An idea has been brewing beneath the surface to spend time focusing on a specific theme for a series and I have to admit I’ve been riding the struggle bus on this effort. My mind usually doesn’t allow me to stand still in one place for very long. Or fall instantly asleep, for that matter. But after Fotofest, and out of all the random feedback received over the course of that experience, the recommendation to create a series resonated the loudest. So it’s time to pull up the sleeves, whip the creative juices into a brainstorming frenzy and get to work.
This is the easy part. Staying on point is the weakness. But now that I’ve said it, I have to do it. Right?
Toying with ideas around my relationship with mom over the course of my existence keeps coming back to mind again and again. If any of you read my previous posting The Great Escape, you might have noticed our past wasn’t paved with mint ice cream. But I wanted to explore the entire gamut of emotions; and not just mine, but hers as well. There are two sides to every story. And even though some chapters are buried under cobwebs, dusting off the pages might offer some new insights to previously clouded judgements.
So I sat down one Wednesday night with a bottle of wine and interviewed Mom. Both a little nervous, we drank the courage slowly….and opened up the attic door to the past.
It was one of those great conversations I will remember till the end of my days. Time removed the goggles of my adolescents and showed a different perspective to this woman who gave me life. I had a list of questions prepared to assist with the flow of memories. Some questions were easier than others. Some answers, buried quite deep, blurred around the edges making it difficult to recall. But over the course of that discussion, what struck me the most was her bravery.
You may laugh at this now, Mom, but there was a resolve inside you that pushed you out in search of the great perhaps. To the other side of the country. Far away from everything familiar and into the unknown. You tell me now that I am more apt to take risks, but I say you took the biggest risk of all…in pursuit of a better life. For independence. For sanity. For a chance at happiness. Not many have the gumption for that level of boldness. In fact, many still live in the same town/neighborhood in which they were raised. Many hold tight to those toxic relationships, desperately and perhaps foolishly.
But you didn’t.
And of course, I’m rather glad that you did.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
Animals find their way into my suitcase of stock images quite frequently due to the simple fact that they are freakin’ adorable and that I want to take them all home. I could live like Snow White in the woods with a thousand furry creatures but I’m sure Capt. Awesome would kill me! Anyhow, I knew these cute kits would wind their way into the limelight one day. Poised and waiting patiently, they were merely waiting for the right image.
Truth be told, I didn’t know what to make of this scene when I first set my sights upon it. I knew I had an hour during lunch on Granville Island and I wanted to make the most of it. The typical Pacific Northwest weather set in, wrapping the skies in grey while the dampness hung to the air, preparing for rainfall. Right next to my hotel loomed this magnificent hill. Climbing to the top elicited great scenes of the Vancouver skyline. But I loved how that hill shielded city life from the camera so I planted my tripod and got to work. It’s amazing what some angles can do to one’s sense of space.
When it was all said and done, my favorite image was what I least expected. I rather enjoy those happy accidents.
The only thing missing was one furry creature…coming right up!
I enjoy adding these elements of nature into my scenes. Animals can symbolize so many different things and we naturally have a tendency to personify them. So whether they are the silent observer, the messenger, the spirit animal, the companion, or the trouble-maker (I could go on and on), they add a little of the unexpected and sometimes a bit of mystery to an image.
I had the most amazing dream the other night. I must have awoken somewhere in the midst as I remember vivid details so clearly, even several days later. Much like those lucid dreams I often exercised when I was much much younger. I had the superhero power of simply closing my eyes, remembering a past dream and instantaneously positioning myself in said dream in absolute control of the events taking place before me. Now it takes me forever to fall asleep and I’m lucky if anything miraculous takes the stage behind these closed eyelids. Perhaps we lose the ability when college hits and the metabolism disappears!
But this dream was breathtaking. Before you start believing I am speaking in metaphors or that I must have been on drugs, I can assure you this is truly not the case! Two days after the vernal equinox (and appearance of the full moon) and behind closed eyes, the moon stood out between two buildings, beckoning with blinding light for a meeting. I left my father behind in search of dinner, excused myself with my camera. Of course I had my camera on hand, with my zoom attached, ready and poised. By the time I breached the buildings, I found myself standing out on the edge of a cliff overlooking vastness. The earth dropped away to air and a million stars surrounded my purview like a sprinkling of fairy dust. But to create more grandeur to an already magical scene, the presence of the moon shifted the gravitational pull of our entire solar system. Not only could I see the details of the moon, but I stood in awe of Jupiter, gasping as it rotated on its axis before my eyes. The delicious colors of coral red and tangerine orange, swirling in an out beneath the surface, while it’s moons circled about, casting shadows across this giant planet.
