A Dance Among Lovers

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - A Dance Among Lovers

A Dance Among Lovers


distances far and wide between

voices blur in and out of focus

waiting to the beat of a butterfly wing

 an ocean of infinite scapes

the lights flicker and dim with knowing


for the opening act lingers on far too long

starving for warmth

in a blackness 8 hours wide

restlessly tossing a wave upon the shore

back and forth


back and forth


then sundown greets an

outstretched hand

before intermission parts this play

to find blushing lips

that part into smiles

while the tango takes the stage


the music cues

 releasing particle by particle

slowly fading into the clouds

if even for one soft moment

before feet finally touch the ground


 soon the clock sounds

out to midnight

as two goldfish twist

each swimming to the right

for 5 days time brings another number

the next curtain call

of a dance among lovers



Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

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.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Early Works

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 literary and artistic movement of the 1900s that attempted to express the workings of the subconscious and is characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter. 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.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

The perfect backdrop for the Surrealist mind.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

One of my favorite people, Delphine Millet, setting up for her art.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

And another lovely friend, Rebeca Cygnus heading off to explore the corners for her next concept.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

Thank you, Mia, for giving one hundred percent to all of us as we developed our ideas on an infinite horizon.

The Beekeeper

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - The Beekeeper

The Beekeeper

I have this weird obsession with collecting dead insects; everything from butterflies to locust shells, bumble bees to dragonflies. You name it. You just never know when one may come in handy for a concept and when a stock image of mine just doesn’t quite do the trick.

So when I am out and about walking my four-legged child, I often look down at my feet hoping to find a new addition to my collection. Surprisingly, the dog park offers a overabundance of insect varieties, recently deceased and untainted by the spoils of time.

Yes, I am that strange girl walking down the sidewalk, hand cupped and extended outward, trying to avoid sudden gusts of wind as I shelter a tiny little creature with a perfect, yet delicate wing span. They often make their way onto my desk, horrifying co-workers or at home where Captain Awesome shakes his head in disbelief…once again. What strange new thing has now breached the threshold of this house? Oh, if he only knew!

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograh
But my real friends, accepting of these peculiar idiosyncrasies of mine, not only understand the obsession of the collector, but offer to help! Thank you, Brittany, for requesting your neighbor ship you a dead tarantula (which I hope to put to good use soon), and Kerry, for lacing a hive of paper wasps that had grown to massive proportions in the tree outside. While I don’t always have an immediate use for them; like my painting instructor once told me, it’s good to have all your paints available at any given time to not disrupt the flow when inspiration strikes!

Note: All insects died of natural causes…unlike those I was forced to collect in high school for a science project. ~

Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

The morning of Jan 2nd, I sat on the couch next to Captain Awesome, fueling up before my shoot with Jenn and Jackie, scowling at the sun. Frustration had already set in to add to my nervousness that inevitably arrives to greet every session, regardless of the weather. I whipped out Lindsay Adler’s – Shooting in Sh*tty Light, a gift from mom for Christmas last year. Hoping to glean some great words of wisdom before I set out for the day, I reviewed all the relevant sections, praying it would stick in the moment. Unfortunately, without a massive sun bounce in my bag of tricks and only a small 5-in-1 reflector, words kept reverberating in my head….shoot in the shade.

Shoot in the shade.

But all my concepts had my models in full on sun contact without any trees to seek refuge! Except this one.

Jackie not only offered her services as a makeup artist for the day, but agreed to play model in my sandbox as well! I gave simple instructions on makeup for both her and Jenn and she intuitively delivered on all counts. She does beautiful work – check out her website Here.


© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograh

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Detail of The Beekeeper
I initially brought along my own sheet of torn paper with me, thinking I could utilize that prop to create the hole for the bee, but the shade didn’t allow for enough lighting to create depth within the frayed edges. Go figure! So back at the house, I improvised using torn paper and then deciding which bee needed to star in this image.

Of all the images, this by far has been the easiest to edit.

Lesson learned: When shooting in sh*tty light, get in the shade!

(Thank you, Lindsay. Next time I’ll listen more.)


Jan 20, 2016 - 1:15 am

Kim Johnson - Natural causes? I think a few bald-faced wasps may have ‘naturally’ inhaled some spray from a can of Black Flag or RAID….

Feb 3, 2016 - 8:43 pm

Marisa White - Yes, true. But this bee was found in a perfect state of ‘deadness’ devoid of any chemical retaliation…at least that I know of!

