CONFERENCE + CHILL
Conference + Chill: Round 1 was nothing short of fucking spectacular!
(Note: We apologize, in advance, that our excitement about Conference + Chill’s inaugural virtual photo gathering has turned us all into potty mouths.)
But seriously folks, it was mind-blowing! In less than six weeks, Pepper peeps took the idea of creating a worldwide virtual photography conference from conception to execution and we couldn’t have done ANY of it without the love, support, and completely contagious enthusiasm of the worldwide photography community. From our hosts to our speakers to the hilarious antics during the entertainment and chill portions, Conference + Chill: Round 1 was some bomb-ass amazingness. By the end of FOUR full days—with 15 speakers from many different genres, half a dozen discussion panels, and some seriously fun shit like trivia and a full-on dance party—we were wiped TF out and completely ecstatic about it.
See for yourselves! ???????????
Well, that was a trip!
Cohosts Shari & Mike
This wildly talented hubby & wife team of wedding photographers hails from Vancouver, BC, Canada. They co-hosted all four days of our Conference + Chill Round 1 and they were….well, funny AF! Not to mention Mike used to be a friggin’ breakdancer and he busted moves at the dance party that made everybody’s eyes pop out of their heads in wonder. Plus, Shari & Mike have a ridonculously adorable wee lady named Auggie and, of course, she stole the show every time she popped in to say hi!
But we didn’t recruit Shari & Mike for their mad breakdancing or comedy-duo skills, we wanted them to host because they have so much talent, knowledge, and insight to offer photographers from around the world. For reals! Check out their work.
Co-host Maciej Suwalowski
We seem to have lucked out with our co-hosts for Conference + Chill’s Kickoff because Magic is easily as hilarious as Shari & Mike and also a ridiculously talented photographer who travels the world capturing alllll the love stories. Although he is based in Poland, this dude has shot all over the world and is always up for travelling to shoot weddings and elopements. We were beyond stoked to have him cohost and uber grateful that he had to host during the middle of the night to keep up with our broadcasts that spanned the global time zones. Have a little looksy at Magic’s work!
Speaker Helen Sloan
Helen was responsible for the photography for the hit HBO drama Game of Thrones, having been there since the first day of filming on the pilot episode, and every day until the very last moment. Her job there covered many genres of photography; landscape, portraiture, studio lit posters, and behind-the-scenes documentary. She is a UK & ROI ambassador for Nikon, and the first and only Irish member of The Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers (SMPSP) Los Angeles. Her presentation, Photographing Game of Thrones: Life on Set had every attendee riveted to their screens. I mean, COME ON! Helen Freaking Sloan for Pete’s sake. Can we say #starstruck! Check out more of her work here!
Speaker Joseph Radhik
When the photographer of Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s wedding said he would be happy to give a presentation at Conference + Chill: Kickoff Edition, we were stupidly excited. This man’s work is synonymous with world renowned Indian Wedding photographer. On paper, Joseph Radhik is larger than life, but in the real world, he’s humble, gracious, and funny AF! He also once shot a wedding with over 180,000 GUESTS. That almost defies comprehension for most of the wedding photographers we know in the world. Joe gave a presentation on his Indian Wedding experiences, with images and stories and it was, well…riveting. This man has some serious depth of character and a great sense of humour. His presentation was so much fun! Joe says he shoots weddings because “weddings stand for everything that I love about the art and craft of photography—they force me to interact with my subjects, but at the same time teach me to respect the occasion and be a fly on the wall, they require you to be quick on your feet, they’re simply gorgeous to shoot, and are full of emotion.”
And that is exactly what turns his work into art: beauty and emotion. Joe aims to capture those two aspects in all of his images and he does it in spades.
Speaker Sam Hurd
Sam Hurd started as a political news and celebrity portrait photographer in DC, but was eventually drawn to wedding photography. It was there that he was able to incorporate more of his inventive ideas (hello prisming and ring of fire, yo!) and create powerful and memorable images. Sam’s focus is on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple, but have the potential to transform even the most uninspiring shooting environments into unparalleled opportunities for each photo captured. So he’s basically a badass photographic architect, if you wilI! Sam’s presentation, The Intersection of Art and Technology was fun and fast-paced and informative! He’s always been obsessed with the magic that photography can create and working with wedding clients provides a unique space for him to improvise nearly every idea he comes up with in environments that are very constrained for time and inspiration. Sam’s work is so compelling!
Speaker Kara Mercer
Omgeeee! Kara Mercer is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Seattle who focuses on fashion, travel, and lifestyle brands. And she’s DAMN good at her job. Her presentation, Growth: Navigating that Commercial Space was so well put together and informative that we found ourselves taking notes and nodding along the entire time. Kara covered the basics of creating a successful commercial photography biz, complete with what to do and not to do, how to do it, and some clever tips and tricks that most of us didn’t know about. Check out Kara’s work to see for yourself why she’s one of the leading commercial photographers in the States.
Speaker Fer Juaristi
Fer is a Mexican wedding photographer who quit the corporate 9-5 around 14 years ago, to live his passion for photography. He’s never looked back and attributes his success and love of his “job” to his amazing wife and his daughters, who are clearly his muses. In his presentation, Honor Your Gods (Visual Rockstars) Fer walked us through the process of exploring our heroes, understanding why they inspire us, and embracing how they influence our work. He is well-spoken, funny, and easy going and we all LOVED LOVED LOVED his presentation AND took some good stuff away from it. And as if his presentation didn’t leave us inspired enough, you should see this dude’s images. Holy Talented AF, Batman!
This boudoir photography powerhouse duo was spec-fricking-tacular to watch. So fun and dynamic together, Joao and Tiara’s presentation, The Power of References, taught us all something about digging deep to find ourselves and expressing who we are through our work, as artists and business owners. As creatives, we are often confronted with motivational quotes—“photograph who you are”, “share your passion”, “shoot for you”—but what the fuck does that really mean? Joao and Tiara discussed the Power of References and shared with us how digging deeper into themselves helped them re-learn how to look for external inspiration and find the answer to that question. Oh, and have we mentioned that they are overflowing with talent and inspirational AF? Check out Joao’s work and Tiara’s work and prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor and probably sign up for a session!
Speakers Tinted Photography
Tinted Photography is made up of the powerhouse duo, Sirjana and Ben—a wife and husband photographer team for adventurous couples. The pair are artists first, lovers second, and everything they create is an interplay of those two points. They are redefining “adventure sessions” in a world cavalier with words. Adventure defined is: having “an unusual and exciting experience” and delivering real adventure is the drive behind everything they do. Sirjana and Ben plan elopements and adventure sessions—from start to finish—and they deliver adventure and authentic images to their couples in places all over the world. In their presentation, Why Branding is a Game Changer, Sirjana shared how their business and their artistry grew exponentially as soon as they began creating a brand that aligned with their lifestyle and beliefs, instead of trying to create one that fit the mold of their so-called “ideal client”. Her insight about serving your community and feeding the artist within you, as well as how to join the dots between what you create and how you present it to the world, was invaluable. And you should see their work!
Speaker Ross Harvey
Based in the UK, Ross is a creative storyteller whose main gig is wedding photography. He’s “committed to telling the story of each wedding — preserving genuine, precious and fleeting moments from creative fine-art and photojournalistic perspectives.” Ross’s presentation: Growth: Creativity & Spirituality was SO DANG GOOD ya’ll! It had us inspired, happy, and rethinking some of our belief systems and patterns around work, play, and the in-between. He talked about how our belief systems define who we are and often occupy our unconscious minds, controlling how we think and react. And he encouraged everyone who has ever wondered what’s holding you back in life—albeit personally or professionally—to unlock a new understanding of who you really are, and more importantly, what you’re capable of. Ross’s work is a beautiful mixture of creative, candid, and gorgeous!
Speaker Valerie Fernandez
Val was born from a French dad and Vietnamese mum in Vanuatu. So from day 1, her life was set under the signs of adventure and cultural diversity. When she turned 15, she got a suitcase and decided to use it. Like, a lot. All over the place. But eventually, she wanted to go home. And so she did, along with her ocean-addicted husband. Together they have a badass little adventurer called Moira, who also happens to be a mermaid. So it made complete sense for Val to take her precious Sony into the water, and take her couples with her on her aquatic adventures. Val’s presentation on Shooting Couples Underwater was so friggin’ inspirational that we are sure 99% of viewers marched out to get underwater casings for their cameras. Because, Jayzusssss, who wouldn’t want to produce work like Val’s! And, to top it all off, even with her astronomical amount of creative talent, this lady is humble AF and we LOVED hearing about her struggles as much as we did hearing about her triumphs. So rad!
