What I Have to Say: We Are The Parsons



Hello there, friend.

Although we don’t know each other, we have a few minutes in this borrowed space to share with you a bit of our story, and hope that you walk away with the gift of perspective. We so frequently lose it ourselves, we can’t help but thinking that we aren’t the only ones. So… if you will oblige us, take a deep breath (no, really… do it), clear your mind, and follow us on this little adventure.

We recently got an email from a woman inquiring about one of our next workshops. We love how open some people are in these emails-  they will pour out their story simply because they were asked the question, “why?” This dear soul said something to the effect that she had “wasted” many years of her life being a wife to her husband and a mother to her children, and that she was ready to stop focusing on them and start focusing on her one passion: wedding photography.

We sat there stunned, not quite knowing how to respond. Our first comment to each other was, “Well, if she thinks marriage and children make a wasted life, she’s going to hate our workshop!” We couldn’t help but chuckle remembering that our kids were at our last workshop. Micah, our 9-year-old son, taught a section on the first night, and much of our workshop is devoted to the importance of telling a good story with your personal life.

She had wasted her life on her husband and children? We are a husband and wife, raising three children. We are parents. We have spent days and months and years laughing, dreaming, making babies, watching those babies grow and learn what the sky is and what ice cream is and what love is. Each day for the past 12 years we have been fighting the good fight of marriage, screaming at each other in the moments where the other one has destroyed us- saying the words you don’t include in your vows, like “f**k you!” or “this is over,” or “I can’t forgive you for that,” apologizing, doing the costly work of forgiving, weeping, burying those we loved most, giving our infant CPR as his heart stops in the back of our car and we race to the hospital.

We have lived gloriously on mountaintops and the darkest of valleys, and we still go to sleep at night side-by-side, one being the big spoon and the other one being the little. We are giving our lives to our marriage and our children, and those efforts are anything but a waste in our minds. To love without expecting anything in return. To forgive even when you feel like you have the right to hold a grudge forever. To stay. To build something real and big and powerful with roots growing deep down into the soil of the heart. That is an expression of God himself, of heaven breaking through to earth.

So we want to pose a question to you.

Friend, what are you wasting your life on? What are you giving your time, energy, thought, affection, money, body, soul, and strength to that doesn’t deserve it? Have you embraced this wedding photography industry and its popularity contest as the “end-all”, and lost sight of the importance of family, in-person relationships, and living a good story?

A few years ago we came face to face with death. And in losing one of our dearest loved ones, we had the realization of something… the staggering statistic you may also find shocking. Did you know 10 out of 10 people die?!? Well. We didn’t. Or at least we weren’t living like it. Without any perspective of the meaning of our lives or our own expiration dates, we went about wasting our life on the hamster wheel of the wedding photography industry. No, the images weren’t a waste. The couples were not a waste, they were the redeeming part. But we had taken this gift of being self-employed wedding photographers, added to it a dash of pride, a pinch of self-loathing, a quarter cup of blog-stalking, and a half teaspoon of fame, and we had the recipe for a life without perspective and purpose. Just as junk food makes you fat while not satisfied, so it was with our search- we wanted more. More blog comments, more people thinking we were awesome, more facebook likes on our business page, more weddings being published on wedding blogs or in wedding magazines, more workshop attendees, more gear, more money, more attention, more weddings, more, more, more. So that suddenly, the kids and the marriage were a bit of a pain because sometimes they interfered with the “more” agenda. We were too busy submitting to wedding blogs to help the kids with homework, too busy Instagram-ing them to push them on the swings, and too busy trying to book everyone who came to us we forgot to ask each other, “Hey, how are you?

Don’t get us wrong. None of these things are inherently “bad” in their own right, and neither is wedding photography. We write this to you as wedding photographers who are on social media, and have received attention in the industry. But we watched a loved one gasping for breath on his death bed, and in that moment he didn’t stop to say, “Hey, do I have any new facebook messages??” And when our baby’s heart stopped and he wasn’t breathing and was limp in our arms, we didn’t ask each other, “How many comments did we get on that last blog post?” American Photo magazine recently named us one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world for 2013. But you can sure as hell bet that the next time our baby has to take an ambulance ride, we aren’t going to bring the copy of that issue to the hospital to keep us safe. The next time we have a rip-roaring fight in our marriage and roll away from each other that night as we sleep, we won’t go grab the issue to hold us tight and keep us warm. If we are living for that, we are wasting our life on something that just won’t be worth it in the end.

