Room to Grow

 

For years, I've heard so much advice on honing in, "niching down" -- and for years I felt like I was destined to fail because I could never devote my whole heart to one singular craft.  My entire life, I feel like I've been interested in so so much. So about two weeks ago, while I navigated the process of securing a full-time job rather than continuing as a contractor, that was a huge concern. I didn't want to be pigeon-holed into a job title that felt small or narrow - I wanted to make sure I had room to grow. I wear a lot of hats, and that's exactly the way I like it. I design beautiful materials that tell stories. Some days, the way I do it looks differently than others. 

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Loving photography - loving the way someones face lights up when they see themselves exactly the way they want to be seen - doesn't mean that I love design any less. My B.F.A in graphic design - and the years I spent prior to receiving it, ogling good branding from the shelves of my local Target - was pivotal in getting me where I am now, and where I hope I continue to go. 

 

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If you're struggling to hone in on one particular thing, know this: what you do now doesn't have to be what you do forever. Take one step in a direction that feels right, and then do the next thing that feels right. Our world doesn't function the way it did fifty years ago. It's become acceptable for many people to live out many passions, many job titles within one life - even at the same time. If you get to a point where that thing you loved no longer feels right, investigate. Pump the brakes a little. Is it the work itself that's bothering you, or is it something else - the industry you're working in, the clients you're working with, or the way you're doing business? Commitment isn't a life sentence - you can be committed to your work and still find a way to pivot. Or maybe you try something else entirely. That's okay too. 

 

Maybe like me, you're working a 9-5 with a passion hustle. Yes, that is a combination of passion project and side hustle - my photography business is both a passion project and a side hustle and so much more. It's an integral part of my identity and truly shapes how I see the world. But Monday through Friday, I funnel my energy into helping other people achieve their dreams. I still get to stretch my creative bones, and often I even get to incorporate photography - but it's all me, all the time. I don't want to be "work Morgan" and "Kept Record Morgan." I love the stability and perspective that working my conventional job provides. It also allows me to think with a mindset of abundance when it comes to Kept Record, because I don't have to react from a place of scarcity. I say yes to projects I want to work on, rather than projects I would hate to work on but need to make the extra income. It's not the right way for everybody, but it's definitely something that's working for me. 

 

Understanding that our work identities are as fluid as our identities in any other way has given me such a renewed appreciation for the work that I do -- all of it. Taking the pressure off to be one person here and one person there allows me to bring all of my talents and insights to the table. Whichever one that may be. 

Love Over Marriage

Growing up - especially in the South - it's easy to confuse self-worth with outside validation. Even in the most well meaning of relationships, it can be easy to lose yourself to the idea of being swept off your feet. In the town I grew up in, it's not uncommon to be married with children before your twenty-first birthday, and there's nothing wrong with that-- if that's what you truly want. For years, I attached my worth to this concept. Because that wasn't what I wanted, I felt abnormal and wrong. Even after entering into a healthy and loving relationship, I constantly doubted myself because I didn't have a ring on my finger. 

Today and everyday, I'm thankful for a really hard conversation Krisztian and I had about two years ago. I had asked for the millionth time when we would get married. Countless times over the years, I'd be asked when he would propose to me after being together so long. After a frustrated conversation, he said words that struck me to my core: "You're acting like marriage is more important to you than love." 

Wow, right? It stopped me in my tracks. I crumpled into a ball and just sat, sobbing, with those words for what felt like one of the longest hours of my life.  I was so focused on getting married that I had put the cart before the horse. I had lost track of what was truly important. 

From there, everything slowed down. I enjoyed all of the little lovely things again and stopped worrying about the future, just being present with him. The thought still sat in the back of my mind, but it wasn't something that I consciously worried about day in and day out. Instead, I focused on working internally on my mindset, reassessing my values, and becoming a person I would want to be married to (because, to be honest, I had kind of been acting like someone I wouldn't want to be married to for a while).