Speaker Phan Tien
Tien is a destination wedding photographer who lives half the year in France and half the year in Vietnam with his wife and son. Tien actually worked his ass off to get a PhD, but then discovered a deep-seated passion for photojournalistic photography and gave up that PhD life to pursue his passion for creating art through his images of people. Tien took us all through a CRAZY FANTASTIC LIVE SHOOT from Vietnam, where he had phones capturing him from a couple different angles as he walked us through his process of shooting a family. And then, faster than lightning, he shared the finished images with us LESS THAN AN HOUR LATER and our minds were, once again, BLOWN! Ya’ll, it was bomb, just like all his work! #fuckyeah
Speaker Ryan Muirhead
Ryan is an insanely talented film photographer based in Utah who began his photography career creating art as a way to connect with himself and work through some of the pain and struggles of his early life. His presentation, Building a Tangible Connection to Your Work Through Shooting Film and Sharing Your Images in Print, was inspiring AF, profound, and deeply emotionally connected. Many of us walked away from his presentation with deep thoughts stirring in our psyches, daring us to dive in and explore the who and what we are that drives us to create our art and trust that it will have an audience out there who is meant to find it. Ryan’s work is deep, creative, quirky and beautiful and will awaken something inside you that you don’t even know is there.
Speaker Catalina Dow
Okay, so her professional name is Catalina Jean, but no matter what name she goes by, this talented wedding photographer based in Portland, OR is also a freakin’ whiz when it comes to SEO for photographers. Her presentation, SEO is FUN: How to Get to Page 1 took us all, step-by-step through the fundamentals of SEO and explained how Google works and how it ranks content. Catalina’s work is all inspired by moments that are brimming with emotion, the ones that evoke feelings every time you see them again—just like an old song can bring up memories.
Speaker Igor Demba
Ah, man! We have nothing but rad shit to say about Igor—a UK-based destination wedding photographer who travels the world telling beautiful human stories by capturing pure emotion, and spreading good cheer and belly laughs. He’s basically Santa Claus. His presentation, Destination Weddings & The Creative Heart, was nothing short of amazeballs. He walked us all through identifying inspirations that can set photographers apart in a saturated market and some biz talk, such as pricing strategies, money mindsets, wedding vendor relationships, marketing and more! Trust us, go check out his work. It’ll blow ya mind!
Speaker Laura Babb
If you haven’t heard of Babb yet, you’re missing out, peeps. This creative and inspiring UK-based wedding and family photographer is ALSO the creator of SNAP Photography Festival (one of the BEST conferences out there, yo!). Laura’s presentation, Resilience: What To Do When the Shit Hits the Fan, was another one that left our hearts full and our minds made up to keep on trucking along during the 2020 Shitshow. Babb talked about her take on resilience, how she believes it is the ability to utilize your skills, abilities, and knowledge to bounce back from life’s struggles and challenges. She touched on many topics, such as mental and physical health problems, the stresses and strains of running a business, managing relationships, and even the state of the world around us (can you say Global Pandemic?!) She also covered a few methods she uses to alleviate stress and tension, including breathing and mindfulness techniques. She shared about her current situation, her fears and hopes for the future, and really created a heartfelt, connected space for so many photographers to sink into and relate with. And, oh yah, her work is fucking brilliant!
Speaker Nicole York
Nicole is a well-known photographer and author based out of New Mexico who specializes in telling stories through her writing and her ridiculously stunning fantasy portraiture. Not gonna lie, Nicole’s presentation about creating fantasy portraits had some of us bouncing in our seats all day in anticipation. And she did not disappoint. We’d tell you more, but there is too much to put in writing and this one is really better explained by watching then telling. Check out Nicole’s portfolio if you want to lose yourself in a world of possibilities for a few hours. Un-freakin-believable!
Speaker Seth Sanker
Seth is a fun and funky wedding photographer based out of California who, when he’s not shooting the shit of out of peeps at weddings, is sharing his seriously artistic and effin’ mind-blowingly creative self-portraits with the world on IG. Seth’s presentation, all about finding inspo for his self-portraits during the lockdown, turned into a bit of a group chat on self-awareness, mental health during the 2020 Shitshow, and just a good bit of belly laughs and sharing. It was the perfect way to end speaker presentations for our very first Conference + Chill event! Have a looksy at Seth’s work—it will absolutely make you believe in the power of the human spirit.
The atmosphere!!! Seriously, making people who don’t know each other, can’t see each other, or hear each other feel like they’re eating pizza with their besties was not a small challenge, and you NAILED it!!! I was also pretty anxious about the logistic of a whole conference on zoom but that too went super smooth thanks to your whole team. So impressed and so much love for you guys!
You brought such a diverse group of people together! I felt that every single speaker/host had a different talent, outlook, mantra, advice, etc. and it was absolutely incredible. There was so much to take away from this conference! Thank you so much for being creative and connecting so many people together. My soul needed this.
So accessible to a stay at home Mom if 4. I was on my phone a lot because it’s able to travel with me but was able participate without any issues.
Super fun, not in any way pretentious, informative and gave me a good insight into the industry (newbie here, hi!)
Photo: Laura Babb
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