We had the good fortune of connecting with Hailey Ayson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Hailey, how does your business help the community?
I recognize that wedding photography is not a charitable line of work. It doesn’t create large-scale change or address the pressing issues, and sometimes this bothers me. (Should I quit everything and work for a nonprofit? Should I go back to school for political science? Should I keep shooting weddings when the world is on fire and needs all hands on deck?)

That said, weddings are about the traditions and ceremonies that define a person’s culture and family. When I document and share those unique moments with my small corner of the world, it invites people to meet and understand strangers they might not otherwise interact with. In the same way that traveling the world opens one’s eyes and heart to the full spectrum of humanity, wedding photography—photography in general—can offer the same experience. It serves as a reminder that we are all humans who share many of the same fundamental values: love, family, connection, tradition.

Our world has layers of problems right now, most of which feel daunting. I sincerely believe that many of them would be easier to solve if only we saw the humanity in each other first. Wedding photography is a small but mighty contribution to this.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started this career on somewhat of a whim with a newborn at home and many years of schooling ahead towards a different career. Once I became a mom, I knew I didn’t want to spend years in school to then spend all of my time away from my family with a full-time office career, so I quit school and indulged my love of photography.

The first few years in business were slow and steady. I accepted every inquiry and worked with whomever would have me, and this allowed me to build a solid portfolio and earn a small income. But my brand soared once I narrowed down my niche audience and developed a voice that was unique to me, rather than one that appealed to the masses of the wedding industry. In this way, I’ve been able to merge my professional work with my personal convictions to create a value-forward brand. My voice is as much social justice-focused as it is photography-focused, and this balance gives meaning and momentum to my work that I would not have if I had chosen, in those early days, to stay neutral and appealing to all.

At this point, ten years in, I know that I want to go even further down the path of social justice as it relates to business and art, but I’m not yet sure what that will look like. At this moment, I’m just excited to figure it out.

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.
If you’re spending a week in the Bay, I’d say spend at least one full day exploring the nature around San Francisco. Mount Tamalpais will take your breath away. (Map to the Rock Spring Trailhead for sweeping views of the ocean and city.) Or walk the Land’s End trail and finish your walk at the Legion of Honor museum to fill an afternoon. And of course, spend a day (or three) walking the city. Pair a trip to SFMOMA with a stay (and drinks) next door at the W. Stop in to Revel in Dogpatch and Green Apple Books on Clement. Or avoid the crowds and eat just outside the city at the New England Lobster Market in Burlingame. Then spend a day in Healdsburg—Williamson Wines and Asahi Sushi are a couple of my favorites—and stop on your way back for a stay at MacArthur Place in Sonoma. If you have kids with you, stay at Cavallo Point at the base of the Golden Gate and spend a day at the Discovery Museum next door.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would absolutely not have come this far in my career if it weren’t for my husband and three kids cheering me on, even when our weekends together are few and far between, even when I’m away for days at a time, even when I’m answering emails at 9pm because it’s busy season and my work/life balance is nonexistent. I couldn’t do this without their endless grace.

Website: www.haileyayson.com

Instagram: @heyhails

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.