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Daily Inspiration: Meet Sam Le

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Le.

Hi Sam, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Since I first had access to the Food Network during my childhood, I aspired to become a chef. A decade later, split between a dream and more practical aspirations of a professional job, I completed a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Texas Austin while working as a dishwasher at a downtown sushi restaurant. Eventually, my work as a dishwasher led me to become a sushi chef, while filling my time as a chemistry teaching assistant. After several years in the restaurant industry, I reassessed my goals in life, and ultimately decided to pursue a different career.

Crestfallen of giving up a lifelong passion and feeling rather directionless, it was through a friend that I was introduced to photography as a creative outlet. I found that the technical part of photography appealed to the chemistry side of my brain while learning about aesthetics and plating from being a chef, which helped me gain insight about composition and lighting. My experience of talking to patrons at the sushi counter aided me in taking portraits of people, learning about them and their story. It wasn’t until years later that I reconciled that I hadn’t failed as a chef, but instead used it as a stepping stone to becoming a wedding photographer.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Coming from the more regimented background of science, learning to find my own voice both creatively and visually was the greatest challenge. In order to learn the trade, I assisted many talented wedding photographers who had a wide range of styles and approaches. From each, I gained skills, but through the process, my own creative voice became lost as I haphazardly tried to amalgamate the different styles together, with inconsistent results.

In 2017, following a decline in bookings and the dreadfully familiar loss of interest in my own work, I was forced to reassess, again. I almost quit. During that time it was through reflection and critically assessing my work that I rebuilt my business, based on my own vision. I realized I was most passionate about showing connections between people and telling the story, from small moments that would be forgotten otherwise, to the grand moments as they unfold. I want to hear about their journey so far together, and take that into consideration as I observe and document their day. As I began sharing more work that resonated with me, I began to connect with couples who wanted their day to be photographed in a storytelling way. The past few years have been transformative both personally and professionally.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My hope is to document the day unobtrusively, to allow the moments to happen, to ensure my couples are as comfortable as possible, and create timeless images for them to enjoy. From years of working in the kitchen, I rarely find wedding days stressful and have found couples find my demeanor calming. This allows me to capture unguarded moments, which speak to the approach I had made for myself.

Feeling confident in my wedding work, I’m currently exploring additional creative avenues with my photography. My love of food has reignited and I am delving into food photography, both of my own home cooking, and smaller startup restaurants. I’m driven by curiosity and am excited to see where I go next.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?

The vast majority of my couples are young professionals and artists who have a clear idea of the experience they hope to have themselves and give their guests on their wedding day. I have noticed weddings are less inspired by the parents and are more a reflection of the couple and their personalities. People are getting married in museums, breweries, boutique hotels, and mountain summits. If you can imagine it, you can get married there and that is exciting.

As the pandemic changed everyone’s plans and expectations, people took the agency to have smaller, intimate weddings, perhaps pushing our understanding of what weddings can be ahead by several years – and I love it. Rather than throwing one large party, they may instead elope themselves and throw a small party another year (it’s what my partner and I did), or get married in their backyard with only their families present, or perhaps the 200+ person weddings will be all the more cherished for bringing us all back together again. Every year the color trends and decor styles will change, but I think we will see more intent on creating a memorable experience to be with their closest family and friends, and it will be beautiful to see what couples dream up.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
My headshot is by Brittany Staddon.

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