It’s been exactly one year since this moment. I’ve never shared the whole story, with the exception of a few close friends of mine. But I’ve learned that my story can be encouraging to others, and I hope it will encourage you!
In 2015, I attended a conference called Showit United in Arizona during a time when I had recently been let go from a full time job, and had no work planned out. It was just by the grace of God that I learned about United and had enough money to attend! I went with no expectations, and it was life changing!
I walked in thinking that I was the new guy and no one would recognize me. To my surprise, I was wrong. In fact, almost everyone knew who I was!
Being recognized by wedding industry leaders and educators… That’s something I never would have expected in a million years. I thought I was just a kid from Hialeah. Nothing good ever comes from Hialeah, right?
Sharing my dreams
During the conference I was listening to a talk by two photographers, Ashley and Graham Scobey. They had everyone in the group share their dreams and goals with each other.
When it was my turn, I laughed nervously and shared my dreams out loud probably for the first time.
In that moment, Ashley looked at me and said, “Chris, I’ve never met you. But I have heard a lot of great things about you from everyone. You are going places and going to make it happen.” I just lost it and started crying in front of the whole group.
After their talk was over, I went back to Ashley and Graham and asked if I could take a picture with them. Then I asked Graham if he could pray for me, and he did!
But I still felt I need to just speak to God on my own, so I walked to the hotel’s pool, which at that time of day hotel was empty.
Praying by the pool
In that moment, I wasn’t sure if I should keep being a wedding photographer or do something else. I had no idea what to do!
Even though I loved what I did, financially it just wasn’t working out. I didn’t feel confident, and I didn’t believe in myself at all. People would say, “You’re so awesome, Chris!” and I’d just brush it off. All the years of being verbally bullied and picked on in school made me so numb even to the positive and good feelings as well.
I remember asking God, “Should I keep doing this? Give me a sign. I don’t know, maybe my favorite photographers will come by and call my name, like in the movies.”
Yeah, right. Impossible!
But after twenty minutes of praying and looking at the floor, I felt at peace. If you’ve experienced, this you know what it feels like. The whole weight of the world is off your shoulders again. You can hear the wind and silence of the air and it’s no longer your voice and craziness in your head.
Nothing is impossible!
I heard my name from across the pool. Someone was saying,”Hey, Chris, can you take a picture of us?”
It was Matt Kennedy, one of the amazing photographers I had been following for a long time! He was standing there with five more of my favorite photographers, dressed like rock stars ready for the gala that night.
Amy and Jordan, Katelyn and Michael, Matt and Carissa. To most, they are just regular people. But to the wedding photography industry? They are some of the top encouragers and educators out there!
And it really happened! They called my name!
I was slightly in shock and super nervous to take their photo. Imagine seeing your favorite band. They recognize you and call you over and tell you to take a band photo – or better yet, to play on stage with them! That’s how I felt.
Luckily, that day was the first day I had packed my camera in my backpack! With a huge smile on my face, I took a cell phone photo, and then a photo with my camera.
After I was done, Katelyn James asked, “How much for the photo?” I laughed and said, “$99!” She smiled, saying, “I’ll pay more than that! You are the best.”
The cool kids table
Later that night, at the gala, Katelyn James called me over. I said, “Oh cool, I get to sit at the cool kids table!” Humbly she said, “No way, this isn’t the cool kids table!” I wasn’t sure what to say; I was still kind of in shock from earlier. The only thing I could think of was that I was kidding about the $99 for the photo. Later I also got asked by Amy and Jordan if I wanted to sit with them at their table!
While I was outside of the gala at Showit United, getting ice cream (of course), Matt Kennedy found me and said, “Chris, come here!” I sat in my chair and I saw my favorite photographers on stage. Jordan Demos was talking about how this guy is always encouraging and always helping and commenting on posts and the industry needs more people like him.
And the award for encourager goes to . . .
It makes me tear up a little every time. But, yeah . . . For the second time in one day, they called my name. I went up on stage, and Amy & Jordan Demos, Katelyn James, and Todd Watson were saying, “Dude, you’re awesome,” while each giving me a big hug. The room was filled with my friends and favorite photographers cheering and screaming, even crying, and they all knew it was going to be me.
Photo Cred: Matt Kennedy (iphone)
From left to right we have the awesome Todd Watson (CEO of Showit), the amazing Katelyn James, and my first #demossandwich with Amy & Jordan. This moment was something to remember and their stories encouraged me to keep going and to keep encouraging and helping other photographers.
Never underestimate God, and believe in yourself.
I say this all the time. I needed something drastic to happen in my life so I could learn the hard way, and this was it. It’s hard to go through, and I never want anyone to ever feel the way I did, which is why I love encouraging others.
Thanks friends for reading. I’m always happy to respond to emails and messages, and I’m always cheering you on. You rock!
Matt, Carissa, Jordan, Amy, Michael, Katelyn. If you read this, I can’t wait to hug you guys again at United this year. Love y’all. Keep being amazing!
October 19, 2016