R&R Celebrates 10 Years!

Rivets and Roses Celebrates 10 Years of Business!


Rivets and Roses began 10 years ago. Owner Eliesa Johnson was about 5 years into her freelance career, which was split between focusing on editorial and wedding work for Photogen Inc. In the first years of business, the client base with Photogen Inc. began to grow as well as Eliesa's price point. The assistants on the team kept getting better and better and at the time, a lot of wedding photographers were hiring 'associate' photographers underneath them. Eliesa didn't really love this approach, because it felt like those artists were then 'second best' or the cheaper option. Nothing about our team was second or cheap. Eliesa wanted to empower these photographers, teach them a part of the business and have them lead their own clients on their wedding days. Because of this, Eliesa chose to open a second brand - a wedding photography studio and Rivets and Roses was born! 

Rivets Sign.jpg

It started small and grew over the years. The first photographer was a longtime assistant, Brandon Werth and he thrived in his role as the first lead for Rivets and Roses! Next up was Louisa Podlich who took the lead for a couple of years. Once Brandon and Louisa were ready to go out on their own and run their own businesses, Eliesa decided to expand Rivets and Roses from one photographer to a full wedding photography studio featuring the work of six photographers.


Over the years, Rivets and Roses has been lucky enough to work with some of the most wildly talented photographers in Minneapolis / St Paul. From Leslie Plesser, Thea Volk, Mark James, Desiree Mostad, Natalie Finazzo Fox, Jackson Faith, Bryan Blumenschein, Ryan Stadler, Maggie Witter and Angela Baggett. Eliesa is so proud of the work these people created for all the Rivets clients, but even more proud of the businesses they have grown on their own!


Where They Are Now

BRANDON WERTH: I am thankful to have had a catalyst like Rivets and Roses in my wedding photography career. It was an incredible place to start. While I was there I was given so much room to grow, not just as an individual but also as a creative and I wouldn’t say it was a linear growth that starts at the ground and follows a certain path of industry successions but rather you were given a fertile open field of possibility where you could plant in any corner you wanted, it was growth outward as well as in, moving on an astral plane of accumulation that was encompassing in every facet of business ownership.

I don’t think I knew all of this when I started nor did I embrace it as hard as I could have but I think thats because it was all new. There is nothing I wouldn’t give to do it all over again. Rivets was a moment in the wedding world when things were a lot more simple, we are talking pre-instagram here people, personal connections went incredibly far, printing your work and submitting it to local magazines was coveted and actually really cool, you felt like you really mattered amongst the other photographers in the city, the camaraderie was incredible, blog posts were 100’s of images long, and there were 5 celebrity wedding photographers who all lived in California, where the light is always golden and couples are continuously backlit. Those years were everything.

I learned so much being a lead photographer for Rivets and it is an honor to know that I was able to be a part of that beautiful creation that Eliesa made for other people to enter and feel what its like to own yourself and own a business while also having the confidence to keep working hard to be on the forefront of creativity, inclusiveness, and humbleness. It is hard to imagine where I would be without that experience, I found my perfect clients through my time there and I never really thought about how much those first years encompass who I am today and I am definitely a better person because of it.

LOUISA PODLICH: The last 10 years have flown by so quickly! I distinctly remember when Eliesa reached out to invite me, a new and untested photographer, to shoot for Rivets & Roses. Her leadership and mentorship helped me develop a sense of personal style and storytelling. Being a part of the R&R team gave me the confidence I needed to branch out and start shooting weddings on my own. Since leaving Rivets I've continued with photography, specializing in family portraits and young children, eventually leaving the wedding industry. Watching my portrait clients grow and change over the years is truly one of the best parts of my life...being "Miss Lou" behind the camera has brought so many wonderful and funny people into my life. 

In addition to photography, I've started a second business, called A MANO, where I've sold handmade goods by makers from around the country, as well as my own ceramics. I now spend my time split between photos and making pottery in my NE Minneapolis art studio. You can find my work at local art shows, retailers around the country and online at West Elm. 

