohmystinkingoodness I love you guys! this not only confirmed how much you care about people, but how much you want to give back to the world of photography. The pics and videos were great – thank you for sharing your WPPI experience with us!

  18. JamieY

    You are both such wonderful people. I missed out on your class, but I heard that it was the best one yet and there wasnt a dry eye in the house. It was great to meet you for a moment!

  19. Sarajane Case

    Thank you so much for caring enough about us to prepare and be original. To push us to take risks and be better people. You deserved the standing ovation and I’m beyond grateful for your hard work and dedication.

  20. Sonya

    Ahhh thank you again, Justin & Mary! Were just so grateful for this opportunity to share our story! Grace is super excited for Disney!! You guys are amazing! xoxo -Sonya

  21. Deyla Huss Photography

    You two are amazing and inspire me to be a better person not just a Photographer. I have had the privilege of following you both on your Blog since the very beginning of my career as well as meeting Justin at WPPI in 2009 and I have to say it has been an honor! Truly blessed!

  22. Kathryn Denelle Stevens

    Yes! This post is beautiful! And yes to "choosing heart over swagger"! Cheers to that, my friend!

  23. Evie Perez

    Wow!!! You two are awesome. That is so awesome of you two to give this deserving family a trip to Disney. I know they will forever be indebted for not only yours, but the other photographers that participated for your kindness. Thank you for always giving back. It’s photogrpahers like you all that raise the bar for this industry. I am so glad you used a Chaviano Couture dress. Annette is super sweet and talented!!!

  24. rich

    such such big hearts – you two are amazing people! ahh got the chills reading this post! SO SO SO blessed reading this – thank you for sharing!!

  25. Ashley Hawkes

    It was….legen…wait for it….DARY!! But seriously, you were inspiring and thought provoking to say the least. Thanks for putting us on the blog, wow, I laughed out loud when I saw our smiling faces:) I’m like "Hey look it’s Dave and I at the bottom of Mary’s post!" HAHA Awesome.

  26. EpicDanger

    Wasn’t a J&M fan before this WPPI not because you lack awesomeness (obviously) but just because I had my head in a hole or something.

    I’m now a huge fan. You can die happy ;)

    Just wanted to say that the phrase "Our scars make us stronger" has really stuck with me . I always believed the opposite and would spend time, energy and money to keep my scars out of site. From my friends, my family, my clients… not anymore. Thank you.

  27. Spring

    Mary- you should have a warning at the top of this post telling everyone to get a box of tissues!!!!!

  28. Jenn Valluzzo

    Tears. You guys are so incredible. The world needs more like you.

  29. Nick Godsell

    Justin & Mary….you are two of the most genuinely good people I’ve met…it was a pleasure to meet you and to document your week…can’t wait for WPPI next year!

  30. Elizabeth & Ryan | Elizabeth Ryan Photography

    Ahhhhhhh!!! We have no words!!! What an AMAZING week!! We are so blessed to have been surrounded by your MAGIC last week! Love you guys!

  31. Julie Villarreal

    The baby is beautiful, and what you are doing for them is beautiful! I am sad I missed your Platform class (I had to leave that morning). It looks like it was amazing! Thank you both for being YOU and giving so much to everyone! Through God you make wonderfulness come true!

  32. amy

    okay, thanks for making me an emotional mess!!! I am so thankful for that amazing couple. They are such an inspiration to me! So strong! Being a military wife..not easy. I pray I never have to go through that. Thank to both J+M for taking care of such a deserving couple!

  33. Catie Ronquillo

    So glad that you recapped the tail end of your talk! I missed it (stinkin’ flight!) But seriously, y’all blow me away with your HUGE hearts. Thank you for sharing these stories. Thank you for blessing this family. I’m going to go gather myself now that I’m a blubbery mess! LOVE YOU GUYS!

  34. Alicia White

    There are SO many things I could say…. but the only thing that comes out of my mouth is "wow" Really, I have no words to describe how epic this week was, and I have both you and justin to thank for much of that! I respect and heart u two more than you will never know. Thank you for your beautiful words and honesty – bows will forever have a special place in my heart :-) xoxo !! loves!

  35. Tara Talalas

    Ugh! You suck a little. Now I’m about to cry. That is so awesome I want to quit my job and do this kinda stuff to all the time (too bad we all still need money).

  36. Brittani

    Holy moly, talk about powerful stuff. You two inspire me SO much to be not only a good photographer who is passionate about what I do but a good PERSON and a good leader. Thank you so much for all of your heart and vulnerability.

  37. Lydia

    So sad I didn’t get a picture with the two of you, but so grateful I was able to make your platform on Wednesday!! I’ve already been over my notes from it a couple of times and have been taking steps to do BIG things this year!

  38. Faye Bernoulli

    Seriously, in less than a month, you guys have managed to make me cry TWICE! :*) You guys are such amazing people and I feel so blessed to have met you!

  39. Sindy

    You both are just amazing :)

  40. Ely

    Im so sad that I couldn’t be there this year, but it looks like you guys showed up in style! Congrats!

  41. Emily Crall

    Just so you know, even your recap made me cry…all over again. :) Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea the impact you are making on the photography world!! And in people’s lives… Much love, Emily

  42. sharon elizabeth

    Seriously….. you two are incredible. It’s not that you do so many amazing things for others.. it’s that you can tell how genuine and pure it is!!! <3 ya’ll!!!

  43. Dawn Davis

    Mary, I heard your platform class was amazing. I’m so happy for you! It’s always nerve wracking but I knew you would do wonderfully! Good things come to good people. xoxo, ~Dawn

  44. Brittany Dawson

    That was the most inspiring and amazing video. The compassion and kindness you two have for others not only shows but screams out of you! Well Done!

  45. Christa

    Yesterday I heard Jerry Ghionis say "your point of difference should be humanity" Mary & Justin you’ve done exactly that, I applaud you :)

  46. Lauren Wakefield

    It was SOOO great seeing you guys in Vegas. In all seriousness…your talk was a game changer. Like more than you know… It is an honor to call you guys friends and you blew WPPI out of the water!!!

  47. Airika Pope

    We couldn’t be there, but I have no doubt that you inspired the socks off everyone who interacted with you.Y’all are awesome.

  48. Regina Marie

    it was so great getting to meet you two at the Centrifuge, and actually getting to talk for a few minutes! And, Mary, your platform was magnificent and had me in tears pretty much the whole time. Thank you so, so much! You may not feel like one of the "cool kids" but you’re one of the coolest kids on the block just by being you!!!!

  49. Donal Doherty

    Hi guys, Just a note to say that I really loved your talk at WPPI. It really inspired me and I’ve definitely have taken onboard some of your strategies! See you next year! Donal

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