February 365 Project Images

I’ve stayed committed to my 365 challenge, on the good days and the bad. As you can see, I have 28 new images below. Most taken in the month of February, some from the archives, sessions I never truly “finished” and wanted to revisit. In this journey, some days decisions are easy, some days I struggle, but the goal for me is producing work. I am a firm believer that you grow by forcing yourself to move quickly, not by slow deliberation. It’s been a productive month. I released the Raindrop Overlays and I’m thrilled to see the work others are doing with them. I created a tribute to a life-long friend’s father who passed (RIP, Charlie). I worked on close ups, distance shots, my color grading, and compositing. Perhaps most importantly, I got more shots of Vivi who continues to grow like a weed. Thank you for your interest in this project. The encouragement I receive from others inspires me to continue.

Two Series in One

One rainy morning, on impulse, I texted one of my models, Jessica Graham* and asked her if she’d be up for shooting in the rain with me. Jessica is possibly the most fearless woman I know. She has this amazing confidence and adventurous approach that make you feel like you could say, “Hey, my concept is that we roll you in Cheetos and then run, barefoot, through the snow”. Jessica is an author, actor, and teacher. She is also a woman who at 38, I feel very comfortable asking to do certain things I wouldn’t ask another model to do. Such as taking off her dress.

But I digress.

Basically, my original concept pretty much fell apart the moment Jess pulled up to my house. The steady rain we’d been having all morning stopped. The clouds opened, revealing a bright, sunny sky. Still trying to save my original concept, I asked Jessica to hop into my shower while wearing the dress I’d selected for our shoot. I figured it was likely that it would start to rain again, or at the minimum, the clouds would roll back in as we were predicted to have rain until the next day. Didn’t happen. Instead got brighter and warmer and everything dried up. Including her dress, which apparently was created with some sort of space-age 60’s fabric designed to dry instantaneously. As we hiked up to the location, I thought: “Well, at least we have wind”. Hearing my thoughts, God promptly calmed the wind. Now, I might have mentioned somewhere that I have not yet gotten to goal number 11 of getting in better shape. As we trudged up the muddy hill, I may have started shedding props and wardrobe. Things were getting brighter and lighter by the moment. We scrambled up part of the trail and I slid back down. While I was muddy from the waist down, I didn’t let the camera or lens slip, so I mentally high-fived myself. But the tumble made me decide to leave all but my Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 in my bag, safely at the bottom of the trail with all my props, all the wardrobe, all basically, all my former concepts for this shoot.

We got to the top of the hill and I asked Jessica spin herself. Sometimes I had her do it slowly, sometimes I asked her to speed up. I found myself liking the movements she made when off-balanced. I asked her to keep repeating, and she would plant her feet to try to steady herself. At some point, I felt like she and I merged. Her movements started telling MY story. She was expressing my week, my month, my struggle to maintain equilibrium, to stay composed under changing skies, both literally and figuratively. I think it’s important to say here that I don’t equate being off-balance with anything bad. On the contrary, I find challenges, changes, shake-ups are often inspiring. I have been struggling with being too “safe” — not wanting to experiment for fear of failing, alienating my audience or my model, falling short of expectations. In this non-ideal scenario, I found some courage. I played with light I wasn’t used to shooting in. We played with different, off-balance poses. My original idea was about transparency, a second skin. As the shoot progressed, I decided that Jessica, with her confidence, maturity and philosophy towards life, would be the ideal model to ask to shed this second skin: the dress. Now, just as additional background, I went to art school. I am very comfortable with the naked human body. Models should always make an informed consent when taking on these sorts of artistic projects, otherwise these projects can quickly become exploitative, no matter how artistic the intention.

Series One.

“Heroes are never born fearless. They become heroes by facing their fears, by meeting them head on and saying, ‘You do not control me, or own me anymore.”
― Nikita Gill

 

“You are damaged and broken and unhinged. But so are shooting stars and comets.”
― Nikita Gill

 

“I hope you never doubt again that even when you are in pain, that you are a miracle, that every part of you is incredible.”
― Nikita Gill, Wild Embers

 

This is a waltz thinking about our bodies
What they mean for our salvation
With only the clothes that we stand up in
Just the ground on which we stand
Is the darkness ours to take?
Bathed in lightness, bathed in heat
All is well, as long as we keep spinning
Here and now, dancing behind a wall
When the old songs and laughter we do
Are forgiven always and never been true

 

 

Second Series.

Contains artistic nudity.

I also made a simpler series with no overlays, just stripped down black and white imagery. As this series includes artistic nudity, you might want to stop scrolling now if you are not someone who likes nudity.

 

*If you are interested in learning more about Jessica’s work with mindfulness and sexuality, you can find her website and Instagram.

 

January 2019 Images

The 365 Challenge I’ve given myself has me hopping. With only five exceptions, ALL of these images were shot in January. All were edited this month. 42 images below… And I’m not sharing them all so as to not be too repetitive. It’s so funny…. I feel the OPPOSITE of burned out. My brain is on fire, I feel like things are just starting to get rolling. Working this fast is eliminating the anxiety and second-guessing from my editing. It’s forcing me to make choices and react quickly.  I am in a very happy creative space.

