Teodóra Simon’s career change and finding her true vocation is an inspiring story in every way. She started from Vonyarcvashegy, next to Lake Balaton, and then returned here after a few detours. However, do not let yourself be deceived by Teó living in a town of 2,200 people. Her real vocation is wedding photography, especially abroad; or if at home in Hungary, also for foreign couples. The fantastic and unique atmosphere and excellent quality of her photos all reflect her own individuality. She has learned from foreign photographers, travelled the world and continues this journey unswervingly. You can read about Teó’s path in the below interview.
What was your path before you became a photographer?
I didn’t know for a very long time what I wanted to do with my life. I just drifted for a long time, choosing the safe direction. My first job was an Italian-speaking customer service job at a multinational company. At that time, I had a huge lack of self-confidence, so I didn’t make much of an effort to find my own way. Back in those days I didn’t consider myself creative, I was afraid to be in front of a lot of people, I was full of inhibitions. After spending a year at this workplace, I felt I had to break out of this, as it was not my world. That’s when I went to Cyprus to be an animator, which was a huge shift. I also took a mixer exam and, in the meantime, I also learned English at intermediate level in 3 months – as before that I only spoke German and Italian. Returning from Cyprus, I started to work for another multinational company, where I worked for 3-4 years. In the end, I was in a pretty good position there in a conference organizing team. But I still felt it was not my true self to walk into a big corporation in business clothes, travel with the subway every day, go to the gym, eat a Caesar salad for dinner, and do the same all over again the next day. Then came the option to move back home to Lake Balaton. So I did move there and started to work in a dentistry where we had an international clientele, mostly Italians. I worked there for 3-4 years and it gave me enough freedom to live here at Lake Balaton again. In Budapest I have always had a hard time imagining myself in the long run. I couldn’t say exactly what I wanted, but the feeling of freedom was the most important to me.
And after all these one day you just woke up knowing that you want to be a photographer?
As a hobby I’ve taken photos before, but I had no specific plans with it other than enjoying and uploading pictures of lizards, sunsets, swans to Facebook – the typical rookie photos. Even then, I really liked wedding photography, I looked at pictures of photographers and I wanted to try to do a wedding myself. Then all of a sudden one of my friend’s sibling got married and I took photos there for the first time. In that 2012 season, I did a few more weddings for free, just to practice. Then all of a sudden, I noticed that in addition to my work in dentistry, the two together became too much for me.
By 2013, I had quite a few bookings for wedding photography and I started to train myself consciously, I also took an official course. After that, I also resigned from my work at the dentistry.
How was the first period of your career as a photographer?
In the very first year, I set up the “studio” for Christmas photography in my own living room. This meant that the Christmas tree was already standing in our living room that year in October and customers came there. We had several Christmas trees that year, because from October to December, one Christmas tree couldn’t last for all those months 🙂 Since then, it hasn’t occurred to me at all to go back to being an employee in a company.
At the moment, as a photographer, you are at a very different place compared to the first period. How did you get from there, to the “now”?
Even at the beginning, I was not attracted by the classic Hungarian weddings. I met international photographers before who had had a big impact on me. There was no Instagram at that time, Pinterest just started, but through these photographers I had an insight into a completely different world. I was already following American wedding photographers at that time, and that opened up a different perspective for me which I started using myself in my photography. At the same time, more and more couples came to me as clients who liked this style and quality. It was completely different from the trends in Hungary at that time. From here, a straight path led to the international weddings.
How did you manage to build an international clientele for yourself?
Suddenly, the idea came to me that I would like to have an international portfolio – to have beach pictures, to get to certain foreign places. Then I started two lines. One was that
I started working with a wedding planner who organized smaller weddings for Hungarians in Cyprus. It was my work on the weekdays and I had weddings back in Hungary on the weekends. It also happened that I did 50 weddings a year.
The other line started by me speaking Italian. I thought I would go to Italy to learn. I wrote to some wedding photographers in which I applied as a second photographer. One photographer wrote back that he was happy to have me. I didn’t know much about him apart from his portfolio, only during the face-to-face meeting it became clear to me how popular he was in Italy. It was a great honour to be able to learn from him. Now, thinking back, I don’t know how I had the courage to go to a foreign country to learn from someone I didn’t know. But back then I had just a huge drive that I didn’t even think about it, I just went and did it. I took photos on 7 weddings during those 10 days there, it was a huge experience for me.
After so much wedding photography, aren’t you tired of weddings yet?
Not at all, because I am touched by every couple’s wedding. There’s an atmosphere on each occasion that’s very different from being there as a guest. When I take photos, I see what happens from a completely different aspect. And that’s an all-day adrenaline rush for me at a time like this. When I was at a wedding as a guest, I didn’t enjoy myself as much as when I photograph one. As a guest, I don’t see the couple’s faces, they sit in the church, I am watching their backs. As a photographer, however, I see their every move, I am attuned to them all day.
