Derek & Grace… married

This was a very special wedding for me. Derek is a friend of mine who has, in the past year, become a close one. I’ve known few men with as much integrity as this one, both in work and in life. Derek also happens to be an amazing filmmaker… you can take a look at his latest stunning documentary, here. And he is now married to a very lovely lady… miss Grace is a woman who lives up to her name well.

I have two favorite things about this wedding.

First, this is the only wedding I’ve ever shot in which the ‘first kiss’ as a married couple, was in fact the couple’s first kiss, at all.

They’d never kissed before this moment, out of an amazing quest for purity that they’ve worked hard on together.

I don’t think most folks… myself included… can scarcely imagine making that commitment. Yet I’ll forever be inspired by it.
My second favorite thing about this wedding, is that they totally had a brinner reception.

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If you don’t know what brinner is… oh my. You may not have truly lived.

Brinner is breakfast… for dinner. It’s pretty fantastic. And this wedding also is unique in that I’ve never seen breakfast as the reception food. Mmmmmmmm.

Without further ado, here’s the full day…

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these three fellas co-own Amplify Gym together. If you have kids interested in gymnastics, you should check it out.

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Grace’s dad MADE all the benches used at the wedding. I’m always kind of blown away by people that just make stuff with their bare hands. It’s a whole different kind of creativity than my own.

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The wedding venue was very planned but worked out extremely well. The first choice had been rained out (too muddy), so the couple was able to secure the not-yet-opened ‘Amadeus Ranch‘. It wasn’t 100% finished, but it was still beautiful. Can’t wait to shoot more wedding here in the future.

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this is my friend Austin, down in the crowed.

Sometimes, he’s real creepy. But I like him anyway, and this picture makes me laugh.

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this is my good friend Colby… he is, in fact, one of my very first friends in Joplin. This is not the most flattering picture to introduce him, but it made me laugh and is dedicated to everyone who ever tried to quickly duck out of a picture I was taking and still ended up in the picture, but with a really awkward ‘I’m trying to get out of the way’ stance.

Knowing Colby, I’m pretty sure this will make him laugh.

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 *GOOFY BREAK*

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I love that these two ran/skipped back to the reception. I promise I didn’t tell them to (If I had, I would’ve told them to run where there weren’t cars in the background, but then that kinda would’ve taken the awesome spontaneity out of it…)

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I think Colby was asking if it was time to sign the marriage license…

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first dance!

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Sonya & Sabin :: May 29, 2015

Sometimes, people look at my wedding photos and say ‘that’s GOOD.’

And in cases like this, I genuinely cannot take the credit. What’s so GOOD… what makes some photos have the impact that they do… is the genuine emotion that’s there when I happen to be snapping away. Without genuine love behind the eyes of my wedding day subjects, the photos would be nothing. Sonya and Sabin had that, in abundance.

They were SO in love, that you could say love completely conquered the dark spirits that threatened to overshadow the day… a day filled with tornado warnings (one dangerous storm was literally headed straight at us), flash flooding, a veil that was accidentally thrown away (and thankfully recovered) and nonstop torrential downpour, at what was originally intended to be an outdoor venue.

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A lot of brides would have completely freaked out, mascara streaming down their cheeks all day… well THAT sure would’ve put a crimp in the photo taking of the day. ;) But not Sonya. Sure, she was stressed, but she didn’t let it mess with her cheerful spirit, and you could see, the moment these two locked eyes that day, literally nothing else mattered.

As it should be.

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may photobooth: a story by siblings improv + 9art

This third thursday (the day that Joplin hosts an art walk every month, as of a few years now), I got to do probably the most innovative thing I’ve done yet with the photobooth.

It’s all about collaboration… this time with the one and only SIBLINGS IMPROV, a local improv group started by some folks I know that wanted the art of comedy & and collaboration to thrive in our little city.

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Eric (pictured above), Drew, and the other folks at improv meet every Tuesday night to teach, learn, hone their craft and develop camaraderie with other local improvers (and would-be improvers). Our local paper even wrote up a little article about it…

Who better, to help me host a photobooth devoted solely to story, to an unpredictable tale, told by the very folks to who populate my photographic storytelling stage each month here in downtown Joplin?

The initial idea was simple… find a way to collaborate with Siblings. These folks of course RAN with the idea, helping set up a framework for a story that would run the course of the night.

