May 15, 2017

A New Vision

Education - Photographers

I’ve never been much of a sailor (and to be honest, untamed seas are probably one of my greatest fears), but ocean/sailing rhetoric has always been profound and meaningful to me—so forgive me for the upcoming sailing analogies that are likely out-of-context.

Being a photographer has required me to grow in a multitude of ways. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s impossible (or rather: wholly unhelpful) to simply cast a vision, plot a course, and just go forever. Rather, there are constantly moments of re-direction, adaption, and refashioning. One of these realizations was that, over time, I would accomplish some of my goals and that in order to stay relevant and creatively fulfilled, I needed to create new goals—to plot a new course. As humans, we’re constantly changing and developing and to never adapt our goals would mean that staying on the same course would eventually mean straying from myself, as our Truth North, much like that of the earth, is always shifting.

elopement photographer in Moab Utah Levi Tijerina

When I first started in wedding photography, my goal was to shoot travel weddings and to take on as many destination weddings as possible. At the time, I was brand new to Colorado, I had just re-entered the U.S., and was just starting in photography on my own. I had no commitments and very little need to make money; as my prior job had paid $10K a year…I had little to lose.

Over the course of these past five years, my world has changed. On the one had, I was able to accomplish some major personal goals: I photographed weddings on five continents and in fourteen countries, I got married, we bought a house, we found a great church, we starting putting down roots. On the other hand, it became increasingly more apparent to me that my business needed to change focus—it was getting harder and harder to build community among constant absences and there was a lot in Colorado that I was missing out on.

In the past six months, thanks to some wonderful conversations with close friends around the world, I’ve decided to stop just talking about things, but to actually take steps to re-route the course and adjust my goals to take on a new focus and a new vision.

In general, things won’t change much on the surface, from a purely cosmetic perspective—I’ll still be shooting weddings and traveling, but there will be a couple changes I’m taking active steps to work on in the background, and I’ll share those here.

  1. I’m going to shift focus from Destination Weddings to the American Southwest

    First things first: I’m still going to be traveling—it’s a part of my DNA and a dynamic part of my worldview. With that said, I’m going to re-focus the business to shoot more in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. While I know this sounds like I’ll still be traveling a ton, the reality is that a lot of these places are much closer to home than even some locations within Colorado. Utah is a mere 4.5 hours away and New Mexico is only 3.5 hours away, far closer than  some of my consistent Colorado locations. A lot of my inspiration comes from desert and barren landscapes (I’ll talk about this at another time) so it makes sense from a vision/brand perspective, as well as from a logistic perspective. I will still take on destination and travel weddings—I’ve already got trips on the books to Europe and across the U.S. in 2018, but the main focus of my work is going to be in celebrating alongside people in my region: the deserts and mountains of America. Practically, this means that there will be heavily reducing travel rates to these regions (especially since most of them are most accessible by car) and that I’ll be taking a few more inaugural trips out to some of these places this year for weddings and portraits and will be working to simply get the ball rolling by collaborating with great people. If you live in one of these places and would be interested in having me photograph you, reach out—I’d love to chat more and give you more details on when I’ll be in your area or you can see some of my travel dates.

  2. I’m going to be taking on more editorial and portrait work

    Weddings are wonderful and I really enjoy the deep and emotional connections that I’m able to make with couples. Full Stop. One thing I’m working to explore more, though, is photography as expression. I have a few personal projects that I’ve been wanting to explore more, but have never made the time. I’m working to change that. Some of these are editorial and story based, others are related to portraiture that is dynamic and a bit more emotional in nature. And entirely non-wedding related. If you’re keen to collaborate on some of these things, I’d love to chat, I’m always looking for people who want to collaborate as well as possibly some floral design that will play a part in one of these projects.

  3. I want to work with more people and couples of color

    This one is hard to know where to start with. Well, first off, I’m not white—I guess that’s a good place to start. I’m working on sharing some stories about my own journey with race and identity, but in short, suffice it to say that I grew up not knowing that I wasn’t white and didn’t really realize until I was almost 20 that I was actually a person of color and that my experiences were different than the white experiences of others.

    With that said, it’s becoming increasingly important to me to participate and work with people of all colors, cultures, and histories—because these are stories that are worth celebrating and histories that we can’t ignore. What I don’t want is to have a token black couple stand for some photos. What I do want is to engage, celebrate, and participate in the stories of others.

So, you ask: “Why are you sharing all of this?

In reality, it’s to share with more of you about what’s happening in our lives and business, but also for accountability. The reality is that most people encounter some kind of profound change/refocusing like this at some time in their life or their careers. I want to be honest about it and not just shove it under the rug. A few years ago, when Gene and I launched Adventure & Story, we both stepped into roles of educators and I think when you accept something like that, there’s a certain responsibility to ongoing education and transparency—so this is my checking in for my weekly time of honesty and growth.

Here’s to re-routing the Ship, adjusting course, and moving forward. I’m excited for what the future holds.

ADD A COMMENT
Joshua Edric Perez

Excited for this new shift and look forward to see you grow more than ever personally and professionally!

Baptiste Hauville

Really interesting read. Full of humanity. Wish you the best in your new course, on your new road.
And keep up the great work !

Excited for you Levi! You explained your heart well and also some of my thoughts I’m never able to express so eloquently!

Thanks for sharing your heart man!