Lightly cleaned up transcript below. Expect typos. Affiliate links used when possible. Enjoy!
MARIE: This is exactly what I was talking about. Not just me talking at you, not just these strategic, part authentic, part manufactured, conversational-based interviews. I see this show as a collaboration. A collaboration between you and I.
Here’s the scoop: Under 24 hours after publishing the last episode, one listener—who happened to also be our guest for episode number 79 and who is also a friend of mine, Caryn DeFreez—sent me a Voxer message.
(Voxer is this free walkie talkie app and it’s been my go-to for staying connected with my friends.)
So, she reached out to me—just like any other time where she’s just talking to her friend, so she’s unguarded, she’s being her unfiltered self and, you know, I’d like to think that she feels safe to say whatever she really wants to say when she’s speaking with me.
And guess what?
THAT is this episode—with her permission, obviously.
A couple notes about this episode: 1) I apologize. There’s some rain going on in the background. You might hear some drips while I’m talking, but I think Caryn’s part sounds okay. 2) It’s cleaned up a little, I removed filler words and things like that, but think about it… She didn’t know her voice note would end up published! You know, it’s a hundred percent from her heart, not just a performance for a podcast.
So, this is really a perfect example of what I want to hear from you: your thoughts, your stories, so you can be added into the show too. And we can grow together.
[00:01:55] MARIE: Quick backstory.
You don’t even understand. When I recorded the last episode, I was all up in my head about it. First of all, I was already late. I had to put the project off for about a month, because of a writing project that I picked up in August. I felt like I was behind already.
Then when I recorded the self-criticism was on full blast. I was even talking to myself, like, “You know what? Maybe no one will listen and then I won’t have to do it.” I was trying to find a way out of the pressure I was feeling!
The short of it is that I put big pressure on myself over that episode, because it felt more than just another episode. I mean, I’ve recorded 80 of them. Well, more really. So, since it’s been a while, like 18 months, since I had recorded a real episode, this recording felt like my comeback.
I had to get it “right.”
It felt like the stakes were high, because it’s been so long since I’ve recorded that:
then you wouldn’t keep listening.
That would mean that I failed… and I have big ideas and plans for what’s ahead. So that fear was fierce.
[00:03:36] I recorded it. I felt like it was flat. I re-recorded it and then it was doubled in length. I started pulling pieces from both raw audios to try to put something together that sounded great. My perfectionism was out of freaking control and my self-imposed deadline to publish that episode.
I really wanted it to go out on September 30th, which was International Podcast Day. It meant I was only two weeks behind from the original day that I wanted this to get back up and running. All of that made it all the more heavy.
I ended up, on Thursday, just saying: Screw it. I reached this point of surrender and just put something together that I felt like was the best it could get without me re-recording it (which is what I felt like I “should” be doing). It released around dinner time that day—Thursday evening.
And. Yeah, I didn’t celebrate. It felt more like the bandaid was ripped off and now I can move on. THE POINT: I didn’t have a real good attitude around that episode.
The next day, Friday, I was driving home from getting my curbside grocery pickup and I put Caryn’s Voxer message into my AirPods. I had no idea what she was going to talk to me about… and I think you’ll see from the message just what a gift it was.
Think about my state of mind as you listen to Caryn, because here I was in this low place and she was inspired and fiery and it was beautiful.
She said she needed the episode… well, I needed her response.
Give it a listen and I will tell you how to share your thoughts and stories with me on the other side.
[00:05:34] CARYN: Okay. So I just finished your latest podcast. It’s fricking awesome. I was sitting in the car and I was like, dammit, she’s got me again. It’s so good, and, honestly, I want to hug you. Listen, I needed that podcast that very moment, because you know what my life has been like the past couple of years and just not feeling happy—my business and trying to find something and, oh, marketing it—and you’re so right about the marketing shit.
You know, I close up my business every year in October for hunting season and November for hunting season, which inevitably closes up my shop for the year, because it’s Michigan and nobody wants to do shit in the snow.
