“I want to talk to you about something…”
That’s how it all began. Because I could sense her excitement, I knew that it wasn’t one of those “uh-oh, run for the hills!” type of conversations. It was an “I have a great idea and I can’t wait to share it with you”-type conversation.
It was the spring of 2010 and Michele, my now-wife / then-girlfriend, thought we should start a photography business together. We never had operated a business before, we had never shot professionally before, we had no training, and we didn’t even know any other professional photographers. We didn’t know how to purchase or build a website. We had no clue who in their right mind would hire us. None of it made sense at all. It was definitely not a logical idea. So what did I say? The same thing I say everytime she comes to me with an absolutely CRAZY idea: “Sure!”
I had graduated from college, and I had the ridiculous idea of going to med school (more on that another day), but I was FAR from being able to apply. I had some small jobs, but nothing exactly “steady”. Following the stock market crash in 2008, Michele and I both had a really hard time finding work after graduation. In short, we had very little to lose. We gathered the absolute best photos that we could find on our computers (mostly of our family), put in a hundred-bucks each into a new account, grabbed a few HTML books from the library, and started Normand-Ashley Photography.
We had grit and we knew how to grind. We made a ton of mistakes and learned more from them than could ever be possible from formal training. We built the business together. Every idea, every photo, every session was a complete collaboration between me and Michele. I ended up getting into medical school, but I refused to quit on the business. Not only was the business my passion, but working side-by-side with my wife was the most amazing thing I could ever do.
The first and second years of medical school allow you to set your own schedule, for the most part, which made this possible. Third year, on the other hand, meant new rotations every 4-5 weeks at new sites, with new schedules and unpredictable weekend work. While I wanted to keep shooting with my wife, I simply could not commit to shooting a wedding a year out when I didn’t know my schedule for the following month. Michele and I had many long, difficult conversations about the state of Normand-Ashley Photography and the direction that we would steer it. In the end, we decided to take my name off the business, so as not to deceive any potential clients. Michele Ashley Photography was born.
Michele includes me on the major decisions, but on a day-to-day basis she’s grinding and taking the business to new heights on her own. Every shoot that she does, her work gets more and more amazing. I still shoot every session when I’m available and I’m even working on a new photography project involving medical school.
For Valentine’s day of this year, Michele surprised me with the most thoughtful gift anyone could imagine: this website. She knew that I wanted to have a place to showcase my work, so she purchased the domain name and the site platform.
So this, my very first post, goes out to you, Michele. You are the most amazing person I have ever met, and I am so lucky to be able to call you my wife. You have been the best business partner a person could have. You inspire me, you challenge me, and you have played such a huge part in forming who I am today. You’re an amazing mother and my best friend. I love you.
Thank you 🙂
photo cred: The amazing Justin Lee