renee + ben : the don’t give up session

hold on, friends. this is gonna be a long one!

forgive us for not being able to adequately describe what we are about to in words. you just had to be there to feel it…but we will try our very best to bring you into it, as we always do.

we did it. we held a workshop. actually, so much more than a workshop. more like a life experience that leaves you so affected you can’t help but join in a movement to change humanity.

the don’t give up project was birthed out of a dream we had to make our work count for something more than our own glory. each week we witness love that has the potential to last forever. and as true beauty always does – it changes us. it realigns us. it invites us to give of ourselves to add to the beauty. and so we do. the don’t give up project is about that – bringing strangers into our world to enter into our family for a few days, sleep in bunk beds, eat life-changing food around one big family table, play whiffle ball, listen to carefully picked music, marvel at what God has made for us, and marvel at each other…as we grow and learn a new way of living, a new way of “doing business” and join a movement for something that matters – lasting love and purposeful artists.

some of the words shared with us since the experience have been so accurate to describe what the 19 of us shared there.
“How do we best explain the Don’t Give Up Project? It has been hitting the twitter feed like mad lately. It is bringing curious posters to weddings lately. It has brought photographers with similar ideas together lately.
The Don’t Give Up Project is about sleep overs. It’s about big tables with food meant to be eaten slowly. It’s about mountains, sun rises, belching llamas, double rainbows, and among other things, it’s about community.
I, like many photographers, see the world through a lens. Though, before that lens, I have seen the world through my chef knives, and through flavors. The Don’t Give Up Project is about intentionality. Every appearance was planned with every flavor. Every color was designed with every texture. Every item from the lace strewn lighting to the mason jar wine glasses, and the candied pecans to the beet puree were planned with intention.
The Don’t Give Up Project is about bringing things together that don’t necessarily strike similarity. It is about grilled cheese and gazpacho, or french toast and cabernet berry compote. It is about people from all walks of life coming together to laugh and cry, to listen to music and listen to each other. It is about sharing stories, writing stories, and bringing stories to our families and friends and clients.
The Don’t Give Up Project is about coming together, friend to friend, fork to mouth, husband to wife and saying “This is what is meant to be. This is worth it. This is what it’s all about.”
– dave

“what an amazing experience I had this week in Colorado. although you obviously saw a need in our industry and thoughtfully sought to fulfill that void, you have unknowingly changed my life and touched my heart. you two have shown me the most unbelievable example of how to live a life of light…behind the camera and out in the world.”

“I honestly had no idea what the don’t give up project was about. I knew I would learn something about photography, however I didn’t realize this even would change our lives. the don’t give up project has not only turned our business in a completely different direction, but our marriage as well. you were able to show and involve us in a deeper level of happiness, love, and respect for ourselves as well as others. and for that we can’t thank you enough.”
-aubrey + josh

“To me, The Don’t Give Up Project was beyond belief. It wasn’t a ton a shooting, but I feel like I know how to take pictures that are a million times better now.
It wasn’t just about telling our clients not to give up on their marriages.
Thankfully, as promised, it WAS NOT a fat camp. (as I’m sure you saw in Dave’s post) :]
The Don’t Give Up Project felt like the best pick your own adventure book ever. So many times I felt like I was being taught in a way that inspired TRUE feeling and creativity that only I can generate for myself.
I feel like the most basic, and most lasting step in helping us learn was to make us learn more about ourselves, and that happened more than I can explain.”

“To sum it all up, I came away inspired. The common threads that was so wondrously woven through every aspect of our time were beauty and inspiration. You couldn’t escape it even if you ever dared to. Teaching, music, food, playtime, shooting, resting, sitting around the fire…even days after I have a spring in my step and tears that well up when I listen to the music from our time, or pour over pictures that were captured in the most intimate moments.

Thoughts on location:
Never change if possible. Perfection. Need I say more? No.

Thoughts on content:
I really think that the content that was shared was meaty and way beyond what I expected. You two have the unique ability to share your hearts with your words. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and fully engaged. The sessions were well thought out and touched on everything they should. They were never too long and were well spaced out to give time to mull over thoughts and feelings about the subject matter. It almost seemed as if you had given these talks several of times.

