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400 Faces: How Lily and David McGregor went from unemployed to staple photographers in Forsyth County
400LIFE Lily and David McGregor
Lily and David McGregor pose for a photo in front of their photography studio on Pilgrim Mill Road. - photo by Brian Paglia

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of 400 Life magazine.

By Peter Stoddard

For 400 Life magazine

Lily and David McGregor’s career and marriage got off to a rocky start.

This is not to say they did not work well together. They worked so well together they got married. They honeymooned in New York City, and even that went well. Their trouble started when they returned to Atlanta. In fact, immediately when they returned to Atlanta.

Still on the plane and Hartsfield tarmac, Lily and David turned on their phones. Each exploded with messages from coworkers. Everyone was laid off. That very day.

Thus, Lily McGregor Photography was born. Only not immediately.

In 2006, David was the professional photographer. Academically trained, he had long known he wanted that to be his career. Lily initially toiled as an editor and production specialist at the same studio. Only later did she study photography under excellent mentors, one of whom was David.

Fast forward to 2009. Romance, a wedding, honeymoon and sudden unemployment. This called for Plan B, though neither David or Lily immediately knew what Plan B was.

It began with outreach to their continually extensive Forsyth County community. Among the first to welcome their services was North Forsyth High School, who asked them to cover sports and other events. This led to senior portraits and more.

David and Lily began to be recognized for their talent. Folks asked them to do weddings and individual portraits. They gained further recognition.

Unless specified, replies below paraphrase Lily and David. They give and take in conversation with a common vision, grace, wit and obvious affection.

What most appeals to you about Forsyth County?

“A little ironic, but the diversity. You didn’t see that not so long ago, but it is changing fast. At the same time some families have very deep roots. Many friends are third generation Forsyth and way more. Despite fast growth, the place remains wholesome, friendly and so livable. It’s getting bigger but still retains that small-town feel.”

What do you recommend to Forsyth newcomers?

Lily: “Despite my fear of drowning, Buford Dam, top and bottom. We do a lot of shoots at the lower pool. The scenery is epic. Plus, the hired goats that manicure the bank are adorable and hilarious. Also, anything at the Cumming Fairgrounds. We do a lot of work there, and every event is memorable for a lifetime.”

What is your favorite literature?

David: “Can I call ESPN literature? If so, mainly the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Braves and Georgia Bulldogs. The last book I read was Of Mice and Men. I won’t say when. Magazines and newspapers. I won’t say which.”

Lily: “Aldous Huxley’s ‘Point Counter Point’ and ‘Brave New World.’ They involve such relatable characters. Don’t say when I read those either.”

How about movies?

Lily: “Pulp Fiction. Not because of blood and guts. I love the many subplots and particularly the music.”

David: “Karate Kid. The original. Triumph of good guy over bad guy. You can pick that up 1/3 of the way through and enjoy it. If I ever stumble on it changing channels I stop and watch.”

Food?

David: “Authentic Mexican. I can eat tacos every day if I was allowed.”

Lily: “Breakfast any time of the day. Not eggs so much. Pancakes and bacon mainly. When dining out, anything adventuresome. We like to explore new Forsyth cuisines.”

Music?

David: “I am a big fan of all ‘90s music, but I really enjoy a wide variety of most genres. If it sounds good to me, I’ll listen to it.”

Lily: “Smashing Pumpkins, Crowded House, Depeche Mode and Atlanta hip hop."

Best places you’ve visited - or want to visit?

“New York City, except for that rather annoying return landing. Memphis. We needed some place drivable, drew from a hat and had a blast. Phoenix is great. We want to do New Orleans soon. For our 15th anniversary we will do Europe.”

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

“This field is far more than having an impressive assembly of equipment and an eye for what is photogenic. If you can get academic training, do that. Technology and methodology will always change, and school is the most expedient way to learn fast. If it is your passion, go for it. You will not regret a life in this business.”