Northern Migration

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Northern Migration

Northern Migration

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography

Meet Jenn. She was minding her own business on the metro this past November. I have no recollection as to who was on first but saw her sitting there; quietly waiting for her stop, like the rest of us travelers. I did everything in my willpower to not fixate but her unique features kept drawing my eye again and again. It was at that moment, staring at her white eyelashes, conviction took hold. The disappointment would hang hard and heavy if I did not sum up the courage to accost her before her station arrived. Decision time.

Deep breath.

I grew a pair of balls, rose from my seat with certainty, sat down next to her…and proceeded to verbally vomit all over her! Starting my introduction with, “I don’t mean to be creepy but…” Handing her my card, I told her she was stunning and how much I would love to photograph her. Yadda yadda. What probably only lasted 30 seconds felt like a small eternity and it wasn’t until I arrived back at my seat that the realization struck; I never even said my name!

So you can imagine my surprise when I received an email a couple of weeks later accepting my offer.

Jenn, I want to let you know I’m not in the habit of accosting women on the metro! (Although after the experience, I may not flinch so much at the mere thought!) Thank you for taking a chance and joining me for an excursion and exploration through my slightly offbeat mind.

Looking at this now I am reminded of the magic that inevitably occurs from engaging in an activity that scares the hell out of you. Note to self.

Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

Northern Migration is part of a new series I’ve recently tackled much to the dismay of my flighty, and somewhat A.D.D. head space. Much more to say about this series as time passes.

Two weeks of solid rain and scattered clouds surrounded Christmas this year.  The sun decided to grace us with her full on glory the ONE day we scheduled, which included full on make up with the lovely Jacqueline Gellner MUA, to photograph out at Great Falls Park. Gorgeous day. Horrible day for shooting. Oh the shadows. Oh the humanity! Every idea, carefully crafted and scouted on the previous sunless days, required a place beside the water…without reprieve from the malevolent and unforgiving sun.

But when in Rome…

Luckily water does allow for a little light bouncing and the river runneth over after such a consistent rainfall. I’d frequented this part of the park on a couple other occasions and have to admit, I didn’t recognize the space as the swelling engulfed most of the beach and drowned the trees.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
(Speaking of trees…I now deem tree branches my new nemesis. Never have so many hours clicked by cloning out tiny little branches forcing my eyes to cross. I have Tori Amos and Incubus to thank for my sanity.)

Jenn was the greatest of sports. A natural athlete, she never hesitated scrambling over rocks in a dress, per my silly requests, or fighting off those pesky tree branches that attempted to entrap and entangle us at every bend. Again, thank you! I know it’s not easy, especially as a weekend brings more of its share of onlookers to our day’s events.

I’ll save more for another posting…one where I hope to turn day into night to account for the shadow play.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph


The Other Side

© Marisa S White - Conceptual Photography - The Other Side

The Other Side

For a good part of my life I’ve been pushing the limits in the physical sense at every step in the road. My first race was a marathon. No 5ks or 10ks to start off that journey. Go big or go home, I suppose. I endured shin splints so excruciating it took 30 mins of running before the pain subsided. I wrapped my shins every night in liniment oil to soothe those aching muscles. And I lost toe nails! 5 to be exact including the big one. Talk about sexy feet during flip flop season! But nothing was going to detour me from that path, even when someone kindly said to me…you know, no one will think any less of you if you decide not to complete the race.

But it mattered to me. To set that goal, train for it and cross the finish line completely wasted and exhausted with a smile on my face and a promise of Chicago style pizza as my reward.

The road has been paved with many other challenges since that day in 2003. And while maybe not as physically painful, they still required an unwavering level of focus and determination.

I wish I could say that all my endeavors are as steadfast or as resolute; however, and unfortunately, this seems to only hold true when it comes to conquering my own goals pertaining to physical fitness. Everything else is fair game.

As emotion takes over, fear settles in and makes a sweet little home in my head space. Shin splints heal as do toe nails, but that fragile little ego doesn’t recover quite as quickly. Rejection takes me back to the proverbial playground where I was last picked on the kickball team. (Yes, I sucked at team sports!) There is that tendency to want to belong and be accepted. Does that ever really go away? So the natural defense mechanism turns toward protection. Sadly, this results too often in the deer in the headlights mentality where dreams are routinely kept on the sidelines.

But really, deep down, what is there truly to be afraid of? And is that fear, be it the fear of rejection or of the bruised ego, worth the risk of living within the safe and ordinary?


Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. ~George Addair

Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

It was a Saturday night and I received a text message from my friend and neighbor asking if I wanted to get up early Sunday morning to photograph down at the Dyke Marshes just South of Town. I could feel my eyes rolling and my shoulders tensing…how early, I quickly responded. 7am with a promise of coffee and a wake up call.

