As part of our series on creative duos, we’re proud to profile Joe and Patience Thompson, who balance photography with their careers in the Air Force and their family of four. Ten years in the photo industry brings with it many highs and lows and we had the opportunity to learn more about theirs, along with their advice for other couples and creatives. Read the full Q&A below.
Names: Joe and Patience Thompson.
Hometowns: Joe – Bellingham, WA. Patience – Phoenix, AZ.
Go-to gear: Lately it’s been our Fuji X-Pro 2, the 35mm f/2 and 18mm f/2. If it’s not the Fuji, it’s one of several older 35mm film cameras that we keep ending up with.
On the day we met… I (Joe) was photographing an Octoberfest event for the Air Force when I was stationed in Arizona and Patience was working at a booth for a local credit union. I’m pretty sure we were the only people out of about 200 who were in our early 20’s so everything happened pretty naturally.
How long have you worked together creatively? We photographed our first wedding together in 2008.
How do you divide creative responsibilities? I (Joe) have usually had a more front and center responsibility when it comes to directing and posing people while Patience is more free to experiment. A perfect example of that, is her doing double exposures during sessions using poses that I have already set up.
Do you share a similar aesthetic or have different styles? We think we have different styles. I (Joe) shoot pretty tight and posed while Patience shoots a little looser and tends to have a more photojournalistic feel. Thankfully, it seems that our work has always felt pretty cohesive and our individual tendencies balance each other out.
Advice for other creative duos? Don’t expect to come home with similar images. Embrace how you see things individually and don’t take offense when your other half offers constructive criticism. That’s the best way to get better.
No matter if you’re singe, dating or married, take the time to pose yourself with someone else in the same poses you ask people to do so you understand how awkward some of what we ask people to do really feels. We spent more time than we would like to admit in front of our bathroom mirror trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
Favorite place to photograph: A place called Rosario Beach in Washington. It usually isn’t all that busy and has a nice variety of really great scenery. It’s also one of our favorite places to go as a family so we have a lot of personal photos there too. Now that we’re in Wichita, KS, we’re going to have to find a new favorite place though.
Bucket List destination: New Zealand or Greece.
Biggest creative influences: We love the work that photographers like Jonathan Canlas, Benj Haisch and Zalmy Berkowitz are doing (Editor’s note: see our feature on Benj from last month). They are all very different but each has their own way of documenting people’s lives in a very real way.
Biggest challenge: Knowing when to say no. Even though we don’t run a full time photography business anymore, we still have a really hard time saying no.
What other hats do you wear? Patience is a budget analyst in the Air Force and I’m a full time accounting student.
One thing most people wouldn’t expect about you? Joe: My favorite sessions are lifestyle newborn sessions.
Patience: I love Anne Geddes baby photos but I don’t like shooting stylized sessions like that. I also secretly like the selective color photos of the kids dressed in adult clothes.
Mistake you’ve learned from: Caring too much about what other people think and following the “standard” business practices that so many photographers recommend. Figure out what speaks to you and what you would want if you were in your customer’s shoes. We didn’t hit our stride and realize how much potential we had until we implemented the things we would want to receive as a customer. When we did that we also started to find couples and families that liked the same things we liked and wanted the client experience that we offered.
Work you are most proud of: We have been really blessed to have been able to speak at several local photography conferences about things that we really care about. We have spoken about shooting film, marketing, growing our business and our experience with the burnout that led to us leaving the wedding industry, after shooting so much that we missed most of several summers with our kids. It has meant a lot to us that people want to hear about our experience in this industry and that our approach in talking about some of the hardships we’ve experienced helps other creatives.
Most recent “a-ha” moment: There is no way that you won’t have to give things up to find professional success. This realization, even though it was after we found the success we thought we wanted, was the reason we were able to find the family/work/photography balance we have today.
Dream project: It isn’t really a dream project because it’s something we’re living, but it’s the project we’re by far the happiest about and most excited for in the future. We really love documenting our family and this crazy adventure we’ve started down recently with the Air Force. I know it drives our kids crazy now but we’re sure they’ll look back at the photos when they’re older and appreciate all of our crazy requests.
Goals for this year: Getting our new website launched. We rebranded from “Joe & Patience” to “The Thompson Adventure” to better fit how our life has changed over the past 2 years. Getting everything put together while we are working full time, going to school full time, and trying to refocus ourselves on prioritizing time with our kids makes it hard to get it done. It’ll definitely feel like an accomplishment to push the publish button!