Alignment, Sisterhood, and Meeting My Mentor Sue Bryce
Earlier in the year, I was casually asked if I would want to meet Sue Bryce and attend a workshop with fellow black female photographers. I gasped, “Yes! Of course, my answer is yes!” Some time went by, and I didn’t hear any more about the event. I kept working my tail off, getting my business in alignment with my goals, creating vision boards in my home office that I could look to for inspiration, and writing down affirmations. Part of those affirmations was a long list of people I would meet in 2021, and Sue Bryce was at the top.
Fast forward to June of this year, and I received the official invite from Sue herself. I was just as taken aback as I was the first time. I was boarding a plane when I received a text from Sue. The flight attendant told me it was time to put my phone away, and I stressed to her, “Ma’am, you don’t understand. I’m talking to Sue Bryce.” But I obliged and put the phone away. All I could envision was how magical meeting Sue and the other women would be the entire flight home. I started counting down the months to December.
I would come to find out during the waiting period between June and December that Sue Bryce and with the help, my close photographer friend, Hadonica Murphy had hand-selected 20 black female photographers that she saw something special in. She invited us to work alongside her, and I wasn’t sure what the event would involve. It turns out it was better than I ever imagined.
Meeting Sue Bryce and the “Ask” Exercise
Here we are, in early December, and I just returned from this once-in-a-lifetime event.
We (the group of 20 black female photographers) flew into Arizona on a Friday to meet and mingle before working alongside each other for the weekend. A few of us grabbed dinner together at a restaurant called Yard House. The atmosphere was great, but the company was better. Any hesitations or nervousness I felt before arrival melted away during our dinner together. It was the ice-breaker we all needed, and the beginning of some beautiful friendships.
We all arrived at Sue’s studio at 9 am the following day, where we all got better acquainted. Sue encouraged us through an exercise called “ASK.” She pointed out that she noticed that black women don’t ask for help as often as they should. She encouraged us to use her as a resource and ask for help. She wanted to help each of us level up in our careers.
Through this small and intimate exercise, we all began sharing stories about who we are, a little about our life story, and asked for help in areas of business we’re struggling in. The vulnerability shared during this exercise formed some deep connections. We quickly realized we all had more in common than we had differences. We saw that we weren’t competitors at all; instead, we could be each other’s support system. It was vulnerable, raw, beautiful, and freeing.
Sue is the kind of kick in the butt you need as a photography business owner. She told us to show up, do the work, and get our ducks in a row. Only then, she said, would our business be on a foundation of thriving, not just surviving. We all needed this swift encouragement.
Over and over, I caught myself mentally saying, “Thrive not survive. Thrive not survive. Thrive not survive.” It makes so much business sense. In one day of mentoring with Sue, I already had more visions of getting my business more and more streamlined so I could be thriving!
Day Three – The Shoot Out
We all met again at Sue’s studio on the third day at 9 am. She showed us around the studio and said, “Here’s the wardrobe area, here’s bins and props, have a field day!” We all got to work.
Sue brought her models Aphrodite and Tolu in for the day. We could photograph the models, and each other, while having Sue nearby to provide feedback in real-time. What a gift of invaluable lessons.
We also had the opportunity to be photographed by Sue Bryce herself. Of course, I wanted to be photographed by Sue, but I started to feel nervous. I understood immediately how my clients must feel sometimes. Through the process of being photographed by Sue, I found so many little posing queues I can use in my client work now…and I have beautiful portraits created by Sue Bryce of ME!
Not only did we work together inside Sue’s studio, but we also photographed each other outside. By the end of the day, we were all singing and dancing together! The saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” is so true. What was meant to be an 8 hour day turned into a 12 hour day. We were all having so much fun that we didn’t want it to end!
All good things must end – and then continue again!
It was time to pack up and head back to reality on the fourth day. I felt sad to leave, but not in a depressing way. I was sad because I didn’t want the magic to end.
I could never express my gratitude to Sue enough through words. She didn’t have to do any of this for us. Between the hospitality, her time, her patience, and so much more – I have to believe we were hand-selected for a higher purpose.
Perhaps we will all gather yearly to cheer each other on and catch up. Maybe we can continue what Sue started for us by giving back to others.
Whatever comes of it, I know that I will never take this experience for granted, and I am eternally grateful for Sue and the other women I met during this event. I found my tribe.