I had to be careful. I knew if I said the word ‘improv’ that folks might be weary and think things like ‘oh I can’t do improv’…. which is the very reason I announced this photobooth as having a ‘surprise’ theme.

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Once we knew were doing this thing, we set up a plan. Here’s what it was:

Each photo got one line of the ongoing epic poem, written on the spot, by the member of Siblings that was present for their half hour ‘shift’. The Siblings member furthermore stepped in and helped direct each group, telling the story through the use of those present and the weird, random props we assembled to assist us.

Here is that story.

Does it make sense?

Absolutely not.

Does it matter?

Nope.

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It’s fun. It was on-the-spot. It was new. THAT’S what matters.

Have fun…

PHOTOBOOTH STORY (2015)

Ian went to catch a fish
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to please his parents, was his only wish

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his friends met him at the bayou

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two dames asked “can we sit by you?”

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along came two heroes to save the day

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because Dr. Seuss and the Hulk came out to play

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A dog and his master came by to see

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how funny a different a different kind of catch can be

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pick cashew apples, Truman did

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defended with rackets, against the squid

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[FAST FORWARD TO… chapter 3]

The hulk had decided to fish

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Against his evil nemesis…

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4 long haired girls screamed Action! And the fishing was on!

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As the large crowd, eagerly looked on

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The Hulk had a bite, but it was just some ninja turtles

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Hulk and his love, Helmet Momma, also caught the scary Levi fish

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Once the Levi fish is caught, he makes a delicious dish

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The evil lamp head captured Helmet Momma- but Hulk won the day!

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Hulk soon brought princess and lizard boy D to join his hero way

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CHAPTER 40

After Ian’s death, a mother/daughter team determined to fight crime

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The Ratzsimuff gang could wreak ferocious havoc on a dime

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Mother & daughter fought the gang with bravery, and honor, and weird looks..

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To the lair the Ratzsimuffs plot and scheme, how they’ll make the public scream!

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Daddy Man, Wonder Mom, Titus Boy, and Judah Boy

Break onto the scene!

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With the bearded beauties TO STEAL ICE CREAM!

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They threw the babies to the cops, then quickly ran away

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The Dogwoods witnessed all of it, like the most insane of plays!

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Alien Alex descended from the stars

to eat some lovely bars

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the new members of the Ratszimuff gang

gather together to hang

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Helmet Dad ang gang are stepping on their turf

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the clowns are NOT happy, threatening to break out the nerf!

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The town broke out in all out war!

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But Ryan spoke up.

“Hey girl. No more.”

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The gangs made friends at last!
They pulled together and had a blast!

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CHAPTER 73

The alien- Brainhead- attempts abduction

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but underestimates the humans’  skills at dancing, fanny packs, and deduction

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Brainheads’ alien crew tried to act sneaky, but were loud because their car was leaky

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The noisy engine caught the attention of the Crusaders

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So they SMASHED the aliens like momma’s mashed potatoes!41

FIN

thoughts on the trend + my kids

So I’ve been busy for sure, but not the super glamorous/exciting kind of photography that you really put in a blog post. I photographed two factories and, wait for it, a truck stop… yes, when I tweeted the other day that I was literally editing photos of a truck stop bathroom, I wasn’t joking.

Not to complain, in the least. I always enjoy photographing something new, no matter how unexciting it may appear at first. It’s an invigorating challenge to me take a subject like… a truck stop bathroom… and figure out how to make it interesting to look at. How to still make the viewer feel something when they’re seeing that image.

In this case, ‘Man. I want to use THAT bathroom.’

Since I haven’t posted in awhile and I’m pretty sure no-one is going to be enthralled to view my truck stop photos (even if it IS a very nice truck stop), I’m going to my default… pictures of my children. Because they’re cute, and we all know it. But here’s a little more thought on these photos, first…

I’ve been playing with some new editing techniques. I’m the guy that’s remained stubborn and steered clear of the whole VSCO trend up to this point. If you don’t know what that is… it’s the set of presets that make every photo look like it’s from 1965 even though it’s 2015. It’s the photographic equivalent of replacing all your furniture with mid-century-modern. [I hate to admit it, but I LOVE midcentury modern].

