Heidi and Ryan are husband and wife wanderlust photographers. They founded Forged in the North, a worldwide wedding photography company based out of Brooklyn, New York. Their photographs are anything but typical, capturing a rare authenticity in each newly-wed couple with a somewhat darker tone. Shooting in some of the most picturesque and rugged places on Earth, their work could just as easily be found in National Geographic or Vogue as it is in a wedding album.
Love & Architecture
Both majoring in architecture, Heidi and Ryan met freshman year of college. After working a few years as architects in Manhattan, they quit their jobs to pursue photography and film full time. “We’ve both left those architectural careers for about four years now and haven’t looked back since.”
Forged in the North grew out of their previous company ‘Ryan & Heidi Studio’. They wanted to get their names off the brand in order to build a long-term team of shooters. “We met in Chicago and started the company in NYC, so ‘the North’ was the birthplace of our lives together. The name needed a different tone than most wedding photography companies, and Forged in the North popped up as an idea that we both loved.”
From the beginning, they have always created images that make them happy and fulfilled creatively. “Thankfully, there are couples out there that share the same aesthetic as us and just want us to do our thing. Of course there will be moments at any wedding when you need to do family photos and group shots, but aside from that, we feel totally free shooting the entire day.” In order to achieve this dynamic, Heidi and Ryan put a strong focus on building trust with the clients before the shoot.
Traveling to exotic destinations for jobs evolved organically. Landing the first few helped jump-start the rest. “Shooting international wedding work is sort of a catch-22 situation where you have to have international weddings in your portfolio to get more international weddings to shoot. I think people really enjoy the idea that we are a husband & wife team, so we can relate to them as a couple.”
They have now worked in roughly 40 countries. Sometimes their schedules don’t allow for much personal time to explore, but for some of the more remote destinations, the adventure is just getting to the location. New Zealand has turned into their second home, having shot 30 weddings and spending the last four U.S. winters in the country shooting in their peak wedding season.
Also, they have spent long periods of time working all over Europe. “Elopements in Ireland and Scotland were highlights for sure. As cliche as it is now in the wedding world, a small wedding we shot in Iceland last year was a dream. That country is like no other place on earth. And recently, we had the opportunity to capture a wedding for an incredible couple in Tulum, Mexico. Just recalling all these weddings reminds me of how lucky we are. The couples we work with are the best people and we’re fortunate enough to call many of them friends now.”
Heidi and Ryan have grown a network of photographers around the world that they also now call friends. “A lot of the photographers we meet in other parts of the world end up swinging through NYC at some point or another, and in most cases they end up crashing with us. It’s an amazing community to be a part of – everyone is super supportive of each other.”
Having their own individual projects and commercial clients such as Smithwicks, EA Sports, Acura, Aritzia, Miss Dior, and Makeup Forever to name a few, they sometimes find it tough to juggle everything. In the future they eventually want to focus more on commercial projects and less on weddings.
Ryan also directs short films. One of which was selected for the 2014 Manhattan Film Festival. “Short films are amazing to be a part of, but also incredibly draining and costly. I’d love to do a short film every few years if possible, but for my directing work, I’m more than happy focusing on commercial projects. There is still a lot of control I have as a director and the collaboration between the creatives from the agency, my producer, and my crew is always an enjoyable challenge.”
Many people often have a predetermined perception of what married life is “supposed” to be like.
Heidi and Ryan clearly have a more unconventional approach considering they travel for half the year. It can be tiring, but they believe it has actually made their marriage stronger.
“We spend a lot of time together, so when one of us is away for a week its not so bad. We’re lucky that we are both super compatible roommates, which makes our work-life balance amazing; even though those lines do get blurred from time to time. Everyone is different. Every couple is different. I can’t say there’s a hard fast rule about ‘exploring the world’ or anything like that. But most people do have access to getting outside their comfort zone and trying new things in life. For some that could mean getting on a boat to Greenland, and for others it could mean a day hike at a nearby forest preserve. But we’ve also put a pretty strong emphasis on spending time with friends and family, often even in the middle of super busy times in our lives.”
Loving Your Work
Fear of not having a stable income is one of the major reasons people stay at jobs they hate instead of pursuing their passions. When Ryan first left his job as an architect, he was worried about just that and even lined up a bunch of potential jobs. Luckily he ended up being so busy with his film and photography work that he was able to pass on the offers and has no regrets.
“For us, it’s that sense of peril that keeps us excited. I’ve always been the type of person to take control and start my own thing, so life as an entrepreneur is all I really know. I never really grew up thinking I would have a conventional job. All I knew was what my dad did, which was running his own architecture firm. He had control of every career decision in his life, and that became my norm when thinking about my own life. I always figured I’d work under other people for a while to learn at first, but I never imagined I would be leaving architecture to become a director or a photographer.”
To find out more about Heidi & Ryan go to forgedinthenorth.com or check out some of their work on Instagram. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you think!