Jada and David Parrish
From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us

Blog by Jada Parrish | Article | 04/25/22


Weddings ruled our life for 9 years. David and I started our wedding photography career in 2013 when a friend of a friend called us up in need of a wedding photographer and was wondering if we could help. I was 22 fresh out of college with a degree in photography and desperately searching for any job that I somewhat enjoyed and could pay my rent. This call was a godsend. And just like that, David and I booked our first wedding. I could not believe someone was paying me to photograph them. Even though I had studied photography in college, I never actually believed I could become a photographer.

We spent the next couple of months leading up to the wedding researching and gathering all of the necessary equipment. The big day finally came and anxiety was rippling through us like an electric current. Even though the two of us combined could count on one hand how many weddings we had attended, and we had absolutely zero experience photographing a wedding, we somehow managed to pull it off. We did a surprisingly good job with it. 

That wedding led to another wedding and another after that. Fast forward 9 years later, and we have photographed over 300 weddings + elopements. We expanded our services to not only include wedding photography - we also offered wedding videography and photo booths.

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

Every Saturday was filled. Seven-day work weeks became our norm as we pushed to keep up with all of the editing in addition to the long days spent shooting. It was a lot, and it was slowly burning us out but our business was growing and we kept pushing forward as hard as we could. 2019 was our busiest and most profitable year ever, and 2020 was set to be even bigger - we were in it. And then COVID happened.

Our 2020 wedding season was pretty much annihilated in one fell swoop. Every day we were hit with phone calls and emails of people canceling their weddings or pushing them 1-2 years down the line. Understandably, the brides were devastated and very emotional, but what I think people failed to realize was we were devastated too. Almost an entire year's worth of income that we were expecting had disappeared. It was a pretty dark time for us. It felt like everything we had built and worked towards for the past 9 years was falling apart overnight, and we had no control over it.

A few weeks passed and the darkness began to lift. Because of all the canceled and rescheduled 2020 weddings, we had more free time than I had ever experienced in my adult life. In February 2020, one month before COVID really got real, we moved into a large new photo studio. For months it sat empty because there was so much uncertainty surrounding everything, and we were scared to leave the house. As time passed and our new reality set in we decided to take advantage of the unused space and our newfound "free time.'' We began experimenting with studio photography - something neither of us had much experience with.

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

We started with stylized portrait shoots on seamless paper backdrops. David's focus was lighting, and mine was posing. Our goal was for each of us to perfect our chosen skillset with the hope of elevating our studio work. I never expected to enjoy studio photography. I was conditioned for fast-paced wedding days relying on my flash and natural light to carry me through. The slow meticulousness of studio photography seemed daunting, and I was completely shocked when I ended up loving it. The ability to perfect posing, adjust lighting and move at a slower pace in order to fine-tune and truly master the shot was so refreshing. David's lighting was evolving and getting better with each shoot. My posing was getting more precise and intentional. I was able to connect with my subjects in a much deeper way than I ever had on a fast-paced wedding day. Studio photography was our new passion.

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish  From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

David quickly grew bored of seamless paper backdrops. During high school, David spent most of his free time working on our school’s theater productions. He helped build the sets and implement the lighting. It was from these experiences that David realized he could build small sets for us to photograph on instead. So in the summer of 2020, we began designing and building sets in our studio. This gave us so much more creative freedom because now we could control the shapes of the sets as well as choose the paint colors. We started styling our models’ wardrobes to match the sets, building storylines that surrounded the shoots, and including props for the models to interact with. This changed everything. 

At this point we weren’t really sure what we were creating, we were just having fun and exploring. It felt so right though. We both felt alive, energized, and inspired in ways we never had before. Even though we were at a loss for words when it came to describing what we were doing or why we were doing it, we knew we had to keep going. It felt too good not to.

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David ParrishFrom Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish  From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

Our studio just so happened to be in a giant school house where each classroom was an artist studio. That meant we were surrounded by artists. They would pop into our studio from time to time to ask questions, give us new things to think about, or offer words of encouragement. More importantly than that though, their mere existence showed us for the first time that you can be a successful working artist. That simple realization changed us forever. 

As 2020 came to an end, weddings began to resume. The hiatus had allowed us to rediscover ourselves, and there was no going back from that.  We announced that we would not be booking any new weddings, but would finish out the remaining weddings we were already contracted to do. 

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

We had a new goal - we wanted to become artists. To do that, we needed to build a portfolio. We turned the portfolio creating process into a game by committing to building 100 sets and doing 100 photoshoots in 2021. Set 1 happened on January 1, 2021 and set 100 was completed on December 31, 2021. The 100 set project was to date the hardest thing I have ever done. We built every set, painted it, styled it, lit it, and photographed it in a single day. It was brutal but so rewarding. We pushed our creative boundaries and that helped us to discover our artistic voices and develop more confidence in ourselves.

From Wedding Photographers To Artists - How Our 100 Set Project Changed Us - Jada And David Parrish

One year later, we still have a long way to go, but a profound change happened inside of us. We became artists.

 

 

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Jada + David Parrish are mixed media artists whose work explores the connection between painting, sculpture, motion, and photography.