***Fair warning*** There are quite a few very personal things in this blog post so get ready to grab a box of tissues. If you are not one to like personal posts from a business blog, skip to the bottom paragraph for the big news. First things first, though. This statement may seem odd, but it will all make sense very soon. I am currently booking weddings all across the country and beyond with current focuses in Boston, Charlotte, Wilmington, Raleigh-Durham, and Charleston. I have been overwhelmed in the best way recently by the direction my business is going. I feel so blessed to be in this business and to work with the most amazing clients. I have no plans to slow down, narrow my client base to a specific city, or really limit myself in any way. Life as a business owner and photographer is so, so good!
OK, let’s get real for just a minute and travel back in time three years. I was living in North Carolina (hello Charlotte friends – I miss you!), struggling to pay bills, going through a divorce that I didn’t see coming, and realizing how drastically my life was about to change. Psychiatrists say that a person shouldn’t go through more than one major life change within the same year. It’s too much to handle emotionally. In the course of one year, I managed to go through 9 major life changes. I lost my house and my car in the divorce. I left my job. I got a temporary job to help pay the bills. I quit that temp job. I packed up my neat little life and moved out of state. I left all my friends. I left my amazing church. I signed the paperwork for the divorce. I started a business. Needless to say, it was the most difficult transition of my life. I look back on that time like it was another life altogether (because it was) and know that I would still be a mess if it weren’t for a few key people in my life. My beautiful sister, for being the best roomie ever and a shoulder to cry on. My best friend April for the emotional support through my divorce and for not judging my decisions thereafter. My mom and brother Ricky for being available to talk to over the phone every time I felt lost and hurt over the state of my life.
So, why did I leave my support system? Was I running? I’m sure people think that. It honestly wasn’t that at all. I worked for a wedding photography company when I was married. When I first signed on, I was a newbie to the industry and I made the mistake of signing my life away in the form of a non-compete contract. It basically said I did not own the pictures I took. I couldn’t use them whether I continued to work for the company or not. I also couldn’t take photos for money within 75 miles of my home or within 75 miles of the main office in Wilmington for an entire year after I quit. That radius covers about half of the state of North Carolina and most of the major cities. I couldn’t speak with vendors that I had built a relationship with. I couldn’t tell people how I was treated. It was tough to see my work being published without my name attached to it. The real clincher, though, was finding out that the company I once helped build was now telling inquiring clients that I wasn’t available for their wedding date when they specifically requested me, not that I had moved on because I couldn’t pay my bills. Quite a few of them found me after noticing that I wasn’t posting on the business blog, which is how I found out. I was heart broken over this, but I learned a super valuable lesson. From that point on, I chose to surround myself with people who are for me, not just with me. The word “for” and “with” seem similar, but think about that for just a moment. Someone who is with you can seem like a friend until you can’t do anything for them. People who are “for” you will be there with you in spirit wherever your path leads you (like the Garrett Family – love you guys). My character was attacked when I tried to take a few photos even in the areas outside of the radius. At that point, I knew it would always be a struggle to build a business from Charlotte with integrity. I was determined to do so, so I started making plans to move.
Enter Red. Or rather, re-enter. Did I lose ya there? Let me introduce the sexiest redhead on the planet (AKA my boyfriend), Isaac. I have known this fiery, yet tender-hearted guy since I was a wee little one. Our mothers were actually college roommates! We grew up in adjoining states and would travel to each other’s homes every other year for family vacations together. On my sixteenth birthday, I told my mom I wanted to go to an amusement park with Isaac in Ohio in lieu of a big party. It was my favorite place at the time and he was one of my favorite people. Apparently, he took that as me asking him out on a date in a round-about way. He bought me a single yellow rose and we had the best day together. I had no clue it was supposed to be a date. I just knew he was great company! At this point, he was practically family anyway. Fast forward a few years – I’m in college in Ohio and he’s in the navy in Charleston. We reconnected and he visited me from time to time, secretly hoping I’d get the hint this time that he had a crush. I’m a total dip, so of course I remained clueless. He never worked up the courage to risk our long-time friendship on a date request but we talked over the phone almost every day. He sent me gifts, poems, and made me dinner when he visited. The whole time I thought “wow, he is going to make some woman incredibly happy one day”. He was the last remaining true gentleman in my world. Fast forward a few more years – we both marry separate people. We lose contact. I still talk about him, but only as a fond memory of the last remaining true gentleman. We became friends on Facebook eventually, but that was the extent of our relationship. Oh, how I heart Facebook even with all its annoying quirks for this very reason!
After our divorces began – and yes, we both went through that awful thing around the same time – we reconnected for the second time. We were a source of strength for each other and started out again as friends. The turning point was when he finally gathered the courage to ask me why I never returned his advances in high school and college. We laughed and shook our heads over how silly and dense we both were. Isaac talked me through those nine life-altering decisions I had to make all at once. He encouraged me to pursue photography as a business owner even though I had experienced so much drama with the company I formerly worked for. He helped me realize that life really does go on after divorce and can actually be full of great joy.
So when it was time to decide where exactly I wanted to move, I decided if I couldn’t be near my friends and church family in Charlotte, I wanted to be with him. I still remember driving up to what I call Antarctica (but most people know as New England) on New Years Eve during a huge snow storm. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I had made the correct decision. I mean, -25°F is enough to make any North Carolina girl question her sanity, right? It was also harder than I thought to be alone in a new city without the support of my local community in Charlotte. That last sentence might be the understatement of the century. I missed pretty much everything about the south including southern weddings, especially in gorgeous places like Charleston. But the stability I felt with Red kept me there with him through the bitter winter months. When it was time to build a business, I realized I couldn’t use my married name. It didn’t make much sense to use my maiden name either. It was almost like an omen to never get married again if I named a business after my single name. haha So instead, I named it after someone who I have always considered family. Red. I knew that no matter what happened with us, he’d still be family and he’d still be there for me. Did you get that “for” in there, rather than “with”? I left my heart in The South, but I found my love in New Hampshire.
Now you know my story. Don’t cry for me, please. I am a much happier and healthier Rachel now! Are you ready for my big news??? I have been sitting on this for way too long and I just can’t keep it to myself any longer! As of March 2015, I will be leaving the Boston area and moving my business to…drumroll please…destination wedding capital of the US of A – Charleston, South Carolina! Hip hip, hooray! Happy dance! Pop fizz clink! I couldn’t be more excited about returning to sunshine, sweet tea, and southern hospitality. And southern weddings! I feel like all of my dreams are coming true, to be honest. Yay to returning to the Bible belt. As I mentioned, Isaac lived there for a few years and fell in love with the area. We have the opportunity right now to chase our dreams together and we are taking it! I’ll be second shooting for some of the best photographers in the country (but based in Charleston) over the next year as I re-establish myself. I will need all the help I can get, so if you are a wedding vendor in the Charleston area, I would love to chat! I’ve already contacted all of my current clients in the Boston/New England area and will still be making multiple trips to the area over the next year or two for engagement sessions and weddings. If you are a Boston bride-to-be and would still like to book me for your wedding, I’d be happy to work something out with you so don’t let this announcement deter you from contacting me. I’d love to put you in touch with previous out of state clients that had a great experience working long distance with Rachel Red Photography.
PS Thanks to my long distance photographer friend, Ashley Goodwin Woods, for baring her soul on her blog on a regular basis and giving me the courage to do the same. Yup, you Ashley!