Having so much experience abroad, how did your wedding photography career in Hungary start?
After the foreign practices mentioned earlier, my portfolio has already filled up nicely. So, I dared to write to Hungarian wedding planning companies in Hungary – who already had an international clientele at the time -, that I would like to work with them. I managed to start working with one of the most renowned companies, the first time I could photograph the wedding of a Chinese couple at the Marriot Hotel. It all started here, then the other organizers started to get to know me and after that they approached me with the possibilities.
I really like it in your photos that they have their unique imagery style, which is very different from the traditional Hungarian one. What influenced your own photography style?
I really represent a completely different pictorial world that is closer to the American style. This is the “bright and airy” style, which is true to colour but still a little more airy. This is what I try to bring to weddings as well. After a lot of experience and inspiration over the years, I felt it was my own style.
In addition to the weddings, what other areas do you work as a photographer?
I have worked several times with a dental implant company for example, who invited me to take photos at an event in Zurich. After that I went with them to Tokyo, New York, Moscow, Barcelona, Jordan, Dubai. We would have gone to China in 2020, but unfortunately Covid intervened.
In addition, we created an international brand, Wedoverhills Destination Wedding, with two other photographers. This has been parked for the last two years since the birth of my twin daughters, but we have travelled a lot before that. There was a Singaporean couple who took us to Iceland to have a wedding dress photo shoot, before the real wedding. In Asia, it is a huge prestige to have these photos projected to the guests during the wedding. It also happened at that time that from an October to March my husband and I photographed weddings only in Asia.
Isn’t it strange to be home again after so many foreign experiences and work?
In fact, in the end, there were so many of these trips that we were especially happy when we were finally at home due to the arrival of the kids. Now that our daughters are two years old, I am ready to fully return to the world of work and have international opportunities again. I have a campaign going on right now in Switzerland, if it works out, we might even be moving there somewhere for a few years. I still have a lot of plans. Now, for example, American blogs have also started publishing our pictures, which is also a huge achievement.
As a Hungarian, how is it for you to work in such an international environment?
In my opinion, it is difficult to break out of here and it is difficult for me personally to undress that I am Hungarian. There’s an Austrian wedding planner I work with and she doesn’t even understand this inhibition of mine. Somehow, it’s coded in me since my childhood that the “west” is very different from us – that I’m not good enough, I’m not enough to be there… And at the same time, surprisingly I notice that for the couples it is already a prestige that I’m there because they love the pictures. Once when I went out to Switzerland, several people came up to me to tell me that they checked my website and how much they liked my pictures. For example, there’s a family there to whom I am travelling for the fourth time, because I photographed the wedding of all four of their daughters.
Somehow, I still can’t believe that I’m in such a good place in my profession. I still feel like I’m the same girl from Vonyarcvashegy and not the photographer others think of me.
We recently had a nice colleague visiting us, he also asked, “Did you really travel the world from here, from Vonyarcvashegy?? ”. What is certain is that my online presence has helped me a lot in getting clients to know the quality of my work.
What were your most memorable photographer experiences?
There have been a lot of experiences over the years. Events outside of my comfort zone. There were times when I was driving the couple in Cyprus to the ceremony, driving a right steered car for the first time in my life. It happened various times that we almost missed a plane, rushing to catch the plane after taking photos on the beach. I took a group photo from a pylon, but also from the ladder of a fire truck at the height of 10 meters – despite the fact that I have a mild acrophobia. We climbed to the top of churches in Santorini, we had sneaked into countless places to take photos. The best experiences were the tropical weddings, where the ceremony was also held barefoot in white sand on the beach, but I also loved to take photos of the couple at the ice floes in Iceland.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
The dental implant company mentioned earlier was at a conference in New York. It was an event for 500-600 people where I had to take photos by coming straight from the airport until midnight (in that time zone). This was followed by two more days, from 9 a.m. to midnight. This was physically, personally, in any other way a very big challenge. No mistake could be made there and on top of that I did all alone what actually a team should have done. The videographers also watched me try to be everywhere at once while the 6-7 of them could easily do their own job. On my fourth day in New York I also did an engagement photoshoot for a Hungarian couple living there. It was the icing on the cake that on my last day I even went out to Harlem to do pictures for myself because I was very interested. In return, I almost missed my plane back home ☺
In addition to wedding photography, you have also recently been involved in branding photography. How did this get into the picture?
I did branding photography for smaller companies and acquaintances even before Covid, but back then it wasn’t built up and figured out exactly who I wanted to do this to. In 2020, I put a little more emphasis on this. And in the future, I will have to figure out what direction I want to take in this area.