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That Time a Church Tried to Shut us Down

May 13, 2024

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From Struggle to Empowerment

I get asked a lot how well we are received here in the south given the nature of Elevation Boudoir. The short answer is EGH……. Yes that’s the actual answer. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have never had the typical support that most local businesses get when they open, the mayor didn’t exactly show up for a ribbon cutting ceremony. We’ve even had several instances where we donated to a local cause or participated in a local event only to be told that they couldn’t (and wouldn’t) share us a sponsor. And then there was the one time the church called….

We had just moved into our Main Ave Studio in Northport and felt like we were about to take over the world. If I’m not mistaken I believe this incident happened two days after our sign went up out front. We had just wrapped a session and while I was editing Rachel took our first rent check to our landlord. For context our landlord was maybe a 130yrs old and the term “devout catholic” is the understatement of the century. This guy’s office looked like THE museum for catholic memorabilia, seriously whatever you have in your head that this looked like, times it by 5, if someone needed to perform an exorcism they’d take them to his office. Surprisingly enough he supported us….or supported the idea of us paying him large sums of money every month to use his space. 

Rachel gets back to the studio just before our client is set to come back in for her image reveal after her session and her first words were, “Ok, don’t freak out”. Seriously though, who starts a conversation like that….Turns out, our landlord had informed her that the church across the street was not happy and had not only called the landlord to inquire as to IF we were a real business but chastised him as to why he allowed us to use the space. Once they finished with him it was on to Northport City Hall to check our business license and then to try and have us shut down. Sadly for them we had already been through hell and back with the city over our license thanks to another photographer and their friend in the licensing office (Don’t worry, I’ll tell this story later) and had to have the then Mayor Donna Aaron involved. Im no stranger to controversy so I wasn’t shocked by a church having a problem however the devout catholic landlord defending us was not on my bingo card. 

Before Rachel finished the story Im on the church’s website (the church not the chicken place) and I’m locating whoever the senior pastor is, once I had his email it was time to get to work. I’m 35 and have fucked this up more times than I can count so having learned the hard way I opened my notes app on the computer and commenced the angry typing (insert every meme you’ve ever seen here, it was exactly like that). My first attempt was short and to the point, I believe the email started with something like 

Hey motherfucker if you have a problem with us we are just across the …..  

(You get the point) Not my finest moment, but here’s the thing, I have a process and I’ve learned that I can type out my exact thoughts and feelings on something then walk away. I will take a minute and come back to revise. I typically do this 2-3 times before I get close enough to let another human actually read it, this took 6. Rachel took one look and it was immediately vetoed. By this time our client was back and ready for her image reveal, thankfully she was awesome and got to hear the whole story as well. By the end of the reveal I had calmed down and crafted an email that my great grandmother would’ve approved of. Near the end of it I even invited the pastor out to lunch if he was ever interested. 

The next day he messaged back and we went out to lunch. Honestly the guy was awesome, we had a fair amount in common and conversation was easy. Most of the meeting was talking life, my thoughts on religion and this area as a whole. It really wasn’t until near the end of it when he asked about the business and I walked him through what we did, why we do it and why we are relentless with our business. He was shocked when I told him how many clients were flying across country regularly to work with us (to be fair, it still shocks me when it happens) and how often we actually were shooting in general. Shortly after that we ended the conversation, fought over who was paying for the check (he won and paid), shook hands and both went back to work without a single problem. He didn’t have to meet with me and could’ve easily pressed the issue and never responded. Even more than that, he took the time to learn something he knew nothing about to be able to expand his thoughts on the issue. My point to this beyond it just being a fun and very true story is this: 

  1. Don’t jump to conclusions, I’ve done this way too often but in this situation I took a minute and handled it like a professional. That paid off big time in the end. 
  2. Never underestimate the power of face to face respectful conversations. You can believe two completely different ways from another person and still find common ground where you understand each other. No matter who you are, you aren’t that different from the person next to you
  3. Use the Notes app on your phone when you need to say something. Just put your thoughts out there and walk away from it. Come back a few minutes later and try again. Once you take emotion out of the situation everything else comes down to common sense. 

– Justin

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