But I’ve been a grumpy old man and wanted to not do what everyone else is doing and said I’d NEVER use one of those damn presets. Until…

I received some advice from a trusted and very talented colleague who’s far and away in the next phase of photographic success. His advice pertained to some of my images appearing ‘too digital’. Very interesting.

After looking back through the particular project I’d showed him, I realized he was absolutely right. I’d worked hard with the lighting and setting to create a mood, but there was still something missing. Too crisp. Too perfect. Too digital.

So… I did some research. I broke down and downloaded some presets. I slapped some of them on photos and yep, sure enough…. they looked beautiful. In a sense.

A very very trendy sort of sense. As in, ‘oh. THESE are the presets that every photographer who has entered the photographerforce in the past 5 years is using.’

Love/hate relationship there. I never want to be stale. I always want to be changing, growing, learning, experimenting. But let that thinking carry too far, and you become one who is simply swept away with every new trend. (selective color, anyone?)

It reminds me of a line from a C.S. Lewis book… ‘the greatest triumph of all [for those who might work to stop us, from doing our best] is to elevate this horror of the same old thing [emphasis mine] into a philosophy.’ In other words, if we’re TOO scared of becoming stagnant in our work, we actually become obsessed with staying ahead of the curve and go from being trendsetters to being trend chasers.

I heard it best in a recent Tim Ferriss podcast: ‘when you try to chase what’s cool, you’re already too late.’

That’s always my question. How do I be ‘modern’ and ‘now’ with my work? How do I do that… but walk away with images that might still be considered timeless and original when I look at them again in 20 years?

I don’t have an easy answer. I think it has something to do with never compromising your original voice. [and if you’re a new artist and haven’t found that voice yet, read THIS BOOK].

So the question shouldn’t be ‘is this effect cool?’ it should be ‘is this effect something that helps my images say what I need them to say?’ Keep the question the same. But yes, playLEARNplay, keep learning new techniques, figure out what others have done well, just so long as you know how to then make it your own.

That’s probably enough philosophizing for now…

So here’s the first batch of experimentation. The one where I’m just using photos of my kids, and yes, these photo edits look film like and dreamy and, probably overdone and SUPER trendy. But I’m working through the experimenting to find a new look that’s all mine again… that’s what it’s all about, right?

Stay tuned.

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this little lady loves getting her hands dirty…

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this is what happens when I try to take a ‘serious’ photo of my son with his soccer medal [because, on principal, I stubbornly refuse to pay for the team photographer’s photos when I do this for a living and can take my own…]

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Hey you guys…. mini sessions!!!!

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Once… maybe twice… every year, 9art busts out the mini sessions. They are mini pieces of awesome.

Why? Well, let’s be blunt. They’re cheaper. Not an event that you have to work quite so hard at saving for. But you still get some really great pictures out of the deal.

Here’s the breakdown, Joplin:

My main thing… what I REALLY get excited about… are full sessions. a ‘full’ session means one in which we figure out some unique, and possibly crazy concepts and locations to base a shoot around. We take our time, we plan out where, and what is going on in that shoot and it’s very personal to you and it’s very artistic in nature.

It’s the kind of shoot that may not happen every year… and when it does happen, we talk about bigger purchases, like session books and wall portraits… keepsakes for life and for the lives beyond your own, with specialized images to keep in your family for decades to come.
Full sessions might result in shots like this,
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or this-
adara's bookbrush- concept fairytale image from southwest mo commercial photographer 9art photography

A mini session, on the other hand, is short and sweet. We stick to one location… something simple… and we focus on a 10-15 minute time slot. That time is just focused on your kiddo, not the whole family, and rather than talking about the higher end of products, we keep it simple.

Here’s a couple of shots from mini sessions last year…

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We have two easy options for packages. They are as follows:

#1:  mini session w/ prints: $100

  • sitting fee included                                                                                                                                                                              
  • one 8 x 10
  • one 5 x 7
  • two 4 x 6    

#2: mini session w/ digital images: $150

  • sitting fee included
  • 5 high res digital images included

And of course, you can add on any other products you like, ‘a la carte’.

Interested? Just drop me a line… mr9schwander@gmail.com.

The times are, June 12th from 3-6pm, & June 13th from 10:30am to 1pm. Since I’d love to do these sessions in a more natural setting, we will be at the mercy of the weather, so stay tuned for backup dates if it gets rainy.

