For this week’s video I had fun with my friends in the snow, and that felt like a worthy thing to capture on the camera. The reason why it seemed so important to me, other than documenting time with my best friends, is to show a very simple idea: everyone who wants to be a model can be. I don’t hire agency models for my photos. Sometimes that is necessary. But a lot of the time it isn’t, especially if you are wanting to practice, take storytelling photos, or depict “real” people.
In the few times that I have photographed industry models, I have had a much harder time getting what I want. Most people aren’t used to modeling, and that is what I count on when it comes to taking a picture. I don’t want the model to run through 100 poses based on practicing in front of a mirror. That has it’s time and place, but that time and place is never when and where I’m working. I need someone who can become a character. I need someone who has no preconceived notions about what a model does or does not do.
When I shoot, I shoot quickly and decisively. I tell the subject how to pose, often times demonstrating what I mean, and if that doesn’t work, I pose them myself. The great thing about friends is twofold. Usually they are very open to the weird ideas I have and strange poses I pull sometimes. The other good thing is that you have less pressure when trying to get a shot. They are will to go above and beyond for you because they care about you.
In this video you’ll see two different photo shoots. One is with Olivia Clemens, who has been modeling “unofficially” for the last 4 years or so. The other is with KD Stapleton who has had next to no modeling experience. Even though one is very experienced while the other is not, I believe the images, as far as final intent goes, turned out quite equal and I adore photographing them both equally.
I hope that you’ll feel encouraged to create no matter who it’s with. Every person has the potential to be a model, or a character in your story.
Every story is worth being told.
So create…no matter what. Challenge yourself and others to be something more than what meets the eye.
The other day I was wading waist deep in a cesspool (that is little exaggeration) and didn’t realize that I had my phone in my back pocket. I never have my phone with me so it didn’t even occur to me that it would be on me. I was doing a photo shoot and was caught up in getting the shot and in the moment and I didn’t think to check. I was just excited about life.
Only about two hours later did I find my phone in my back pocket, waterlogged and dead and never turning back on. At first I groaned.
“Ugh I need to get a new phone…”
“Ugh I’m about to get on a plane to New York City in 3 hours…”
“Ugh this is a hassle…”
And then, literally moments later, I shrugged. I didn’t care. It is a PHONE. It is not the end of the world.
I laughed about it. I had just drowned my phone in a cesspool…that is kind of funny, right? And it is SO me! Of courseI did that. Why haven’t I done it sooner?
And so, aside from the worry of trying to let my husband know that I was safe and sound on my travels, I had not a care in the world. I actually felt relief. As I was sitting on the plane that night it felt so amazing to know that I didn’t have to communicate in that way. I could stand in front of the people I was with and have no distractions whatsoever. I could be completely present in the moment, not thinking about sending a text or calling anyone or looking that thing up that I’ve been debating on the internet.
I spent 24 hours in NYC with no distractions.
I spent the next week at home with no distractions.
I have always hated technology in some capacity. I am a technophobe. I love having a phone to call my family, and I recognize that I need to work when I travel since I travel so much, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.
This experience made me decide to spent more time hiding my phone away – not answering calls and feeling frantic about the next email that will come through. You don’t have to drown your phone in a cesspool to feel free and disconnected. It is a way of life. It is a gift that you can give yourself at any time.
Look at those pictures from the cesspool shoot. I could, literally, not be a happier person. I would drown my phone again one hundred times if it meant I could relive that experience for the sheer joy that I felt doing it. I’m not afraid to say it…I love wading in filthy water to get a picture. I love the adventure of it. And that’s just me: phone in back pocket, filled with the dirtiest water you can imagine, and a smile sweeping across my face so big it could last a lifetime.
How do you feel about your phone, or being constantly connected?
Yesterday I was honored by speaking at Imaging USA for the first time. I had never been to the conference before and it was my first time exploring and getting to know the layout. I love going to conventions because I can sit in on classes and meet new people, though admittedly I always feel very out of place. The photography conventions I have been to do not cater to the fine art photographer, but I think, perhaps, that is why I enjoy them. I like being immersed in a world of photography that is not my own.
I began my lecture sitting barefoot on the edge of the stage, hugging as many people as I could and generally feeling really happy about life. I was about to talk about my passion and what could be better than sharing what you love with others? I did my talk, and then a shooting demo with someone I met on the sidewalk that morning as the model! Sticks and a lot of baby powder later, and voila! A photograph. I edited it right after for everyone to see.
Now here is where we get to the part of this story that I am having trouble pushing out of my mind, and so I wanted to write on it. After the demos I went outside to greet people and say thanks for coming (and more hugs!) and I heard a couple things repeated by many people.
One was that I am a very controversial speaker. Exactly why I could not say, nor did I expect to hear that, but the general sentiment was that I was speaking on things that do not get spoken of very often and that I do so in a very matter-of-fact way. From my point of view, I say what I think and I say it from the heart. I don’t mind if people agree or disagree and I am simply grateful that anyone thinks anything at all! Another was about how strange it is that I am not selling a product. I guess it is normal for a speaker to sell products after their lecture, but I am just terrible at things like that.
I understand why I may be different from some other speakers (though in truth I don’t know many speakers or generally what the education is like at conventions, I speak only from comments I heard after the lecture). I do not think this is good or bad, that I am better or worse. People need to sell to make money and I get that, and I simply don’t have many products to sell and I adore connecting without a product in between us. People talk technique because it is part of what fuels the creative process, and well…it’s fascinating!
