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DC + Virginia fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

I’d taken the plunge in June of 2012 and bought the mother of all medium format film cameras, the Contax 645. I knew I loved film and 35mm just wasn’t enough for me anymore, so I took a chance and purchased the Contax- I’d promised Matt if things didn’t pan out and I never used it professionally, I’d just resell it on eBay (that’s another story for another day, though).

So I started shooting with this new film camera. At first, everything was going alright- I was getting more and more comfortable with my settings, my results were becoming more consistent, and I was gradually becoming less afraid of, in general, mucking up my film. But then some sort of switch got flipped- I think  I’d spent too much time reading Jose Villa‘s book Fine Art Wedding Photography, or maybe it was too many hours poring over Elizabeth Messina‘s The Luminous Portrait. Whatever it was, I stopped looking through my viewfinder with the question “how should frame/compose/photograph this?” and started filtering everything through “how would Jose or Elizabeth photograph this?”

DC + Virginia fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

To someone who’s not a photographer, I know that may seem like a silly thing to get worked up about. But it was causing serious stress in my film work, esPECIALLY when I was trying to shoot with film & digital in one session- it was like having a split personality, trying to switch back and forth between Abby Grace mode and Jose/Elizabeth mode. It was really, really hard, and to be honest, I was pretty bad at it.

Why? Because I will only ever be ME. No matter how hard I try, I will never be as good of a Jose or an Elizabeth as those two are, and that’s what makes their work beautiful- they are the only ones who can produce that particular kind of art. The way Jose sees the world through his viewfinder is uniquely HIM, and with my 2012 film mindset, the best I could ever hope to do is spend a lot of time copying that artistry without ever actually creating something uniquely ME.

DC + Virginia fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

It wasn’t until I quasi-stopped shooting with film, and then had a conversation with my friend Christina (about ceasing film work) that things finally shifted. I told her about my split personality issue when it came to my Contax, and that I’d pretty much stopped shooting because things were too hard, and she told me this:

“STOP COMPARING. Your work is YOUR work and it is beautiful. Frankly, I’m tired of seeing so many Villa/Messina imitations. I thought I wanted my film to be like theirs, then I shot it and found I prefer something else. So I am doing my own thing and hoping people love it. If you believe in your work, others will too. [There were] YEARS of self-doubt that I had to change into self-APPRECIATION.”

DC + Virginia fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

So I stopped comparing. I stopped looking at what other people were doing, and I started shooting film the way I, Abby Grace, would naturally shoot. And you know what? It’s only made me better. My film and my work in general has only grown since I stopped trying to be a cheap imitation of someone else, and embraced what MY art looks like as a standalone product rather than in comparison to someone else’s. I’m proud of the work I produce, and though I know there’s still so much growth that will continue to happen over the course of my life, it feels really good to be able to say “This is who I am, this is my art. And if you love it? Amazing! But if you don’t? That’s 100% fine with me, too.”

Here’s to YOU looking through your viewfinder with only your artistic voice in the background- you have something unique to offer, don’t water it down by trying to imitate someone else. I’m proof that doing so will only hold you back, and that breaking that bad habit only leads to GOOD things.

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So I had actually intended to blog my most recent Paris images this morning. I even told a couple of people “Hey! Look for Paris on the blog tomorrow!” But then I had another idea! You all know how beholden Paris is to me, and therefore how precious my film from my time in the city is. And there’s always this sort of “womp womp” moment whenever I blog scans from the city of light, because in my head I’ve built it up to be this incredible experience, but in the end all it ever gets is a single day to showcase on my blog.

This time, instead of posting all of my Paris images at once, I’ll be posting one a day for the next 50 days over on Instagram! I’d love to have you follow along with the hashtag #50daysinParis! I know it’s different than the usual, but I think different is good in this case!

Ok, so now let’s talk about Scotland. Edinburgh was so much fun- I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, which made taking everything in easier. There weren’t any pre-inclined notions about how things should have been, you know? The city of Edinburgh definitely felt tourist-heavy, so the next time I’m in Scotland I’ll think I’ll go further out. I really want to see the highlands, the moors, the lochs and countryside. But for a first introduction to the country, it was amazing! And I just happened to be there during the spring peak of flowers all over the city, which made getting lost that much more enjoyable. I really liked the quirkiness of Edinburgh, and I have a feeling my introverted husband would LOVE it there.

Enjoy!

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One of the highlights of my entire adventure was visiting Elephant House, the cafe where JK Rowling began writing the Harry Potter series. Just being there, sitting in the same room with a pot of tea, it was incredible. I think I loved it because the cafe was so unassuming, so ordinary in terms of UK cafes, and yet something so huge was born out of the seemingly unremarkable.

Also, when you walk into the restroom at Elephant House? There’s Harry Potter-related graffiti from floor to ceiling (and on the ceiling itself), left by years and years of fans. Anything from “Thank you JK for influencing my childhood” to “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened- enemies of the heir, beware.” I could have stayed there all day reading the thousands of notes! But that would be weird. Because it was a bathroom.

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Rumor has it that JK Rowling strolled through this graveyard for naming ideas, and that the gravestone on the right is what inspired Tom Riddle’s name!

