When you work with Walter Portz and Holly Hendriks of Studio Blu, you know exactly what you’re getting. They talk over each other. They consistently curse. Tattoos peek from under their sleeves. Sarcasm oozes from their pores. They’re their own person. And all of these facts make them fantastic. We got to know these eclectic photographers better on a summer afternoon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
How long have you been together?
Holly: Twenty years.
Walter: Twenty years!
How long have you been married?
Walter: Fifteen years in Septem…
Holly: No. Fourteen years in September.
Walter: Fourteen years in September. We were married…
Holly: …four days after 9/11.
Walter: Yeah, that got pretty intense.
How did you two meet?
Walter: Fryin’ Pan, east 10th Street.
Holly: In the corner booth.
Walter: I left for college the year before, came back, and she had infiltrated my friend group.
Holly: I did not infiltrate. We didn’t know each other in high school. He came home for the summer and I was at Fryin’ Pan with a bunch of friends where we always did homework and drank a bunch of coffee. I was working on my play production final project and you showed up with somebody…
Walter: On a lowrider bike. And she was cute.
Holly: The funny thing was that my friends were telling me to stay away from him because he was trouble, and our same friends, mind you, were saying the same exact things about me.
Walter: We were both trouble, to be fair.
Holly: And with both of our personalities, it was like, “Game on!” The intent was to hang out for the summer.
Walter: Make out for the summer.
How did the proposal happen?
Holly: The proposal was funny. At the time we were living in Minneapolis, and we had this little duplex and it was super cute, but it didn’t have air conditioning. It was 95 degrees that day?
Walter: It was fucking hot.
Holly: 150 degrees that day? And we were packing to go to San Francisco to visit his sister. For some reason I’m just pissed at him. Like, super crabby because it’s hot, we’re packing, he did something stupid, I don’t know. He was packing and I was sitting in the chair in the living room.
Walter: We had a little window air conditioner.
Holly: So I’m sitting there with my eyes closed, and I can hear him walk in. He sits on the floor and puts his head on my lap, and I’m instantly annoyed. I said, “I’m hot, get away from me.” And he said, “Will you marry me?” Did I laugh?
Walter: I cried. So yeah, probably. Just kidding. Intrestingly enough for what we do, neither of us were like, “Yeah, let’s get married.” We were happy with how we were, but there was a lot of outside pressure for us.
Holly: So that’s how that went. No ring. Spur of the moment.
Holly, you kept your maiden name. How did you come to that decision?
Walter: She didn’t like the name Holly Portz.
Holly: I liked my name. I was proud of my last name, and…
Walter: I didn’t really give a shit.
Holly: He didn’t care. Basically we were both going to art school, and if we both wanted to have a show together, I didn’t want it to look like this Mom and Pop kind of deal. We’re each our own person, you know what I mean?
Walter: A lot of people will think that one of us assists for the other. It’s pretty condescending. They ask, ‘Oh, is she helping you?’ She’s not helping me, she’s the one that keeps this shit together.
Holly: Basically I wanted to make it look like we can be independent of one another.
What is your advice for the first year of marriage?
Holly: I think the biggest one is don’t expect things to change. We went home after we were married and it wasn’t any different. The best thing that we did was we didn’t go on a honeymoon right away – we went home. It was just like, “Okay, that’s done,” and your life is still your own life.
Walter: Looking back on it, I think there’s something to be said about not living together. I think it’s a different experience. There definitely is something exciting about moving in together right after you get married, which of course we lived together for four years.
Holly: Longer than that. Like six years.
Walter: Yeah, whatever. We lived together for a while.
What is it like working together?
Holly: It’s fun. But it’s also difficult because you can never leave it.
Walter: You can’t go home without having a second-guessing feeling or talking about the studio. But actually working together, we know what the other person is thinking, what the other person is doing, and how much the other person is valuable.
What can people expect from Studio Blu that stands out?
Walter: The experience. Photos are photos, and photos are important. We take good photos, no doubt.
Holly: But I think we have fun and I think that we’re ourselves. We turn on a different persona when we get to a wedding. I mean, Walter tells them if you don’t like that he has two arms full of tattoos and how he talks during consultations, nothing is going to change at your wedding. This is it.
Walter: And also, honestly, it’s the shit we do for people. Our perspective is there are certain ways you can go about a wedding. Things go wrong, and as a photographer you can sit back and watch while documenting everything, or when things are going wrong you can sense it coming. You can take action to keep the wheels on. I’ve sewn a bustle on a dress, we’ve given brides rides when limos don’t show up. A lot of our clients will say we’re like wedding planners, personal attendants, and photographers all in one.
What is your clientele?
Holly: We tend to get people who want to have a good time, have their own vision, and who don’t want their wedding to end up on Pinterest.
Walter: Very well thought out, meaningful couples
Holly: You’re there to get married and not put on a show.
What do you do when you’re not shooting weddings?
Walter: I shoot all kinds of commercial work, video production. Outside of that we like to be creative in general. On a personal level, we’ve been shooting photos for so long…
Holly: When I have a camera in my hand, I’m working.
Walter: I will occasionally take my camera out with me, but inevitably I use my phone.
Holly: We’re always documenting someone else’s moment, that we want to be in ours.
To check out Dainty Vendor Studio Blu and/or to book them for your event, visit here.
(Photos by Emily Swan Photography.)