Shoppe Talk~ Wallflower Friends Deb and Leah

February 11, 2012

You are Wallflower Friends -- Deb Schwedhelm and Leah Zawadzki. How did the two of you meet? DEB: We actually met years ago via Flickr. Leah had shared some photos of her home and I recognized it as an Eichler, which just happens to be my dream home. I sent her a Flickr message and the conversations back and forth began. Shortly thereafter, Leah invited my family to her house for dinner [we were living in San Diego at the time]. And well...we’ve been talking on the phone [multiple times] daily ever since. How did you both get started in photography? DEB: In 2005, we endured a terrible housing situation and ended up getting some of our rent money back. I asked my husband what he thought about me using that [unexpected] money to pursue my dream – photography. He said, “Go for it!!” So in January 2006, I purchased a DSLR and began studying, learning and practicing. In June 2006, I launched Deb Schwedhelm Photography and have never looked back. It’s truly been a dream come true! LEAH: I have actually dabbled with photography since a very young age—I was even a yearbook photographer in high school. But as the years passed I grew away from photography as I built my career in Interior Design. It wasn’t until my babies where born that I picked up the camera and really got serious with it. There is nothing more inspiring then the love for your children! Do you feel that your friendship has strengthened your photography?  If so, how? LEAH: Absolutely! We encourage, support and inspire one another daily. We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of one another and usually make business changes together. We pretty much share everything and never feel threatened by one another’s successes. We feel so very blessed to have each other and never take our friendship for granted. You mentioned that you inspire one another; can you please expand upon that thought? DEB: Everything about Leah inspires me – her kindness, grace, honesty, dedication, determination. The list goes on and on. I truly can’t imagine my life without her friendship. Leah’s work always pushes me to grow, to challenge myself. She has one of the best eyes out there and I love how she candidly captures children and families. I also love her ability to change and grow. She’s always exploring new ways of processing and I love watching her mind work through the process. Leah and her work are never stagnant and I love that!! LEAH: What about Deb doesn’t inspire me? She get’s portfolio quality images every time she picks up her camera. She can come up with a concept for a shoot or personal project and execute it perfectly from start to finish—with beautiful results. She daily blogs about the things that are important to her, she puts herself out there for other people—so that they can learn and grow. She does all this because she cares so much for other people. She genuinely cares more about others then she does for herself, and her ability to give is never ending. I can say, without a doubt, that she moves me to be a better person, pushes my photography to greater levels and supports me at every turn. Deb’s work is full of heart and soul—an inspiration to so many. How did the Wallflower Friends Retreat come about? DEB: Leah and I talked for years about doing a workshop together, but we said that we would never do it unless we could give it our all and do it right. We basically thought…when the time is right, it will happen and we never really pushed the idea. In 2009, our workshop conversations began getting more serious and the planning for a future workshop began. The final push was when the first Retreat location kind of fell in our lap. We knew it was a sign to officially get our joint workshop off the ground. What are your future goals for Wallflower Friends? DEB: First, I have to share that we so love our wallflower friends! It has been such a joy to get together with other photographers and share—our inspirations, our successes, our failures, our journey. There is definitely an air of collaboration, growing and sharing amongst all who attend our Retreats. We are so grateful for the amazing friendships that we have made along the way. Next up is our spring Retreat this April, in Half Moon Bay, CA. Right now, we’re sticking to one US Retreat a year. We’re also considering and super excited about the possibility of spring Retreat (November 2012) in Australia. A couple other concepts we’ve been recently discussing are offering online workshops and smaller in-home workshops. We’re not exactly sure what the future holds but we try to always remain open to new ideas and are 
absolutely thrilled and so grateful for this journey! How do you maintain a work/life balance while juggling photography, teaching workshops, motherhood, etc.? LEAH: Deb and I talk about balance A LOT because it’s something that we both often struggle with; it’s not easy to balance it all! If not careful, things can quickly become overwhelming. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we try our best to keep as balanced as possible. There is constant re-evaluation. How am I feeling? How are my kids? Have I made time for my creative side? Have I made time to just be? When I get overwhelmed, I usually have to stand back, take a day off to rejuvenate—then I make a list and get back at it the following day. One of the things I really love about this profession is that, if done correctly, we can do this job a way that works best for us. As a mother first, I can limit my sessions and workshops, to what works for my family and me. My goal is to give the very best to my family, to my clients and to our workshop attendees. How do I achieve that? By saying no, creating limits and taking time for myself every once and a while. What inspires you? Your work? DEB: I really can’t say that there’s one thing that most inspires me. I feel like I’m inspired by so much and it changes all the time. I’m inspired by… my children a location I come across words I read a painting the people I photograph living life and all the beauty that surrounds me on a daily basis During times I’m really inspired, I feel a stronger push to just be and create. It’s a longing…a pulling, to get out there and photograph. LEAH: Love. Love for my kids. Love for my clients. Love and gratitude for this amazing
 world we live in. When I see it and appreciate it, I just want to pick up my camera
 and shoot. Shooting helps me see the little things I might miss otherwise. To see more of Deb and Leah’s work, you can visit their sites below -- DEB portfolio blog LEAH portfolio blog actions and presets WALLFLOWER FRIENDS Spring 2012 | USA Spring 2012 | Australia

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