Can’t make one of those times? Get ahold of me and I’ll see if we can’t find another time that week that will work for you.

Spread the word!

-Mark

Emily & Grant engagement

   Hey guys.

It’s been 4 days since this shoot, and I admit I’m STILL scratching chigger bites (if you don’t know what a chigger is, stay in the city, folks).

But it was worth it, so very worth it, to get these pictures of this lovely couple in a spot hidden away on the outskirts of town.

We began with some shots of these two with their beloved doggies… whose names are Romeo & Grandma.

‘Grandma’ was the brainchild of Grant- a brilliant idea inspired by the thought of how funny it would be to be able to say things like, ‘I need to take Grandma for a walk,’ or ‘grandma’s going to the bathroom in the yard again’ or ‘grandma kept me awake in bed last night.’

Humor always wins.

Enjoy the photos!

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Mom takes photobombing to the next level

I cannot tell you how much FUN I had on Kjersti’s (sort-of) senior session. She graduates from college here in a couple of weeks, and her mom wanted to commemorate the event with some pictures.

When mom came along on the shoot, her presence yielded some interesting results. Some very interesting results indeed…

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I’ll be back with more ‘serious’ pictures next time. ;)

-Mark

David

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This is David. The ‘humans of new york’ style portraiture isn’t usually my style (though I, of course, love that series), but today was a day I HAD to ask a stranger if I could take his portrait. Maybe I should thank Brandon Stanton for helping give me the courage to ask more people if I could photograph them.

I ran into David just outside my studio today, in downtown Joplin. He was hunting for his cat. We talked for a second, and then he asked if I’d mind if he sat down. I overrode my ‘I have to get back to work’ urges and said sure.

Here’s the story I heard after David sat down.

Once upon a time, David was a network engineer. He made $120 an hour to troubleshoot network issues for huge companies. He could make thousands in a week, and was an extremely tech savvy guy.

He told me everything changed one day when he spied a 15 year old couple sitting on a park bench.

The couple weren’t interacting with each other… they were texting. ‘they were in love’ said David, ‘but they didn’t know it.’

It was right then that David suddenly made a decision that he was done with life the way he’d been living it.

‘I’d had enough.’

He did something that I think we’ve all joked about doing… after living in Louisiana for a time, he literally took his smartphone, drove to the murkiest swamp he could find in Mississippi, and threw it in.

He threw his smartphone. Into a swamp. Can you imagine actually doing that?

He told me that with a chuckle. What’s David been doing since then? Traveling the country in a van, with his cat, stopping from town to town to preach and to play music on a 12 string guitar.

What do you play? I asked him.

’70s lutheran camp songs. They make people nostalgic.’

You can’t make this stuff up.

David was full of thoughts, some of which might have seemed a little ‘out there’ to folks. But to balance the passion of his chosen topics was a peace that made his smile come all the way out through his eyes. Sure enough, he preached for a bit. But it wasn’t forced… it was just to say that Jesus was his answer, to not let yourself be caught in the trappings of money, to do to others what you’d want done to you…pretty basic stuff.

‘the simplicity of it!’ he said with a  huge grin.

I asked if I could take his picture. He said sure, and asked if that was a bible I’d had sitting next to me. Yep, I said, I’d brought it to read on my lunch break. So he flipped through it while I ran to grab my camera, and was reading it when I came back.

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I don’t know if he’s found his cat yet. ‘We’ve been to so many cities together,’ he said. ‘she knows that van. I guess I’ll just stay put til she comes back, even if I gotta stay another day or two. she’ll find it.’

He wasn’t worried.

I’ll be honest. I’m not going to throw my smartphone into a swamp. But I will say I’ll be thinking more about how to live simply this weekend.

-Mark

Evolving a business:: less is more and all that jazz

In 29 days, I’ll no longer have a studio.

Don’t panic. 9art still exists. I still take photos just like before. And this was not an unhappy decision. But some things just have to change. :)

When I first really got things rolling, that studio was a dream come true. I still remember the first year of sharing it with my good graphic designer friend Matt Spiel… blaring the ‘Inception’ soundtrack (Matt yelling BUM! BUM! BUM! as it crescendo’d), goofing around with lighting setups to get pictures like this one…

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Then, for the past 4 years, it’s just been me up there. Not that Matt & I don’t still hang out. (Would you believe we just hung out an hour ago)?