At that moment, I felt everything and nothing.
I felt as if the universe pulled back the curtain for just a moment to bestow inspiration down upon me. To make me realize and understand that no matter how small I might feel, or beaten down and exhausted, that I, that we, are all a part of a much bigger picture. Far greater than we can even begin to fathom.
And then gratitude gently flowed through me.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
Once again, as I sit and think about the next encounter with these amazing people I call Fromagis, I can’t help but reflect back on the past experience. One riddled with laughter and majesty. A place where not only you can dream up surreal images as you stare out into vastness, but then can turn around and share in a birthday sing along with the world’s largest moon pie.
That’s what happened when we arrived in Reynisdrangar. A mere cloudless sky snagged our initial opportunity to shoot. Truly, not my typical scene as the harsh shadows can often corrupt even the prettiest. But sometimes it works and you just go with it…grab Rebeca for a photoshoot on the rocks and watch her hair fly!
But finally, the sun began its descent for the next several long, slow hours causing all the tourists to trickle out of the area as the clock reached 10pm, then 11pm. We had the place to ourselves for the most part admiring the landscape, sitting on a black beach watching the waves break upon the shore.
Capt. Awesome keeps requesting our return. One day.
Behind the Scenes shot. :-)
Bonnie walks into the sunset along with the other tourists.
The endless black beaches stretch far as they wrap around to greet Dyrólaey.
The gift of the full moon rising as we sang Happy Birthday to Bonnie.
And while you’re here. Check out this beautiful video Rebeca created from our adventure. You know you want to…maybe just a little bit.
I just returned from 4 days of portfolio reviews at Fotofest, my first experience at this stage, and with this work, since college. It was a daunting experience to say the least, filled with anxiety and wrapped in a blanket of fear. I had solid goals going into the reviews and felt much like I’d been hit with a freight train coming out. To say the least, it was mentally and emotionally exhausting, but certainly good practice for summing up your work to a total stranger in under a minute…in preparation for a 20 minute review! And boy does that time go fast. Too fast in some occasions.
While I won’t go into details over what was said, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much. I received good feedback and some that was a little lackluster. But such is the way of a purely subjective endeavor. Some get it and some don’t…and that’s okay.
What I found most surprising was the emotional response I had to the sum total of 21 reviews. It reminded me of one particular semester my junior year in college. My 19 year old self felt attacked by one professor who shall remain nameless. Let’s call her AL. She fought me every step of the way, refused to take in my intentions into account, pushed me in directions that felt unnatural – in attempt to please her to keep up my GPA. I deconstructed my own ideas to the 5th degree and when I attempted to start the next piece, she somehow expected the new piece to take off right where the 5th one ended. How is this even possible when it took that many steps to wind up on Square E? Baffled, angry and irritated, I barely skated out of that class with a B. But during the next semester, my work chartered down a completely different course. My collages became more personal, more intricate and on another plane altogether from my previous work. To some degree, it’s the same path I currently travel down, only my tools have changed. I remember AL coming up to me at our senior exhibition and commenting on how far the work had come…and how good it was in comparison. And while I defiantly refused to give her any credit for the transformation, I have to admit she pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged my way of thinking.
With all that in mind, after the mental dust settles and I can review my notes with clarity of thought, I’m excited to see the next transformation, however subtle it may be. Because if I am really honest with myself, we are all a work in progress.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
Photo Credit – Sarah Nieman
A Sculpting of Endless Passages was born from a trip with many other photographers at Watkins Glen, NY. The ever so talented, Robert Cornelius, invited a slew of us Up State and surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, we all said YES! I can’t recall now how many of us there were, but we took up two houses and several beds. We also spanned the country from California to Florida and up the East Coast to Maine.
Beauty reached out from every angle in this place. Even our house looked out over the finger lakes and I was able to drag by butt out of bed one morning to catch the sunrise.
I would have to say that the best part of these photo adventures is making new friends and building upon current friendships.
