For Photographers // We are The Parsons

As a photographer, you look at a lot of other people's work. I think we have all gone thru a phase where you simply can't get enough of it all and then you hit that point of overload, where you need to take a break. I feel like it is thru this process that you also find yourself constantly keeping track and looking at just a few artists for inspiration - or maybe to just simply follow their story. These are the people who become your constants and who you resonate with. For me, Ashley and Jeremy, otherwise known as The Parson's,who are a husband-and-wife photography team who have me constantly in awe with their photos. They are genuine and authentic to a level that not many others have matched and they also seem to be constantly challenging themselves as artists to create better and deeper photographs. Another thing I love about these two is that they are based out of the Midwest. There's something very special about our market here in the middle-land and we're so lucky to have them be a part of it! We caught up with the Parson's to see what their philosophy's on art, life and love were...and it's incredibly inspiring!


Q. You describe yourself as 'not your typical wedding photographers'. Why is this?

A. We initially said that on our website a few years ago because we kept seeing a flash of terror or disgust rush across people's faces when we would tell them we were wedding photographers.  it seems that the poofy-armed wedding gowns and cheesy poses of the photographers of the 70's and 80's were haunting our identity wherever we went.  one of our first brides wanted a checklist of 85 required photographs to be checked off as we photographed the wedding.  another really wanted "that jumping picture" or "the one where you make me black and white, but my flowers all in color".  and it became clear really quickly that we didn't fit in the categories of what people had grown to expect from a wedding photographer.  so we started to shoot from the heart of who we are and name our business just that - we are the parsons.  and the parsons just happen to be simple, honest, raw photographers who don't work off of shot lists or "do" poses.  we stopped trying to get everyone to book us, and started trying to detract people who were looking for something typical.  we didn't want to make checklist photographs, we wanted to make photographs that were true to how we were experiencing the world - and those don't fit on any checklist.  So we did them a favor and turned away people who didn't get that, and drew in those who really, really did.  since we are us, no one will ever be us.  we see the world in the way we do, communicate it in the way we do, and offer it to others in the way we do.  it's nothing like the traditional checklist approach that used to be, and still is embraced by some wedding photographers.  because we are just us, and we make images from a place that is true to that, our photographs seem a bit atypical.  not because they are wildly out of the box creative, but because they are from us, and we are 'not your typical humans'.  :)

Q.What made you fall in love with being a wedding photographer?

A. What first really made us fall in love with making wedding photographs was being married to each other.  we  l o v e  marriage!  we think this adventure of learning another person and then traveling with them through a lifelong journey of beauty and mess, highs and lows, wins and losses, babies, work, and history is a pretty incredible thing.  so when we have the chance to be a part of the start of someone's marriage, we consider it a great joy to make photographs that champion them on through it all.  and we love that our photographs are the ones they are going to look at on their wall as they fight for and against each other and grow old.

Q. You have a very unique and freeing vibe to your photos. How did you define your style as an artist?

A. Wow.  thank you!  the funny thing is, we never defined our style as artists.  most days, it still feels strange to call ourselves "artists".  we never planned to have this life, never went to school for this, never dreamt we would be who we are today.  we literally just picked up little metal machines called cameras and tried to communicate with them how we were experiencing the world.  I think because the photographs we make flow naturally and organically out of who we are, they are definitely freeing because we are free.  that can also mean that they are a bit raw and rough around the edges, because we are those things as well.  ;)  but all in all, they are honest because we are honest.  so I guess our style as "artists" ;) is just our character as humans, being communicated through some metal and glass.

Q. Being in the Midwest market, it's different than the east of west coast. What is your approach to marketing and finding your perfect client?

A. we don't really have an approach for marketing.  and we don't really have "clients".  we have people, imperfect, wonderful human beings with really good stories and great taste in wine who we happen to be blessed to spend a day or a weekend with.  we are who we are, display that in authenticity, and our couples, or our people, find us.  :)  we love dwelling in the Midwest.  it's a great place to raise our family, and the friends we have here are more beautiful and valuable than any stunning landscape we could ever seek elsewhere.  but a good majority of our work is done outside of the Midwest, and we are OK with that.  we have a thirst for adventure, and love experiencing new places and people together - we go to where our people are because they are worth it, and being a part of their story is worth it to us.

Q. Describe the perfect 'Parson' client.

A. oh man, there aren't enough words!  to describe that would mean telling you hundreds of stories and bringing you into the worlds of our couples.  they are all so brilliant, so unique, so open and passionate, so committed to the good things, so inspiring and captivating in different ways.  it's almost like asking us to describe our kids - we just couldn't ever do it justice in words.  I guess that's why we communicate who they are in photographs.  so . . . if you want to see who they are, look at our photos, they're all on the blog!  :)

Q. Where do you gather your inspiration?

A. We wake up.  that's about all it takes.  we wake up in the morning and it's like God is whispering in our ears, sometimes shouting . . . "hey guys, look over there!  look at this sky I made for today!  look here, at this person - isn't she remarkable!?  watch these two and see how I created them to interact . . . isn't it the most beautiful dance you've ever witnessed? walk here, speak here, breathe in deeply now and move slowly. . ." 

and I realize that may sound like the cheesiest load of shit anybody ever said, but it's honestly our experience.  he is making us see everywhere we go.  we are caught up in the wonder and delight of it all, what he's doing and who he's made.