FIVE YEARS…. can’t believe it’s been that long.

It was a milestone to get that place.

Now, it’s a milestone to let it go.

It’s funny how your perception of success changes as you go… and how things evolve in unexpected ways. When I started, the studio was a marker of my validity; it meant (or I thought it did) I was a REAL photographer, and having that physical presence was vital in being part of the downtown community. And, I can’t forget, it was the starting spot for the ‘third thursday’ photo booths here in Joplin…

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And it was vital, during these past few years, in having a place to work, a place to meet, a place to shoot.

Now I’m at a completely different point. A physical space, at this point in my career, really doesn’t mean much at all. A reputation as a reliable person with a solid body of work means a whole lot more.

So the questions that naturally ensue:

-don’t I need the studio to shoot in?
-don’t I need a place to do my day to day work?
-don’t I need a place to meet with folks?
-don’t I need a physical location for clients to consider me a valid business?
-don’t I need a place to do the monthly third thursday photobooths out of?

Those were hard questions to answer. Those are the kind of decisions you have to face from time to time in running a business- changes can’t be made on a whim for sure, and no change should ever be made that interferes with the core concepts that got you started in your craft to begin with. ‘From Good to Great’ is a fantastic book that taught me a lot about that idea.

No rash moves. But fear of change can also be the most destructive force to a professional… leading to things like an overhead that’s way more than you need it to be and a workflow that ultimately makes you a far less productive person than you should be. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to sit down, at least once a year, and ask yourself the tough question… ‘where can I trim the fat?’

A lot of prayer and awesome happenings and even awesomer people revealed the answer to all those questions and opened the door to make some changes.

So, for those of you who are wondering about those specifics…

SHOOTING: 90% of my work is ‘on location’- when it comes down to it, I generally only use the studio about once a month. I like to shoot in different places, to be in a real environment. But on those occasions when I need an actual studio space to shoot in, I’ve still got it covered, don’t you worry.

MEETING, PHOTOBOOTH, & WORKSPACE: I’ve developed some partnerships that gave me solutions to all of these things.

Firstly with Spiva Arts Center– I love being around the folks in our foremost local gallery here in Joplin, and they have graciously allowed me to host the photobooths in their building each month.

I’m developing another partnership with a local creative group that involves a sweet co-working space…. I can’t go into the details, but it’ll take care of my storage, having a dedicated desk space, and having a conference area for ordering appointments with folks. Plus, being around other creative professionals is always a bonus (honestly, a must) when it comes to keeping yourself inspired.

And I can’t forget the local coffeeshop downtown… Joplin Ave Coffee Co. For the past 3 years, these guys have served me my daily (overabundant) dose of get-it-done serum (aka caffeine) and let me hang out at my ‘usual table’ for much of my work time.

Yeah, I completely realize, it’s weird that I work in a coffeeshop. But I love the environment, and for me it’s an oddly productive place- plugging away with my earbuds, yet surrounded by people to cut out that feeling of isolation that us largely-computer-based creative folks get sometimes.

Amazing interactions, conversations, and networking have happened there. So a good portion of the time, that’s where you’ll find me.

SO NOW…

The studio is out of the picture. But other things are stepping in.

This is a big year for more than just the streamlining. I’m also set to launch a new division of my photography business within the next month, dedicated specifically to commercial work.

The design phase is in full force on the joplin photonovel… my biggest project to-date, as a collaboration with Lance Schuabert for the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau… more about that very soon.

And all sorts of creative ideas are in the works.

So farewell studio. I’ll miss ya. But I’m excited about what’s next.

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-Mark

the Caldwells

The Caldwells are another family I’ve been working with for some time now, watching Caegan & Leighalla grow through the sessions. Mom Lisa & dad Corban moved the fam to Kansas City last year, but being amazing and incredibly sweet clients, they still come back to Joplin for photos every few months to document their little family. I couldn’t be more honored.

We took these in the John Wise mansion, a beautiful historic building in downtown Joplin, that the the owner was kind enough let us borrow for a couple of hours.

I think I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking… the chaos, laughter, tears, climbing, kicking, hunger, discovery, and 100 other beautiful emotions that come during a 90mn session with toddlers. :)

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