I think the thing that has been stuck in my mind ever since the convention is one very simple thing: I am stuck in my head, lost in my own little world and I love it there so much that I have a hard time getting out. I go to a convention, I meet wonderful people, but I cannot do things how it is normally done for fear of losing myself. I walked around the expo yesterday in a daze, looking at all of the booths and products, not understanding what more than half of them were, all the while composing a short story in my head. Perhaps that is the problem. Or not.
Every single person has something about them that is unique. It could be as simple as understanding who you want to be and acting on it. It could be that you have a story to tell that the world needs to hear. It might be something from your past or something yet to come in your future, or something unfolding right now that sets you apart. But whatever it is, it is there, and it can be fueled and embraced.
I used to be terrified of events like Imaging. I used to fear crowds and people and conversations. And what has changed is not huge but is fundamental and so important, and that is how I embrace myself and my weirdness. I love imagination and stories and getting lost in a place filled with wonder and awe, and so often, that place is the story in my mind. And so, when I go out to conventions and things of that nature, I find it simple now to retreat inside myself and speak from a place of love and honesty. I speak from the inside out. And when I am judged negatively, it does not hurt because I am so content with the messages coming from my heart. Whether someone else is content with that message is not for me to worry about.
Are you lost in your own little world or wish you were lost there more? Are you finding your weirdness or have found it? What makes you unique?
This week I wanted to talk about something that has been close to my heart these last few months. I did a blog about it before so I won’t go into huge detail, but the subject of losing the people closest to you has been in the forefront of my creation process lately. I have been invested in photographing the people I love in ways that I feel embody who they are.
I had a health scare with my mom towards the end of last year, and it was a sad but necessary reminder of the fragility of life. I am grateful that I have had this long with her, and truly any moment could be the last. The same goes for everyone, and perhaps that is why I have been increasingly interested in making connections that really mean something rather than letting people flit past me without a true understanding of who they are.
When my mom landed in the hospital last year, it was a shock while at the same time being something that we knew could happen. She is the strongest person I know, yet also has Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, and her health has always been fragile. I didn’t even know she was in the hospital. She didn’t want me to know because she didn’t want me to worry. That’s just who my mom is…a mom through and through, someone who puts other before herself and never wants anyone to worry.
But worry I did, and that worry lead me to this photo series: photographing the people closest to me before they pass. When my mom came to visit in December we did a photo shoot together. Not a far-fetched idea considering my mom is insanely photogenic and loves the camera. My dad assisted, throwing her dress and hair in the air for me, while my mom twirled and danced and ran from the camera, coy and energetic. It was a time I will never forget, and if I do lose her sooner than I feel ready for (but then again, that is the way with everyone), I am so glad I have this image and the memory of creating it to represent who she is to me.
Thank you, mom, for who you are and what you have given me. It is far more priceless than this photograph, but for now, it is all I could think of to give. Sometimes even the smallest gestures speak volumes about the heart.
Do you photograph the people you love, or document their lives in some way? We are storytellers, and I feel now more than ever it is my job to tell the stories of those around me, even if it is in my own twisted voice. Do you have any unique experiences with love and loss? If nothing else, I am inspired to think about the abilities we have with our creativity in new ways.
My new year has been hectic. On January 2nd I drove to Los Angeles, prepped for a retreat I was hosting, and attended a gallery show. The next 3 days I taught the retreat. The day after that I filmed an educational DVD. That night I took a redeye to NYC, shot the whole next day, and then flew home the next morning. Now I’m home and looking back on my first week of the new year and I feel two things:
I am grateful, and I am stressed.
I value calm. I value being centered and balanced. Being busy is great because it is often a sign of life moving forward. But sometimes we put too much value on being busy. I am guilty of this. I send out a tweet listing all the things I have to do. I let others know that my life is constantly moving…and why? To compensate for something? To make my life seem bigger than it is?
I don’t value being busy in this way. I don’t like doing things for the sake of doing them. I am most inspired when I am home with my other half. I am most calm when I can sit and think and write and shoot and edit. I am most inspired when I’m not rushing around airports or scheduling the next thing in my week.
I think that we put too much emphasis on how busy we are, but not on how productive we are. Have you ever heard someone list all the things they had to do in their day? Often it will start with: Well I got out of bed at 6 o’clock, and then I put clothes on, and then I drove to the coffee shop and ordered coffee for my coworkers, and then I had to be at work by 8…
And all of that listing to say that someone drank coffee and went to work.
I am guilty of this. I hear people talk like this. And that is okay – we are all feeling stressed at some point and we all need someone to say that they understand, or that you’re doing a great job. But at what point do we start to place real value in those lists, to the point that having a lot to do is more valuable than the things you’re actually doing? At what point does our stock in being busy outweigh the actual living of life?
One of my goals for this year is to not be as busy. It might mean I make less money. That is something I would have to accept. It might mean that I make fewer “industry connections”, but does that really matter? I’m not one for networking, I’m one for living. Being busy is great, but to a certain point. Everyone has their own idea of how busy is too busy, and now more than ever I know my limits.
If I looked back on my life would I be able to say that I lived it exactly as I dreamed? No, probably not. And not because I am unhappy in any way, but simply I feel the need to be home more. I feel the need to spend more valuable time with my loved ones, and treasure that time in the moment. We all put emphasis on different things that are important to us. Being busy should never be something we put emphasis on, but instead it should be about the things that keep us busy – our passions – that we feel most connected to.
What are your thoughts on being busy? Are you too busy or not busy enough? What is something that you think you could use more of in your life to feel more fulfilled?