On Valentine's Day, it's easy to feel alone or wrong. But don't let society or anyone tell you how, or when, or who to love. Practice love everyday - love your friends, love your neighborhood, love your family. Buy chocolates for your significant other (or yourself) just because. Love isn't just a feeling - it truly is a practice - and it's more important than any legal contract you'll ever enter.

 

 

*thumbnail photo by Victoria Bonvicini* 

Cozy Couple's Session in WeHo

Now that the holidays have come to a close, I'm excited to be blogging one of my last sessions of the year. On a warm December morning (hello, LA) I visited Alex & David's home in West Hollywood for an in-home session.  In-home sessions are perfect for a low-key morning to celebrate the ordinary things-- things that aren't so ordinary after all. 

The session started off how their weekend mornings always start off- with coffee and waffles. 

The session started off how their weekend mornings always start off- with coffee and waffles. 

Next, I captured some intimate shots of the two of them, cozy in PJs cuddling in bed. 

Next, I captured some intimate shots of the two of them, cozy in PJs cuddling in bed. 


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Football on TV, a gorgeous Christmas tree, and Ray Charles playing on the record player? That's worth dancing about! These two were absolutely adorable and I was so excited to be able to record a bit of this time for them. 

Football on TV, a gorgeous Christmas tree, and Ray Charles playing on the record player? That's worth dancing about! These two were absolutely adorable and I was so excited to be able to record a bit of this time for them. 

The Truth About Being a Couple's Photographer

The truth about being a couple's photographer is that it fills the little cracks in your heart with gold of the purest form. When I first started realizing my interest in couple's photography, I was a little confused to be honest. I've joked before that in my family, "divorce is genetic" -- my parents are divorced (both happily remarried now), my grandparents on both sides were divorced, and even some of my great-grandparents were divorced. 

"Why am I SO drawn to couples?", I wondered.  Despite being in my own incredibly fulfilling relationship, I felt curious as to why these adventure sessions and intimate elopements felt so rewarding. I didn't feel like anything was missing from my romantic relationship, so I was very intrigued in why I left each session feeling so overcome with emotion and full of peace. 

Whatever the reason was, I followed it. I listened to my intuition telling me that getting goosebumps and crying behind a camera lens as a couple exchanged vows isn't an everyday feeling. I leaned into it without question. 


Recently, I was listening to an absolutely remarkable podcast: The Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields, interviewing Traci Ruble. Her story was riveting and resonated with me on a personal level as she talked about her parents' divorce. After several years deep into a career in tech, she changed directions. When Jonathan Fields asks what was her intention for returning to graduate school (from which she eventually became a therapist), she responded: 

"I did this really weird thing, which is, I surrendered to needing to know." 

Going off instinct alone, Traci continued school and the many strenuous years following, where she trained to become a therapist. She discovered that not only did she enjoy the work, but that she particularly liked working with couples. "That's probably not a surprise, I joke, because I think I've been a couples therapist since I was four," she said. 

"I think It's healing for me, to be in process with folks that way..." she continues, "what seems to really make me come alive is to constantly have my perspective shifted... I really still feel shaken up when I work with folks because they make me think about my own life."

That shook me. I felt such a strike of clarity, as I realized so much of what was true for Traci rang true for me as well. I've been moving forward as a couples' photographer, capturing intimate moments between two people wholly dedicated to a relationship. I'm incredibly passionate about it, but couldn't pin point exactly why couples specifically - not maternity shoots or family sessions, senior graduates or newborns- light me up. 

And now I know it's because on some level, it heals me. As an empath, I'm hypersensitive to the emotions of others - both negative and positive. For several years I've felt unaffected from my parents' divorce, but when diving deeper into my self reflection, I've become aware of deep-rooted insecurities about love, relationships, and self-worth. Being surrounded by these wholehearted, joyous people - these beautifully vulnerable people that invite me into their lives- feels pure and honest and real. 

