Early in 2019, I photographed a wedding at the Metier – a Michelin star restaurant – in Washington DC. I’ll never forget that moment when I took a modest bite from the creamed peas of my vendor meal and felt the world tilt upon her axis.
It was the most delicious thing I had ever consumed. Like, ever. Later, one of the groom’s aunts slipped me a potato chip with caviar on it. Like a deer-in-headlights, I stared straight ahead. Wide-eyed and gaping.
“Pssst….Stefanie, you have to try this. Here! You need to eat. Did you eat? Please tell me you ate.”
Did a wedding guest really offer me caviar from their table?
I tried desperately and politely to decline this generous – and awkward – exchange, but this aunt would not take no for an answer. When her twin sister sitting across from her chimed in and told me I needed to “more meat on my bones,” I conceded because I was afraid they would start making a scene in the rather intimate dining space.
After that bite, I discovered that caviar on potato chips is an uncharted love language one of which needs to be declared an official one.
The primary wedding photographer at this wedding – and my dear friend, Liz – is still to this very day impressed that I somehow made such a friendly impression on an extended family member that the said family member slipped us expensive treats from her dinner table.
My planner friends read this, horrified. I’m pretty sure I’ve been black-listed by two after this omission.
A few days ago, an article on CNN about some chefs handing back their Michelin stars caught my eye and thought about the blessed Metier and their delectable potato chips with caviar instantly. To my knowledge, the owner and head chef has not relinquished his star.
Blessed be those potato chips with caviar. Bless.
After reading the article, it made me ponder the parallels of the food industry and the photography industry. Actually, anyone in the wedding industry, really.
Both are service-based, for starters. As I read the article, I noticed the similarities between chefs and photographers…
We are creatives, first and foremost.
We work long, hard hours.
We are gone on the weekends.
Our work can consume us and can take away from family time.
Our mental and physical health suffers if we let it.
Our work pushes us further to a standard of perfection that we can’t keep up with.
Ultimately: We can let a rating system define our worth which in turn sucks the creativity right from us.
While we photographers have no star systems outside of our client reviews or Michelin guides that provides a list of fine dining experiences, we do have yardsticks to measure us in terms of publications, vendor lists on websites, and awards in various forms from various different platforms.
And still, I can’t help but to think how photographers – and chefs – are alike while we fight to the top: We are always hungry for more.
More pretty things to photograph at weddings.
More, more, more.
Yet here is what we really need more of: Better serving the people who are already in front of us.
More of them and less about our stars. And to be fair: not all of us count the stars, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
I simply love what another local wedding photographer’s Instagram account profile reads: Winner of no awards. May we all be so bold to flaunt that on our social media accounts.