In addition to making these images, I also went to the dentist, made a new dinner recipe (I liked it, the kids…not so much), went to baseball practices and games, and nursed a sick kid through a stomach bug and then the flu… with a sick husband. I did NOT however (even though I also got the stomach bug on New Year’s day), lose the 10 pounds I was hoping to. I tell myself that’s why God created February.

Rainy Day Window Portrait Series

I don’t get much weather living in Southern California. When I do, I get very excited and inspired. Here are a few experimental portraits from two days of rain.  I loved the distortions, the soft focus in areas, the textures, the steam effects. Basically, I was in Photographer Heaven.

 

New Years Goals, Part 3

In last two weeks, I started posting my New Year’s goals and intentions. Since I have many, I’m doing this in segments. I’m sharing these publicly because I like the accountability and I also hope that these thoughts might be helpful to others.

GOAL 5:

Shoot and edit whatever moves me, but organize my posts differently.

For years, I’ve weighed whether it was better to segment my work a bit more to suit my audience. I’ve finally decided that it makes sense to do so, and as a result I am focusing on growing these new, segmented accounts on Instagram and Facebook. My main pages for Facebook and Instagram will stay the same, but I’m adding micro accounts which will be focused on portions of my work to give my online portfolios more cohesion. If you’d like to follow, here’s how I’m organizing things as of now:

Main Facebook Page

Main Instagram Account

Fine Art Facebook Account

Fine Art Instagram Account

 

 

365 Project Instagram Account

GOAL 6:

Saying “NO” to drama. I refuse to get embroiled in Facebook drama. I’m eliminating all sources of it, even relationships if necessary, so that I can focus on my family, my business and my art. I find the drama on Facebook to be destructive to all my goals.

GOAL 7:

Getting in the frame. I’m not 100% happy with myself, but I’m determined to show up in more pictures with my family and also, in my own art. I am working hard to feel better about myself by taking time to focus a little on me. I feel like the issues are so intertwined, I don’t get in photos because I look like a truck hit me. So I’m investing in self-care — making time to cook healthier food, exercise, brush my hair, wear pants with zippers…. Baby steps…

 

New Years Goals, Part 2

Last week, I started posting my New Years goals and intentions. Since I have many, I’m doing this in segments. I’m sharing these publicly because I like the accountability and I also hope that these thoughts might be helpful to others.

GOAL THREE:
I preach all day long to others to not assign too much importance on “likes” or “favorites” on social media, but to instead follow their own gut and heart when they create. I’m more and more convinced that a downside of social media is monotony. I believe in people discovering their their own unique voice which is impossible to do if you’re chasing likes instead of focusing on self-critique and mindfulness. Art is about our unique journey, not the arrival. I am always reminding myself of this. I promise you that the more validation through likes you find, the more addictive that validation will become. My goal is to engage MORE in social media, but to evaluate the results of my engagement in less self-critical terms. I’m going to try to be more authentic, more honest, and more open by sharing what I love and letting the chips fall where they may. I want to try new things and I love to struggle and feel uncertain in my art. I think it’s why I fear teaching. Everything I do seems like it could be a failure and I struggle to make it feel successful to me. There is no formula. But I think more than ever, this might be important to share with a community that feels destination-driven. Art should not be comfortable and easy, but the process should feel satisfying, especially when something DOES come together in the end in a special way.

GOAL FOUR:
Well, this is embarrassing, but I feel it’s important to share: Since having Vivi, I’ve struggled emotionally. Could be hormones, could be anxiety, could be postpartum depression, could be residual PTSD from nearly losing her when I went into labor at 24 weeks. When I was on bedrest, I was put on one anti-depressant. It helped me better cope with those long weeks of fear but I was still struggling with anxiety. The obsessive worrying was limiting my ability to focus and get work done. This was making me feel overwhelmed. As I tried harder and harder to catch up and wasn’t able to, I felt angry with myself. A vicious cycle of anxiety, self-loathing, and depression developed. Thankfully, in August, I had a moment of clarity and realized that this wasn’t OK. Honestly, I do not enjoy going on medication for mental illness. There are so many stigmas that still exist. However, I saw someone and was put on a different medication that helped me control both the depression and the anxiety. The results have been incredible. I can’t express how much not living with constant, overwhelming anxiety and the depression that accompanies it has done for my life, art, family and general productivity. So my goal is to share this with others, so they know they are not alone if they are suffering. It can get better. Stop shaming yourself for not being strong enough, fast enough, good enough. The self-shaming nearly put me under. Sometimes it’s not enough just to focus on the good, on what you are grateful for, to get busier, to try harder, to get more exercise. I sincerely tried it all but the game-changer for ME was seeking medical help. And being honest with my doctor that the first medication wasn’t cutting it. You and your happiness and well-being are worth this investment of time and money. My goal is to remember my own words and keep myself mentally healthy by doing all the things I need to do: Self-care, exercise, eating healthy, prioritizing family and friends, feeling grateful  — while staying on my medication (prozac) is essential to me having a good and successful 2019.

The images I’m sharing in this post were shot or edited this week as a part of my 365 project. I’m not sharing the iPhone shots and edits today, but if you’re interested you can find them on my 365 IG account.

Lastly, I had the honor of being chosen the Artist of the Year by the World’s Best Photographers & Artists Group. If you’d like to read the interview, I’m including it here. I deeply appreciate the constant support, encouragement and inspiration of my peers in this community. Thank you!