That morning proved to be one of the coldest thus far for winter. Luckily I didn’t pay attention to what degree until after the fact, otherwise, The Other Side might never made it into existence.

Brittany and I walked along and I remarked on how the cloudless sky really didn’t offer much for my kind of work but I was grateful to be up and experiencing something new, despite the cold. Then a bend in the road brought us to this tree. It sprawled like pointy fingers above the marsh with spectacular angles and I stopped dead in my tracks to stare. Brittany walked on. I spent the next 20 mins deciding when and how to climb this tree and if I could (having left my remote control at home, once again) set the timer for 20 seconds, 9 shots at 3 second intervals and manage to scale the tree quickly enough time to get one or two shots in under the buzzer. Yes, seriously, these are conversations I have with myself on more than one occasion.

But as luck would have it, Brittany made a very timely reappearance to aid in my plight and not risk a possible plunge to the icy depths of the frozen marsh. (Yes, it was 28 degrees that fine, brisk morning!)

Best part – an older gentlemen ran by then stopped in his tracks to laugh. He commented, this is about the 5th weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on this trail before! To which I stopped, mid perch and asked, oh really, what were the other 4? He responded indicating he once crossed paths with a woman walking around the park with a chicken in a box! So yes, a barefooted girl in a dress out on a limb perhaps wasn’t the strangest thing to happen in that park…but maybe just for that one day.

Behind the scenes of a conceptual photograph - The Other Side

Jan 9, 2016 - 9:31 pm

Kim Johnson - I prefer my chicken in a bucket (not a box) and preferably deep fried. :-)

Letter of Unusual Incident

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Letter of Unusual Intent

Letter of Unusual Incident

Date/Time Reported: Mo.  7, Day 12, Year 80, Time 6:30AM

Part I – Reported by Mrs. Beverly Queen

Part II – Type of Incident – Unhealthy and Deplorable Condition

Part III – Details of Incident – Upon arrival for duty this am this building smelled disgustingly unbearable. The corridors, playrooms and dormitories were filled with some sort of sticky substance on the floors, the trash cans were filled to the rim and there was a multitude of roaches and ants encompassing dried fecal matter on the floors. Ms. Jenkins and myself were forced to mop the playrooms before performing our daily custodial duties.

Part IV – Actions Taken & By Whom – Housekeeping Supervisor E Bivens was called and informed of the devastating conditions this building was in and also Mr. Bivens was informed that this is a continuous problem.


Behind the Scenes – The Process

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

A dreary Friday took me out to Forest Haven Asylum, an abandoned institution for the mentally ill…left in shambles to fall into disarray. (I did not go it alone, Dad, I had company! I promise!)

I’m typically on my best behavior but I have to admit that something happens when the camera touches my hand. It’s as if the simple act of grasping my trusty Nikon fires off neurons making me do unspeakable things like walking into places such as these. And if I can offer any justification, I only saw ONE No Trespassing sign and I am proud to say my person did not set foot in said place…just everywhere else.

In an attempt to keep an open mind, and not be scared half to death, I walked down the trail with a heightened sense of awareness and a quickened pulse to my heart. Would we walk in alone to find ourselves amongst the walls of a time long gone or perhaps surrounded my the spirits of yesteryear…or worse, graffiti artists, tag happy to paint the walls with vulgar scribbles and lewd statements? Unfortunately, it was the latter.

I do believe I would prefer ghosts to the disheartening spattering of ridiculous tainting of walls in a place primed for taint all on its own. It hardly felt abandoned, but regularly infiltrated by those who care only to infiltrate and deface.

But despite the mayhem, I came across this one Letter of Unusual Incident tacked to an old board weathered by the elements. It was dated back to 1980 with big, cursive handwriting. I’d like to believe this is a legitimate piece of the past and perhaps someone on a pass thru picked it up from the dusty floor and affixed it to the wall. After all, there were several papers strewn across this place haphhazardly. So I’ll choose to believe in the authenticity of this Letter of Unusual Incident as it seemed appropriately placed in such a strange environment.

But it has to make one wonder about this sticky substance that attracted ants and roaches and how or why it was a such continuous problem. Inquiring minds want to know.

Here are a few behind the scenes images from the excursion.

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

Strawberry Fields forever.

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

A bit disturbing to find smiley faces on the walls of such a place.

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

This appears to be a dead animal in a weird state of decomposition and missing a head. Burned?

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

No thank you. No amount of invitation could place me in that chair.

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

Or this one.

©Marisa S White - Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

This was the first room that sparked my imagination. So strange as it appeared to have the makings of a shower, drain and all, but one has to wonder why a filing cabinet would be well suited for such a space. Multi-tasking at its finest?