One of the best parts of attending big conferences like Alt Summit are the amazing people you are able to connect with.
Alex Buryk of City Love Photography was one of those people for me. We connected over Instagram, liking and commenting on each others photos all weekend long. Comments became direct messages. Direct messages became lengthy emails. Emails became a way to connect over the phone.
All the result of a shared love for business and collaboration.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Alex as much as I have. Her perspective is refreshing, and the sheer amount of knowledge this woman carries around with her is impressive. If you're ever in the area, I encourage you to look Alex up and grab a cup of coffee. You'll walk away from the conversation having learned something new while feeling supported, heard, and encouraged.
Name: Alexis Buryk
Business: City Love Photography
Job title: Photographer + Founder
Instragram + Twitter + Snapchat: @citylovephotog
Can you share more about your journey into the world of photography? Was it always what you wanted to do, or did it somehow find you?
A dear friend, fond of the American writer Flannery O’Connor, once reminded me of a bit of wisdom: that in life, as in literature, the strong ending is both surprising and inevitable. I think I am often surprised by the path I have taken. Yet, in hindsight, I can see that the constellation coming together just so has been inevitable, and I am very content with its particular configuration.
As an interdisciplinary artist, I believe firmly in a variety of expressions. Theater has made me aware of my physical surroundings and helped to amplify my empathy. Writing has made me cognizant of narrative and its threads; writing has made me observant and inquisitive. Studying installation and textiles has brought some tangibility to my often gut-based and abstract internal life. Improvisation has made me an active listener and ardent supporter of community, the magic that happens between and among people. And studying film has given me a lexicon for visual work, as well as a sense of frame and framing.
Photography, in its turn, is marked beautifully by all of these artful aspects. Initially, I was drawn to the sensual nature of food photography; quickly, I found that the business behind the sexy broken bread was not for me, too technical and surprisingly aloof in its actual execution. In 2012, I married my magnificent husband. The combination of having had a great wedding photographer, in addition to a firsthand and deep understanding and admiration for marriage and the process of a wedding made me interested in switching my pursuit from food to wedding photography. Here I have found my surprising-yet-inevitable ending: a world in which it is my job to exist in space, to listen and observe; to see and capture frames and moments; to create for wonderful couples and their communities the distinct visual preservation of this important day in their lives. It is such an intimate honor for me to do the work that I do. I am always beautifully challenged by it, and continually grateful for it.
What has been your favorite aspect of running a business?
My clients make me so happy. Getting to know them, earning their trust, being granted access into the complex emotional space that exists in any given wedding: these things are truly gifts. Each wedding reminds me of the best humans have to offer each other. The support and love present between a couple and among their community never ceases to amaze and buoy me. To create art from that presence and humanity is super energizing, and keeps me very motivated.
What has been the most challenging?
Math. Math! Can we talk about how much of business is math?!
Oscillating between beautiful, sensate, in-awe-of-mankind moments with clients to the crap we have to manage involving cash flow, taxes, and SEO can be a major bummer. Especially navigating internally that space when you are a business of one person! Developing a strong and trusted community has helped me immensely with this challenge; in fact, I have just signed with a fantastic representative, Lisa Raffo Ashley, of The Wedding Artists Collective, to help me focus even less on the tricky parts and more on the parts that I love. Cultivating a community and team has been essential for my sanity and growth as a businessperson + artist!
With an MFA in writing, how does the art of story telling find its way into your work?
For the wedding day story, I think my writing and film backgrounds come into equal play. I studied quite a bit of creative non-fiction, and curiosity about details and those small human moments crop up again and again in my wedding work. These moments are then sutured and given rhythm by the insistence of montage, our visual syntax from which meaning blossoms through the juxtaposition of images. The wedding day is my gathering time for all these elements; post-production is the time for play, when I can really focus and begin to hone the various elements of character, place, plot, pace and meaning for each celebration’s finalized full gallery.
Collaboration and community are two big components of what we do here at Propelle. Can you talk more about how those two things have shaped your life and/or business?
Collaboration and community are everything. From a personal, creative, or business standpoint, I believe in the mutually beneficial connections we gain when we are open-hearted, open-minded, and prepare ourselves to give in addition to receive. Other people help us always to tamp down our sense of ego and see things from different perspectives; likewise, when we are great friends and colleagues, we can help those around us be better by listening to them and their needs, and responding with generosity.
At the very least, we can always aim for doing this!
I have been the beneficiary of wise words and help from incredible friends and business colleagues constantly, and try to be similarly giving. Especially when you work for yourself, I think it’s so easy to try to take on too much, or to forget the world outside exists; many times, I have become tangled in my own thoughts and unable to move myself forward. Connecting back in with your chosen community, making new points within that circle, and collaborating are such beautiful ways of rejuvenating yourself, your mind, and others. Reaching out is a necessary part of the creation cycle, and a part that creates deep bonds and relationships that hopefully grow stronger over time and continue to nourish and support.
We've all heard that there is a New York state of mind. How has that influenced your style and the way you interact with the world?
One of my favorite books is Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino. The book is a meditation on cities, memory, and how place shapes our internal dialogues and capacity for seeing and imagining. In particular, Invisible Cities explores how our first cities set up our expectations and understandings for subsequent travel and life.
It’s no coincidence that I live and work in New York City, and that I have chosen my wedding photography brand name to be City Love Photography. I live and breathe New York; it is my first and ultimate city love. The tempo and everyday swell of humanity in particular here have made me a very curious person; the city has always helped me gain a unique firsthand experience of human interactions and human nature.
I also believe that great cities and great loves share many of the same characteristics; that our first great city loves, like our great human loves, continue to shape and sustain us as time passes and we evolve. New York City has certainly done that for me. Each day here the city unfolds more of itself to me; from the divine to the ugly, and everything between! In turn, this movement also reveals to me more of myself, and so it continues like this, every day. It's a truly electric ecosystem.
I think that marriage and other close relationships work in a similar way.
Any advice or words of wisdom you would give to other women just starting out?
Keep in mind the importance of integrity and invitations. Be generous in your invitations to others; be glad in accepting invitations from others. Remain open to each experience and person who comes across your path, and aware of how you each can share and celebrate in each other’s strengths.
With your word, be impeccable. Show up, check in; support and be generous of yourself, especially when you are hungry, and just beginning, when what you have most to give is yourself and your desire to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask someone directly what they might need. We all have a lot to give each other.