Meet Emily London Miller. She is a photographer in Utah that specializes in photographing women and I was fortunate enough to not only study under her in Paris last spring, photograph her in London, but work with her again in Los Angeles the following week in January in Sue Bryce's Los Angeles photo studio. Emily is also; one of Sue's dedicated mentors and educators, a mother, a wife, and an entrepreneur for a secondary business as well for a wall decal company, Wall Written.
That is quite a mouthful, let alone to accomplish it everyday. When I was initially putting this post together I knew that I didn't want to give only a touch of insight into my experience with her and then show my work. My work is more than that, and I got to thinking: "At what point did I identify with Emily? How was I able to "see" her?" and that of course, took me down a rabbit hole.
I first learned of Emily on a broadcast with Sue Bryce on Creative Live. She had brought on a team of 9 professional photographers to help her navigate all of the mentoring requests she was receiving from her explosively growing student-base. Sue knew that she simply couldn't accommodate one-on-one photography mentoring with her online education and speaking platforms, and maintain her regular portrait clients. Creating a team of experts that she believed to be excellent in their field was the next obvious choice.
During the broadcast, each of the mentors was sharing their story and Emily's resonated with me in a pretty big way*. She was with her mother on a family shoot with a local photographer. At some point during the session, her mom asked the photographer something I hear almost daily. She asked her if she could slim her down a bit, give a little help and the photographer responded with simply "I'm not a magician."
Tears rolling down my face.
We all have flaws and imperfections that scream at us when we see photos of ourselves. They may even be things that not one other person would pick out but we see them like they're lit up with a spotlight in a blacked out theatre. I do it. You do it. We all do it. We base these visions on the way things "used to be" or on the ideal version of ourselves we want everyone else TO see and some of us have the courage to ask for it. When we ask for them, even in a joking way means that we're already uncomfortable about whatever "it" is and this photographer instead of seeing and hearing this woman with understanding and compassion, chose to unapologetically berate her for it. If that had been my mother...Oh boy.
Not long after that experience, Emily discovered one of Sue's courses and immediately knew that this style of portrait photography was exactly what she NEEDED to be doing. It was a calling. Helping women that struggle to see themselves, rediscover their own beauty and confidence through photography was now her PURPOSE.
Passion and purpose typically go hand in hand. When something lights you up like that, and then the universe lines these experiences up for you to receive it, you cannot help but take action. Which is exactly what Emily did.
She devoured Sue's education and didn't just go through the motions of "do this shoot and do that shoot, now we make money". She DEDICATED her entire life (& the lives of her family) for months. That meant hiring help with her young children, clearing her calendar, reassigning roles and duties with her husband (THAT is a husband, right there!! Talk about supportive!), and so on and so forth. She also used this time to achieve a makeup certification with a cosmetology school as well. This and a little ingenuity on model calls gave her the ability to book (are you ready for this?) a photo shoot every day for a month.
Now to bring in some perspective here, an ideal work week for me is with 3 photo shoots per week. If I were to accomplish those 3 shoots with no outsourcing, that would translate to about 60-70 hours of work. I've had as many as 9 in one week however, 5 of those were on a photography "marathon" (a day of back-to-back sessions) and I cannot even imagine having anywhere close to 30 shoots like that. I might collapse into a hole never to be seen again...OK that is stretching it but, you get my drift here.
I think one of the things that really spoke to me about this experience is that when I discovered Sue's education, I felt EXACTLY the same way. I spent every last dime I had on her 28 Days course on New Year's Eve and; booked a model-call client for one lesson every week for 28 weeks on top of my regular rotation of clientele, and operating my former business full-time, while bartending part-time at nights. You couldn't have kept me from studying it, working through it, breathing it even.
And here was a woman who identified with the very same purpose and devotion to not only creating, but mastering her craft.
Let me say this: if you are running your own business and you aren't emotionally tied to it...It will be a struggle for you every. single. day. Period. There isn't a magic formula outside of infusing your passion within the entity of your business a purpose. As a photographer, for many of us that purpose is in; empowerment, and giving our clients the opportunity for self-discovery and ownership that they ARE valuable enough to be seen. For others outside of photography; let's look at the star (Mark Lemonis) of the tv show "The Profit". He simply invests in other businesses all around the country. His business is in investing, right? But his PURPOSE isn't just turning a buck here. He knows that with his monetary investment and influence he is able to not only save jobs but CREATE them, which in turn, creates sustainable living for hundreds, if not thousands of people AND with every business he is able to help move forward, he is creating a network of businesses that he then connects to grow even more by working together. Do you see where I'm going here? THAT is purpose. THAT is passion.
You don't have to be an artist to be passionate in business. You simply have to understand that in order to create a VALUABLE business that you must somehow tie in your reason for doing it in the first place. "Give it a name". You will move mountains and every life you touch with be better for it.
Emily, thank you so, so much. I have so enjoyed watching you grow as an artist, an entrepreneur, and I couldn't be more pleased to have worked alongside you in Los Angeles, and to have photographed you in London this year. Here's to many more entrepreneurial, purposeful adventures! Cheers!
If you'd like to learn more about each of Sue's mentoring team, you can read about them here on her blog "Meet the Mentors"