Every couple and family that we work with has
a story many, many stories. There are happy ones and sad ones, long ones and short ones, stories that make us double over in laughter, and stories that let us see depths of despair. We love learning the story of each of our couples and families — it’s one of our favorite parts about our work. But we are not storytellers. We are story-documenters.
When we realized this, we knew that we should document ours as well. The Radian Story is the story of us, Radhika and Ian. From the day we were born to where we stand now, this is our story from babies to bride & groom.
Part 9: Smile. Click. Repeat. (Or Radian Photography’s Birthday)
One of the most frequently asked questions we hear is, “So when did you all officially get started?” That’s a really hard question to answer, and as most business owners know, there’s a big difference between the time you start doing what you do and when you actually feel like you’re running a true business. But we’ll try to answer the question anyway.
From Radhika’s perspective
Oh, high school. When I tell people that I taught middle school, you can see them shudder immediately. The hormones, the insecurities, and all of the weird changes that happen during that time come rushing back to them. But for me, it was high school, not middle school, that brought on all of my teen angst. A first boyfriend, a move to Durham (I graduated from NCSSM), and all of the other growing up things that happen in high school were so overwhelming to me. So when I took a darkroom class during my senior year, 50 miles away from where my parents lived and over 8,000 away from where I was born, it felt a little like going home. All of the strange chemical smells and the peace of watching a photo come to life before you in a dimly lit room were calming and I fell in love with it. While I didn’t really pursue photography in college, you could usually find me with a point and shoot camera. When I lost my phone on a beach trip with my friends, they said, “Let’s cheer you up. Do you want to take some photos?” (You can read more on what it was like for me to be back in a darkroom again here!) I won’t try to describe to you the excitement I felt when I got my first camera phone (it was a new level of nerdiness that I just wouldn’t want to expose you to).
In college, I lived with three other women that I had gone to high school with, but didn’t know well at the time. Chance put us in suites next to each other in the same dorm during our first year of college and, tired of living in dorms after three years, we moved into an apartment together during our sophomore year. Each year, we took photos together at the Old Well to commemorate another year gone by, and when one of my roommates got engaged after we graduated in 2011, she and her fiance asked Ian and me to take their engagement photos.
We were thrilled. And we had no idea what we were doing.
We perused Pinterest boards, finding the ‘cutest’ (read: cheesiest) poses, and spent not one, not two, not three, but FOUR (4) hours on UNC’s campus in the middle of a sweltering August day taking photos. Looking back, while the photos aren’t what we would call our best work, we still feel pride when we see them hanging in Abby and Luke’s home, and that session was addicting.
After Ian moved to Philadelphia for grad school that fall, all we really had the chance to photograph together was our travels. But as soon as we were back together again in Durham in 2014, we started photographing families, events, and eventually, weddings. So when did we officially start? I don’t really know. There’s a big difference between photographing your roommate for four hours and running a business, and somewhere in between these 6 years, Radian Photography was born. It didn’t happen all of a sudden, and it didn’t come with candles or a party, and we don’t have a day that we celebrate (this is hard for me because I love celebrating literally everything). But I’m so glad that somewhere in that period of time, we started this little business of ours, even if it was without fanfare and festivities. Because of Radian Photography, I know the world better, I know my partner better, and I know myself better. That’s worth celebrating every day.
From Ian’s perspective
I remember when my family got its first digital camera. It was a Sony, five megapixels, shaped like an SLR but it was just a point and shoot. It was magic. You could see the picture right after you took it!
My dad has always been into photography. He was so proud of his Minolta, taking pictures of any and every event, and at the time, that took dedication. There was film to buy, and then develop, and then print. But family activities were special and deserved to be documented and preserved. And he was dedicated, as our stacks of family photos (which he is slowly but surely digitizing) can attest to.
As we got older, and technology progressed, he upgraded to DSLRs and all kinds of lenses. He was most fond of the big telephoto ones. They were the best for running up and down the sidelines during lacrosse games and snapping action shots of my brother and me.
Photography was always interesting, but it wasn’t until my high school photography class that I really tried to understand how it worked. It was a classic kind of photography class, progressing from homemade pinhole cameras to self-developed roles of black and white film, all while studying the principles of how to compose and capture a beautiful shot.
Before I left for college, I bought my dad’s old DSLR from him (buying meant investing and therefore appreciating, in his philosophy). I didn’t carry it everywhere, but I did bring it along when I knew there would be an opportunity for some good shots. I had two favorite subjects. The first was the rural vistas that I could see, only temporarily, while riding through North Carolina on the lesser-known state highways. The other was the wide-open landscapes I could see from the lookouts along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I think I really loved the layers. Out of the window of a moving car, the objects on the side of the road would fly by while those in the distance slowly drifted past. When I looked out over the Blue Ridge Mountains, it always seemed like there were layers of mountains in the distance, each one a slightly grayer, smokier, more faded blue.
I’ve always cherished the ability to capture the beauty that I experienced. Now that Radhika and I have Radian Photography, I still get to capture beauty I experience, but that beauty is that which exists between people. The levels that I notice now are the increasingly deep levels on which people are able to connect with each other, share their lives, and intimately support one another. I love photography now more than I ever have because it allows me, and us, to see the awe-inspiring beauty of intentionally crafted relationships. Through photography, we constantly get to see examples of the powerful work that goes into building a strong relationship. It’s always been there, this dedication and commitment between people, but I now feel like I have the right lens with which to view it.
You can too.
Think of a couple you know and make time to ask them about what they do to support their relationship. You might be surprised. Investing in your relationship isn’t typically the front-page story. It’s far too often taken for granted. But take it from a couple of photographers who are blessed with the opportunity to experience it with every couple that we meet—relationships are beautiful, but building them is amazing.