This past January, I attended Mystic Seminars in Portland, Oregon. I will not say much more about it here (you can read my full review of the experience here) other than it was probably one of the greatest photography experiences of my life. The sense of community, and the way with which the instructors and attendees interact and mingle is like nothing else.
I was ecstatic to learn that Mystic would be returning to Portland this upcoming January and that this year, in addition to the Wedding Conference, Mystic has expanded to a second conference, Mystic Boudoir. The two conferences will be held in succession (Boudoir 2 days, and then Weddings for 3) over the course of 5 days in early January 2016.
As some of you may, or may not know, I recently decided to focus my business on boudoir this year, so the opportunity to attend the first ever boudoir only conference has me bouncing off the walls. The speakers list is jam packed with the top names in the boudoir industry including Ryan Murhead, Jennifer Rozenbaum, Ewan and Brianna Phelan of The Last Forty Percent, Denise Birdsong and more.
I was able to interview Brianna Phelan and Walter van Duzen, the duo responsible for Mystic Boudoir. You can read that below, but before you do, make sure to head on over to the Mystic Seminars website for all the details the upcoming Mystic Weddings and Mystic Boudoir.
Interview with Brianna Phelan and Walter van Dusen, Mystic Boudoir Founders
What is Mystic Seminars?
Mystic Seminars is a conference that has built a reputation of bringing in strong shooters, educators, and amazing up-and-comers. The speakers that are chosen are encouraged to be both inspirational and provide tangible ways in which their ideas can help attendees with their art and business. Mystic is a place where speakers are 90% attendees and 10% speakers.
It’s where photographers on all levels hang out as equals. It is a conference where you don’t have to pick and choose who you want to see speak because everyone is in this together. There is one room where all of the speakers give their talks, with all attendees and other Mystic speakers present all at the same time. Mystic seminars have been built on the motto of Education, Community, and Fun!
There is no other conference out there that you will get so much meaningful information from, meet so many of your new lifelong friends, and feel a greater sense of community.
When and Why was Mystic Started?
Mystic Seminars was started ten years ago by Walter Van Dusen in Connecticut. Ten years ago there was no conference like this for wedding photographers. There wasn’t a place where they could come together, learn from each other and be a community.
The industry was a much different place back then, and Walter really wanted to see that change. His love for photography, education, and pure desire to help elevate the industry in every way was what made Mystic Seminars come to life.
Why Mystic Boudoir?
Mystic Boudoir would not have been made possible if Walter had not invited Ewan and Brianna Phelan of Last Forty Percent to speak about boudoir at Mystic Seminars in 2015. Walter had met Ewan three years earlier at another conference and was introduced to him by Fer Juaristi, who said, “If you are ever going to have boudoir at Mystic, these are the guys you want!” Years later, Walter admits that when Fer said that, he threw up in his mouth a little bit.
Walter could never see boudoir being taught at Mystic. But after seeing Ewan and Brianna’s work and hearing them talk about the importance of boudoir not just as a style of photography, but as a movement, he was hooked. And it dawned on him, boudoir is exactly where wedding photography was ten years ago. He could see how much Ewan and Brianna wanted to help elevate the boudoir industry, and Walter wanted to be a part of that.
So only a few short weeks after Mystic Seminars 2015 ended, Walter approached Brianna, asked her to be his partner for Mystic Seminars. And so Mystic Boudoir was born.
What can an aspiring wedding photographer expect to get out of Mystic/Mystic Boudoir?
The great thing about Mystic is that photographers of all levels will come away feeling like they got something out of it. Education is very important to Walter and Brianna, and they want that to be the focus for the coming years of Mystic. Aspiring photographers will be inspired to try to new things, to have courage and pride in their work.
They will be given concrete ways in which to help expand their business and reach the level that they want to. And because of the community atmosphere that is created at Mystic, they will get a chance to interact and hang out with the speakers at all of the events that are planned.
Tell us about the location and venue. Why Portland? Why the Hilton?
Portland was chosen because it is a modern city, with a very diverse, artistic and cultural feel. At a conference where you are bringing together so many different styles of work, Portland allows for everyone to have a voice. The Hilton was chosen because of the amazing setup that was witnessed there for conferences.
What makes Mystic special compared to the various other conferences one can attend on a yearly basis?
There are many great conferences in the photography community. Both Walter and Brianna have had the opportunity to attend or speak at them. What separates Mystic from the rest is that it perfectly combines great education, an amazing community feeling, and fun events where everyone is invited. As many of the Raves say on the Mystic website, nowhere else will you find all of these great elements in one single conference.
Mystic Boudoir and Mystic are going to be run right next to each other, how is that going to work?
Mystic Boudoir is the first two days. It will be held on January 11 and 12. While Mystic Seminars will be running from January 13-15, 2016. If attendees are interested in attending just boudoir talks, they can do that. If they are interested in attending wedding and portrait speakers, they can sign up for that. And if they want to go to all five days, they can do that, too. The majority of attendees signed up so far are attending both!
How many photographers are you expecting for the two events?
It is expected that both events will sell out quickly. Mystic keeps limited seating at the events to hold onto that community feeling that an intimate setting creates. It is expected that there will be three hundred attendees at each event as tickets are moving quicker than any year before.
If there is one thing about Mystic that photographers should know, what is it?
It’s addictive! When you experience Mystic for what it truly is, you find yourself wanting to come back year after year. We have had attendees that have come to all ten years of Mystic, even with the switch from the East Coast to the West Coast. Also, sign up with your friends. Experience Mystic with a group and let that group of friends grow while you are there.
If there is one thing about Mystic Boudoir that photographers should know, what is it?
Mystic Boudoir is the first conference of its kind. Brianna has chosen some of the best boudoir photographers in the world to come speak, with a great variety of topics. Taking the lead of Mystic Seminars, Brianna has made sure to maintain the high level of education and speakers that Mystic has come to be known for.
Is there anything else specific that you would like to share with our readers?
The early bird special is coming to an end so if you are planning on coming to Mystic Seminars or Mystic Boudoir, your chance at getting a great deal is coming to an end soon! And go check out the “Raves” section of the website to see what past attendees and speakers have to say about their experiences.
I would just like to thank Brianna and Walter for taking the time to do this interview with me. I think it is fitting that Mystic was the first ever Wedding only conference, and now expanding to become the first ever Boudoir only conference as well.
To get all the information about Mystic Weddings and Mystic Boudoir you can head on over to the Mystic website here. While you are there, make sure to check out the Raves section, which is full of great reviews from previous attendees and instructors. You can also check Mystic out on Facebook, here.
Finally, as mentioned in the interview, early bird pricing is coming to a close soon. Each conference is limited to 300 attendees, so if you are interested I highly suggest getting your tickets soon!