Midwest Gathering
Detroit, MI
November 18-19 2020
The Jam Handy
Detroit, MI
November 18-19 2020
Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI
November 18-19 2020
8 Speakers
Detroit, MI
November 18-19 2020
8 Speakers
Detroit, MI
November 18-19 2020
The Jam Handy
Detroit, MI
November 18-19 2020
Detroit, MI

Detroit is a place where things are made, a place where people have always come together to make something greater than themselves, piece by piece. The Midwest Gathering is carrying on that tradition.

2020 Speakers
The Thomas Bros

The Thomas Bros

You’re not seeing double. Well kind of.

Allow us to introduce Torrence and Thurman Thomas, or as we know them collectively, The Thomas Bros. But they’re not the kind of Bros who are going to cat call you on the street and ruin your night out with your friends. They’re the kind of Bros who are true creative power houses. From music to photography, running a non-profit that has taught over 1,300 underserved youth to swim (Tankproof) to full on brand activations, they bring their genetically identical minds together to make our world a little bit cooler and they look damn good doing it (honestly, kind of intimidated by their fashion game). We’re so happy their zygote split in the womb 29 years because we’re convinced that they possess too much cool for just one person, and we’re so happy to be bringing both of them to Detroit for Midwest Gathering.

The Talk: Leading with your Left

The Thomas Bros will discuss their personal stories and how adapting and embracing their weaknesses has actually been a strength for them. Weaknesses breed connectivity. In this talk they’ll instruct their listeners to “lead with their left” in order to create the “right” connections.
Charmi Patel Peña

Charmi Patel Peña

Nikon Ambassador and, given her political aspirations, probably future actual Ambassador.

We could talk about the awards Charmi has won, but she’s too cool to care about awards.  We could also talk about how she’s a Nikon Ambassador, but she’s too humble to have us brag.  We could talk about how beautiful Charmi’s work is, how adorable her children are, how much we respect her involvement in local politics, and how she is truly a trail blazer, being the first woman of color to be named a Nikon Ambassador (thanks for getting around to that Nikon).  We could talk about all of that, but really, there’s just too much to like when it comes to Charmi and we can’t pick just one thing.  We just know we’re excited to have her join us in Detroit.

The Talk: Busting Out of the Burnout Funk

You think you’re tired and burnt out?  Charmi shoots about 30 multi-day weddings a year and manages to do so with a smile (and a large bottle of ibuprofen, we imagine)! Charmi will talk through the strategies she has used to get herself of out burnout mode and back into feeling excited to head out to every wedding. From changing how she thinks about the technicals of shooting, to ways she manages workflow and gives herself time back for living life, there is so much we do can do for ourselves so we can have the lives we deserve and still love what we do.

Jennifer Moher

Jennifer Moher

Reckon she’s got the best smile in all of Ontario, eh?

She loves musical theater.  Her work is incredible.  Her instagram aesthetic is unbelievably chic and consistent, and she is the living embodiment of the ‘all Canadians are way too nice’ stereotype. I’d say that just about sums of Jen Moher, but the truth is her presence is just too big to be summed up by anyone.  If you’ve had the pleasure of being in the same room as Jen you know she’s magnetic and if you haven’t yet, we can’t wait for you to get drawn in by her this November.

And seriously.  The best smile.  I’m not convinced that she doesn’t have a few extra teeth in there somewhere.

The Talk: The Movie Talk

Jen’s goal when delivering a wedding gallery is for her clients to have the same feelings they get when they watch a good movie. She wants them to feel. She wants them to cry, to laugh, to engage in what they are viewing.

By examining movies, breaking down their elements and comparing them to a wedding day, studying some of the greatest directors and cinematographers and understanding what makes a “good” story we can learn to shoot with intention and become a better story tellers ourselves.

This talk will provide you with both beautiful inspiration and tools to become better storytellers.

Wyn Wiley

Wyn Wiley

We’re still negotiating Pattie Gonia’s performance fee.