Q. What do you see is a current trend when it comes to wedding photography?

A. While we recognize that there are trends, we tend not to follow them or know what they are.  a few years ago when we started, we really tried to keep a pulse on wedding trends, and adopted the mentality of shooting what was "cool" or what would make us more popular in the industry.  The longer we spend as a married couple, the more we realize how outdated and meaningless many of those trends will be in 50 years, because the photographs we make aren't commercial, they're personal.  so, in 2009 we went on a self-inflicted "blog fast" and stopped looking at wedding and wedding photography blogs.  we didn't look at a single one for 6 months, and have never returned to wrapping ourselves up in it.  we only look at about 1 blog post a month - if that - and it's always one of a dear friend we hope to encourage.  what flowed out of our work since the fast has resulted in authentic and un-trendy photographs that reflect the heart behind our work and mean a lot to our couples, both now and in the future.

Q. What advice do you have to photographers just entering our market?

A. work hard.stay humble.remember you are a tree in a story about a forest.

Q. What advice do you have to photographers who have been in the industry for a while?

A. same as above. the longer we do this, the more we recognize the tendency to get arrogant or just fall into "rhythms" that rob our work of authenticity or make it about us. we say these things to ourselves and each other almost daily.

Q. What vendor relationships do you think are most relevant to the success of your business?

A. while we respect wedding vendors that we have the privilege of working with, we don't have any particular relationships that have contributed to the success of our business.  we tell our couples that we are not a vendor, because we aren't.  when they invite us to their wedding, they do so with an invitation understanding that we come to enter into their day as a close friend or family member would, and we have a place at the table at their wedding.  their openness and willingness to invite us in is the thing that makes us succeed.

Q. If you could photograph anyone, who would it be?

A. this is a funny question for us because in the past couple of years we've had the privilege of making photographs for many of the names we would have put down to answer this question.  we never could have asked for it or even hoped for it, but we have been a part of making photos for some incredible people and remarkable stories.  and we are very aware that the same God whispering in our ears when we wake up in the morning is the one who has brought these lovely souls to our doorstep.  and we are also keenly aware that he isn't done surprising us yet.  we always ask that he would bring to us whomever we are supposed to be with, and keep everyone else away.  so there's a lot of excitement in knowing no matter who we could put here as a name, the surprises he has for us are always better than our hopes or expectations.

Q. Explain the Don't Give Up Project...Why did you begin this movement?

A. there is a very long version of this story, but for now we will spare you because it's a lot, lot, lot of words.  :)  

in 2009, my dad passed away. he was a best friend to both of us, and our worlds were rocked by his leaving.  Jeremy photographed the last day of my dad's life, and after his passing, we realized how much power a photograph can hold.  we began to ask why to everything and that question permeated our philosophy and our photographs.  we realized how trying to follow all of the wedding trends to gain popularity and attention had robbed us of focusing on making images that would be meaningful to our couples after they were gone.  we started to ask "could we take this photograph to their funeral?"  We looked out at the wedding photography landscape and although there were many people making images that mattered, there were also a lot who just didn't know how.  we saw photographers trapped in the same game we had been trapped in - comparison.  we wanted to start a movement of photographers who would be willing to ignore certain trends in order to make images that mattered.  we wanted to share the things we were learning, but we just couldn't picture ourselves lecturing in a conference room trying to pretend we had it all together.  most of what we know or believe is because of losses we have experienced or mistakes we have made.  so we decided to invite them into our world in the only way we know how.  we found a lodge in the mountains of Colorado where we invite 20 photographer strangers to come be our family guests.  we bring 4 friends along to help with the preparations and the food (one of them is an incredible chef!).  and then we gather for a few days.  and between sleeping in bunk beds, eating all of our meals family style around one  b i g  table, bottles of wine, campfires, laughter, tears, sunrises, and long family meetings where we dig deeper - we all become a family.  and we watch the same divine whisperer show up and change things in us all.  they open up, we open up, and everyone leaves knowing why they were there and why they will go forward from there.  it gets progressively more powerful every time we do it, and we just feel amazed that we get to be a part of facilitating such a life changing experience for everyone there.  the workshop then lives on in the lives of the photographers who are charged to go forth a part of this family.  they take a poster and use it, particularly in telling stories that are not always the easy, happy ones, but in stories where lights shines through darkness, and hope shows up in unexpected places.

w e  l o v e  t h e  d o n ' t  g i v e  u p  p r o j e c t.

Q. What is next for The Parsons?

A. our lives are proving that you just never know the answer to that question.  but we have some great hopes and dreams.  in the immediate future, what's next for us is to play with our baby Zion, go on a run, have some lunch together, and then have a Skype date with one of our potential couples before picking our two other boys up from school.   :)  we have several adventures planned out of town for weddings, shoots, and mentor sessions and are excited about those, especially the ones that we get to take the brothers along to.  :)  we are currently planning the details for the don't give up project to possibly go global, with our first overseas workshop - eek!  we also have another Colorado don't give up project on the books, and could not be more excited for the stories we get to be a part of and tell the rest of this year and in 2013.  in between all of that, we plan on loving on each other and loving other people.  feeding them good food. hearing their stories, and telling them ours.  and as long as God keeps whispering, we will keep seeing and communicating that through a little metal and glass box called a camera.

Be sure to check out Ashley and Jeremy on Facebook!