For now, we will gladly “waste” our lives loving well, spending our lives on the pursuit of perspective, of meaning, of the supernatural and the messy, of the beauty in the broken, of the stories that are honest and right and true where love wins in the end. We invite you to join us on the journey of not wasting your life on the small, empty things… in order to waste it on the big, forever things.

– Jeremy and Ashley

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Our “What I Have to Say” Wednesday series features established photographers and artists with messages they just can’t keep inside. Authentically and honestly, our writers share words of wisdom to challenge, encourage, and inspire.

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147 thoughts on “What I Have to Say: We Are The Parsons

  1. perfect words, dear parsons. Ive been thinking a lot about all these things over the past few months. thank you for sharing these thoughts & of course, your hearts. xo

  2. Thank you for taking the time to pour out your hearts to us – this is the stuff that life is made of. And it shows through in each and every one of your photos.

  3. Thank you so much for this post, Ash and Jer. Cried this morning reading over your words. Your story inspires me to live a better story, to invest in real life and rich relationships and to be enchanted by the simple and honest beauty found in this life right here. Thank you.

  4. This is an incredible insight on what wedding photography has become in the recent past. Everyone is giving too much attention to things, to blog posts, to blog features and not enough to their own families. Sometimes, not even to themselves. Heck, even the photography itself is becoming all about things. It has to be about people and about love.

    Internet and social media are great indeed, but we all need to focus.

    Thank you so much for these wonderful words. You rock!

    Cheers all the way from Portugal!

  5. I am seriously in. love. with. you two. I must come to CO next year and meet you!! Everything you said hit so close to home for me right now. I feel like your words are starting to get me closer to where I want to be. much love.

  6. As a nurse at a LTC facility, I’ve experienced more death than I care to recount. Everyone dies. Not a single family member visiting one of their dying relatives has said they should have made more money or left them with more stuff. They all want more time, more love, more laughter. I will never be Ritchie because family, friends, and relationships will always be more important to me than money.

  7. Oh, this is coming at the perfect time for me. As a new mother and wedding photographer, I feel like I have lost perspective so many times. In my insatiable quest for “more”, I have to remind myself to slow down and SEE that there is so much more to life than the need to be “more” in this industry. Thank you for writing this. Bookmarked for every time I need to re-read it. 🙂 xoxo

  8. gorgeous. loved reading this. I am not a photographer, but still a part of an online circle who races for the attention, numbers and affirmation of strangers. Thanks for your beautiful words!

  9. First time to your blog…and I don’t ever comment, but I just had to say thank you. Your photos are beautiful and so are your hearts.

  10. My lord, so poignant! I’ve toiled and churned over my e-popularity and my booking numbers for the past year and regardless of those numbers, I never stopped fretting. Only when I started to really listen to myself did I realized I was not really angsting about digits and likes, but instead about the tension between an invisible and perceived ‘life’, lived over buried T3 cables, and what is real life, real memory, real laughter and real interaction.
    Thanks so much for putting this out there, so eloquently and real–albeit over high-speed cables, it’s got grit and tears.

  11. wowwowwowwow. seriously. I’m sitting here, mulling over your words in my heart, tearing up a bit. what a beautiful and great reminder that life is so short, and people are more important that standards or success. gah, thank you.

  12. I currently do free sessions for hospice patients and their families. And everytime I leave one of those session, I say to myself “why do I give TWO SHITS how many Facebook fans I have?”

    Perspective can be a mutha sometimes.

  13. Thank you so much!! You are right, first think in the things of God and then in the things you like to do. So I want to adore God with making photos. 🙂
    God bless a lot!

  14. Thank you for this. It was beautifully said, perfectly applicable, just what I needed. Your honesty and transparency were a gift to me today. So thank you.

  15. wow.

    the tears are literally rolling down my cheeks. thank you for sharing your heart.
    we all need to get a little bit real with each other sometimes, especially when it comes to our priorities. thank you.

  16. here here, dear parsons. so glad to hear these words and see these words of yours shared. they are so true and resonate with me again and again. what you guys do is so special and thank you for using your platform to lead the world to a better place and ask the meaningful questions. lots of hugs to you both!! xx

  17. Beautiful, simple, profound truth…brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing your words and your wisdom. I’m leaving my desk early today to go and hold my brand new nephew who is about to enter the world today!