Look, it’s hard to pick only a few wonderful things to say about Wyn because the list of what makes him wonderful is a mile long, at least. He’s got a kind soul, a heart for working with non-profits, and he looks great in 8 inch heels and a wig, to name just three.

If you don’t know Wyn, you may know his drag persona, Pattie Gonia.  To our knowledge she’s the worlds first back packing drag queen and one more example of what makes Wyn so extraordinary.  He’s used the art form of drag to start conversations about conservation and enjoying this big beautiful planet we’re all riding around on, proving his skills as an innovator and one who is willing to think outside the box.  We know he’s going to crush it at Midwest Gathering this year, preferably while wearing those 8 inch heels we mentioned. 

The Talk: You Are a Queen.  Take Back Your Throne.

Take back your business and take back this art form as something that finally makes you feel again. This is you 2.0. This is me talking to you about what really matters- not growing your following but growing your community. not fabricating the truth but telling the truth not just in your work but in your story as a human being. This is all of us, together, realizing we have nothing to prove and everything to give, that life really is magical and also fucking hard and then, (surprise!!!) real life strategies to go home and start fucking shit up on the home front. We have ourselves to fight for y’all. It’s life or death- it really is.

Jacob Loafman

Jacob Loafman

Ask him about fishing!

Jacob is such an obvious choice to come speak at Midwest Gathering that we almost forgot to ask him, but when we had a shakeup and found ourself with a hole in our lineup, Heather was hit by a stroke of lightning, fired off a text message, and within a literal minute (I’ve got the timestamps to prove it), he said he was in.  He’s a resident of the Midwest and an alumnus of year one of Midwest Gathering, oh, and he’s just like a great guy.  Seriously.  have you met him?  He’s so great!

The Talk: The Creative Deathbed

When I’m on my deathbed, I want to look back at the work I’ve made and say to myself, “I made some pretty cool shit and I am proud of that.” That’s it. Of course I want to make clients happy, but it’s bigger than that. I want to see my evolution as an artist through my work. I want to know that I challenged myself as an artist. I want to know that when I was creating, I was filling up my creative cup. So, I give myself challenges every month, sometimes more, to keep my mind fresh. I want to share these challenges with you, so you can also challenge yourself as a photographer, as an artist, and as a person. Let’s create a portfolio of work that we can be proud of when we leave it behind for others to see.
Heather Jowett

Heather Jowett

Just here for the drag queens.

So look.  I write all these bios.  Even for the other speakers and now it’s my turn to write one about myself so here goes fucking nothing.  I was raised by my Aunt and Uncle in a cupboard under the stairs until one day some owls started arriving.  We moved because of the bird infestation and I’ve lived north of the wall ever since.  WHOOPS.  Crossed fandom streams for a minute there.

I’m just a woman from the midwest with a great head of hair, a heart for fairness and justice, a camera, and an unrequited not-so-secret desire to be a comedian.  I founded this little thing called Midwest Gathering in my favorite city, Detroit, with Meghan.  It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m excited to speak at it (mostly because I’m not taking a speaking fee so it’s a great way for us to save money).

The Talk: What To Do When Shit Hits the Fan

Heather has photographed over 200 weddings and in all that time she’s only ever had one complaint, one wedding where she failed miserably to provide a level customer service that could make the couple happy. This is a talk about that time. This is a talk about what she did when the shit hit the fan. 

Heather will share the lessons she learned from the one time she failed, gloriously. She’s a firm believer that there’s always something to be learned from failure, but she’s noticed a lot of people don’t like talking about times when they’ve failed, especially not on stage. Luckily for Midwest Gatherers, Heather is incapable of feeling shame, so she’s happy to share her failure with the world. She’ll talk about what went wrong and what it took to get things back on track.  In addition she’ll share her groundrules for customer service that she developed as a result of this one complaint. She’ll talk about how she has since built a business based on education, setting expectations, and, most importantly, empathy, and how those core tenants have helped her to have some of the happiest customers in the biz.

