We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Shimazu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, what do you attribute your success to?
I have discovered that my calling in life is to make people happy – I do this through my art, and it’s what fuels my spirit and is the driving force behind what I do/what I think makes my business successful. When I first started about 10 years ago I had no idea how to run a business – I was terrified! What kept me pointed in the right direction through all of the uncertainty and stress, was that I really cared about my couples and based my decision-making on how I could bring them the most happiness. The way I do business evolved from the only things I knew how to do at the time: to be honest and open, and treat everyone how I would want to be treated with the desire to bring them joy. I have fun with my couples – I’m silly & weird with them because that’s who I am (this also has the added bonus of attracting other people who aren’t afraid to be silly and weird too, which is awesome :). I ask my couples about their stories and relish the honor of sharing their joy with them. When I gathered enough courage to ask for reviews (scary!) I discovered that many times only half of the review was about how they loved my work & my technical ability – the other half was just about me as a person and how I made them feel. I think that people can tell when you genuinely care, and it makes all the difference in their overall experience. I have realized that this makes me a better photographer too – I believe that wanting to have a more genuine connection with people brings more humanity into the photos one shoots, which I love.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Oh my no, it wasn’t easy in the beginning – mostly because after I realized what I wanted, I was so afraid to fail that I almost didn’t even start lol! I have a background in Fine Art (drawing and painting, then later photo) and although I had some small success in it and was also very humbled to have the honor of being in a group show that traveled to Tokyo and MOCA in DTLA for a time, I decided the fine art scene wasn’t for me. I still loved art, but when I realized that I needed to start my own business to accomplish my goals I was so scared to fail that I ran for the hills. Twice. First I decided to become a teacher and helped teach preschool for a year. After that I decided I would become a nurse – I had always admired these two professions and the way that they helped the world, and my admiration for them has only grown since. So I took all the nursing school prerequisites and worked in a hospital in the Labor & Delivery/Postpartum Unit as a unit secretary with the nurses & doctors. Art kept calling me back though, and out of sheer need to do my art again I finally went for it. What I learned from this process though is that if you allow them to, even seemingly unrelated past experiences can contribute to your skill set and current success. From the hospital I learned how to think quickly on my feet (very important for wedding photography lol!) and also how to relate to people from many walks of life. My kids at the preschool taught me about human nature and reminded me of the value of being creatively uninhibited, and the beauty of being honest, curious about life, and authentic. I consider all of these things important in what I do, so I believe that this detour was actually just a roundabout way to prepare me to be where I belonged. I also learned that if you have the courage to follow your heart and what makes you truly happy, you will eventually get there. I also met my second photographer, Adam, in a seemingly unrelated way – following my happiness dancing hula. My Mom is from Hawai’i, and I started dancing when I was 5. My teacher eventually moved away, but in college I just happened to find a local hula hālau (hula school), and joined immediately since I missed it so much. When I started my wedding business and needed a second photographer to work with, I heard that one of my hula brothers took photos, and the rest is history! So not only did I fill the hole in my heart that had been empty since I stopped dancing, I also found the most amazing dude to work with. Other than just being awesome & a great photographer, most importantly Adam has the Aloha spirit that is consistent with what we do, and I know he will always take good care of my people. I am most proud of and excited about spreading joy and adding to people’s happiness. I am proud that I have been able to do this with art, something that I love. I am proud that I have had success in creating my business even though I had no idea what I was doing lol – and the reward is that it allows me the freedom to choose how to better live my life. Life is just long enough I think, to trick us into believing that it will last forever. But I think it’s really all too short to spend it doing things that you don’t enjoy, if you can help it. I was diagnosed with cancer last December, and although I have made it through all of my treatment and surgery cancer free, with “no evidence of disease” (aka “NED”, or “I’m dancing with NED” as some say hehe), it was definitely an awakening. Extreme clarity arises from realizing that you may have much less time on this earth than you thought, and it has only reaffirmed to me that I am sure about my calling. I want to leave the world a better place in my own small way, and add to the joy and beauty that is all around us. So spread that love and happiness! I think we could all use some right now :). Sending everybody lots of Aloha!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
What I have learned from this question is that most of our plans revolve around eating, and maybe we are not very exciting people LOL! But if you like :), my husband and I would love to take you to: “Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace” in Torrance (markets in general are one of our favorite things to do & make us super excited haha) and get really kickass takoyaki at “Gindaco” & matcha parfaits at “Yamari”. There’s also a store there called “Kinokuniya” that’s really cool & has lots of kawaii things. Then just down the road in Gardena is “Nagomi Cake House” which makes the BEST cream puffs & plum wine pudding – and if you were down (& liked anime) we would eat them while watching Kiki’s Delivery Service, my fav. Ghibli film :D. If the county fair was in town during your visit, I would totally take you to get big ‘ole hot dogs & elote, and we would watch the pig races while drinking beer. After every wedding we shoot, Adam & I get ramen – it’s a rule here at Erin Shimazu Photography that the number of weddings always must equal the number of ramens consumed lol! We really like “Ramen Tatsunoya” in Pasadena & “Silverlake Ramen” on Sunset Blvd., and if you like tsukemen (dipping style ramen) “Tsujita” on Sawtelle is good too. I like to ask for it with extra limes & get the noodles extra hot. There’s also really cool Japanese nurseries on Sawtelle where you can buy neat plants! My husband and I also love Pasadena, and we would get drinks & brunch at “Magnolia House” (the Mendocino Sour is bomb if you like a whiskey sour). We would then walk it off at “Arlington Garden” – a small, local, volunteer-run community garden that we love (also has loads more sentimental value now bc we got married there last year :). They also have a small orange orchard where they grow oranges to make marmalade to sell and raise money for garden upkeep/expenses. It’s really tasty! We could then get canelé (or any other French pastries of your choice!) at “Frenchifornia” (owner is super nice) and walk around the neighborhood looking at old houses (the Gamble House tour is also really cool if you are into architecture). Other shoutouts! “Mignon” (super cute wine bar in DTLA), “Firestone Walker Brewing Co.” in Venice (beer + “Bear’s Burger” medium-rare), and “Bacari PDR” (“Black Manhattan”, charcuterie, + Bacari Fries w. egg, in Playa del Rey). The best chicken mole I’ve had locally (not that I’m an expert on this subject by any means!) is at “Lares” on Pico in Santa Monica. A cool Hawaiian spot is “Bob’s Okazuya”, and they have live music some days too – but if you tell them you dance hula be prepared to have them have you dance Lol!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Dad – the first artist I ever knew All my art teachers Jones – who mentored me and taught me about photography, life, how to drink whiskey, and who gave me the swift kick in the rear I needed to start my business Adam Dotson – my friend, hula brother, & most awesome second photographer My Family – who I always made do crazy things as part of of my weird art projects & who still always supported me afterward My Husband – you are my rock & I love you dearly
Other: The Knot: https://www.theknot.com/marketplace/erin-shimazu-photography-culver-city-ca-643576 Wedding Wire: https://www.weddingwire.com/biz/erin-shimazu-photography-los-angeles/df6de4501817b8c0.html