Robert and Kathleen Trenske are passionate about photography, weddings, storytelling and seeing the world – and they try to combine them as often as possible.
The husband-and-wife duo makes up Robert & Kathleen Photographers, a full-service destination wedding photography company. The couple, both graduates of Sacred Heart University, recently relocated their home and studio from Connecticut to Manhattan, a move they both said was risky but necessary. Shortly after they moved to New York City, the Trenskes learned that they are expecting their first child in October.
All of those changes may be stressful for other people, but the Trenskes relish the challenges, including being first-time parents. “One of the benefits of being self-employed,” said Kathleen, “is that we can make our own hours.” It helps, too, that Kathleen’s family lives in nearby New Jersey so they can be available to baby-sit when needed.
Robert graduated from Sacred Heart in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication & Technology Studies and worked for the University for a short time before starting the wedding photography business. Kathleen graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and a Master of Education in 2006. She also was an adjunct professor until last year in the Department of Communication and Media Studies. Kathleen joined him in the studio part time in 2007, when they married, and then full time the following year.
They met as undergraduates at Sacred Heart and became friends. After graduation, Kathleen returned home to New Jersey while Robert worked in the IT Department at Sacred Heart. They lost contact with each other for a time until Kathleen was offered a graduate assistant position at Sacred Heart. Robert remembered telling Kathleen when he heard about the offer, ‘“Please come back.’”
After building their wedding photography business in Connecticut, they decided to move to Manhattan, which, said Robert, was “half personal, half professional.” “We always wanted to be in Manhattan,” he said. “Personally because it was the right time and professionally because Manhattan is centrally located.”
The Trenskes will go anywhere to shoot a couple’s big day – but their jobs primarily have been in the tri-state area. Also, they have ventured to the west coast for numerous engagement sessions. Big on their list of clients are fellow Sacred Heart graduates. They estimated that they shoot upwards of 40 weddings a year.
“You have to love what you do,” said Robert. That love, he added, carries over into the storytelling part of photographing a wedding, one of the most important days for a couple. “We want them to remember their day forever,” he said, adding that the storytelling often is seen in the small details, which they capture.
They “live, breathe and eat this business,” so much so that they began a photographers’ networking group, which meets monthly in Connecticut and has more than 60 members, some of them Sacred Heart alumni. In addition, they traveled to Paris in March 2010 to teach a workshop to international photographers and in October 2010, they facilitated a two-day workshop in Manhattan for professional photographers, who did multiple shoots, including one at the historic Chelsea Hotel.
In the past year, the Trenskes were part of the “Today Throws a Wedding” segment on the “Today Show.” They’ve also had their wedding photography featured on numerous blogs and in print magazines, and were chosen by Kodak to have one of their wedding images displayed in Times Square on the Jumbo-tron. For the past three years, they have been the recipients of the Wedding Wire Bride’s Choice Award and The Knot’s Best of Weddings Award.
One of their most recent coups was landing an opportunity to photograph President Barack Obama. Robert credits the Connecticut networking group with giving him that chance. “It’s important to have a really good networking group,” he said, “for word-of-mouth and referrals.”
And that is just what happened with the political fundraising event in Stamford that featured Obama. Someone at the Trenskes’ networking group knew someone at the Democratic National Committee. “And he thought of us immediately,” said Robert.
Calling being allowed to photograph the president “an out-of-body experience,” Robert said he had to go through a Secret Service background check and had his photography bags searched by a law enforcement dog. He eagerly waited among the other photographers for Obama’s entrance.
“And then all of a sudden he was there,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Coming down from that unique experience, the Trenskes got back to business, which includes detailing recent wedding shoots on their blog on their website, www.RobertandKathleen.com, a feature they offer to newlyweds.
“Through the blog, we share the couples’ stories and show our current work,” said Robert.
“When booking a wedding, the couple will ask, ‘When do we get on the blog?’” said Kathleen.
The blog, added Robert, allows them to reach out to potential clients as a marketing tool. “It also helps drive traffic to the website,” said Kathleen.
As for travel – they have been to Paris, Italy, Ireland, Hawaii and Mexico – they hope to branch out and shoot for publications. Travel, said Kathleen, is “a personal passion.”
They focus a lot of their travel photos on the landscape and structures of a locale, as evidenced by the numerous shots on their website. “With the travel photography, we hone in on the architecture,” said Kathleen.
As they look to their future, the Trenskes first return to the past for their recent successes. “It is because of Sacred Heart,” said Robert, “that I got into this business.” The first wedding shoot was for someone they knew at Sacred Heart. “That first wedding lifted the business off the ground.”
When they view where they will take their business, Kathleen has no doubt they will continue to reap the rewards and build on their successes. “Rob is one of the most driven people I’ve ever known,” said Kathleen. To which, her husband responded with a humble “thank you.”
He added, “You live this life once. It’s better to try, then not try at all.”