Tim Riddick

Tim Riddick

Will pay for your pedicure if he thinks it will get him a wedding.

Tim is a beast at making money.  I’m halfway tempted to say nothing else about him and just leave it at that but I will say more.  He’s got an infectious smile, an accent that will make you feel like you’re lounging on a beach somewhere, and is just genuinely one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

But also, he’s like super good at making money.  Oh, and pulling off patterned shirts most men wouldn’t dare attempt to wear.

The Talk: Airplanes and Champagne Baths 

Change your mindset to change your bank account.

In a world that tells you that there is only one way to be seen and only on the way to make money; I say screw that mindset. It’s time we learn to zig when everyone else zags. It’s time to put in hard work when everyone else is taking photos of well-foamed cappuccinos. There is a lot of ways to accomplish the same goal and this just in, you don’t need a ton Instagram followers or images with heart-shaped smashes. We are built for relationships. We are made to think different but why do we always fall into the same traps of doing what everyone else is doing? Its time to think outside of the box about our business so we can bathe in champagne.

Alora Rachelle

Alora Rachelle

Ask her about her turtlenecks!

There is a lot to like about Alora, but she holds an especially fond spot in our cofounder Heather’s heart for having the exact same Meyer Briggs and enneagram types (ESTP and 3w2 if you’re curious).  She has a mind for business and a drive for entrepreneurship that has led her to accomplish so much in a short amount of time, including recently crossing the elusive 10K instagram threshold (swipe up for more).

Aside from killer business instincts, she also has a very keen sense of where to get the best tacos within a 20 mile radius of where she is at any given moment, which is a skill that is all too necessary in these trying times.

The Talk: Follow Me to More Followers

Look, we all hate chasing likes and followers, but the truth is social media can be an incredibly powerful (and free) tool for bringing in revenue.   In this talk Alora will share her tips for how she has increased engagement and booked clients over instagram by consistently and organically growing her audience.  


Come to Detroit and be a part of something greater.

  • November 18-19 2020
  • the jam handy
  • detroit mi

We’re bringing together eight innovators from the photography and creative worlds for two days of learning and sharing.  Whether you’re just starting out, or photography has been your full time hustle for years, we think you’ll be inspired or, at the very least, entertained by the group we’ve brought together.  From a wedding photographer raised right here in Metro Detroit, to a pair of twin creative powerhouses from rural Louisiana, there’s a little something for everyone. We’ll be gathering at the Jam Handy, in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit, our home for two days of learning and one night of partying.

We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes.  The slogan for the city we love, Detroit, says it all.  We hope you’ll join us to see what’s arisen in the city.


  • The Vibe
  • 2018
  • The Why
  • Breakouts
  • Detroit
  • FAQ
The Vibe
What to Expect When You're Expecting
to come to Midwest Gathering

No place in the US is friendlier or more welcoming than the Midwest.  We have to be.  It’s cold here half the year and we need to huddle together for warmth.  We want Midwest Gathering to be an extension of that welcoming and friendly nature. This is a new experiment in this part of the country and we are just so grateful for everyone who has shown an interest in it, so the least we can do is welcome you with open arms and make sure you have a few days where you not only learn, but also enjoy yourself.

You can expect to spend your days split between listening to keynote lectures from our 8 speakers, participating in smaller breakout sessions lead by our speakers and some special guests, dancing with drag queens and one another, and most importantly, ample downtime to make new friends, eat good food, and explore Detroit with your camera in hand.

We don’t want this to be a conference where you worry about not being “cool” enough.  Heather, one of our founders, listens to multiple Dungeons and Dragons podcasts, alright?  You’re welcome here no matter what your weird thing is (or isn’t, it’s totally fine to just be a normal person with normal interests).  If you’re an extrovert, there will be plenty of people for you to dazzle with your jokes and your charm.  If you’re an introvert, there will be cozy sofas and corners for you to take a rest from the hustle and bustle and have a more intimate conversation with someone.  Come as you are, we want you here, not just for the warmth.