The food:
Yes it was amazing and delicious, and for us to get to know the chefs in an intimate way made it even more incredible. Josh said it best when reflecting on our celebration meal towards the end “This is the best meal I have ever eaten.”

The music:
As a user of music for internal inspiration, I was blessed to enjoy all the tunes that fit their melodies so perfectly into what we were doing. There is nothing like coming home and playing the same songs to get back to those places and memories.

The shooting exercise:
I have to admit, I was least excited about this part of the workshop. Its my own insecurities, but you are right Jeremy that I just need “a swift kick in the ass to get over it.” I think this past weekend has helped that. Once the pictures started sliding by, I was overcome not by how great the photographers were, but the little bits of beauty in each person that was captured. In my heart, it was more a celebration of each person that had their picture taken, rather than the photographer who took them. How often do photographers get their pictures taken? Let’s face it, we are all ordinary looking people and none of us are models by the worlds standards, but I believe God’s beautiful craftsmanship in each of us was highlighted delicately and intentionally. The music was perfect and created a celebration feel to the moment. In the end, that time was at the top of my list and I felt foolish for dreading the challenge.

The Don’t Give Up Poster:
Amazing idea and I am giddy when I see the pictures pop up on the blog.

Okay, that’s probably enough. I can’t put into words the place you brought Renee and me during the shoot before the storm. I feel closer to her right now than I ever have, and I thank you for that. I now see the important role that photos play in the ongoing and beautiful struggle that marriage ends up being. You two have a special place in our hearts, and I look forward to the next time we will be together and the memories that will be made.”


the few days we spent in rugged colorado were sandwiched with so much that it is hard to know where to start as we share with you. so we will start with renee + ben. 2 beautiful souls and artists who just happen to have survived marriage for a number of years, and who are finding increasing meaning and purpose in that. they came to the project as attendees, but also ended up being our muses and the subjects of our first photo session. they made us engage in something real. enjoy the story we found in them.

and so much thanks to the amazing Andrew Peterson, for his new album counting stars and the song “dancing in the minefields” that we used for this slideshow. buy his album HERE!!

Tim Tab - 08/21/2010 - 5:11 pm

I agree with everything… 100%. Can I come back next year? :)

jenae - 08/19/2010 - 7:37 pm

You guys!! You are truly amazing!! I loved seeing the images and reliving such a wonderful time. Thanks again for letting me be a part of your life for a little while. And thank you for sharing your knowledge. I learned,felt and came away with so much.

much love-jenae

Emily - 08/18/2010 - 3:11 pm

Thank you again for touching our lives and getting us even more excited about marriage. LOVE the video of Ben & Renee… such an amazing experience to be apart of. :)

Kevin - 08/18/2010 - 10:41 am

I see that Jer is a Canon user. Would you mind sharing what L lens you would recommend for 1500 and under? I’m thinking the 24-70 2.8. I want to go to the next one. Sounds amazing.

josh - 08/17/2010 - 8:38 pm

cried. beautiful couple captured perfectly by the best

Jenn - 08/17/2010 - 8:14 pm

THIS is what I do what I do. THANK-YOU for celebrating and encouraging the beautiful stories of marriage and the leaps into forever. I’m also thankful for this song. I told my husband a few weeks ago that this has been added to the list of “our” songs.

carly - 08/17/2010 - 7:24 pm

well now i’m crying. i’m sitting here at work and crying. so fantastic to relive that small but fabulous slice of the overall amazing experience. miss you all.

Melissa - 08/17/2010 - 4:50 pm

such touching photos, so softly emotional. thanks for sharing.

Andrea - 08/17/2010 - 2:21 pm

Beautiful and Breathtaking in SO many ways! Also, isn’t that just one of the best songs on marriage ever?!?!?!

stephanie - 08/17/2010 - 1:45 pm

beautiful words. beautiful concept. amazing photos. truly wonderful. keep spreading the love.

ReneeW - 08/17/2010 - 1:44 pm

Yes. And yes. Eff it was awesome. :)

jessi - 08/17/2010 - 1:32 pm

love it. loved it. love you guys.
can’t wait for the next one… :)