LESLIE PLESSER: Since being on Rivets and Roses I've started my own company called Shuttersmack. I moved much of my focus (pun not even intended!) to documenting families as they really are. Besides my smaller, hourly sessions, I've been working hard this year on short documentary films and much longer Day in the Life photo sessions. Capturing small kids in all their glory is some of the most rewarding work I've had, whether it's documenting late night feedings with infants, the extreme love that parents of small kids show through continuous work and sacrifice, to the hilarity of potty training. I adore capturing life with small kids in general, and with film, capturing their precious voices and mispronunciations is priceless. I still keep up on all my dog work, but I've cut back on weddings to less than 5 a year. For some reason, I enjoy photographing the mess of real life more than the beauty of a wedding day. What can I say? I'm a weirdo!

DESIREE MOSTAD: Since I moved out of MPLS to live in Stavanger, Norway the biggest change in my life is Mila, my 2-year-old daughter. She's a spunky redhead with brown eyes and gets lots of attention when we travel.I'm still in love with photographing people and most of my work is families and weddings with a few small business commercial shoots sprinkled in. I have a cute little office with a natural light studio which I share with 2 other incredible women photographers. We have created a photo community to encourage photographers in the area to share and learn from each other. Community over Competition, right?!

Living in Norway has allowed me to be super flexible with work and life. I was on 1-year maternity leave and took a photo break to travel with my family (of course camera in tow!) to Indonesia, Australia and a couple visit home to the US! I'm still figuring out how to be a mom and make it through the ups and downs that life throws at me. Now I'm trying to learn how to be grounded while continuing my love of traveling and exploring with my camera. I'm SO insanely thankful for my time with Rivets, tho too short, I know I would not be the photographer I am today without R&R and Eliesa.

NATALIE FINAZZO FOX: So much has happened since I was a part of the Rivets & Roses team! While I still have a very soft spot in my heart for all things wedding photography, I found my true passion in working with businesses to help them achieve their creative and professional goals through beautiful styled stock and personal brand photography. The thing I enjoy most is understanding the client’s story and then working with them from a visual perspective to execute that vision through beautiful imagery for all of their social media platforms. Not only will I photograph that story, but for a few select clients, I’m their Social Media Manager. Outside of photography I’ve been busy as well! I’m a wife, mother to three {boy 6, girl 4, boy 2}, and I’m currently studying to be a Facebook Ad’s Manager {which I’m excited to launch as a service to my clients soon!}. When I’m not “working” you’ll find me running my kids to football, gymnastics and whatever the sport of the week is, listening to motivational-personal-development books on Audible, dabbling in artsy endeavors like painting/hand lettering and running. I’ve signed up to run a 5K at the end of August!

I just have THE BEST memories of my time spent with the Rivets & Roses team. Eliesa is legit the only person who has ever been able to teach me how to use my flash and I STILL, to this DAY, refer to her flash info when I need it! Ultimately, I really feel like each one of the team members brought a unique set of skills and creativity to the team which helped to elevate all of us in our wedding photography pursuits. For the good times had, friendships forged and the art created…I’ll be forever grateful I was a Rivets & Roses team member.

MARC JAMES: When I was first hired with R&R I was just a young buck, green in the gills some would say. I had experience in photography but the skills I learned while working with Eliesa and the R&R team I still use to this day. Fast forward almost 10 years later I am still working as a photographer with a small little brand of my own, Creek 44. I travel the US covering professional ballroom and latin dance sport competitions while also taking on a few weddings here and there. I can honestly say that in the one year I was lead photographer with R&R I learned more from Eliesa and the team than I could have anywhere else. Here's to 10 more years of success! Congratulations Rivets and Roses!!

R&R Team 15.JPG

THEA VOLK: Thea’s work involves striking a balance between portraiture and photojournalism, taking care with composition, gently guiding the shot, yet not stepping in the way of the natural progression. It shined through in every moment she captured during her time as a lead wedding photographer on Rivets and Roses Thea has her own photography company that has a focus on weddings, families, kids, and interior spaces. She has two kids of her own and documents their every day life.

JACKSON FAITH: I don’t pick up my camera as often anymore. Daily life is now focused on the cannabis industry. My father’s passing a few years ago opened my eyes to the need for another pain relief option for those suffering.  When I do pick up my camera, it’s with family and friends, or when I’m in a new part of the world. Rivets and Roses was a fantastic part of my life. Many past clients are still good friends. 

