As most wonderful things do, it began with love! Of the beach, of the ocean, and of each other. Our initial business goal was to eventually work together so we could spend as much time as possible in the company of one another and have the freedom to explore. It turned out photography offered us that luxury, so we grabbed opportunities or made them happen in order to grow our business together. We thought of the name Love + Water while lying awake in bed one night during a visit to my parents in Chicago, dreaming aloud about a future gallery. The name came to us at the same time, we got goosebumps, it was perfect.
I (Shawn – I do a lot of the writing around here) never liked staying in one place at a time. Raised in Virginia, I earned a journalism degree at the College of Charleston and wanted one big adventure before graduation. For many, that simply means traveling abroad to party and sometimes study and hopefully meet a guy with an accent. But me, I was… wait, I was one of those people. Australia was a place I’d always wanted to visit – I used to write short stories that featured exciting adventures abroad and the island country was always the focus of my ramblings.
In 2006 during my junior year at the College of Charleston I spent a semester abroad at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Over four months I travelled to beautiful places – Byron Bay, the Whitsundays, Sydney and Fraser Island. I made best friends with Tim Tams and learned kangaroos could be 6’ tall with legitimate biceps. I drank tourist tonic, also known as the “filtered water” coming from a white sand lake bed ground at Fraser Island that proceeded to give me two glorious months of bronchitis. Who knew, though, after seeing all these beautiful spots, weaving around so many towering kangaroos and surviving The Tonic, my heart would be captured at a friend’s birthday at a Sunshine Coast nightclub called Friday’s. There he was: the Aussie seated by the bar with his mates, luring my interest with promises of surf lessons and 4WD beach adventures. His name was Adam, and I met him two weeks before leaving Australia. We spent our two weeks together having beach picnics, camping and trying to teach me to surf. Little did he know that one surf lesson would morph into a decade-long commitment to surf instruction. So sorry my love, but I eventually caught on. Who knew this image my friend captured from the beach of my first lesson with him would one day hold so much meaning?
I left my study abroad adventure early to take an internship at Teen People Magazine in NYC – a job I’d dreamed of since I was a 10 year old girl flipping through the pages of magazines with stars in my eyes.
The prospect of working at my favorite magazine for the summer was THE coolest thing I could have asked for. Amazing. But of course, it meant leaving Adam. I remember sitting in the terminal at Brisbane international airport talking to him on the phone. He was at work and after mutual “I’m going to miss you’s” he said, “let’s leave it at maybe” – so we did.
Adam continued his business in Australia, hosting accommodation for backpackers in the Sunshine Coast and conducting surf tours while photographing empty waves from the water. I worked hard and lived off instant noodles in New York with dreams of moving back after graduation, until the magazine folded. Wah wah, dream shattered. At that point Adam and I had been keeping in touch via text message for nearly a year – I still remember the feeling of joy awaking at 1am to the sound of a message from Oz.
After the dream shatter and helping the office pack up, I moved back to Charleston to finish my degree and missed walking at graduation to board a plane back to Australia. After all, New York had rejected me and I was jobless. Adam met me at Melbourne airport on January 1st, 2008. We hadn’t missed a beat and spent the next week exploring Melbourne before heading back to the Sunshine Coast where we moved into his flat together on day one. Looking back, that’s intense. My mom would have been freaking out.
The next seven years saw us embarking on a series of adventures together, from traveling to New Zealand so I could gain residency in Australia (don’t ask) to showing Adam Chicago for the first time, where he met my parents and the first words my mom said to him as we stood in the bucketing snow at their front door were, “He looks like a young Bob Dylan! Come in!” So we came in… and the next day we played in the snow.
During that stay Adam robbed us, a.k.a. took back the ring my grandmother bought me many years ago and proposed to me on a walk through the Glass House Mountains. The proposal was supposed to be on a boat the previous day but the boat broke down in the middle of the ocean during a massive swell. Everyone on board was vomiting. We had to get towed in by the Coast Guard and surfed at Noosa instead of getting engaged.
In 2011 we were married in the rain (when I say rain, I mean horizontal sheeting, wind-littered, dress-is-now-transparent RAIN). The following year we decided we wanted something more before settling down. We sold our house and what we had and travelled around Australia with our dog Marley in the back of our van for three months, witnessing some of the most desolate and beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. The secret is out, Australia is incredible.
Because we’re addicted, we kept a diary of every coffee we drank, its price, and a rating from 1 to 10. Our truck’s radio was broken so we talked non-stop. Literally. Every waking moment was consumed by conversation, and we decided to apply for a green card for Adam to try out living in the good old US of A. Look closely at the image below – wedged between the enthusiastic, scarfed driver and chocolate-eyed golden retriever is an envelope that contains Adam’s green card application. We drove several hundred kilometers with it in that very spot… who knew post offices would be so few and far between?
After crossing the Nullarbor and after being approved for a green card that took Adam over a year to obtain, we embarked on a great adventure that led us to Maui, an island we had never visited before though Adam had spent a few years competing in bodyboarding on the North Shore of Oahu. And a quiz told us Maui would be the best island for us (thanks for altering our life path, Google). We moved to the island with two suitcases and our golden retriever, whose ticket cost twice the amount of our own but we could never leave him behind. Uhhh we almost had to leave him behind, actually, when his crate wouldn’t fit into our rental car at the airport. And of course, security make you keep the dog in the crate until you’re off airport property. Lucky for us a kind man at Hawaiian Airlines cargo put Marley on a forklift, escorted our boy off the property for us and then gave us donuts. Seriously.
After living on Maui for five years we've just returned home to the Sunshine Coast with our family to continue pursuing weddings, water and drone portraiture a plant roots.
With cramped fingers I wrap up our ever-changing story – now it’s time to learn more about you. Tell us about your adventures, the places you want to go, and how we can help you remember them. Until then…
opportunities or made them happen in order to grow our business together. We thought of the name Love + Water while lying awake in bed one night during a visit to my parents in Chicago, dreaming aloud about a future gallery. The name came to us at the same time, we got goosebumps, it was perfect.
Born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, Adam grew up by the ocean bodyboarding and developed a love for travel in his teens. During his adventures overseas he imagined creating a business that would allow him to surf and show hospitality to Sunshine Coast visitors. When he returned home he created accommodation for backpackers which led to his hosting surf tours and, eventually, photographing surf, portraits + weddings.
Hi, I'm Shawn! Originally from Virginia, I moved to Australia in 2006 and took on all sorts of jobs, from strawberry picking to graphic design. After working as a photographer on Moreton Island I decided to further pursue the field, discovering being a photographer offered the perfect opportunity to use my creative and business skills. My favorite subjects to shoot are women - specifically brides, maternity and outdoor boudoir sessions.