So I ended up closing it for the year and I make the same kind of board for social [media]. Something about hunting and it used to be of my family with hunting or deer hanging in the background—like the very first post I ever made about closing up my business happened to be a picture that I cannot find now (that breaks my heart) of all of us lined up up north.
[00:07:09] We used to have this pole… Like, we would go way up north to the U.P. For hunting and we’d make this makeshift deer pole. And so all the guys who would come in, and they’d get their deer, we’d all hang on this pole. And so all these deer would be hanging side by side. We took a picture in front of it.
That picture is so significant to me now.
Gosh, that got me super emotional.
That picture is significant to me now, because there are four or five of those people who are no longer living.
So, you’re right about—God damn you’re so right—about these moments and people just capturing them and…
And, that’s the thing… you’ve got to get people to, first of all, figure out what the hell those stories are —capturing them too— that’s where I’ve always felt that I have landed. I want to capture those for you.
[00:08:08] For people to understand how powerful stories are, they first need to go back and, you’re right, think about their own stories.
Only then can they move forward, documenting the stories now, because when you’re living and… (um, gosh, my nose is all stuffy now, ’cause you got me going this morning)
You can only live awake or document or pay attention to the stories unfolding in your life if you first go back.You can only live awake or document or pay attention to the stories unfolding in your life if you first go back. —Caryn DeFreez; Dangerously Good Stories podcast Click To Tweet
Whether it be pulling out old images or like sitting down and figuring out the stories, for you to see what powerful stories made your life.
It’s hard for people to, right now, live in the moment. For me, I’m living in the most treacherous ages ever, because I have grown kids at the time of life where it’s flying by and you’re fricking exhausted.
Your last bit on there about waking up and thinking, ‘Ugh, what the fuck do I gotta do today?’ you know, and, ‘I just want to lay here.’
That’s how I feel and I think that that’s how most parents feel every morning, because it’s so exhausting this time of life when you’re living it. It’s fucking exhausting. And you just cannot wait to get them out of the house, so that you can sit down. And you cannot wait for them to go to sleep.
And, you love them… but you’re tired.
In hindsight, what I would give to go back and snuggle a newborn. What I would give to go back to the little toddler ages when they were wanting to sleep on me and just barely crawling, and I wish, now, that I would have documented their life in a way that I now document.
[00:09:49] One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t keep a journal and I didn’t write down the daily happenings of them. So my husband and I will always say—like something random will come up—and we’ll be like, “Oh shoot, who said that? Was it Grace or Tinley or was it Allison?”
I regret not [having written] documentation.
You know, I’m a photographer so I can document in pictures now, but I didn’t then. I didn’t know how to work a camera and it didn’t occur to me then.
However, I feel like you set the tone from a photography community on a path of documenting in your photography business. That’s how I found you. You were the holy grail. I know I’ve told you that before, but you were the holy grail of, “How the hell do I market and how do I do all of these things?”
So when you switched gears, I was like, ” What’s happening?! Don’t… Don’t leave us!”
Then it occurred to me, what you were doing, and that then spiraled my business a little bit into, “I need to tell you why it matters. I need to tell you why this is such a big deal.”
And your business and your podcasts, like everything that you were doing—
I don’t know if we were friends during this time where you would actually see my work, but I went and got an old photo—and I plan to do this again, because it was a massive hit in the gut for my audience. I went and got an old picture and the old picture wasn’t significant to anyone else.
[00:11:33] It was a picture of my old home, where I grew up, from, I don’t know, first grade and third grade to eighth grade. It was just a picture of our driveway and we were playing floor hockey in the driveway. I think my dad was in it, I can’t remember, but it wasn’t the people in it. It was the house and the scene that was taking place.
I’d taken that picture into Photoshop and I wrote text all over the picture.
Our garage had three or four windows in each garage door and I put on there:
“Every one of these garage door windows used to be glass. My dad replaced them with plexiglass, because we busted them all out with hockey pucks, and he never cared. He would say, “Nice shot.”
