Midwest Gathering
Detroit, MI
November 20-21 2019
8 Speakers
Detroit, MI
November 20-21 2019
Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI
November 20-21 2019
The Jam Handy
Detroit, MI
November 20-21 2019
8 Speakers
Detroit, MI
November 20-21 2019
Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI
November 20-21 2019
The Jam Handy

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.

2018 Speakers
Paul Octavious

Paul Octavious

The Chicago Based Imagination Engine

There’s not really a single word you can use to describe Paul’s work.  A scroll through his Instagram page will reveal colorful photos of balloons on cacti, editorial images of Chicago, stunning fine art images, breathtaking portraits, and puppies, beautifully rainbow lit puppies.

Paul’s work demands that you pay attention, and many people have, including brands like Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and Stella Artois (yes, that’s him in that one commercial Hulu keeps showing you over and over again).

We honestly can’t wait to hear what he has to say, and we’re secretly hoping he brings his mom (another one of his favorite Instagram subjects) to Detroit.

The Talk: Slow Down Creator

Ever since the birth of instagram and social media, the need for absorbing and creating content is more rapid than ever.  Creating work has changed and too much of our time creating is dictated by likes and follows.  We don’t do it for ourselves anymore.  We do it for the ‘gram.

In his talk Paul will talk about his experience with the ups and downs of content creation in this instant world we live in and his attempt to slow things down.  He’ll share some tips on how to we can all do the same to create online content that gets the right kind of likes and follows.

Nessa Kessinger

Nessa Kessinger

The Five Foot Wonder

Based in Baltimore, Nessa has developed a style so signature that her wedding photos can easily be picked out of a lineup.  They’re somehow simultaneously meticulously stylized and effortlessly cool.  Having been photographed by her, I can tell you, she has a skill for making you look much cooler than you actually are.  It’s a talent.

I’ve never known someone to be so mindful and thoughtful about light.  It’s as if she’s been enhanced by Cyberdyne Systems to have Terminator vision, but only about how a shadow is going to fall across a person’s nose.

She’d want me to mention burritos.  She likes burritos.

The Talk: Light ‘em If You Got ‘em.

Nessa will be talking all about shooting mindfully and intentionally using mostly available light. Of all the aspects of photography to keep in mind on a wedding day, lighting is the one that can make or break an image.  It can shift the mood completely and has the ability to fully change the appearance of subjects (exhibit A: contouring tutorials on youtube).

Nessa will not only discuss how to see lighting in a different way, but also how to verbalize lighting concepts to help prep your clients for the best lighting possible.

Brian Morrow

Brian Morrow

Even Sundance Knows What's Up

It’s an exciting time for Brian Morrow.  A film he produced was just named one of Sundance’s official 2018 selections (Hal), he’s opened an event space in LA (Office Party), and his doctor thinks that skin thing on his knee is going to clear up any day now.  One of those three things is made up, I hope.

If you don’t know Brian, you may know his wedding film brand, Shark Pig.  They were whipping out super 8 cameras at weddings before it was cool.  Shark Pig graduated from wedding films to become a full fledged production house, though they’ve mostly worked with smaller brands you’ve probably never heard of like Disney, Google, and Target.

I’m still not sure what a Shark Pig is, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what a Brian Morrow is either, but maybe we’ll figure both out in November.

The Talk: Create of Die.  Or Both.

Brian Morrow believes in the power of creativity, no matter what field you’re in. He also knows we’re all going to die.  Not soon, hopefully, but life is precious, unpredictable and short but paradoxically also semi-infinite and magnificent. In order to get the most out of it, you’ve got to know what you want.  Let’s figure out what that is together, shall well?


Margaret Jacobsen

Margaret Jacobsen

Ask them About Their Plants!

Photographer, Activist, Writer, Plant Person.  There are lots of words you could use to describe them, so let’s just go with Margaret.

Margaret has a long history of bringing people together.  Their true talent in this life is creating communities, be it something small, like a Facebook group that will help you figure out what to do when your fiddle leaf fig tree is turning brown, to something large, like bringing together thousands of people in the streets of Portland as a co-organizer of the 2017 Women’s March in that city.

They also write for Romper in case you wanted to go down the rabbit hole of finding out every last thing you can about Margaret before November.

When they’re not doing all those things, you can find them in bed reading Harry Potter with their kids most nights.  But like, knock first.  It’s someone’s bedroom after all.

The Talk:  Our Stories Matter

Often in our industry certain stories are told while others aren’t. We prioritize the beautiful, the comfortable, the stories told many times before. But what would happen if we told the stories that aren’t usually seen or heard?

Oli Sansom

Oli Sansom

Kangaroo, Koalas, G'day Mate

First things first, will you all help me in convincing Oli he needs a haircut?  He told me he wants to look like Scott Stapp and I just find that personally unacceptable.

I could tell you that his work is beautiful (it is), or how one of his images was on the cover of Rangefinder (it was), or how he’s just generally a great guy (he is), but I make it a habit to not say nice things about Oli.  I’m still not 100% sure he’s okay with the fact that I put a photo of him holding a dog on this website, but I really hated the scarf he was wearing in the photo he sent me.

Live translation will be available for anyone not fluent in Aussie.

The Talk:  The Science of Bias

Human beings might be able to carve an atomically perfect hipster beard and even throw David Bowie towards Jupiter on a Tesla (we’re looking at you, Elon Musk), but at the end of the day, our reasons for not being fearless in how we live and work is quite primal, and still has links to simply avoiding being eaten. This primal fear now lives in the biases that we hold personally and professionally. We’re gonna deconstruct those biases, and find out how we can take hold of our thinking to break new ground creatively: not just to be different, but so that we stay in love with our craft, and have a mechanism to stay in love with it in years to come.  It’s easy to fall in love with photography.  Oli Sansom is going to teach us how to stay in love with it.
Bri McDaniel

Bri McDaniel

Could Pull Off a Flower Crown in the Grocery Store

I can remember meeting Bri because Bri is a memorable person.  I used to think effervescent was a word that should only be saved for Sprite and Alka Seltzer, but Bri is the one human on earth I would ascribe that descriptor to.

Bri’s photography is natural and beautiful and effortless, which are all words I could use to describe the woman herself.   She’s one of the few women I’ve ever known that posed for maternity photos that had me saying “Beyonce who?”

Aside from her business baby, Bri just had her first human baby, a little girl named Luna.  I see many flower crowns in that baby’s future.

The Talk: Secure Your Oxygen Mask Before Assisting Others.

Bri’s talk with focus on putting yourself first, before your business, in a way that will keep you from burning out and will encourage longevity. She’ll talk about the different challenges that come out of being a professional photographer and share how to overcome those in a way that leaves you feeling empowered. She’s pretty passionate about self love and self care and knows firsthand how those practices have helped her to curate her business to work for her and her clients.  We’re hoping it’s more than just bubble baths and face masks.


Sam Hurd

Sam Hurd

Already Has the iPhone 15

Pickles and Popcorn.  No, they’re not Sam’s favorite snacks.  They’re the pets Sam lives with in Baltimore, along with Nessa, but she’s not a pet.

Sam’s known for pioneering some unconventional techniques, which he mostly comes up with by banging rocks together in front of his lens, like a caveman trying to discover fire.  Have you ever seen someone hold a prism in front of their lens and then tried doing it yourself?  Well, you can trace that move way way back to Sam.

He once photographed George Clooney.  Let’s all ask Sam what kind of cologne George was wearing when we see him this November.

The Talk: Beyond storytelling.

The word storyteller has been so overused by photographers and Sam Hurd believes it has lost meaning. He’s going to share why he thinks it’s valuable for creatives to think beyond just telling stories and how weddings are a uniquely suited testing ground for new techniques and experimentation.


Nisha Ravji

Nisha Ravji

Detroit Hustles Harder, but Nisha Hustles Too

Based on Planet Earth, Nisha has shot weddings just about anywhere you can think of.  I’ve hung out with Nisha several times and it’s literally never been in the same country twice.  She’s a genuine Jetsetter.

