Kevin Weinstein Photography is moving the studio to Los Angeles in 2014
I have mulled this blog post over in my head so many times that I can’t believe it is time to actually sit down and write. Yes! After 14 years in Chicago and more than 12 running a wedding photography studio, I am expanding my business and opening a brand new studio space.
Where to?! The answer is pretty simple and most folks won’t be surprised. Kevin Weinstein Photography is finally making the move back to my home state of California.
I left my birth city of San Francisco in 1999 when I got hired for a job with a newspaper here in Chicago. At the time, I was so excited to flee California. I spent 28 years there and found myself experiencing quite a bit of fatigue from everything being so routine: sunshine, liberalism, the ocean, the mountains, the desert, the wilderness, the coast, the food, the coffee shops, the street names …
Everything was normal to me. I grew up in a state that combines diversity, culture and topography to suit any type of nature you want to see within a days drive. The dot com was rising at a ferocious pace in the 90s, and while most Americans had no idea what was happening in San Francisco at that time, it had become a very scary place to live. I had friends dropping out of undergraduate school and switching careers to produce multi-media CD Roms and internet code. A majority of these people were making hundreds of thousands of dollars while mostly playing fuze ball. I knew that dream couldn’t last forever. I stuck to what I loved: photography. I felt jealous and left out by their financial security, but I knew that route was just not for me.
In the meantime, San Francisco became (even though it was already) an impossible place to live from a financial standpoint. One of the side effects of the dot com was the incredible price increase of housing. In order to rent a new place, each person would end up in an auction, or a bidding war, for an apartment. If a listing went live at 9 AM, you showed up at 6 and gathered with others desperate for a new apartment. The owner would open up the bid at $2500 (for an apartment that a year previous was going for $1500) and someone else would shout $2750 and another, $3000. The apartment went to the highest bidder.
My father looked at me and said, “Get out of here.”
Now I am 42, mom is 72, dad is 70 and my brother has two children, 5 and 2. I haven’t seen some of my step-siblings in more than 8 years. But the big push was my husband, Ryan.
Ryan has spent almost all of his 36 years in the mid-west. Though he grew up with his family in Chicagoland, his two sisters, sister-in-law and parents now all live in California. For the past 6 years, he has pushed hard to get me to move out of the mid-west to where sunshine, warmer weather and shorter winters are the norm. I always told him there was absolutely NO way we could move. I am a self-employed business man and my entire paycheck depends upon the network I have built in Chicago. Plus, I opened up my studio in Chicago’s West Loop just 4 years ago. Why would I want to leave a space I am so proud to call my second home.
I shrugged it off, assuming he would forget about a different lifestyle for us. But he didn’t. Nearly 3 years ago, towards the end of an awful record snow fall, he brought it up again. But I knew this time it was not just a desire; it was a serious matter.
Ryan has been an incredible supporter and has sacrificed a lot so I can build a business and make it bigger and better. I knew it was time to stop being selfish and listen to what he needed. After all, he is not a kept wife, and we are a team. I asked him for one important thing: I need several years to map this out. I did not want to merely show up in California with no network presence or a place to begin. And my ego was not going to allow me to start at the bottom again.
Within a few months I started networking. Five months into making new connections, I met three important people who changed my life on November 17th, 2011 at an airport just outside the country. They didn’t know much about me and my work, but I gave them my business cards and we all eventually went our own ways (two lived in LA and one lived in NYC). Little did I know they all looked up my website and called each other when they landed at their respective airports. These leaders in the wedding industry were blown away by my work.
I remember when I returned to Chicago I sat down, looked at Ryan in the eyes and told him our world was about to change. I think he thought, “I will believe it when I see it,” but my gut knew differently. Clearly, my life has changed thanks to these folks.
Two months later I was invited to a party in Los Angeles where I was introduced to Mario Lopez’s wedding planner and landed the job of shooting my first celebrity. After attending more parties this past June, July and August in LA, I returned home to Chicago and looked at Ryan and said it was time. We need to go. Every time I visit LA I am excited and can’t wait to start this new adventure. I found myself tired of telling the planners 2015, 2015, 2015. And each of them would respond: “Oh, well let me know when you get here!”
My life and energy was focused on LA, not Chicago. And I felt as if I was cheating on the folks back here. With summer ending, winter approaching, my attention diverted to a different market, missing out on jobs and making these new relationships stronger, the thought of being closer to family, and the incredible life in California offers won us over and we decided it was best to leave early.
On February 1st, 2014 I will jump in my Mini Cooper and spend a week on the road visiting friends across the country just as I did 14 years ago when I moved here. Ryan? He will stay behind in Chicago for about 5 additional months while I get things going for us in California. Moving is simple when you are young, have little property, no dog, no relationship, no business and everything fits into a pickup truck. Life has changed since I have been in Chicago.
If you asked me about how I felt about Chicago 5 years ago, I would have said, “I have already purchased my grave plot here in this city.” But with a husband who needs a change, my absolute disdain for the harshest winters that do take up about half the calendar year, what these winters do to my business (don’t get me started … I mean, who really enjoys 6 months of a slower wedding season?) and 3 sets of family I have grown quite distant from over the 14 years, I guess I have to transfer that grave plot now.
This is by no means a goodbye. I still love Chicago and respect this incredible city. It is just no longer “home” inside me. Chicago is where I started my own business and organically climbed my way up to shoot some of the most expensive weddings in the area. The journey has been amazing and incredibly rewarding. My expansion back west is not a slap in the face nor am I leaving angry.
If anything, I am filled with excitement to go home to California and finally get to rekindle my connection with all those things I listed earlier that had become “every-day.” Sometimes you have to let go and leave behind something in order to understand how important those things really were.
I am grateful to my parents who gave me a life in California. But I have to be honest and admit that each and every visit home over the 14 years has been filled with melancholy due to the memories of growing up there as a child. And each visit ends with a depression about leaving. I am not a midwesterner. I am a west coast boy, and I have to honor that.
So it is time to nurture my love for California, and allow Ryan to discover why the state is one of the most incredible places to live. I have no intention of leaving my network here that I worked so hard to build. I am merely expanding my business. I will be back often to see my husband, to shoot the events on my calendar for 2014 and book more parties. There is no shortage of stunning architecture and beautiful ballrooms and venues in this city. Chicago will always be a second home to me.
The clock is ticking, and with my travels in December spanning a majority of the entire month, I have less than 2 months in Chicago to get things in order. So I will end this blog post with saying thank you to all the photographers for their support and enthusiasm. Thank you to all the planners who took a chance with me and allowed me to be a regular in your rolodex. Thank you to the venues, florists, decor agencies, bands, caterers and bakeries for believing in my work and making Kevin Weinstein Photography a huge success in Chicago.
I am sure times will be tough for a few years, but I admit I am more excited than worried. I know it will turn out just fine once the dust settles. My biggest concern is being away from Ryan for extended periods of time during our 5-month separation. In our 8 plus years, we have not spent more than a week apart. Clearly our lives are intertwined in a way we have never been forced to confront.
Thank you all, again, for the most incredible time. Each and every one of you will always be a part of my life here. I will be back often.
Kevin and Ryan.