This blacktop—my dad kept meticulous, so that we could have a solid, smooth floor to play on.
This ledge—this is where we would joke that that was our cheering section because my grandparents would come over and my mom would sit on there and watch us play.
This basketball hoop was the center of family get-togethers. We would have family basketball games.”
I went and literally broke down that picture as to why that image was so monumental to me.
I haven’t found a way to show people why these photos and why storytelling is so important without saying:
“Well, when you die and they put up those funeral picture boards of you, they’re going to be looking for pictures that show your personality and who you were. Not who JCPenney headshot thought you were.”
[00:13:17] I haven’t found a way to say that, but your podcast just today has made me realize that I don’t… I don’t need to market this.
I don’t need to market it in such a way that I’m trying to, um, I don’t know… ’cause I’m never motivated by money. I think that that’s why pricing has always been a big hindrance for me and why I’ve always switched my pricing.
Because I value capturing stories and images for people [more] than I do about making money. I would rather photograph 25 sessions that take all of my goddamn time—that really have a powerful impact on these families—that create life long treasures and photographs, then taking five families at a much larger price point, if that makes sense.
I would rather waste all my time and be fricking burnt out doing this, than I would just making a lot of money and having one or two.
I value storytelling. I feel like my burn out has come from trying to be everything and photographing shit I didn’t love for the sake of money.
[00:14:49] When I made that post yesterday, what I was writing, I was having a different dialogue in my head. In my head, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is why I have done this tradition year after year, every year without question.’
Without delay, somebody will ask me, “Why the hell do you shut down your business in October, November? That’s the Midwest photographers’ busiest time, the most money-making time of the year.”
Truly, I’m like:
“I don’t give a damn about your money. I don’t care about how much money I’m losing, because what I care about is keeping this tradition alive. What I care about is that my kids value traditions. I care that they value this story that they can tell their kids, who I hope then tell their kids, whom I hope then understand that this family really values outdoor life and being able to provide for their family. Whether it be catching our own game and eating. Whether it be gardening. Whether it be being able to live off the grid. I want them to understand that this family very much values being independent and also loving mother nature and treasuring the life that we have.”
[00:16:08] In listening to your podcast, like, yeah. I mean, that’s it. There’s a fine line to marketing and telling stories, but I’ve realized that even in features and publications that I have received over the last 14 years… I didn’t get my first ever actual publication and an actual printed magazine until last year… and it was all my own documentary photos of my family.
When I go into Hardings (local grocery store), somebody will always say, “Oh my God, I loved your pictures. Or, oh my God, remember that one picture you took? Oh, I just love your approach. I love your canvas. God your pictures. Etc.”
Nobody has ever once, in my lifetime of doing this, has said, “Oh my God, that family you took—that posed one with that little girl…”
Nobody has said that to me, because it’s not meaningful. Posed stuff doesn’t impact people unless you know [the person in the picture]. It doesn’t impact people in a way that documentary appeals to people.
When I started not giving a shit about what my audience wanted, or stopped giving a shit about what the industry was doing—that is keeping up with Instagram reels or Instagram posts or… (cause I’m big on Instagram, I pay more attention to Instagram than I do Facebook)… If I stopped giving a shit about those things…
[00:17:42] [When I stopped caring about those things] my audience climbed and I started to be noticed for my own personal work, because I value this kind of living. I couldn’t find clients who value that kind of living, and so then I wasn’t creating that kind of content.
That’s why I’ve quit so many times. I want to feel something and I want to give you something.
Your podcast has really helped because it’s about just telling stories, focusing on your own stories, and then people start to… start to notice.
It wasn’t until—I have about three or four people that I could list who have been total standouts following me—that they’ve started to post documentary work of their own families and of their own daily life, because of the stuff that I have shared because of how I speak so strongly of documenting life. And so when they post stuff, “I’m like, yes, like, yes!”
[00:18:45] I even had one where—I didn’t take the first day of school pictures like everyone else did, like with all the kids standing with their little board: what they’re doing in the year, who they want to be, etc… I didn’t do that, because I don’t give a shit. I don’t like the fads.