It’s hard to pin down where on the globe she lives on any given day of the week, but she’s a Kiwi, from Under Down Under, grew up amongst the hobbits.  Look, what I’m trying to say is, she’s from New Zealand and has the accent to prove it.

Nisha has managed to grow a business just as mobile as she is, and has done so by hustling like a maniac.  She’s the hardest working woman I know and I’m just over here hoping some of that’ll rub off on me the next time we hang out, which, based on current patterns, will probably be in Kathmandu.

The Talk: Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.

Nisha Ravji wants you to consider how you can not only be the best photographer, but also give the best customer experience you can. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, the social media game, the doing-what-everyone-else-is game but Nisha believes in booking through word of month over any other channel.  She’s an expert in optimizing the good word being spread and turning her clients into tiny wedding photo toting evangelists. She’ll be breaking down to a practical level how she runs her day to day customer experience and the thought process behind it.


Come to Detroit and be a part of something greater.

  • November 20-21 - 2019
  • the jam handy
  • detroit mi

We’re bringing together eight innovators from the photography and videography world 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 commercial photographer from right here in the Midwest, to a destination wedding powerhouse from New Zealand, 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
  • Panels
  • 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, participating in panels and Q+A sessions, and most importantly, ample downtime to make new friends, eat good food, and explore Detroit with your camera in hand.

Want to drill in to see how an album gets made?  Want to do a live shoot with real live humans and tigers?*  Want to learn some hacks for making your workflow more efficient?  Well you’re in luck because we’ve got some breakout sessions for you to choose from.

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.

*there won’t actually be tigers, but you should know by now not to take everything I say seriously.

Buy Your Ticket
Groups of People
sitting on stools

I love a well rehearsed and prepared keynote presentation as much as the next person, but sometimes to get to the real core of an issue you need to dive in to a conversation about it, so we’ll be doing just that.  On each day of the conference we’ll be hosting a panel on a different topic, part planned discussion, part Q+A.  You’ll learn, you’ll laugh, you’ll probably get up to use the bathroom at some point.  It’ll be great.

Day One: Branding the Creative Service – Being good isn’t good enough
With your host, Ryan Hunley of Second Street Creative and panelists Sam Hurd, Nessa Kessinger, Oli Sansom, and Paul Octavtious.
It would be great if the creative services industries were meritocracies and simply being really fucking good at your job ensured financial stability and a comfy retirement. But it doesn’t and it won’t. We work in an oversaturated marketplace and marketing only your beautiful work and incredible customer service is not effective when there is someone right down the street that also has beautiful work and incredible customer service. The good news (yes there is good news) is that what we need to focus on is right in front of our faces – And that is selling the experience we deliver. We must articulate why a client should trust us to tell their story beyond our ability to make them look good.  We will cover developing a voice, the branding process, being thankful for the internet, hating the internet, building a website, avoiding design trends, articulating your value and anything and everything in between.
Day Two: You Are What You Make… But Also You Aren’t – How to cut yourself in half and live to tell the tale
With your host, Heather Jowett (oh shit, that’s me) and panelists Bri McDaniel, Margaret Jacobsen, Ryan Hunley, and Abbey Moore
We work in an industry where it’s almost impossible not to take things personally.  We are all tied to our work in a messy entanglement of creativity, identity, and a healthy dose of self loathing (as is required of every great artist).  As artists we can sometimes tie our sense of identity to the work we deliver when we are so much more than that.  We’ll discuss why work/life balance is an unattainable fairy tale and strategies for partitioning the artist you from the person you.
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.

Here’s an ever evolving list of what we’ve got planned.  Check back because we’ll be adding more as the event draws nearer.

•Designing and Selling Albums with QTAlbums

•Sam Hurd Opens His Bag o’ Tricks (live shoot)

•3-47 Tips to Help Speed Up Your Workflow with Heather Jowett

•Finding light with Nessa Kessinger (live shoot)

•Tuesday workshop with Jacob Loafman.

•And more!

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 it’s also early November in Michigan and the entire climate of our 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.

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?

Its right here.  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
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