What we've heard

Some love from our Real Life Conference attendees.

I got home last night and woke up this morning with the desire to start creating contrasting with the need to sit quietly and digest. Of course there is also the nagging knowledge that my kids would undoubtedly appreciate me buying groceries. I am feeling sincere gratitude for the last week. This photo conference didn’t tell me “I had to” or “I should”. It encouraged me to keep listening to myself - to more than accept my mistakes, and actually go deeper and truly love and thank them.

It reminded me that my values of connecting, feeling and embracing the weird don’t make me “too much.”

It moved me forward in accepting my lack of a “white picket fence.” I know the white picket fence is bulls*it, but I was stabbed by it and that is part of what makes me fiercer. And fierce is okay because it doesn’t mean unkind. This last bit is huge.

I deepened my respect for the craft of photography - for the importance of pictures as a way to learn, to build compassion, and to honor our and our loved ones lives.

Thank you Erika & Callandra for creating this space for it, thanks to each speaker for the gifts and permissions they gave us, and to all of you for hanging out in this with me. I was also reminded that it rains A LOT on the island, and that visits to places, like Alberta, during our grey season, with good people and great food is always a good idea - so see you next year ;).

— Katrina McKinnon

I just drove home and I was thinking about all the things. all of them. And, I wanted to share a couple of little stories...first, I was sitting in Kristen Kalp’s talk listening and thinking about how I was definitely an elephant (in my head I was thinking ‘oh yeah man. I’m a fucking elephant’) until she got to the Fuck ‘Too Much’. Oh yeah. I’m too much of everything. And, in honesty, someone close to me told me so a few months ago and it really threw me. But, sitting there, listening to Kristen, I was thinking...I’m not going to be a kitten because my too much bothers some people. I’m going to get bigger instead of smaller. It was a pretty major moment for me. Why do women do that? Why do we hold ourselves back?

The other thing is...I seriously have a long list of projects that I want to do that I keep saying ‘one day’. And, watching both Jenn Ackerman and Jennifer Moher talk I thought...FUCK it. I’m going to do the ones that don’t cost me any money. So, I came home and wrote two emails just asking. And, do you know what? I immediately got a yes reply to one of them. The other one is a bigger thing that is kind of complicated and so, fingers crossed, but what’s the worst thing that can happen? I’m already not doing it, right?

I’m also grateful for the environment because I had the wonderful opportunity to eat every meal with new people. I feel like I met almost all of you and you were all so supportive and great. I cannot wait until next time. THANK YOU ALL :)

— Dana Pugh

I have done a lot of conferences, and one conference multiple times... I must say this one was freaking magical. There was a commraderie I can’t explain, an instant bonding, no ego, good conversations, honest and open and just fulfilling. Thank you ladies for all contributing to this atmosphere. It was healing and reaffirming and a balm to my soul.

— Katrina Hannemann

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I’m home, sitting on the couch, watching my dogs sleep and catching up on email... and processing the last three days. I had no expectations of my first photography conference. But I did have an expectation for myself, that I would be present and open-hearted. I hadn’t realized the walls I had around myself regarding my photography until all of YOU helped break them down. Thank you Kirsten for helping me identify the root of my fears (feeling like a fraud)... I can see it now and that means I can shine a light on it and be with it. To say these three days were inspirational doesn’t feel like enough... I felt myself EXPAND! Time disappeared and only the MOMENT remained. Thank you to everyone who were present in those moments with me and thank you to all who created and masterminded them. I am changed. Thank you

— Heather Donaeur

I knew coming away from this conference there would be some renewed inspiration. I would learn some new things about myself and photography. I am literally blown away. These past three days have been the most inspired I have felt in a long time. Between being in the company of such amazing women, in an environment so encouraging and supportive, I feel so happy and full of light today. What a gift to spend this time with you all. I will not forget the fires lit. I can not wait to start planning the next adventure! Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

— Jody Goodwin

I’ve been searching for words all morning to properly describe how I’m feeling after this week. There are very few times in my life that I’m left speechless but this is one of them. I’ve tried to explain the experience to a few other women and I can’t seem to find words that properly describe how full my heart is.

