The Power of Personal Projects – Part II by David Wittig

Are you balancing work that fills your bank account with work that fills your soul?

We’ve all made excuses. 

“I’m too busy trying to finish projects for my clients.”

“I’m too exhausted to wake up a the crack of dawn to chase perfect light.”

“I’ve got to focus on work that pays the bills!”

Sure, there are plenty of good excuses. But the truth is: you can’t afford to avoid personal projects. Consider the risks. Without work that fuels your creativity and feeds your spirit, you’re sprinting down a path to boredom and burnout.

To explore the power of personal projects, The Photo Life is publishing a series of posts from photographers who have embraced risk and pursued long-term personal projects. The second post in the series is an enlightening Q & A with photographer Dave Wittig.

CLICK BELOW TO SEE A SLIDESHOW of Dave’s ongoing personal project, The Naked Portraits.

Why do you make time for personal projects?

Because …

Read more →

A Photographic Love Affair by David Wittig

I’ve fallen in love with many women, a dozen or so cities, and innumerable moments in time. But I’ve only ever fallen in love with one camera – the Leica S2.

By love I mean that irrational exuberance that can overcome any obstacle. That encounter with such beauty, intelligence, or elegance that compels me to rethink, even abandon, the way I do everything. That compulsion that allows me to gladly sacrifice almost anything to feel it once more, or prolong it just a little. Of course, love is also many other things, like the ability to overlook glaring faults. Some might say I’m actually describing infatuation, but they would be wrong – it’s love!

I’ve claimed to be in love with this camera since I saw the press-release images of it, admittedly that might be more like infatuation, or like saying I love Keira Knightley because I saw her in a beautiful film. Spending …

Read more →

How We Find Success in Dependent Systems by Nancy Beale

Collaboration in Husband and Wife Photography Teams

This is part two of The Photo Life Blog Series, True Life: I’m Married to My Business Partner. This series explores how husband and wife photography teams find success when their business and personal lives collide.

Dave and I have been working together for five years now. Initially, it was hard and some days it still is, but I don’t think we would have it any other way. Erin Youngren wrote an excellent post last week about how they function best by using what she termed “closed systems” in which each person has their own tasks independent of the other person. We do this to an extent (and after their article we are exploring what additional systems we can “close”), however we have found that having what we’ll term “dependent” systems have been hugely beneficial to our business.

As Jeff and Erin point out, “dependent” systems are often frustrating, and slow. However, we believe having only closed systems would negate some of the best benefits our partnership provides. Like many partners, Dave and I have different strengths and weaknesses. We’ve sought to create systems that employ each of us at our strong points, despite the friction this might create.

For example, Dave is a perfectionist, while I prefer not to let perfection stand in the way of progress. If Dave were writing this by himself, the article might be very good, but it would be ready sometime next year. Instead, I wrote a first draft which he then worked on, and again I revised. This collaboration allowed me to “get it done,” while allowing Dave to improve it. The result is an article that is delivered on time (which makes me and the customer happy) and up to Dave’s standards (which makes him happy – and hopefully the customer too).

There are other areas or systems we always collaborate on. We write almost all of the blog posts together and also select the images together. We usually have lively discussions about what should and should not be posted on our blog. Over the years this has really helped us define our image together. As with this article, I usually get the blog post written to my satisfaction and Dave tweaks it to “perfection.” When it comes to image selection we switch roles a bit. Dave makes an initial selection of 30 or so of the best images and then together we narrow it down to the 10 or so that we feel best represent our client and the work we do.

Photo by Emily Anderson

While Dave handles image production, I handle most of our interaction with clients (again because of our respective strengths and weaknesses). However, even in those mostly closed systems we’ll collaborate at times. When we get an email requiring a complex answer to a difficult or new question, we’ve found that working on a response together has greatly improved our communication with clients. I’m usually very good at writing an initial response and Dave is good at making it sound just a little more subtle. We have avoided hasty, emotional responses by dealing with these issues in this way.

While this may sound somewhat idyllic, the truth is somewhat grittier. These areas of “collaboration” are often comprised of heated discussions, diverging viewpoints, and frustration because it’s either not done quickly enough or well enough (depending on who you ask). In the midst of that we’ve found it vital to constantly remind ourselves of the underlying reason for both our business and personal relationship: the belief that together we are better people, live a better life, and serve our clients better than we would apart. We have to remind ourselves that the very things we find frustrating in our partner are often just the very thing (or the flip side) of what makes the partnership a stronger and more successful entity.

Photo by Emily Anderson

Each couple is different and therefore each partnership is going to function differently. We have detailed how a combination of dependent and closed systems works for us, however, the most important piece of advice we can give on working together is to figure out how you will thrive both as a couple and individually. Our goal both in our business partnership and in our marriage is to create a space for each other so that we can each be the best that we can be.

People like to say that iron sharpens iron, but they forget that that very process involves friction, intense heat, and the occasional sparks. Focusing on the successful outcome is key to working past the temporary discomforts and achieving that sharper iron.

Written by Nancy Beale of David Wittig Photography

Photo by Connie Miller of Studio Atticus

Chicago-based wedding photographers David Wittig and Nancy Beale, have been working side-by-side, capturing weddings and transforming them into art for the last ten years. Their own relationship, a myriad of friendship, partnership and marriage, aides their images, providing two perspectives of a singular moment—what can often be the most important moment of your life. Dave and Nancy have shot weddings from Maine to California, from India to France, and are always excited to add another stamp to their all-ready full passports. Their work, which examines a documentary feel and editorial style, is heavily influenced by their fine art backgrounds and training.

Read more →