I forgot what it was, but I posted something else. It was totally not rustic school shit and one of my friends messaged and said, “Oh, thank God. You did that. Now, I don’t feel so bad. Thank God, YOU. You, out of all people, didn’t post some, you know, typical, because you’re a photographer. Thank God you didn’t follow that trend. You, in a sense, gave me the okay two post documentary style: exactly the way the morning was.”
Anyway, I love what you’re doing and I love that you’ve shifted to focus more on real stories and helping people dig into those real stories—as opposed to helping photographers market.
Photography marketing is a constantly evolving, shifting mind-fuck.
Like. It really is.
[00:20:08] I cannot tell you how many times I’ve closed up this business and how many times I’ve been in tears. I’m not kidding. I mean, you’ve listened to my messages to you. “What the hell am I doing?! I’m going to try this.”
I was doing lifestyle and I was doing documentary work side by side, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just run lifestyle too, because that way I can get some money coming in, and people can ask me, and I don’t want to pass up opportunities.”
Well, I hate it. I don’t want to do that. And, so. So.
Sorry. I was getting a text message at the same time.
Now I forgot where I was going.
[00:20:46] Oh, I don’t want to do lifestyle work… then I was like, I don’t want to do documentary work if it isn’t true documentary work. I was getting so upset that I was like, “You know what, I’m such a homebody. I don’t want to go to people’s houses and I don’t want to do all of that stuff anymore.”
And then I was like, “Oh, well maybe I’ll be a food photographer instead.” I don’t even like to cook, girl, like I fucking hate to cook! It’s not going to work.
And then I was like, “Well, Lucy Ketchum is super amazing at flower photography. Fucking flowers don’t talk. They don’t move. I don’t have to find the location of where we’re going to meet at. They’re always there. They show up on time. I can go do whatever I want whenever the hell I want. And maybe I can make a stationary shop. Maybe I can sell stuff.”
Well yesterday, my brother got flowers out of all things, because he’s leaving his job to do something different. They sent him flowers to say, “Thank you.”
I was like, “Well, I have a camera here. Let me see if I even like flower photography.”
I held up my camera and looked through the lens.
Snapped one picture and said, “Nope! Not interested,” and he started laughing.
He was like, “What?”
And I was like, “‘Cause there’s no feeling. There’s no emotion. There’s no connection to that. I don’t feel anything.”
That’s what I’m chasing is: this feeling of creating something that moves me.
.I always tell my kids, "I love your soul." I say that because you're not going to love every choice that everyone makes, but I love… I love people's souls. I love who they really are. —Caryn DeFreez on Dangerously Good Stories Click To Tweet
[00:22:05] I always tell my kids, “I love your soul.”
I say that because you’re not going to love every choice that everyone makes, but I love… I love people’s souls. I love who they really are.
When I say, “I love your soul,” I’m basically saying, “I love who you are… I love everything about who you are and what makes you, you.”
Listening to your podcast, I’m not kidding when I say: last night and even then this morning, I was like, “Maybe I’ll just buy a new iPad. And maybe I’ll create digital products. Like digital calendars and digital things and I sell online and they just keep selling. And I just sit on my fucking ass and sell them.”
Then I listen to your podcast. I’m like, “Hey. Wake the hell up, Caryn. Marie’s talking to you. Don’t do that.”
It’s a calling, just like you have a calling to do this, and you’re very passionate about it. And you can tell that you’re passionate about it. And there were times when you’re not making a killing and money. And there are times when it’s struggling, just like everyone else is.
That’s the point, I think, where you just got to power on and that’s where I’m at. I just have to tell myself the power on— really making my website centered around what I believe in. When I wrote that post about hunting, I believe in what I’m doing by shutting down my business. I believe in what I’m doing by keeping this tradition alive.
[00:23:28] There are lots of little stories in life that make up who we are. And there are lots of little stories we like to forget, and there are lots of even tinier stories that lead onto the next story.
