Fueled by: Natasha Chornesky, The Write Shot
By Liese Gardner
Before I even knew Natasha Chornesky as a friend, she sent me a book – The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer. We had met through the wedding industry – at a meeting given by the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) to be exact.
I was there because some of my clients from the corporate event world were crossing over into weddings. Natasha was there because her company, The WriteShot, produces stunning, four-color coffee table books for a variety of people and reasons, one being the documentation of a wedding, the couple, their life and their love (more about these books in a moment).
Natasha is the kind of person with whom one falls easily and happily into conversation (a trait that makes her very good at what she does) and our conversation that day evolved into a couple phone calls over the following weeks.
We were talking about life patterns and she told me that Dyer’s book was influential for her and that I should take a look at it. I wrote the name down for future reference next time I was in a bookstore. But there was really no need. When I got my mail two days later it was there.
The fact that she got off the phone that day and ordered the book for me was so impressive. Acting on impulse. Making something happen. Reaching out. All traits I deeply admire. It was then that I knew Natasha would be an important person to me.
Certainly her life and the unexpected direction it took is inspiration enough and testimony to all those things.
The year was 2005 and Natasha was at the end of a 15-year career in the independent school system, the last two of which had been spent as a middle school principal. She had gone into it thinking it afforded her time to pursue her passions – writing and photography. Soon her time was consumed with her job. But one day, after years of encouraging students to follow their hearts, she finally took her own advice.
She put everything in storage and, as cliché as it might be, she headed west. Her landing: Las Vegas.
I’ll let Natasha take her story from here …
Once in Vegas I immediately began shooting every day and eventually landed a job shooting a boxing match one Friday night.
I learned early on that as long as I was open to new ideas, good things and good people came my way. Yet it’s not always easy. Something like boxing — it was different. I had spent my lifetime in academia at the most elite level and, ironically it had taken me farther and farther away from the incubation of ideas and creativity; farther away from risk-taking. I had to actively stretch my mind, open it up.
One fight led to another. One night while I was shooting I met Chris Cozzone. He was an award-winning journalist and graphic designer, and a phenomenal mentor. I needed one, as boxing is quite possibly the most difficult event on the planet to shoot.
Chris was the first person who told me that I could do whatever I want in life and that I should follow my passion. I was terrified. He would gently poke fun at me and say (in the voice from a character in the movie Highlander), “Face your fears.”
The very thing I had spent 15 years telling students was something I was not embodying myself.
A Story is Born
Chris also shared a dream of his — to build a storytelling business.
For a big fight, Chris shoots the fighters’ grand arrivals, their workouts, press conferences, the weigh-in, the day before and the main event on Saturday. A wedding, he thought, should be documented the same way.
He often says, “A love story and wedding or union is more important than a sporting event and it should be documented appropriately.”
Our culture encourages us to revere somebody else’s life over our own. We’re constantly enticed to compare ourselves to or peek into the lives of others, especially now with all the so-called reality TV. We’re so consumed by the stories of others that we neglect our own.
That was when we had the idea for WriteShot.
Up until that point, I thought my decision to walk away from a steady six-figure income, not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from, was the single most challenging nanosecond in my life. This was reinforced by the reactions I received when I shared my story with others.
Making such a radical change touches a chord in anyone who has heard the question, “Why don’t you go out on your own?” But hasn’t.
It touches people, especially women, who wish they had the courage to walk away from a professional or personal situation they are currently in. So many of us wonder if we could really “do it” on our own—do it differently—how we know it could be done. Even though we say we are high performers, deep down we know we are underperforming to ourselves. But we chicken out when it comes to change. I was finished with being chicken.
In hindsight that decision was easy compared to hanging out a shingle in a relatively obscure cottage industry — the personal history business. I remember thinking, “Wow, people make a living at this?” My next thought was, “From where will our clients come?”
We had a heck of a time explaining what we do. First of all, we not only wrote, but we shot our clients and handled all the restoration work needed on photos that may be decades old.
With all the time we were spending together on projects, it didn’t take long before our own love story began to unfold.
By the end of 2008, we had all kinds of projects coming in. We wrote books about people’s dogs, the text accompanied by photos. We wrote dedication books for husbands who wanted to give their wives the equivalent of the moon.
It was then that we were beginning to realize the potential in the wedding industry. Absolutely nobody was doing what we did. At that point, we had no way of knowing our wedding books would become the most greatly demanded of all our services/products.
Capturing Versus Creating A Moment
It’s funny, we derive the most business from the event industry, but it is also our toughest sell, because we are most likely the only creative partners on an event team that are capturing, not creating; crafting moments and environments, not following a script, template or following this year’s trends.
Chris and I are storytellers. We don’t create stories. We capture them as they unfold or as they have already unfolded. Every single book we create is rooted in the understanding that it will be enjoyed over and over again by the client, in the present, and the client’s family for generations to come. Every project we take on gives us juice.
The adventure fuels us.
Especially when somebody says, “My story is boring.”
That’s when we know we’re on to something. Fact: nobody has a boring story. Most people just don’t recognize the value in capturing their story. We educate them about that value. That’s when they start to get excited.
The trend in weddings, where we do the bulk of our work, is for photographers to fabricate moments. That’s fantasy storytelling. We don’t do that. There were times when I was tempted to cave into this trend. Chris really helped me avoid this trap. Together, we’ve held strong and even turned down clients and projects that we believed were not a strong fit for WriteShot. In the beginning, this was terrifying.
I’ll take it from here again…
I bring you Natasha’s story because I’m fueled by what she did, what she is doing and who she is.
Story tellers in our society are so rare. It’s not hard to figure out why. One — they are people who actually have a genuine interest in someone else. Two – they have the ability to listen and empathize. Three — they need to be able to see that everyone, not just famous people, has a story worth telling.
Natasha and Chris embody all this and the ability to take all three talents, focus them on a wedding, event, person or pup and then package the story with words and pictures.
And they never stop looking for that one defining moment to complete the book – that one right shot, if you will. Natasha sums it up best (naturally):
“I respect and appreciate the power of language in shaping my reality and that of our business. We are constantly refining our mission and our vision. We’re relentless because we’re pioneers.”
The WriteShot, www.writeshot.com
THE WORK — The following are excerpts from one of TheWriteShot’s wedding books. Just as a biographer would, they spend time with the couple before the wedding, talking and documenting them together. The result is something far more personal than a photo album of shots taken just at the wedding.
The finished products…
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