  • Heather
    Co-Organizer and Drag Queen Talent Scout
  • Meghan
    Co-Organizer and Spreadsheet Guru
We Have Our Reasons
AKA why we worked for 15 months on something that didn't make us money.

We’re wary of talking about this, but we feel it’s time. Midwest Gathering was born out of 3 years of frustration and disappointment in the photography industry. We all know that in 2019 there’s no reason to not have a lineup at a conference that represents just how wonderful and varied our industry is, but for years we noticed a lack of meaningful representation in so many other conference lineups. We’d see the same (mostly white, mostly male, mostly straight) photographers getting elevated to speaking positions throughout our industry and it left us scratching our heads a bit. We knew there were incredible people of color, and women, and queer photographers doing amazing things, so why weren’t we seeing more of them represented in the lineups of some of the leading conferences and workshops?

For three years, I (Heather) took out my frustration the way most of us do, by ranting on just about every corner of the internet where I thought someone would listen. I was met with responses like “it can’t be done” and “there just aren’t that many speakers that are X, Y, or Z” or “if you don’t like the way things are done, why don’t you start your own?” After three years of trying to get other people to give a damn, and mostly being met with deaf ears, I finally said “fuck it”, partnered with Meghan (the spreadsheet queen), and together we did just that and started our own. In year one, our lineup was 50% people of color, 50% women and femmes, and 25% LGBTQ identifying, and we’ve almost done it again in year two (I think we’re only 12.5% queer this year, but that’s not counting the drag queens).

I wouldn’t feel right writing about this without saying that we are by NO MEANS the first conference to do this. There have been trails blazed before us, unsurprisingly by incredible women of color. We particularly want to shout out The Photo Cookout and BLINK Conference for being absolute game changers in what a photography conference lineup can and should be.

We also want to thank our incredible past speakers. Without their trust, we wouldn’t have been able to make this thing a reality. You can check them out below.

Also, Heather just really wanted a reason to organize her own drag show.

Former Speakers
  • Paul Octavious
    Paul Octavious
  • Nessa Kessinger
    Nessa Kessinger
  • Brian Morrow
    Brian Morrow
  • Margaret Jacobsen
    Margaret Jacobsen
  • Bri McDaniel
    Bri McDaniel
  • Oli Sansom
    Oli Sansom
  • Nisha Ravji
    Nisha Ravji
  • Sam Hurd
    Sam Hurd
Small Groups of People Learning Together
Don't worry. These aren't the kind of breakouts that ruined your 8th grade yearbook photo.

Is sitting in a chair staring up at a large screen while a person talks for an hour not your preferred method for learning?  Well you’re in luck because we’re planning some breakout sessions for smaller groups throughout the event.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to miss out on one of our 8 keynotes to participate.  Breakouts will be kept small, 15-20 people per session, and signups will be on a first come first served basis.

Breakout Session Topics will be announced in Summer 2019!

Birthplace of the Car, Motown Music, and Techno
Kid Rock isn't actually from here

Some of you are locals and some of you are coming to our city for the first time, with stars in your eyes and a dream in your heart.  There is so much that we love, and that we think you will love, about Detroit.  It’s one of those cities that has a tangible soul.  You can feel it when you walk around.  This city has served as a hub for creatives and art and music, and we want to carry on that tradition.  We’re not bringing it back because it never left.

We’ve got a lot of information in our city guide, but for now, if you’re thinking about coming and you’re wondering about quick logistics, here are some basics.

Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) is about 20 miles outside of the city if you’re planning on coming in by air.  If you’ve got a fear of flying, there’s an Amtrak Station just blocks away from our venue.  If you’re planning on driving yourself in there’s plenty of free parking at the venue.