For me personally, going forward in my type of business, which is different than what you were trying to do, but in a sense, the same. Um, I need to keep myself accountable.
I have a ton of notes written down that I’ve done over the last couple of months about making my highlights, in your words, stories sparks. You know, giving them some idea of things that they can photograph that are documentary, that they otherwise wouldn’t think were significant. I wanted to blog a bunch, not about just why they should do it, but like why things matter or write a story, so that they can see why this story meant so much.
I wanted to learn video really bad from Courtney Holmes. My fear was always that if I was creating a video, I’d miss the pictures. So that’s why I’ve never done it.
I need to do that, because my sister has videos of my kids and I don’t. She sends them to me. I asked her to send them to me, because I don’t have videos of my kids. I always took pictures.
So now when she sends them to me, when they show up in her Time Hop, now I save them. I’m frantic about saving them, because I don’t have any. So I’m missing the video aspect of documentation, because it’s more than just a picture. It’s a sound. It’s a movement. It’s all the senses, you know?
[00:25:00] Uh, I think it’s Kristen or Kiersten. I forget what it is. Kristen Lewis or something. [Kirsten Lewis] Her about page, that’s like one of the coolest about pages I’ve ever seen.
I don’t know if she still has it [Marie here. She doesn’t—her site has been updated; I checked], but she used to take old pictures of herself and she would tell her “about me” using her old pictures. And if that’s not a, “Here’s really about me, so, you know who I am. Let me pull up some old pictures. And, this is why I’m telling you why pictures matter,” you know?
So I plan to go downstairs, I have boxes and boxes of pictures, and pull out small pictures that are meaningful to me and use them as my about page. Then I plan to get some pictures and do what I did again with Photoshop and write why these, these pictures [are] meaningful, and write why this one image has such a magnificent story, and then let stories spinoff from there.
[00:25:52] Maybe that can help you—if you ask people to go grab, one picture of significance to them, and start there. Because I think when people have to sit down and think about their stories, they’re gonna think about the major milestone moments. It isn’t until they’ve gone digging through a random box of pictures they haven’t opened up in 20 years. It isn’t until then that the tinier stores are going to unravel.
Every week or every month, once a month, pull another picture out from the box that means something to you and you write about it and you document it somewhere. Somewhere, you need to have that picture with a story attached to it.
If people can somehow have a jump point that gets them thinking about the smaller stories… By way of a picture medium, that jumpstarts them back in time a little bit. Then they can start unraveling the stories, because that’s what leads to the next story, to the next story, to the next story. And they forget that the major milestone moments have happened using that opportunity.
[00:26:55] I thought about taking a picture every week of me or of who I am and posting that to Instagram. Like once a week, I tell you a bit about my life through an old picture. Some people are like, “Oh, that’s going to mess up your aesthetic on your Instagram.” I don’t give a shit about aesthetic. I don’t care. That gets people to really see the significance of storytelling and images and why documentation matters.
I’ve always said that people don’t have to come to me for documentation. They can go to anyone else they want to go to. They can use their phone. I don’t care what the hell they use. Just document.
[00:27:31] Anyway, I feel like I’ve talked for six hours. You totally got me in a spiral because I was legit coming home to go to sleep in bed. Then your damn last paragraph was like, “Ah, get up Caryn!”
“Yeah, you’re right. I can’t wait to go back to bed again, Marie, but here I am.”
You got me going. So anyway, I hope one day, somehow, we can get together. I would love to come down there and you and I like to spend a day talking this shit and coming up with ideas and spiraling and just spinning our wheels with stuff. I would love to do that.
I feel like what you have and what I think in my mind about what I want is so vastly different than what other photographers, even documentary photographers are doing. They walk a fine line between documentary and lifestyle. I want the full on documentary stuff. I don’t want the documentary stuff just so you can have a picture of your fake ass set up with your grandma’s kitchen. I want real stuff.
Yeah. Anyway. My phone’s going off with all these text messages, because this is my life. So, I love what you’re doing. Can’t wait for the next one. Get on it.
