Today is a rare treat for me, because I have the pleasure of (re)introducing you guys to my good friend, business partner, and all around homegirl Monica of Hart & Sol East Photography in Brooklyn. And honestly, it’s about time. Because for the past few years, Monica has kindly let me be the mouthpiece of Hart & Sol Photo (what can I say, I like to talk), but now that we run a bi-coastal operation, there is so much good stuff coming out of Hart & Sol East that I can hardly keep up over here, and Monica deserves a chance to tell you all about it.
First off, Monica brings to weddings a dedication to storytelling and positive vendor experiences that is based on having built her business around APW couples and their values. She explained to me, “I work my butt off to tell people’s stories, whether that means rigging lighting in a dark industrial venue or running after clients on the beach as they kick off their shoes to go get married. If people are looking for a photographer to coordinate and style their family and friends as ‘extras’ in a photoshoot, I am not the photographer for them. However, if they are into supporting a woman-owned business, a woman who is equipped with a bag o’ photo tricks and toy cameras, and a woman dedicated to giving your photos the look and feeling that you were there in the moment, then please call me right now. NO SERIOUSLY.” And having worked with Hart & Sol East extensively in the past, I can promise you that’s exactly what you get when you work with her.
Which brings me to Monica’s work itself. You see, Monica and I learned how to shoot weddings together, but seeing the way her work has progressed this past year leaves me kind of dumbfounded. Hart & Sol East’s photos are soulful without being sappy, and they have the cool artistic quality reminiscint of movie stills. Which is probably because Monica is admittedly not a hopeless romantic. She says, “I’ve never been a hopeless romantic. In fact, I am rather realistic when it comes to love. A wedding celebrates all of the quirks and moments that have been and are still yet to come, and capturing your ‘YAY-day’ (no matter how big or small) is what I live to do. I want to create the photo-prologue to your marriage and leave you with photographs that tell your story as it unfolds.” Which, all I can say to that is: yes.
But the thing is, while Monica might not be a hopeless romantic, her appreciation for what she does and for what APW couples bring to the table runs way deeper than any sappy romance could ever get at. This may be a bit long, but I assure you it’s worth reading every word:
I had a whole thing ready to go about why I love photography and working with APW couples, and then Hurricane Sandy happened.
I currently live in Brooklyn, but am originally (and proudly) from Staten Island, a place that gets a bad rep but hides really beautiful secrets in the folds of where urban parts meet green hills. Of the places effected by Sandy’s fury, Staten Island was among the worst, suffering more than half of the storm related deaths and STILL a place that folks call home but aren’t allowed to actually go home because they are without power and heat.
Walk up and down the Sandy-forever-altered streets and you will find houses washed apart from their foundations. Amongst silt-covered wood and plastic are countless photographs, snapshots from weddings, birthday parties, family vacations and school picture day—memories scattered like limbs and bark roughly shaken from tight-knit family trees. These photos were carried effortlessly in the storm, sometimes miles from their home, and damaged pretty irreparably by the salty sea water. Images of one moment now tell stories about being drastically shaped by another. The local relief efforts have encompassed a lot of hands on work, and I’ve witnessed the amazing ways that the community is helping to rescue these strangers’ photographs. These scattered moments are being stored and sorted in a larger, long-term effort of reunion with their owners who have lost everything and more. But the impact the effort has had on me has been profound.
It’s not that I suddenly realized that I wanted to be a photographer because of the storm, nor does it really hinge on being from Staten Island. It’s just that I was made intensely aware of the fact that my business, the photos that I take, could be amongst these many pieces of private lives that were at one point in their lives part of an album, held within a precious frame, proudly bared with a magnet on the fridge, or gently hidden in a book on the shelf. And when a thing like Sandy sweeps up these moments and leaves them in the sand, sometimes it’s only until a larger community of strangers come together that we can begin to help each other become whole again. In short, I am consistently inspired and surprised by my Staten Island community just as I am with my APW community.
Some of the most powerful moments of Hart and Sol East 2012 have been spending time with badass APW clients who inspire me by their ability to cry and laugh, to walk and smile confidently, to celebrate the perfection of their imperfections, to speak their mind, to support my growing business, and ultimately encourages me as an artist to tell their story of becoming whole.
That is why, in support of Sandy relief efforts, 10% of each wedding I book before Dec 31st will go to Staten Island Strong, a local relief effort supported by the Carl Bini Fund. This is a way that both you (APWers) and me can continue to make our larger communities whole in the best ways our talents and friends can.
Particularly after reading this week’s grad post, I think Monica’s letter speaks volumes about what drives and motivates Hart & Sol East and what you get out of working with her. It’s not just that she values what she does, but Monica’s commitment to where she works, the people she works with and the kind of work that she does is what made me want to build my business with her in the first place.
So now that I’m done wiping my tears on my t-shirt, I guess I should tell you how to go about hiring Hart & Sol East (because even I want Monica to retroactively shoot my wedding after reading that letter.) In keeping with Hart & Sol’s no-bullshit pricing philosophy, Monica now has just two wedding packages. Weddings withing a two hour drive of New York City are $3,700 and include unlimited coverage, a second shooter, a USB of digital negatives with reprint rights and an optional engagement session. Weddings outside of New York (anywhere within a six hour drive) are $4,700 and include everything you get with her New York Package. But! Since Monica is seriously dedicated to supporting local Brooklyn business, Hart & Sol East is offering a $400 discount to any Brooklyn weddings for 2013. Anywhere in Brooklyn, any time in 2013. Rad.
I honestly can’t speak enough good words about Hart & Sol East. Monica is the kind of lady you want to have a beer with, who can talk art and commerce with you, and who knows all the good haunts in Brooklyn. New York, you are lucky to have her. So please, do what I wish I could do and go spend some time with her. You’ll be glad you did.