What an incredible group of women you all are. I feel so honoured to have connected with so many of you. Thank you all for being so vulnerable and so real. 

— Jennifer Moher


You’ve probably received a ton of messages this week of thanks and gratitude and you deserve every one of them.
Already, I am watching new friends post new work that is clearly shining a little brighter. You have started a movement. I feel incredibly lucky and honoured to have attended the conference and to have met so many strong and women who are ready; ready to do better, be honest, try harder.

My poor husband, Geordie, has had to listen to me for the past few months go on and on about how much I have wanted to change my work, and to create more meaningful images, more REAL images.

So, I came up with some loose plans that lacked a lot of lustre and was kind of floating, until Dana added me to the conference page. Now everything is a little firmer.
I think you might not entirely know it, or appreciate it yet; but you changed a lot of lives last week. I think it will become a domino affect. When I came home from the conference Geordie asked me what my takeaway was and I was all like “i’m going to get real” — and he eye rolled me and coughed a little that it took me $1300 and 4 days away to “get real”.

But, he was persistent with his questions and prodding and is now one of my biggest encouragers, and actually instigators. So much has changed in one week already. This conference also reminded me where I came from, which is a strong background of photojournalism that kind of got lost the past 10 years with my influences by other peoples work… and my family, but I wouldn’t trade that circus show in for the world! 

I believe photographers from the conference will become more honest with their work, I believe that we can move clients into the direction of being interested in their ordinary and caring about THEIR moments and not the social media moments.

So, a giant THANK YOU! I know you put a lot on the line for this to happen and I can’t thank you enough.

— Rachel Boekel

You see, I know my ‘why,’ and I know all the things I need to not give a fuck about anymore but how I was harbouring a lot that I needed to let go of that has been holding me back and now I have the courage to take the first steps. Healing through photography. I’m so thankful I have the tools to do this.

I have so many take-aways and practical things I will start on ASAP like, self portraits over lunch breaks - I have never really done these because I was raised that is a sign of vanity. Thanks Heather Evans Smith - I will start facing that ASAP. I will start dreaming instead of weighing myself down with only goals, motivating myself by doing and taking action by the crotch - like a otter. Kristen Kalp, Jenn Ackerman, Jennifer Moher thanks so much.
Thank y’all all for being real. Being real with other female photographers will only allow us all to grow, inspire and motivate us all. Niki Boon you are a gem lady. Just a freaking gem! Much respect.

I also sincerely hope that we all look inward and see how amazing we are right now. Not one of us are flawless and if Kirsten Lewis Bethmann can rock being a momma while, teaching us like a super woman, I hope we all aim to work harder, be patient more and wait for those moments. Thank y’all Gulnara Samoilova, Susana Barbera, Erika Jensen-Mann

Y’all made this week life changing and for me, that is priceless. Much love!

— Christy Swanberg


Please excuse the terrible grammar, the following text is my response to my husband when he asked how the conference was going & asked why I cried a billion times throughout the day: “Because these people speak my language, because I feel like apart of me is coming more and more alive, because I have found something I absolutely love to do, something that gives me life, because some of the stories were so emotional & I could relate so well and because there was a moment where God spoke to me and said this is what is going to help heal you and because I feel like I have found a way to help me cope with mental illness."

Just wanted to thank you for creating this incredible space. I have learned soooo much already and am deeply encouraged on so many levels.

— Casey Dandenault

There are so many things that made it amazing. I’m going to list my top ones for you in no particular order

  1. the location is inspiring in itself

  2. having only women attend

  3. the crazy talented photographers/speakers

  4. the food

  5. the organization

  6. the meaning behind the conference

  7. the open forum

  8. the sense of community

As I said these are the top ones, but there is so much more. This conference really challenged me both personally and in business. It has really made me think hard about my life in general and of course my work. I appreciate your vision and share it with you now. So thank you for letting me be part of it. I wish I was able to thank you in person but my throats felt swollen all week. Not bc I was sick, but the emotion I felt there and I was so moved by the honesty and passion I had lumps in my throat all week. It was moving. Know how incredibly grateful I feel for having this opportunity.

— Jamie Woytiuk