The truth about being a couple's photographer is that it's an emotional journey and a wild ride. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

 

 

Original GLP podcast with Traci Ruble interview: http://www.goodlifeproject.com/traci-ruble/

Erica + Josh

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Getting to know my clients a little bit before a session makes real magic happen. When I get an inquiry, before I schedule a session I always get a little bit of the backstory - it helps inform everything! Location, wardrobe, and the directional cues I'll give throughout. When I first talked to Erica, she told me how the two met working at a brewery back in Pennsylvania. It was only fitting then, when I met them for their session and they greeted me with a local beer (Golden Road's hefeweizen). 

It was a completely genuine, unplanned moment where I got to learn a little more about them firsthand before bringing a camera out. I met one of their cats, talked a little bit about my work, and sipped from the cold can. We finished up and headed to Vasquez Rocks. On the ride to the location, we talked like old friends. We talked about Pennsylvania and the east coast, about the cost of living in LA, about holiday traditions and upcoming trips to see family. We talked about the way everybody in LA- or maybe it's just the transplants - seems to have an adventurous spirit. Josh and Erica love camping, hiking - anything outdoors. The further from cell service, the better! When they suggested Vasquez Rocks, I knew it'd be a perfect fit because they would feel in their element!  It was about 94 degrees that day, but by the time we got to Vasquez Rocks the sun had slipped down behind the mountain and it began to cool off. 

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Arriving at Vasquez Rocks, the three of us stood gaping at the landscape before us. We walked in absolute wonder around the jagged features and looked at the blue sky totally mesmerized. We found a few places that I thought would showcase their relationship- and the gorgeous backdrop. While I tested the exposure on my camera, I asked them to walk towards and away from me a few times. This way while I'm getting set up, they're walking off a little of the pre-shoot nerves!

As they seemed to grow less and less aware of the camera, I just remember feeling so honored to be able to do the work I love. I work with people from all different backgrounds at many different stages of a relationship, essentially ask them to go on a date and let me take pictures, and then I'm able to deliver a time capsule of this period that they can always look back on. 

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As the sun began to fade, we had to pull ourselves away from Vasquez Rocks. As hard as it was to leave, we knew we were racing the clock for sunset at the beach. We began weaving through the Santa Monica mountainside on our way to El Matador. As we'd round a corner, they'd point out a great winery or cafe. At one particular turn, the sunset took our breath away. We saw a pull off up ahead and before I could even finish asking the question, they said yes. We hopped out of the car, dust still lingering at the tires, and walked the length of this cliffside overlooking the Pacific. 

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We knew we had mere minutes of sunlight left so we ran back to the car + made our way to the parking lot. To reach the beach we had to fight back against the surge of beach-goers heading home for the day. Once we finally reached the shoreline, we were surrounded by half a dozen photographers doing work of their own. Luckily not far away we were able to find a secluded stretch. Josh and Erica slung shoes and bags down onto the beach and walked hand-in-hand to the water. El Matador had an insanely beautiful sunset for us that night and I couldn't have been happier to be experiencing it with two people so obviously head-over-heels for each other. 

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Point Dume Adventure Session

One of my favorite parts of planning a couples' shoot is discussing location. The planning of these shoots should do anything but stress you out-  a day spent together with your partner is something to look forward to! With Jessica + Jason, I was absolutely blown away by the location we chose: Point Dume. 

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If you know Point Dume at all, you'll know it's beautiful. But more than a gorgeous backdrop, it was where Jason took Jessica on their first date about three years ago. Watching them revisit old memories- while making new ones- was so special. 

Learning these intimate details about a relationship makes connecting so much easier and by the time the day comes for us to work together, we already feel like good friends. This was our first time meeting in person, and it was so comfortable! To help reach that level before my shoots, I start every inquiry with a conversation. I want to know the story behind the relationship. 

These two were up for just about anything! I knew they enjoyed the outdoors and going to the beach beforehand, but their adventurous spirit was contagious. These are just a few of the moments I captured that morning. There were so many great shots I had trouble narrowing it down to the number I intended to deliver! 