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These were too cool not to photograph. I didn’t think headstones ever actually looked like that in real life!

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The barista asked for my name, I told him “Voldemort,” and this was the result. SO MUCH WINNING!

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I sort of accidentally ended up in Aix-en-Provence. I’d been planning to stay in Marseille, but after meeting someone in Italy who told me Marseille wasn’t as romantic as I’d dreamed, I opted for an AirBnB in Aix-en-Provence instead. It’s a good thing, too, because I fell absolutely in love with the place. Despite a terrifying drive into the provincial town (I accidentally turned down a few winding alleys that were barely wide enough to fit a car), it ended up being the most restful leg of my trip. I spent one of my days in Provence driving out to Marseille and Cassis, and I’m absolutely planning on going back- I need time to explore the Calanques de Marseille! For now, though, here’s a taste of the south of France.

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This was one of my favorite moments from my trip- I’d set out to wander the streets that morning and ended up stumbling upon a flower market in one of the squares. It was so delightfully unexpected, and just reinforced my love of traveling/wandering sans-guidebook. I never would have found this if I’d stuck to the beaten path!

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I think this is my favorite image from the entire trip. This, THIS is what I love about the French- they way they enjoy life, an afternoon lunch break on the rocks of Cassis for the simple pleasure of being in the sun out on the Mediterranean? I love it so much.

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Aix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

 

You know those mornings when you get up and you have a well-thought out list of things to do, and then things keep happening that prevent you from getting around to your list until 2pm? That was all of last week for me. And yesterday, hence the fact that Tuesday Mash-Up is actually coming on a Wednesday. Whoops! I’m blaming part of it on the weather- all I want to do these days is sit outside with our puppies. I think we need to look into a nice set of lounge furniture for our deck, because I’d love to be able to work in the sunshine!

Stone Tower Winery wedding- Abby Grace Photography

So we installed our bees in their beehive while I was gone in Europe, and yesterday was the first chance I’d had to visit our hive with Matt. It was SO cool! The good news: they’re making honey! The bad news: the queen is MIA. So I made a trip yesterday afternoon to go pick up a new queen bee to make sure the entire hive doesn’t die off, and it was probably the weirdest trip I’ve ever made. Driving half an hour out to pick up a single insect so that we can install said insect into a nest of 5,000 other insects, all to keep them alive through the summer. Normally when I see a bug, I kill it. But honeybees have my heart :). I’ll bring my camera out with me next time so you all can see what we’ve been up to!

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week:

  • I got the rest of my #abbygraceineurope film back!! Get ready for an overload of tiny winding streets, window displays, and flowers. Ahh!
  • There are peony bushes all over our neighborhood right now, and as they begin to wither, I’ve started stealing blooms. I KNOW! I’m sorry! But they’re just so beautiful, and I figure if they’re already dying, no one will miss 1-2 blooms, right?
  • Dogs at weddings might be my new favorite thing. Corey & Lyn’s ring bearer was their Wheaten, sweet Wallace, and I about died when Lyn got into her dress and Wallace stared up at her. So precious! I can’t wait to blog their wedding this Thursday!
  • Things I’m absolutely loving this wedding season: cathedral-length veils, soft color palettes, adoring grooms, and working with incredible wedding planners. And PEARLS!
  • OOH! Ladies! I bought the Urban Decay Naked2 eye shadow palette and I LOOOOOVE IT! I’ve watched a few YouTube videos on how to use it, and all I can say is thank the Lord for internet tutorials. I would have no idea how to apply + blend eye shadow without it.
  • I was interviewed for a photo podcast! Rob of Take & Talk Pics sat down with me to chat about everything from failure to best practices, from “aha!” moments to starting over. If you have some time, you can give it a listen over here!

One more from Sunday’s wedding to hold you over until tomorrow’s blog post :).

Stone Tower Winery wedding- Abby Grace Photography

And a frame from Aix-en-Provence to tide you over until… this afternoon! To keep my blogging schedule from falling behind, I’m posting a second blog today!

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One of my favorite things about marriage is watching love stories take different shape as the years pass. As newlyweds, you can’t imagine loving your spouse any more than you do on your wedding day. Then on your first anniversary, you’ve learned so much about each other that you wonder how you ever thought your wedding day was the pinnacle of your affection. We’ve yet to come to this next chapter ourselves, but I imagine discovering that you’re going to be parents would be another tone of those checkpoints- seeing your husband with new eyes, knowing that he’ll no longer be only a husband, but a father as well. Looking at yourself and realizing your arms will soon hold onto two, instead of only circling round the waist of your beloved.

Terry & Flo are at that particular checkpoint- anxiously awaiting the arrival of little miss Elsa, yet  cherishing these last few weeks while it’s just them. This is what I love about Anniversary Sessions- celebrating your love, just as it is, right here and right now. Before two become three in just over a month, a pair of soon-to-be-parents took pause to stop and treasure this time together.

Terry, Flo, we are so thankful for your friendship! It was a privilege to photograph this session, and I’m grateful for the time spent with you both. I know you’re going to be the best of parents, and I hope these images serve as a reminder in the sleepless nights to come that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” [1 Corinthians 13:7-8]

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