Eliesa is one of my greatest mentors. I am honored to call her a dear friend. Her knowledge of photography and business still influences me. I’ll never forget meeting her on the rooftop on Brit’s Pub. She asked if my name was really Jackson Faith. She liked my name so much, she gave me an assistant job. I roughly knew how to work a camera then. e saw something in the few photographs I had to show at that time. 

Rivets and Roses, Photogen Inc. and the rest of the crew that Eliesa has cultivated over the years is a family. This past Christmas, at the yearly party, we traded stories and life updates. It felt like old times. It has been years since I was a lead on the Rivets team but, from the time we had no one would have guessed time had passed. Eliesa has created something very special.

BRYAN BLUMENSCHEIN: Bryan brought his technical knowledge to the team while he was a lead at Rivets and Roses. He always had all the updated gear and was dedicated to using it to create something new. Bryan is now with no surprise a Technology consultant at Target and now has a family of his own. He enjoys playing with his drones to get higher vantage points and taking his gear out into nature.

MAGGIE WITTER: Maggie joined Rivets and Roses after interning for Eliesa while she was in college. It truly was a great fit for Maggie to join the team and begin doing wedding photography with her husband Spencer who began to assist her at weddings. They became the perfect photography duo during their time at Rivets and Roses and branched out to work on other projects together. Maggie began working for Evine as a stylist on set and continues to work with their commercial photography team. Maggie and Spencer recently had a baby and their little family is absolutely perfect!

RYAN STADLER: His intent was to be an artist and began as a painter. Now he uses a camera to document couples, families, and wedding days. Ryan’s documentarian eye and touch of artistry graces all the couple’s who have the pleasure of him as their wedding photographer. Ryan is a father and husband with a big heart and balances his time between everything he loves and enjoys in life.

ANGELA SINGLETON: Angela has a connection to families and kids and takes her lifestyle approach to document the love surrounded in people’s lives. After leaving Rivets and Roses Angela married her sweetheart and has begun a new chapter in her life.


It is more than a wedding photography studio. It is truly all about developing and growing wildly talented photographers.

- Eliesa Johnson

R&R Team 19.JPG

The current Rivets and Roses lineup of artists features 4 photographers whose work continues to be incredible: Melissa Hesse, Jessica Ekstrand, Nicole McCoy and Andy Yelken. 

JESS EKSTRAND: A million years ago, I was studying journalism and photography at MSU in Mankato. Somehow I managed to get an internship at the now defunct Metro Magazine. I was awful. Eliesa taught a lighting “class” to a team from Metro and I was able to attend. Fast forward a couple years and I respond to a posting of Eliesa’s, she’s looking for assistants. I met with E and showed her my weird and random portfolio and she offered me a position. Now, maybe 8ish years (plus or minus a year or two perhaps) later, I’m still with the team and shooting as a lead for Rivets. Essentially everything I know about photography, I’ve learned from Eliesa and the other photographers that have spent time on the team.

Outside of Rivets, I photograph families, newborns, headshots, senior photos, you name it. I’ve done a little bit of it all. I have also helped to document Sadie Halie Projects, a Minneapolis gallery run by my twin sister and her husband. In addition to R&R, I’m a partner and production manager at Dschwen, a creative studio in Minneapolis. I do the books, I handle the client communication, I clean the fridge and I even get to flex my photo muscles from time to time. If that’s not enough, I spend a couple days a week in some clinics at HCMC sitting down with patients and filling their pillboxes. What can I say? I like variety.

Because of this team, I have met a huge number of the core people in my life. That is wild.

NICOLE MCCOY: Being a photographer for Rivets & Roses has been a blast. Before I hopped on board with the team I was in search of more creative connections and inspiration from other photographers. Then I met Eliesa through a mutual friend, and it was clear that I resonated not only with her heart as a photographer but as someone who appreciates being part of an awesome team. It’s my second year shooting with Rivets & Roses and I can definitely say that my photography skills and how I see weddings has developed into something more well-rounded. I’ve gained some new friends and have made great memories, one of my favorites being unashamedly singing our favorite 90’s songs very loudly at our annual retreat.

