I had too much to say for this one, so I put the text at the end. Get ready for lemons! And stairs.
So I found this girl on Craigslist.
It was 2008, and I had just quit a teaching job. Photography had always been a passion and I had recently decided that’s where I wanted to go with my job and with my life. But until this point, I really didn’t enjoy photographing people. I liked animals and objects and skylines, but people generally made me nervous, and I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew I had to figure that out, and I’m a pretty head-strong, determined sort of person who realized I could find models to build a portfolio on Craigslist. :) Generally, it’s considered by other photographers very uncouth to do things for free, and Craigslist is frowned upon and trolled. There’s a long standing and strong belief in the community that you should be an apprentice and rise in the ranks doing assistant jobs and working your way up. But again, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t talk to any other photographers. I didn’t know my methods were frowned upon. I didn’t realize my particular market in the Raleigh-Durham area was oversaturated with photographers even then. And I particularly dislike networking. So my 2008 Craigslist mining began.
Carlena is, according to my records, the 2nd person I’ve ever photographed, and the 1st adult. I photographed her for free when she was living in North Carolina and bored. Geoff was with me, which was something he typically didn’t do at the time, but he didn’t shoot. I don’t remember, but he was probably just there to make sure Carlena was actually Carlena and not a menacing Carl or Caleb or Christopher from Craigslist. Thankfully Carlena was indeed Carlena, and was beautiful and wonderful to work with. I certainly got lucky adding her to my portfolio (as I was with all my clients in the first 1-2 years) and because of her, I was actually able to build a career out of this thing that had previously been a hobby that centered around taking pictures of my cats and the Pittsburgh skyline. We gave her the pictures, we parted ways.
BUT AS WITH ALL GOOD LOVE STORIES, Carlena returned to us 8 years later. Well, she never quite left. :) We became friends on Facebook and she continued to follow our blog and we continued to stalk her as she moved to Seattle and got a boyfriend and got engaged. Then we got a very excited email asking if were available to shoot her wedding. In Italy. And we Facetimed. And we emailed. And we met Andrew (who is adorable, kind, funny, and a perfect match to Carlena, who is also all of those things). And we found ourselves on a dream trip to Switzerland and Italy, and photographing a destination wedding in Positano along the Amalfi Coast.
And this is where I tell everyone reading that it’s okay to go about a career path in a way that’s a bit unconventional. Or even frowned upon by others. Because someday one of those people whom you found on Craigslist and worked for free for might come back eight years later and take you to Italy.
Possibly the best part of this trip was explaining to Carlena and Andrew’s friends how they found us. We’d overhear her friends ask, “So how did you find your photographer?” and Carlena would say, “On Craigslist!” and then we’d all over-explain which probably made us sound even less like a legit business operation than the Craigslist explanation, which was kind of amazing. Other people asked us at home, “Who are the clients taking you to Italy? How did you find them?” and we’d respond with, “On Craigslist!” and everyone would give us weird looks. And I would assure them with, “No, no, she’s really pretty! She’s legit!” which made it all sound worse.
But words can’t really describe the beauty of this place and their wedding, and I felt super happy, like my career had come full-circle, working with someone in this gorgeous location who had helped me from the very beginning. The world is strange and small and wonderful. And usually I fancy myself as slightly funnier and less nostalgic than all of this, but Prince just died and you’ve caught me in a sentimental frame of mind. So thank you to Carlena, the very first adult I ever photographed, for giving me the career that I have and for giving us the gift of seeing Italy. Thank you for following us all these years as we progressed and changed, and for standing by us and giving this amazing opportunity. And thank you to Andrew, who welcomed us into his arms and life as quickly and pleasantly as Carlena always had. You are both amazing and we love you. We hope you’re as grateful to Craigslist as we are. ;)
- Date: April 27, 2016
- Rehearsal Dinner: La Tagliata // Positano, Italy
- Ceremony Venue: Santa Maria Assunta // Positano, Italy
- Reception Venue: Villa Oliviero // Positano, Italy
- First Dance Song: “Stay Alive” – Jose Gonzalez
- Carlena’s Occupation: Writer/Editor/Amateur Home Cook
- Andrew’s Occupation: Finance/Amateur Home Cook
- How You Met: We actually are “that couple” who met at a bar! (Okay, so we actually went to the same high school, but we reconnected years later at a mutual friend’s birthday party in downtown Baltimore.)
- Interesting Fact: Our first kiss was at a dive karaoke bar in Baltimore called Walt’s Inn. Neither of us sing karaoke.
- Honeymoon: Venice, Italy and Paris, France
- Vendor Credits: Band – Amalfi Coast Music (Bruno Esposito). Florist – Malafronte, Ravelio. Cake+Catering – Villa Oliviero. Hair – Andrew Coiffeur. Invitations –
Monumental Designs. Makeup – Zoe Graham. Destination Wedding Coordinator – Lindeman Weddings (Erin Lindeman). Villa Oliverio Coordinator – Carla Casali. Santa Maria Assunta Coordinator – Rita and Emanuela.
I am from the U.S and planning my wedding in Positano, Italy in May 2018. I found your link while looking at Zoe Graham’s facebook page and these pictures are ALL THE THINGS!! I wish I could afford to bring a U.S photographer with us. On a different note, I did not see a vendor link for her invitations/stationary. Can you help find out who did her invites? The are gorgeous and exactly what I am looking for. Thanks so much!! :)
Hey Melissa! I’ll find out and send you an e-mail! Hang tight!