[00:28:37] MARIE: Welcome back. I just loved the heat my friend had in her voice. I mean, couldn’t you just feel it?!
Feel her energy behind her words?!
Can you see how your words as a listener matters?
I about bowled over when I heard her message and I couldn’t wait to get this together… and then even start on the next episode!
Take that as an invitation to reach out, share your thoughts with me on episodes, share your stories. I can’t wait to hear them truly.
[00:29:19] You have two pieces of homework. The first part is from Caryn:
Every week or every month, once a month, whatever your frequency is, pull a picture, and then another picture, and then another out of that old box of photos. One that means something to you. And you write about it and you document it somewhere. Somewhere, you need to have that picture with a story attached to it.
Those were her words. I’m going to add my 2 cents in here…
I think this couldn’t have come at a better time, because if you’re listening to this as it comes out, we’re still pretty early in October, 2021.
It’s a perfect time to focus on your stories—especially if you’ve been all up in your head about marketing or in the moving pieces of this season + your day-to-day. Not to mention all this stuff going on in the world.It’s a great time, now, to take pause and reconnect (or begin) your story work.It's a perfect time to focus on your stories—especially if you've been all up in your head about marketing or in the moving pieces of this season + your day-to-day. It’s a great time, now, to take pause and reconnect (or begin) your… Click To Tweet
One photo, and one backstory at a time, you will start noticing more of your overlooked yet highly meaningful stories—if you only choose to begin.
[00:30:47] Part two of this homework is from me, Marie:
⇢ Send me your stories from Caryn’s homework. Include why the story matters and how the story affected who you are.
⇢ Send me your thoughts on these episodes that have been released so far?
⇢ Send me questions about anything: storytelling, marketing, unschooling, ADHD, all the things I might be able to help you with. Or, things that you’re really burning up about and you want to know. Even if I don’t have the answer, I’m a pretty resourceful woman and happy to try to find a guest that can help you.
⇢ Tell me what meaningfulness is to you; what aliveliness is to you.
⇢ Or is there another value that you’re holding close right now? What is that? What does it mean to you and why is it close to your heart right now?
I gave you like five different ideas. Just pick one.
Pick one of those topics and send me an audio message.
If you prefer writing, you can do that as well.
You can even just do it as simply as using the hashtag #dangerouslygoodstories on your favorite social platform. I’d most likely see that on Instagram.
Instructions for sending me such stories and things: dangerouslygoodstories.com/podcast
I started putting together that page after the last episode, but after the ease of Caryn’s note to me, the audio note through Voxer… I might be crazy for doing this, but I’m opening up my Voxer to you.
You can download the app, look up my name: Marie Masse. I’m in there.
Or, on the web, go to dangerouslygoodstories.com/voxer and you’ll directly reach my profile. Send me a note through your phone or whatever.
[00:33:05] All in all I want to hear from you. So take this as an invitation to reach out.
And that about does it.
I’ll be back soon with an idea I’m sharing with you for one of the most important things we can do right now with our story skills. This is an idea inspired by Gabby Petito to help the massive volume of missing persons cases that are going on in our world every single day. Until then…
Find a moment to slow down. Take notice of your stories. And respond boldly.
⇢ Connect on Instagram: @dangerouslygoodstories
⇢ Connect via Voxer: dangerouslygoodstories.com/voxer
⇢ Caryn DeFreez: Website | Instagram
⇢ Official Podcast Page: dangerouslygoodstories.com/podcast
[00:34:03] MARIE: So, Hey, wait a minute.
Did you like this episode? Hit the share button right now to recommend the show to friends, family, or colleagues. I mean, everyone loves a good old, “This made me think of you,” tag or share… and, it helps the show out too.
⇢ Connect with me on Instagram: @dangerouslygoodstories
⇢ Work thoroughly on your stories in: Dangerously Good Storytellers
Thank you for supporting this show from Dangerously Good Stories and hosted by me, Marie Masse.
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