Besides being a wedding photographer, I have recently joined The Restaurant Project. It’s been fun shooting at my favorite places in the Twin Cities. I’m also a sign artist for Trader Joe’s and I get to make all the display and merchandising signs for the store. In my spare time, I try to soak up as much fresh air as possible and traveling. Spending time with my partner, James, is also a favorite past time (he’s an assistant for Rivets & Roses, too!)  Creative non-fiction writing is another passion and hobby of mine, so any time I travel I am inspired to write something new. I joined the Loft Literary Center this past year and will be taking a memoir class this fall to continue a personal writing project I’ve been working on for a couple of years. 

ANDY YELKEN: Andy is an adventure seeking photographer with the drive to capture the beauty in the world. He has been a photographer for 6 years and got his start photographing events like homecoming and president’s speeches for the University of Minnesota.

In fact, when he’s not out photographing, you might find him seeking adventures of his own, whether it be rock climbing, hiking or planning his next trip. And interestingly enough, even with all those adventures, Andy has never broken a bone in his life. True to his adventurous form, he was once asked to be a witness at a small courthouse wedding having just met the couple, and happily obliged!

Andy’s photography skills are self-taught—the world is his classroom. His desire to see and share all the beautiful, sometimes unnoticed, moments is what drives him to his camera.

MELISSA HESSE: My days at Rivets and Roses started six years ago when I serendipitously met Eliesa Johnson at a college lunch. The name of her luxury wedding brand, Photogen Inc. rang a bell from two customers who walked through a checkout line at the grocery store I worked at when I was a senior in high school. Those two customers happened to be Eliesa’s parents that asked me what I was planning to go to school for. When I brought up photography they dropped Eliesa’s name and encouraged me to look her up and go work for her. Little did we know, Eliesa and I would sit next to each other years later and connect about that moment and I would end up working for her.

Naturally I fell into being the studio manager at Rivets and Roses and then became a lead photographer. At the time, all of the photographers on the team handled a big portion of the studio work that I do now. There was a gap missing that I began to fill as an intern to relieve the load off the photographers so they could focus more on their work and clients. My photography work has been centered around inclusivity and serving the LGBTQ community.

Outside of the work I do for Rivets and Roses I am also a photographer and studio manager for The Restaurant Project which celebrated two years of business this past February. I work alongside Eliesa every day and help where it is needed between her five brands that all are ran out of our tiny but mighty studio in NE Minneapolis. It is such an honor to work with this incredible team and all the clients I have had the opportunity to get to know.

Screen Shot 2019-06-06 at 4.11.48 PM.png

The team wouldn’t be the same without all the rock star assistants who have worked for Rivets and Roses. Some have been part of it all since day one and others have served for only a season. It has been a place for new photographers to learn the ropes of wedding photography from the studio and have the opportunity to take the leap as a lead with their experience. It is often said that the support of a second shooter is the most valuable part of the day, and it is so true!


Rivets and Roses continues to be a wedding photography studio that is based off of equality, inclusivity and love. Making that known is important and the couples who choose to work with Rivets and Roses are even more amazing to be aligned with the mission! The team is proud to have been featured in Lavender Magazine, MN Bride, and The Knot with the mission always shining through the work.


Thank you to you all for joining us in celebrating ten years of Rivets and Roses! It's been so fun to look back at where this company began and how much it has grown. Of course, this also makes us think about what is next - where are we going in the future?

Our Clients - First a foremost, our clients and weddings are at the forefront of all we do. The couples that choose us to be their wedding photographers are also the ones that inspire us and continue to breathe new life into the studio year after year. We look forward so much to serving these couples for years to come!

Equality and Diversity - As our world continues to shift and change, it is our mission at Rivets and Roses to be rooted in equality and diversity when it comes to weddings. We believe that love is love, no matter the race, gender, or identity of a couple. We're here to support marriage in every way and celebrate those who love one another!

Our Artists - As we look forward to the years ahead, it is also our goal to support all of our photographers who give their time and talent to Rivets and Roses. We want to help our artist grow in their craft, business and client relations as long as they are with our studio!

Affordable, Sustainable Wedding Photography - The wedding industry has always seen trends come and go. For instance, we are currently seeing couples opt in for smaller, more intimate weddings. We want to make sure that our studio continues to offer affordable rates for wedding photography while also paying our artists well and delivering the highest quality of wedding photos. We're focused on being the constant - the wedding photography studio that our clients know they can rely on and afford, while also being the leader in our industry as trends shift.