Photographer Coffee Date. Kendra Stanley Mills.

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As you know, for the past 10 years I've worked as a high school teacher.  And anyone who has ever been a teacher...or an administrator...or a student knows that being a teacher means you talk to a LOT of people EVERY day.  

So, when I stopped teaching this year to pursue photography full time, one of the biggest adjustments has been not talking to ANYONE....for entire days at a time (except over email or Gchat, which I don't really think count).  Photography is fabulous, but it is also very much of an independent and sometimes lonely existence.  Thus, when I found out about Kendra Stanley Mills, a fellow photojournalist wedding photographer working in West Michigan, I knew I had to meet her.  

(Sidenote: if you have not yet gone to her site after I helpfully provided that link, then I really think you need to stop reading right now and hustle on over there.  This lady is BEYOND talented.  If I had an ounce of her abilities...well, just get your mouse over to her site.  For real.  Why are you still reading? Go.) 

Seeing as how I am thirsty for friends and always looking to meet new people, get advice and talk shop, I made it a mission to meet Kendra, which was a great decision.  She was super warm and seemed just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her! We did a few email exchanges, and made a date to meet up at her studio in Muskegon.  I brought scones, she brought coffee and let me just say that this was one of the BEST meetings I've ever had.  

First of all, Kendra is absolutely the kindest and sweetest person I think I've ever met.  She immediately hugged me (which, I must say, was awesome because it wasn't one of those semi-creepy West Michigan hugs that are not in any way genuine, it was like a REAL bear-style hug that felt warm and cozy and totally fab) and then we got right down to chatting--we both communicate in a sort of roundabout, "let's talk really fast and get through 18 different topics before we loop back to the original topic" sort of way.  We covered it all--her career in journalism working for the Muskegon Chronicle, our mutual love for derelict houses and fixer uppers, Northern Michigan, Pop Ups, client woes and joys, processing and editing and workflow, the necessity of creative colleagues to talk with on a daily basis, our branding identies, dream weddings, dream venues, dreams in general.  Honestly, we sat and talked for almost two hours and then I had to run, but I think I speak for both of us when I say that we could have chatted ALL day long.  It's probably a really good thing we don't share a studio--I can only imagine the drop in productivity.   

It was so, so nice to meet with a fellow photographer, though, and it was also disconcertingly awesome how similarly we both approach this work--lock step similar in some ways, which made me feel not only great that 1) I might actually be doing something right but also 2) that there is a fellow creative out there who looks at this business how I do and she is only a 10 minute drive or a quick phone call away.  

Thank you SO much to Kendra for opening up your studio to me and for being one of the best people I've met on my return to West Michigan. I look forward to many more cheese scones and strong cups of coffee in our future.  xoxo.