  18. Possibly the most beautiful and ‘sense-talking’ blog post i have ever written – I want to thank you for your honesty and frankness. Everything you say is SO very true – I say that as a mother of two beautiful young daughters (2 and 7) who have been fobbed off time and time again as my self-employed work is put first.

    No more, just, no more.

    Thank you so much xxxxxxxx

  19. These were heartfelt words. How often I need to be reminded of these things. Thank you so much for sharing!

  20. Ashley and Jeremy, thank you so much for living the story you are living. For speaking SO much truth and life into the people around you, and for reminding us what’s important. You are such an inspiration.

  21. lovely. but, i do understand the woman who wrote to you. i don’t think she really meant that she wasted her life on her family. i think she meant that she had never been able to actualize herself, have her own accomplishments and sense of self separate from her family, and she needs it. someone wise said, you can have it all, just not all at the same time. hopefully, this is her time, and having that fulfillment will make her realize, like dorothy, that there’s no place like home.

  22. I’ve always refused to “play the game” in the industry. So many photogs are sending cupcakes and brownies, etc. just to make sure their wedding makes the final cut for the upcoming mag. THAT seems like a total waste of time to me. While that thought doesn’t really get us a bunch of industry bffs, but my friends (in real life) receive packages and surprises from me, quite often. This post speaks volumes to my heart, and serves as a very big push to keep fighting the good fight. “Fans” and comments and rewards are great, but I always think to myself, “does my grandpa know how much I love him??” Expiration dates. You’ve said it all so perfectly. Thank you for sharing your big hearts. PS. Love that your little guy taught part of your workshop (amazing).

  23. this made my heart fill with hope + joy.

    what an honor it is to know you both + call you friends. the truth you speak into our lives is invaluable. bless you. x

  24. Thank you Parsons for helping me find a little more perspective with what I do, this is the last thing I read tonight as I lay down to sleep and will give it much thought and hope to awake a more enlightened man Tx

  25. Thank you for sharing hearts. I’m deeply sorry for the lady that she couldn’t see through things but the waste itself…I hope she will find her way. I adore you guys…people with big heart. Deep breaths…

  26. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Sometimes we all need to take that breath and focus on the true gifts in our lives – our loved ones. What a beautifully written article that is no doubt going to affect many in a very good way.

  27. This was an extremely powerful and wonderfully written post! I think with the age of Pinterest, everyone is trying to outdo one another and getting away from what the day is all about. I found myself, not too long ago, a little upset that the clients I book are not the “blog-worthy” clients…then I had the realization that these weddings and sessions were important to THEM and THEY loved the images…it wasn’t about the likes, the accepted submissions, etc. at the end of the day, if I can provide my clients with images that bring them emotion…I am satisfied!

  28. Beautiful words. I love being a wedding photographer, because it allows me to say ‘Today, I don’t feel like working, today I feel like walking along a beach with my amazing girl, or having a pyjama day with my children’.

  29. Wow, thank you for that piece of perspective that I needed today. While not necessary, it was so nice to reassure myself again that it is ok to take time off from this crazy photography train after a family tragedy to realign and find the perspective and courage to get back into it. So thank you for this.

  30. Wonderful post. This is why I am now outsourcing all my editing of images. My family time is more precious then sitting at the computer every night for hours on end and being tired and cranky all the time.

  31. One of the best pieces of truth I have ever read. It truly is time that the world take note of these things and turn back to the things that matter most: loving and our families. You guys rock for taking the time to be real and make this message real too. Thank you.

  32. I feel sad for this woman, who opened herself up in private correspondence and may not have expressed herself exactly as she meant, and is now kind of being publicly taken to task for it.

    I agree with the sentiment that it’s good to focus on what’s truly important (which is NOT facebook likes), but I can’t help but hope that the mystery woman doesn’t see this 🙁

  33. Thanks for sharing! I’m a mother to a 4 yrs old + a golden retriever, a wife and a wedding photographer. I’m glad to “waste” my life to capture love, life plus more. and spend every moments with my love ones.

