Photo by JerSean Golatt

A big thanks to Scott for his leadership and for the tremendous effort he puts into designing incredible resources that sharpen artists all over the world…You rock man.

You may know me as a travel photographer and story teller for change… most of the client work I do is in effort to improve quality of life for people in material poverty. I work a ton in Africa & Asia and love to create & shoot campaigns for initiatives like clean water projects, education, church expansion, clean wood-burning stoves and more. I feel strongly that we are called to use what we’ve been given to invest in others and up to last year, I did that mostly with my camera.


In northern Kenya with Paradigm Project, on assignment to capture the experience of cooking indoors over an open fire.

In 2011, I changed sleeping locations nearly 150 times…just about every other day. I loved it — I got to see some incredible things happening all over the world and make friends in some really cool places.


Philemon, my new friend and host in Fiji.

The Need & Dream
At the end of the year, I was sitting at a deli with my Dad dreaming about 2012… how could I use what I’ve been given to broaden my impact? One thing was certain: I wasn’t going to move faster or shoot more… but what if I shifted my focus a bit?

I’ve always really enjoyed enabling others as best I can… being behind the scenes feeding them knowledge and tools (usually geek stuff) to help them to succeed. It’s gotta be my favorite thing in the world. As we sat there, we began to dream about a a whole new way to accomplish that.

At that point, I saw (and still see) freelancers & independent creatives conducting business at home or at coffee shops all over the country… Some people are happy with working from home and others aren’t… but happy or not, lack of access to inspirational people and tools to create inhibits our ability to run with the creative muscles we’ve been given.

For my own career, the single greatest thing that has and continues to enable me is connecting with others. Talking with them. Learning from them. Being sharpened, inspired & encouraged by their complimentary skill-sets.

Years ago, photographers would hang out at the lab together as they developed photographs… there they would build friendships, working relationships and businesses together. It’s there that they would be inspired to spontaneously create, dream new ideas and find food for their creative soul.

In this digital age where we develop images isolated on our Macs and everyone is satisfied with Twitter follows and Facebook likes, what if there were a REAL PLACE, a physical hub that facilitated camaraderie? What if there were a place designed specifically to enable creative people?

I looked and found nothing quite like this… so about a year ago, I decided to put my travel photography work on hold and take a somewhat scary leap of faith into creating what we now call WELD.

Thanks to my cousin Brandon, co-founder of WELD, we had an awesome space in no time. I can remember sitting in the 10,000 square feet of white walls and concrete floors for hours on end dreaming about what this place could be.

The fun thing is, even before launch we began seeing beautiful collaborations taking place. Talented people came out of the woodwork to bring their gifts to the table and help make it happen. We all worked together to dream about the space, build it and shape it… all along the way shooting fun little art projects on the side. We began to discover the magic of being together, of creating together and of constant collaboration.


WELD’s communal workspace aka the bullpen. 

We opened in June and today WELD is a collaborative work & shoot space that exists for one reason: to enable creatives to create. WELD does this by connecting them to like-minded people, equipping them w/ tools and giving them a place to hone their craft within a community instead of alone.

From the moment we opened our doors, people at WELD began to dream with the abilities of their peers instead of just their own — and beautiful things have come out of it.  Member collaborations continue to flow and every day I’m more excited to go in and see what’s being dreamed up.

The Creative Struggle
All these things have been incredible and I’m so proud to be a part of what WELD is and will be but it hasn’t been without it’s challenges. I’m up here writing this at 4:01 AM because there’s a billion things to be done, very few of which directly relate to things I’m most passionate about.

I’m constantly navigating the unexpected, inventing solutions, executing mundane tasks, troubleshooting problems… but something keeps relentlessly fueling my fire: vision.

I see so many people give up when their creative project doesn’t go as planned. QUIT DOING THAT. If you’re project is worthwhile you will always encounter a force against you and you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t passionately stick to your vision.

Don’t give up when it’s tough… by it’s very nature it will be tough. If achieving your goal was easy, someone else will have already done it and it wouldn’t even be vision, it’d be reality.

There will always be Resistance, working against you…to discourage you, to deflate you, to tell you your stupid, to distract you. Don’t accept that. Dominate it.

If Scott had given up on Photoshop when he couldn’t figure out the Pen tool in the early ‘90s, you wouldn’t be reading this. If FedEx had given up when they had $5K left in their bank account, global courier service wouldn’t be the same today.  If George Lucas had given up when everyone told him his film was too wacky, we wouldn’t have Star Wars.

Do I put myself in the same class as these guys? Not for a second. But you know what kept them going and pushed them past the Resistance? Vision. Vision for the possibilities of digital image editing. Vision for the first ever overnight delivery service… vision for a beautifully told story of galaxies and lasers and love.

The WELD Vision
The vision for WELD is pretty simple: to help creators achieve their vision.

Whether that’s a single image, a film or a full-blown business, WELD is a streamlined hub to help artists create something from nothing. It exists to reduce friction in the creative workflow to grow your vision and get you there faster. It’s a place to feed starving artists and rejuvenate the plump ones. To thrust freelancers into previously unchartered frontier.


Above: One of WELD’s fully equipped studio spaces where members have collaborated to create visions like this piece below: 


Created by Chris Titze

WELD is designed to be an environment where the first scene of Star Wars could be conceived, written & shot. Even now, creative businesses are thriving here… we’ve already seen feature length films, international non-profit campaigns, iOS apps and more born at WELD. I just can’t wait to see what’s in store for this place.

I hope and pray WELD will continue thrive here in Dallas but also grow across the country and impact thousands of artists and millions more through their work.   I can’t stop dreaming about the possibilities.  About the ideas conceived, the relationships built, the business strengthened, the stories told and the lives changed through the visions achieved by WELDERS.

Whatever your vision may be, don’t accept not trying… and when you try, refuse to quit. Don’t give in to Resistance… focus on what you were made to do and do it — if you persevere, there will be no end to the beauty you will create.

_______

Update: We are hosting a free happy hour on Friday (Feb 8th) at WELD. We are live screening of one of Kelby Training’s in-studio lighting workshops with Joe McNally (huge thanks to Scott for permission to do so!) Wine & cheese provided. Come out, pick up some studio tips and meet some awesome creative people just like you… hope to see you there.  details here.  http://weld.co/blog/

Thanks again to Scott & Brad for this opportunity to share — hope to see you at the upcoming happy hour!

- Austin Mann

Learn more about WELD and the artists here.

Keep up with Austin via Twitter & Instagram. And he’d love to hear from you! Shoot him a note about anything at hello@austinmann.com