There was no shortage of cloaks or swords!
And the running joke: Photographing a girl and you ask her to put on a dress. Photographing a guy and you ask him to take off his shirt!
The main attraction to Watkins Glen is the park with gorgeous waterfalls and winding rivers sculpting time into gorges. And since we arrived in November, we missed access to the falls by one silly, stupid day! Oh, the plans I had for those falls, especially coming off the summer in Iceland and creating Where the World Bleeds White…yes, I had plans! But upon crossing the bridge, I looked down into the gorge with winding waters and carved rock and realized all hope was not lost.
Aleah, an amazing photographer in her own right, agreed to model for me. And like a pro, situated herself in a thin dress upon the cold ground while I focused and directed until I got the intended shot. She has this quiet, fierce sensibility about her. I could tell she puts that same focus into her own work. Thank you for bringing my image to life so beautifully.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t share this image, another creation from that crazy weekend! Robert asked me to model for him and so now I shall live on forever in a piece of artwork as a Mistress of Mystery! Check out his blog here.
Jackie and Jenn were the perfect models. Complete opposites of each other and roughly the same height, they made for an excellent pairing.
You may recall from a few blogs back my incessant complaining about direct sunlight. There’s more coming, so brace yourself!I was a bit distraught after that shoot, thinking all hope was lost on such a beautiful sunny day of harsh shadows and bad lighting. But after some time to mull it over, I turned that frown upside down and shifted day into night.
What did that entail exactly? Shifting the color space blue and allowing the light from the sun to mimic moonlight. Then, since we used the gold reflector, (And a big thank you to Rachel, who I so proudly named “The Bounce Master” for assisting in so many ways that day!) I was able to enhance the light coming from the other direction. Darkening even more so around the shadows reduced the contrast to an acceptable level. And now I feel content to release this bad boy out into the world.
Behind the scenes moment – sweet laughter. Freezing despite the sun. Jan 2, 2016.
Again, Jackie Gellner MUA, thank you for your magical hands for painting the faces that day.
It was one of those moments when I received an email asking to accompany friends to the Hirshhorn Museum for a lecture on Man Ray’s surrealist films. Forgetting that there is a mecca of art literally right across the street in our Nation’s Capitol, I agreed. After all, I’ve been a fan of Surrealism for as long as I can remember scouring through works of Magritte, Dali and Breton. One of my favorite museums to visit when I was a kid in Houston was The Menil, for it housed one of the largest collections of Magritte paintings. I would get lost in canvases of clouds and the simplicity of the subject matter mixed with the complexity of the subconscious mind.
Mom would often have little craft projects around the house she would engage in like painting wooden bears or creating amazing floral arrangements out of dried magnolia flowers. I would often take some of those wooden blocks, courtesy of the local Hobby Lobby, and turn them into my own little wonders…you know, the creations of teenage melancholy mind, circa 1995. I had an obsession with apples back then and even proceeded to paint one in every single artistic movement of the early 20th century. But I digress..
I left the Man Ray lecture, learning of another event on Surrealist Poetry, a little perplexed and full of wish as I pondered on all the things I used to do but since have ceased as life proceeded to get in the way. Back to my teenage self, I wrote poetry all day long. Everything from the parent hating variety (sorry – I know I’ve already apologized many times) to the typical hormonal induced kind brought on by first loves and first heartaches.
So I came home determined. And with this image in mind, created on of the many black beaches of Iceland with the lovely Mia whipping out her amazing dance moves for me once again. I suppose it’s never too late.
For those of you asking what the heck surrealism is…in it’s simplest definition, surrealism is the literaryandartisticmovement of the1900sthatattempted to expresstheworkings of thesubconsciousand is characterized by fantasticimageryandincongruousjuxtaposition of subjectmatter. More often than not it focuses on the subconscious mind pertaining to that of the dream world. Sur-reality. I suppose to some extent, dreams are the reality we create within our own minds. Who’s to say it wasn’t real just because it happened once upon a dream.
Anyhow, don’t judge me (or judge me) for the poetry of a much older self. I still reflect back on that teenager. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and other times, a lifetime ago. I’d like to think my experiences over the last couple of decades have created a sense of maturity in my thought patterns. But there is still that part of me that still swims in circles. Even now.