Emily and I were introduced about 6 years ago by a mutual friend. We had gone to school together at the Rhode Island School of Design, but somehow never crossed paths. I instantly fell in love with Emily’s bright and airy photographs. We’ve had the chance to work together frequently on photoshoots for our textile design studio, vintage archive, and now for our Voloshin lookbooks and photography.
We loved getting the chance to hang out with Emily and her husband Gregg at their new studio space. Read more to hear about her career path and personal style.
What led you to settle in Philadelphia - and what is it like to own your own business in this city? I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and after attending RISD I came back to start my career close to my family. I was eager to get to work right away, and fell in love with the the spirit of entrepreneurship here. At the time, the availability of affordable rent and spaces for artists and small businesses was definitely something that attracted a lot of young creatives, and out of that grew a large network of business owners whom I still collaboratore with. We all helped each other get going.
Mariana Dress in Soft Black
The wedding photography business is very crowded, but you have managed to garner a lot of attention and press. What makes your photos stand out? I have a strong aesthetic which runs through all my photos, regardless of subject matter. I believe my firm attention to little details in styling, directing, and composition have made me stand out. It seems simple, but small things are often overlooked, and they can be the difference between an okay photo and an outstanding photo.
I also focus on capturing authentic moments. People are attracted to how my photos are personal and natural feeling, unposed and effortless, yet crafted with care and finesse.
Aside from the photos themselves, I believe what has made me stand out is my attention to my clients. Details matter when it comes to customer experience too, and I have never forgotten that on a basic level, my job is in the customer service industry. I often work with families for years and years - from engagement photos, to the photos of their children as they grow. My clients return to me because I have given them my utmost attention and delivered work they cherish again and again.
I once read a scientific study of business owners which found that the areas of the brain that light up for them while working are similar to those for people experiencing romantic love. This is the same obsessive drive that leads me to answer an email at 3am! My business is my baby! I’m very determined and dedicated to care for and love it.
How do you approach “networking” with other creative professionals in the city? Do you make an effort to find other like-minded women to work or collaborate with? I am lucky to be in an industry in which lots of the business owners are women. I have always believe the motto “a rising tide lifts all ships” and fortunately many of my “friendors” seem to feel the same. We are constantly helping each other out, offering advice, and sharing resources. A few times a year I will get together with other wedding vendors and design a creative shoot - just for fun. It is always such a good creative exercise! Not only is it an authentic way to express my creative vision within the wedding industry, but in turn, the work we show helps me to attracts clients who share my sensibilities. So it’s a win-win for everybody!
Why did you decide to focus on wedding photography? It’s a true joy to be involved in one of the most important moments in couple’s lives, and to be able to offer them a treasured family heirloom that will be passed down for generations. I am filled with joy at every single wedding, and often find myself tearing up behind the lens. Wedding photography is high-stakes because you only get one shot, but it’s so worth it. All the excitement and nervous energy makes for an adrenaline packed workday overflowing with love and happiness. I can’t help but be in a good mood witnessing people in love.
On top of that, the wedding industry is full of so many talented creative people - and my job is to photograph their incredible work! A wedding is often a collaboration between a handful of creative and talented artists, and each one feels like a life-sized work of art!
As a photographer, you must get an interesting view of women when they are in front of the camera - what have you noticed about what makes women feel confident? People feel confident when they feel like they are being appreciated for their natural beauty rather than performing. Being honest and real with my clients is very important to me. By showing my clients they can trust me to see their natural beauty, they will relax and feel confident that I am depicting them in a way that’s both beautiful and true to them as a person.
What’s it like working with your husband?Well of course it has it’s challenges, but ultimately it’s an extremely rewarding experience. Working together has helped us grow our communication as a couple. Marriage is a partnership, and you have to work at it just like you have to work at your business. I think for us, one has helped inform the other. Plus celebrating love for a living with your partner is a great way to keep the romance alive.
Work/life balance is definitely important. Learning to quickly switch gears from business partner mode to family mode has been crucial for us. Sometimes we have to deliberately turn off our business brains to refresh and enjoy being in the moment together.
I am also somewhat of a workaholic, so we realized early on that if we didn’t work together we would never see each other! Now we often remark that we can’t imagine what it would be like to not spend all of our time together!
Mariana Dress in Soft Black
How do you divide your responsibilities in running a business with your spouse? We’ve learned to appreciate our different strengths and weaknesses. Allowing one person the space to excel at or take over what they are naturally good at feels empowering. It helps to have yin-yang personalities, and for Gregg and I that’s definitely the case. We split a lot of tasks down the middle, but sometimes it’s best to have our own projects and creative endeavors. We can shoulder the load together, and pick up each other’s slack. It’s important to remember that we’re two separate people working toward the same goal.
What is it about creative work that you find fulfilling? There’s a lyric in a song by Gillian Welch “I’ve never minded working hard, it’s who I’m working for”. I don’t mind hard work, but I like to be in control and see things through to the end. I learned early on that I would never be happy unless I was being creative, making things, working artistically. I like knowing that what I do brings people joy.
How do you set goals for yourself? This is an instance where having a husband for a business partner is quite helpful. We’re always brainstorming about the future together, and we can set our intentions on goals and projects as a unit. Maintaining a work-life balance is important, but often times the big ideas come over dinner or while taking a walk together with our dog.
Mae Top in Denim Stripe
What makes YOU feel the most confident or beautiful when you’re in front of a camera? I have the classic photographer problem of never wanting to have my picture taken… But when I do, I like to feel natural, and be in a space that feels inspiring to me. I like photos that capture who I am candidly. I seem to suffer from “resting bitch face”, but I like the way that looks! To me it feels strong and confident. I don’t buy into women having to always look happy. I think it is also OK to be serious! On the other hand, my real smile is sometimes huge, goofy, and awkward. When I first saw my wedding photos I thought I looked totally crazy because I’m so overjoyed the whole time my face is contorted. But my husband said “that’s the smile I fell in love with!” and now I’ve grown to love the way I look when I’m wild with happiness.
What does your morning routine look like? We start off every morning with coffee and cuddle sessions in the bed with our sweet dog Coda. My husband usually whips up a power breakfast of oatmeal and fruit before we head out to the studio.
Three most prized possessions?
1) Family photos, especially these gorgeous black & white studio portraits of my grandmother Betty from the 1930s and 40s.
2) Our Philadelphia rowhome that my husband and I restored together.
3) My vintage rug collection - I joked with my husband that is was my dowry before we got married.
Catia Top in Soft Black Combo
Favorite way to spend your time when you’re not working? As much as I love a spontaneous adventure or a much anticipated trip, I am somewhat of a homebody. I love my daily rituals...home projects, gardening, reading the paper on the couch on a sunday morning, spending time in nature with our dog Coda. I’m really into cooking, so I like to throw dinner parties and make elaborate meals for our friends. To some people that feels like work, but for me, making dinner is like a meditative ritual. I always find cooking to be incredibly grounding and rewarding. My husband agrees, no restaurant can compare with a home cooked meal made with love.