I had the best time, saw a new part of my new city + got to do work that brings joy to people's hearts. 

 

If you enjoyed reading about Jessica + Jason's shoot, leave a comment below or share with someone who might be interested! 

Getting Started

“It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know”

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This cliche is true is some industries more than others, but it definitely rings true for the wedding photography industry. Getting to know other photographers, both established and up-and-coming, is pivotal to working in wedding photography.

Several years ago when Instagram was still new, I started following anything and everything that I found to be inspirational and fun. As an avid photography + art enthusiast, I found this applied to A LOT. I followed magazines, illustrators, art directors, street photographers, dog accounts, cat accounts, product designers, tech companies, nonprofits, poets, painters, animators, foodies, night photographers,  friends from high school, models, wildlife photographers, clothing brands, coffee companies, and wedding photographers. Gradually, my taste became more curated and my eye settled into this new social media landscape. My "following" number whittled down as one by one I unfollowed account that no longer spoke to me but one trend remained: wedding photography. But these weren’t the posed, awkward stances of yesteryear. No, these photos were flawed and fearless: they were intimate and close, raw and unposed, and they translated as a documentary-style art form rather than an interfering, uncomfortable bystander’s work.

A girl in my design school program but a year ahead of me at Georgia State University was taking photos that I found myself absolutely in love with. She captured romance and weddings in a dark, moody way that I found mesmerizing. One day on her account I saw a photo of her and her boyfriend in front of the camera rather than behind it. The photo was taken by Vic Bonvicini Bedingfield - I looked at this account and was blown away. The level of vulnerability her photos portray and the intimate connection you can see between couples is inspiring.

So I did what any normal person would do. I emailed her out of the blue.


From: Morgan Pirkle

To: Vic Bonvicini Bedingfield  

Subj: Aspiring Atlanta photographer!

 

Hi there!

I came across your Instagram and was really blown away by your beautiful photos. I'm a senior at Georgia State studying design & trying to enhance my photography skills outside of school. I'm trying to reach out to photographers I admire in hopes of learning more. I was wondering, are you local to Atlanta? If so, I would absolutely love to grab coffee sometime. If not, would you mind if I sent you some questions I have about photography (wedding + travel particularly).

Have a great weekend!

Morgan Pirkle



To my great surprise, this sweet sweet angel replied back. She wasn’t able to meet up for coffee, but she encouraged me to send her any questions I might have.

She signed off:

Looking forward to helping you!

Vic

 

Over the course of almost a year, our email thread grew. Whenever I had a question about posing, gear, talking to clients- I’d try to find information online, and whatever I was still curious about I’d send in a short + sweet email. Within a few days she always responded. She was so generous and open with her advice and her guidance helped me so much more than she could possibly know!

During that time, I worked with other photographers assisting and shadowing weddings. No two were the same, yet I got goosebumps at each ceremony (and I might have cried at one). I began photographing my own clients. I photographed couples, portraits, events, products, festivals, maternity, and families; basically, anything I could get my hands on to gain experience.

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Over the summer of 2017 I was offered a job in LA and was beyond excited to move out there. My only stipulation was that it HAD to be after Vic’s workshop in Atlanta, Reset to Rise. On August 3rd, I attended her workshop and at 10:30 p.m. that evening my fiance and I hit the road on our five day cross-country adventure to the west coast.

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Her workshop was amazing. Vic brings such a unique perspective to photography and her energy is absolutely contagious. She shared her personal journey with photography and the role it has played in her life since. She brought in models and gave attendees the behind-the-scenes version of her photo shoots. She explained how she talks to models, how she makes them feel comfortable - she was so helpful and full of advice.

Since moving out to California I've shot mostly portraits and couples. Before that workshop I knew I had a passion and admiration for couples photography, but that day I realized that's where my passion lies; in creating this everlasting time capsule for couples to look back on. Photographs are a method of documenting our lives. To be able to capture a place and time for a couple, to document this season of life for them is the work I love to do.