Our venue, the Jam Handy, is located in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit, home to one of the most beautiful buildings to grace our skyline, the mighty Fisher Building (seriously, if you do nothing else while in the city, walk through this building).  There are a few places to stay in New Center and AirBnB’s abound, but the Jam Handy is also just blocks away from the jewel of Detroit’s Public Transit, the Q-line.  The Q-line runs along the main artery of Detroit, from Downtown right to our home in New Center, along Woodward Boulevard.  For $3 you can ride all day, meaning you can snag a place to stay along Woodward and head back for a nap at any time!  Detroit is the Motor City so many people opt for getting from spot to spot in the city by car.  Lyft and Uber drivers are plentiful so load those apps before you make your way here and you’ll be navigating our fair Detroit in no time.

You've got questions?
We've got answers.

Who the hell is running this show?

Oh man.  Probably should have said this sooner.  We’re Heather Jowett and Meghan Kindsvater, wedding photographers and co-organizers of this thing.  Heather is responsible for all the stupid jokes that you’ve read here and putting together the lineup while Meghan makes sure that our speakers get paid on time and does grown up things like opening bank accounts for us.  We’re a match made in heaven.

Is it going to be cold?

Well, it’s November in Michigan so certain signs point to yes, but the entire planet is undergoing catastrophic climate change, so maybe it won’t be too cold.  Either way, plan for some chilly weather.  Listen to your grandmother and don’t forget to bring a sweater, and a coat, and maybe some snow boots.

Where can I stay? What do I eat?  Does Detroit have cool stuff?

We’ve got you covered.  Head on over to our city guide to see some of the best our fair city has to offer.

My dad says I’m going to get shot if I come to Detroit.  Is that true?

First of all, your dad sounds like a real peach.  No, it is not true.  Detroit is like every other major US city.  There is some crime here.  Detroit is also like every other major US city in that, if you have a fair amount of common sense, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe.  The neighborhood we’ll be in for the conference is certainly safe but city rules apply.  Use the buddy system late at night.  Don’t leave your valuables anywhere visible in your car.  Basically, have some common sense and keep your wits about you and you’re gonna be fine.

What should I bring with me?

An open heart… just kidding.  I mean, bring that if you’ve got one, sounds cool.  We can pass it around and pretend we’re in anatomy class.  It’s probably a good idea to bring something to write notes in.  If you’re a laptop sort of note taking person, we just ask that you sit near the back so the glare of your screen doesn’t harsh the vibe for everyone in the pen and paper crowd.  Even if you’re not doing a live shoot, bring your camera because you never know when you might be inspired (says the girl who never takes out her camera at these things).

I’m an introvert and I don’t know anyone and I’m afraid.

Well, this is less of a question and more of a concern but let’s talk.  Hi, I’m Heather Jowett and I’m an extrovert and I like people.  If you are afraid you’ll have no one to talk to at this thing, come talk to me.  One of my many skills is connecting people to other people who I know will get along, so I’ll help find you a buddy, or I’ll be your buddy.  I like having more buddies.

I’m an extrovert and I just want to party and dance.

Once again, not really following the question format but okay.  Don’t worry, there will be time for dancing.  OH THE GLORIOUS DANCING WE SHALL DO.

What’s the schedule?

Coming soon. Thanks for asking.

Got more questions?

Email us, info@midwestgathering.com

  • City:Detroit

    It’s a good time to come to Detroit.  The New York Times, Lonely Plant, and CBS This Morning have all named it a must visit.  You’ll hear a lot of hype about how Detroit is “America’s comeback city”, but to those of us who love this place, we know Detroit hasn’t come back, it’s been here all along.

    Launch Gallery
  • Venue:The Jam Handy

    The Jam Handy has lived many lives but it’s best know as a movie studio. Over 25,000 instructional films were created here and now it’s our home for The Midwest Gathering.  We couldn’t be more excited to have this incredible space.

    Launch Gallery
Midwest Gathering 2020

Due to concerns over Covid-19,
Midwest Gathering 2020
has been cancelled.

Please stay safe friends!


2020 Cancelled