  34. I agree with what you have said; everyone needs to focus on the right things in life and it is very easy to loose sight of what is important. I appreciate that the woman’s comment pushed you to have this reflection, but don’t you think that you are being harsh on her? Maybe she has a perfectly good reason to feel that she had wasted her life caring for her family, maybe she hasn’t – but who are you to judge her when you don’t know the full story? Perhaps it really wasn’t easy for her to say such a terrible, difficult thing to you. Or perhaps what she was trying to say didn’t come out the way she meant it. Just saying!

  35. Such sense, thanks for reminding us of the important things and the whys to doing what we do. Its much too easy to get caught up in the things that dont matter. Ill be making sure I concentrate on my little boy and not getting distracted by every ping on my phone.

  36. I don’t often read blogs, due to the very matter you have touched upon, though for some reason I’m here reading yours. I’m a photographer with two daughters, aged one and five. Like so many, I’m in constant battle of family versus business, as I try to fit in work to provide for my girls. However, it’s my other daughter, the one who stayed asleep and never opened her eyes, the one who would be three years old, but instead is just a memory, she’s the one that reminds me every day, family should win every time.

  37. Wow…heartfelt & amazing don’t even begin to say how moving this piece is. Thank you for sharing/writing it. It put a lot into perspective for me.

  38. Wow wow wow! You have spoken truth that was buried deep in my soul. The reminder was needed. Thank you for sharing your heart and perspective.

  39. chills. tears. truth. This is one of the best blog entries I’ve ever read. Ever. Thank you for your open hearts and for tellin’ it like it is! High fives to marriage and to life! 😀 😀 😀

  40. Your passion is inspiring, and your honesty is admirable. However, I feel a bit sad about your dissection of the women’s email. I can assume that when she stated that she had wasted her life on her family, she was trying to convey to you both that she had lost herself within her family. Chances are she was feeling suffocated and isolated, and realizing that she did not have a sense of self separate from her family. Just wanted to leave a comment to give credit to an honest and seemingly vulnerable woman in search of discovering a unique, personal identity aside from her husband and children and pursuing her own inner passions.

  41. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The words, the images – everything about this is awesome! Although I am really still stuck on the fact that anyone would say they “wasted their life” on their children…husbands maybe….children NEVER! 😉

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  47. I suspect like many, I got choked up as I read this. I also felt a deep, deep spiritual relaxation as I recognized the love and support my husband gives me every day as I spend hour after hour in front of the computer. In his eyes, I am good enough, right now, in this very moment. He doesn’t care how many visits, comments, or fans I have, but he does keep me warm at night and is an amazing comfort to me when things seem to be going terribly wrong. I feel somewhat ashamed that even now, as I’m typing this comment, my focus on blogging life has put me in a position of taking him for granted. I think I’ll call it a day (even now, at 5:32am) and go spend some time with him, and feel the vibrancy of our life together. Thank you!

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  49. I love the main point of this post, and I agree that we need to focus on what really matters, I would definitely recommend this post to friends and family. It almost made me cry, thanks for being so deep and for sharing with the people who reads you.Anyways, I wanted to say this because I couldn’t keep it in my heart. As some people stated, I think you are being a little harsh on the women who inspired you to write this article. I don’t think we can judge a person just based on an email she wrote. Perhaps she was not trying to state the words that way, or perhaps she really has a good reason to say what she said. We know the faces, – or sometimes the words – but we don’t really know the hearts.

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  53. Cannot overstate how much this resonated with me. It’s too easy to lose sight of what matters most, chasing things that don’t. Thank you for sharing this!

  54. I waste my life stressing. But live my life surrounded with love for my family. If only I could get over the first bit my life would be the closest thing to perfect imaginable. Thank you for reminding me to remind myself what is important.

  55. You guys are freaking amazing! This is such a crazy business and it is so easy to get caught up in the insanity of social media, blogging, submitting etc. this business is about love, sharing stories of love and sometimes you forget to share some of that love with those around you who support you the most. Bravo for sharing your story and and helping me take a step back and realize what really does matter 🙂 xo

  56. I don’t know who you are. I haven’t heard of you prior to reading this post (then again, I have not followed the wedding photography industry in a while).

    But, this was truly beautiful.

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  58. I used to look up to the photographers with the most talent, features, connections, etc… Now I look up to the few who run a sound business, but have their priorities straight… A work/life balance… That put God, family, and friends first. You guys are amazing.

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