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  • Writer's pictureLahna Marie

The Collective Project

Updated: Jul 21, 2020


Grab your tea or coffee this will be a long one. We started our journey long ago before we even knew we were on our journey.

I think it is about time I shared this story of THE COLLECTIVE, how it came to be, how it dissipated, and what the future holds. Since so much has change in the last three years, I felt it time to document this journey since our current state of affairs has been so impactful! The Collective started at full speed, and has now come to a full stop. I think a lot of us have lives that are constantly morphing into the next chapter, and the next chapter, and then the next. Well this is one of those chapters.

Let's start with the idea, the idea of how the collective came to be in the first place. As most of you know I am a full time photographer. I have been a full time photographer for over 7 years now and going on 14 years the date of this blog post. When I first started in photography, I would say the first oh two or three years, I tried to reach out to others for support, education, and guidance with absolutely no luck. Now this would have been roughly 12 years ago and the photography industry was much different then than it is now. There wasn't a-lot of creative workshops and education like we see today. I was pretty disappointed to say the least, and felt like others were acting very competitive and that was the norm, so I became very guarded.

Then a photographer contacted me out of the blue one day, and said "I have a weird request," well first she said, "hi my name is Rachel and I own Pixy Prints Photography" and then she said the first thing =) .... so I asked her whats up? Rachel proceeded to tell me that she had a client that has already retained her for a wedding, but that same client wanted to retain me as well for photographing her wedding. I had to think on this for a minute, so to confirm, I asked Rachel if she was wanting two primary photographers, and Rachel said yes.... for two different perspectives. We both agreed it was different but we were skeptically excited. We had never talked, never met, let alone NEVER worked together.

Well to try and keep this post shorter, lets just say it was AMAZING working with Rachel and we really hit it off. It broke down barriers that I always thought existed because of my own personal experiences. Rachel and I began to help each other navigate the wedding industry and referring work to each other and leaning on each when we needed. I can honestly say, helping each other, encouraging each other, and supporting each other's business was the best thing that could have happened to my business at the time.

This really opened my eyes to being supportive and encouraging of all small business, but being in the wedding and events industry, I felt we really were left to our own devices here in Southern Oregon. Some time had passed and I began to feel discouraged at the lack of recognition Southern Oregon got in magazines, websites, online registries etc. This transitioned into, "how are others being promoted, supported, and found" here in Southern Oregon. Well, they are really not. There are not a lot of places that really identified (at the time) Southern Oregon as Roseburg to Ashland, instead what I was finding was bigger publications and advertising platforms saw Southern Oregon as Eugene!!! Uh what????? Eugene really? Like there is a whole second half to the state down here. I found it pretty odd to be honest. So with that in mind I looked at it as an opportunity to get a platform developed to represent just our Southern Oregon region. Southern Oregon wedding and event professionals had really been left in the shadows of Oregon's wedding and event industry. During the course of questioning the lack of a platform used to represent our region, and formulating ideas, I had shared this idea with one of my interns and I was frequently bouncing ideas off of her. Yet more time had passed and I had let that idea sit on the shelf. My intern came to me years later and asked me if she could develop a business plan off my idea and construct the business in Southern Oregon. Being that person that I came to be from my experience with Rachel many years earlier, I said "yes of course" because lets be honest I have a lot of different ideas, some good and some bad, and I don't really know when or if I will ever get to them so why not let someone else have a go at it to see if they will have a chance at success

Weeeeellllll another photographer friend and I were talking about it, and she had a very nice, but stern talking to me about how I may regret not taking the lead on my idea and trying to develop it. After a very great talk I decided that I concurred with her. This entire scenario was a huge learning experience, one that could have taken my life in a totally different direction had I not taken the advice of said friend, so Lindsey Boling if you are reading this thank you! What I took away from this is if you have a dream or idea, go with it, if you know its good, just do it..... no regrets at all! I also do have to thank my intern, which I know was a confusing moment for her, but had she not decided to try to pursue my idea as a business model, I probably would have never got off my ass to start it up.

So, this ultimately led to me building and launching the website in February of 2017. The online platform was designed primarily to promote Southern Oregon professionals and a handful of people outside the area looking to capture the Southern Oregon audience. The premise of the business was to have a platform dedicated to Southern Oregon in an effort to help local couples and out of area coupes find the resource they needed to plan a wedding here. It was also intended for corporate professionals to source vendors for events and parties. It was really a pride and joy for me to bring this to our valley. It was also intended to be a networking group of sorts. My wish was that all our collective members would refer strictly to other members of our online collective and drop the competitiveness that can come along with being in the industry and small valley.

As the online business grew and morphed, I had always hoped that one day I would be able provide a brick and mortar location to our members. Being a small business myself I know the financial burden of trying to cover the expenses of an office or studio space. Small businesses are on a limited income but still need the same professional environment to be able to meet and work as the rest of the corporate world.

It so happened that there was a dilapidated building for sale one block away from my home, zoned commercial, in a high traffic location. THIS WAS A PROJECT PIECE FOR SURE.... see reference image below

Ron (my husband) and I had NEVER taken on anything like this place. It was falling apart! There were rats, walls falling down, dead trees, homeless people using drugs in the garage, you name it, it was crazy! SO WE BOUGHT IT LOL!!!!!! First it took us a couple months to get the homeless out of the garage, lots of phone calls to the police, lots of boarding and screws, etc,,,, it was a tiny nightmare. The VERY VERY first thing we did was tear out the old fence and build a new privacy fence to secure the property. We began gutting the inside next. Since we bought it in February we had to do things based on what weather would allow.

It was quite the job to do all the demo. We saved NOTHING from the house except this bathtub. I had some help from some lovely ladies with the demo portion of it which I am so grateful for! At the time my husband was working two jobs to help pay for all the repairs on the home as we were running low on savings. Therefore I was doing a lot of the labor myself for the first half of the renovation and well as dealing with and hiring contractors to help. We were determined to not take out any loans for this project!!!


There seemed to be an infinite amount of work that needed to be done on this house. We have done plumbing, HVAC, new paint, new roof, new baths, new kitchen, new (redone) flooring, new windows, new landscaping, in ground sprinklers, new fencing, RV gates, new laundry room (updated room) and now we are finishing up a few projects and we are finally done.

The initial completion of the home doing it on our own and parsing in contractors like plumbers and electricians etc took a total of about 10 months. It was a very long and stressful process. We spent EVERY LAST DIME on this house and didnt have to take out a loan and are so so proud we were able to do that.

We then turned the house into a meeting and studio space for one of my sister businesses "THE COLLECTIVE" which allowed people to do photo shoots and meet with clients or host meetings!

BUT before we began doing all the work, I actually taught a boudoir photography workshop here and did a maternity shoot here because I LOVED the old vibe of it, see images below: