Unearthing Unknowns

The Reveal

Unearthing Unknowns


Buying a new house can be an exhilarating and often daunting experience. I’ve always been drawn to the charm and beauty of the past. Those craftsman houses and architects of the 40’s had such a specific attention to detail. Down to the ornate glass door knobs and skeleton keys, I easily find myself mesmerized feeling like I’m walking into a place unknown, off the map, otherworldly…from another time. So when Capt. Awesome and I saw this cute little town home for sale, we jumped at the chance. He bought me a house for my birthday! (It’s going to be hard to top that one!)

It’s in an artsy part of town complete with local eateries, mom & pop shops and within walking distance to everything. A weekly farmer’s market. Close to the metro. The dog park. Old Town. Really, we found a little piece of heaven to call our own.

But with the excitement of home ownership come the discoveries of what lies beneath. This house brings a history of decades long before we were born. You can almost count the years by layers of paint on the wall, the thickness of window frames and the drafts of cool air drifting under the door frames and around the electrical outlets. These old bones hold sturdy, yet creak and moan with every step. The walls, firm, but wrinkling and creasing at the seams. We bought an old mistress. And if we listen closely, she might reveal her secrets. Sharing her stories of the many generations before us. How many families lived under this roof? Four? Five? Eight?

As we drift from room to room, painting and arranging pieces to make it our own, I stop for moments to imagine what it looked like when it was new and shiny. Tiny and tidy. No need for extravagance. The simple kind of life. (With very little closet space!)


This image marks the first time I’ve collaborated with another photographer(s) for stock imagery. Usually I just photograph my own. However this time, a group of us fine photographers from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, organized by Anne Abernathy, decided to join forces with one another to create a single image. By luck of the draw, I paired up with Heather Gill, a talented food photographer out of Las Vegas. Not only does she make your mouth water with delectable images of everything edible under the sun but she also photographs amazing interiors that alone spark my imagination.

This was her original interior shot before I went to town manipulating it. Such beautiful details to an old dilapidated house. Almost too many details! So much of what I attended to, besides the obvious color shifting, was removing the paint flaking graffiti and water damage, darkening areas and blurring bits and pieces to allow your eye to rest. Oh and let’s not forget…I shifted the hole in the wall to the left to allow some breathing room for my model to stand without “falling out” of the frame!


I knew I wanted to photograph inside my new home while it was still a blank canvas. Only walls and floors, no furniture yet to obstruct my line of sight. The only obstacle to overcome was the mere fact that these old homes were built with humble beginnings. Space was and still is a commodity in this part of the country. Nothing like 12 feet and a 50 mm lens to make you get a little creative…and say, shoot on the stairs for an extra foot or two of distance.

So here’s the lovely Annabelle, holding still for the shutter, probably wondering what the heck she got herself into by agreeing to be a model! She did a great job imagining there was a bird flying through the air!


Col Sam Snowy-129 copy

And a big thank you from Lori at Focalocity, for providing this beautiful image of a snowy owl. We don’t see too many (or any) snowy owls in these parts. One would have to visit Canada for a glimpse of something so magical.

There’s just something about these creatures…I almost believe them to be mythical…like a unicorn. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never seen one.

Maybe I need to go back to Canada.

…when it’s warmer.


R & R and C

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - R&R and C

R & R and C

In typical fashion, I’ve started writing down goals for the year. What I want to accomplish, hope to achieve and a path to get me from point A to point B…hopefully. Naturally, when looking toward the future, one often reflects upon the past. Experiences. The good, the bad and the ugly. But I have to recognize that it was a pretty damn epic year. We moved from CT to VA. I discovered what it truly meant to experience the season of Spring. I met some incredible, talented and inspiring artists who I am happy to call friends, traveled with my sister to the Pacific Northwest after a year apart, stuck my foot in the door of the DC area art community, and planted my flag in the ground.

That’s the good.

While I won’t dwell on the bad, I was reminded of how precious this fleeting thing we call time is in our daily lives. And while there are plenty of tasks at hand that require our attention….most of which we really don’t want to do (doing dishes is one of them….making the bed another) I am reminded that I am completely in control of continuing to create positive experiences in this life. To weed out all the drama, be it people or situations, and try to live each day with passion and intent. With a sense of presence.

Going back to the goals of the year, I’ve begun my first series. This presents new challenges as my mind tends to be a bit A.D.D. on most occasions. Ultimately, I have trouble focusing on a concept unless the emotion at hand requires strict attention. So concentrating on an extended idea will require some discipline and will power. However the subject matter of time tends to reoccur, constantly floating around in my head. It’s an intangible that presents itself with the elliptical path of the sun and moon, the passing of seasons and the wrinkles of age. It discriminates against no one. Yet we often dismiss it like the old uncle we haven’t seen in years. We spend our days wrapped in the worries of tomorrow or regretting the mistakes of the past. Rarely do we sit and just be.

So aside from this series, I’ve making a mental note to just be. Here in the now. Enjoying the conversation. Song, Gentle breeze as it catches the leaves and sends them flurrying through the air. Putting the technology aside for longer moments at a time and give the present the proper attention it’s due.

After all, this second is now gone. Never to be seen or heard from again.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - R&R and C
I met Harvey several months ago. He greeted me in typical kitty fashion…took one look at me and ran the other way! But I have a hankering to touch and befriend all things soft and furry so a little skittishness didn’t stop me! I’ve loved cats all my life. When my mother moved to Alaska in the early 200o’s, she left our cat, Poppy, with me for safe keeping. I was 11 years old the day he walked into the house, claiming us as his new owners. When he passed after 20 glorious years, I was devastated.

Then my beautiful, marvelous mutt, Shelby, found her way into my life. And while I love her like no other, I do still miss having a cat. Unfortunately, Capt. Awesome is allergic. (He’s just lucky I didn’t have a cat when we met!) So I’m left to my own devices to get my cat fix when I can!

Then I met Annabelle, Harvey’s human, while home visiting from college during the holidays. Despite her youth, she held herself with a confidence I wish I had at the age of 19. Together, both her and Harvey made the perfect pair in my mind for this particular concept, which had been simmering on the brain for several months now. Annabelle, made the perfect model. Harvey, well….like any gato exposed to a new environment, was rather vocal about his new surroundings. But all in all R & R and C was born to the idea that nothing beats rest and relaxation like the presence of happiness. Or in this instance, cats.

Time spent with cats is never wasted. ~ Sigmund Freud

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - R&R and C

“If you don’t stop photographing me I’m going to eat you!”

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - R&R and C

Jan 9, 2015 - 9:37 am

Tom Newforge - Thats a lot of cats! Here’s to an amazing 2015:)

Jan 9, 2015 - 2:28 pm

Bonnie Boyd Taylor - Oh, those came out GORGEOUS!!! I love it!

Calling Upon a Storm


© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Calling Upon a Storm

Calling Upon a Storm

It’s that time of season. The close of one year and the start of another.

When I lived in Texas, dad would take me, along with my sister, to the House of Pies around Christmas time. Just the three of us. It was a tradition of ours. We’d order the sweetest thing on the menu, some hot chocolate and recall the past year. Accomplishments. Changes. Goals for the future. And with a sparkle and a gleam in his eye, the pride emanating from him wrapped us in the warmest of blankets.

Those were special times.

A closing of a chapter as we picked up another book to begin. Pages unwritten.

So, Dad, even though you are far away, I sit here with my hot chai tea and chocolate chip cookie pondering reflections of the last 12 months along with aspirations for the coming days. I’m going to shoot for the moon. I’m calling upon a storm. And I’m gonna reach for the stars (because stars don’t fall out of the sky – according to Ritchie Valens)!

Unfortunately, I don’t have too many behind the scenes shots from this day. A whole group of us intended to get together for a day of shooting at Great Falls Park, but in the end, there were only two of us. The weather warmed to a balmy 50 degrees with the promise of rain. So it was a battle against time to photograph before Mother Nature decided to cleanse us with her good graces.

A big thank you to Tom Newforge for his assistance manning the shutter while I stood on a rock, barefooted, holding a tortilla warmer. Note to self: next time fill warmer with tortillas first!

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - Calling Upon A Storm

Dec 30, 2014 - 2:01 pm

Tom Newforge - Tacos for our next meetup! lol.

Honestly, I am honored to have been able to click the shutter for you. Just when I think you’ve produced the most amazing piece I’ve ever seen you create, you go and do something like this that just blows me away. Clean and solid piece.
I am pretty psyched that I got to become your friend before you got too famous. (Which judging by your recent work should be like….tomorrow?) I cannot wait to see what you do next and thanks for having me along for the ride.

Dec 30, 2014 - 7:44 pm

John Sarabia - House of Pies and James Coney Island down the street. Sweet, sweet memories…

Dec 30, 2014 - 11:42 pm

Marisa White - Let’s not forget Chuy’s too!!


© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Awakening


A good friend told me you have to continually put yourself out there, as you’ll never know who might stop and take notice.

Easy words to say. But for some reason, harder to put into practice. Naturally, I can usually come up with a thousand reasons, sure let’s call them excuses, as to why I shouldn’t put myself out there…yeah, we’ve all played that game. Awesome always says to think about the worst case scenario. Most of the time, it’s never really that bad and very infrequently does it ever reach that level of badness.  So in an effort to change, I’ve started doing. 

Doing comes with a common wavelength of patterns. A multitude of highs and lows that ring to the sound of rejection, rejection, rejection, acceptance, acceptance, rejection, acceptance, rejection… REJECTION!  It’s all a game in an effort to build thick skin, character and humility. You know, keep that ego in check less it run amuck, streaking naked like a wild banshee and annoying everyone in sight! No one likes that person!

And laughing at the game has become a new favorite past time. Honey, good news, I got another rejection letter today!  I’ve learned to moderate expectations by turning the dial to low.

Then one day something magical happens. I happened upon the right place at the right time with the right vision and all the puzzle pieces fall into place. As if they’ve been there all along staring at me, rather blatantly, wagging their tongues as if to say “I told you so!”

The moment was a high. Highest of highs. A high to rule all other highs. And I will happily ride it until that next rejection letter sends me crashing back down to reality. A reality where this subjective world of art wears a thousand shades of colors, one specifically tailored to fit an unsuspecting passerby. If I’m lucky, maybe two or three. If I’m really counting my stars, four of five.

But at the end of the day, those two or three or four or five are really just icing. Because the reality is they are all tailored to fit me.

Social media really is a necessary evil of sorts. But what I love most about it is the ability to connect people from afar. I’d been swimming in the same circles as Robert Cornelius for several months and had even happened upon his work before I realized who he was. Needless to say, this guy is a bad ass. Seriously, go check out his work. I’ll wait.

Not only does he have mad skillz, but he’s a really likeable, down-to-earth guy. One who still owes me a handstand! But I digress…

Several of us made our way to a little park in Northern Maryland, coming from Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. In Texas terms, it was like driving from San Antonio to Austin! As with many of these little jaunts, sometimes we come armed with ideas and sometimes we let the space inspire us. Awakening was clearly inspired by the space. Robert was kind enough to model, balance on a step ladder (on one foot even) as well as create these massive splashes of water to assist with my vision. A big thank you to Kory, Tom and Anita for adding to the flair by finding and throwing rocks! If only we could move boulders!

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Awakening

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Awakening

And then there’s this which makes me smile from ear to ear.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Awakening

These are the days I am most thankful for. Everyone is encouraging and helpful. Where collaboration is high and inspiration follows. Where friendships are made. I have much to be thankful for.

Dec 17, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Robert Cornelius Photography - AHHHHHHH YAAAYYY!!!!! I love this! Everything about it, the picture came out just as you had explained it and it’s AWESOME!!! What a fun day that was I can’t wait until the next adventure! Handstands to come.

A Rabbit Hearted Girl

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - A Rabbit Hearted Girl

A Rabbit Hearted Girl


One. Little. Word.

All it takes is one little word to spawn the wrath of man (or woman). Who knew that one little tiny word could pack so much power.

After all, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me, I remember from my childhood. Yet, now I recognize while the word itself may not elicit the breaking of said bones, it may instead be the catalyst, the nudge needed to “release the Craken” on one’s body.

But I knew that word packed a punch which is why I let it freely slip into the moment. Timely placed for emphasis. For boldness. To help strengthen my resolve and claim my territory!

What I didn’t expect (well…not exactly) was the verbal retaliation that soon followed. I opened the flood gate and now stood solid as the waters engulfed my feet, slowing rising up to my chest. There was no stopping it now…and even if I could, the damage would surely reach catastrophic levels. So I held my ground, my stare,  unwavering as the verbal attack continued for what seemed like a small eternity. I hadn’t felt this level of adrenaline course through my veins since I was a foolish, little teenager poking a snake with a stick. Surely, this must be a dream…because in my world no man comes into my home and speaks to me this way. No one.

After the emotional dust settled and the imminent threat dissipated, I removed my rage goggles and took a good look at the event I helped create.

Over the course of several days a roller coaster of emotions raced through my thoughts:

First came guilt. I blamed myself for being the catalyst, adding fuel to the already glowing fire.

Then anger…but not anger for Mr. Bad Man but for my incessant ability to first blame myself for the encounter and NOT him! I’m angry at myself!

Sadness soon followed…sadness that despite the fact that the news displays a constant barrage of all the evil in the world, I prefer to live in my safe little cocoon of rainbows and unicorns, never once thinking that anyone could rain bullets on my parade. That only happens to other people. Not to me…because damn it, I really do try to be a good person.

Replaced by fear. This is what really ticks me off…aside from the rose colored glasses I prefer to wear, I also walk in a bubble with, apparently, a very false sense of security. I never paid much attention to the cars surrounding my building or felt the need to look over my shoulder. I use to leave my door unlocked, even while I slept, as if every night the sandman transported me back to the 1950’s when the majority of people respected each others’ lives and property. Now I am alert, like a rabbit breaching the brush before hopping out into the great wide open. It’s exhausting to feed this new sense of awareness.

Then another kind of anger formed. This one is of the “I may be small but I’ll take you down if you mess with me again” variety.  Dynamite comes in small packages. And I refuse to be a victim!

So with that -

Awesome bought me a pair of gloves and signed me up for some Muay Tai classes. It’s time to channel Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Le Femme Nikita meets Aeon Flux. Yes, I am a nerd…but one who will kick your ass! In the end, I may go down, we all go down at one point or another, but I will go down wreaking havoc on the way!

Behind the Scenes:

As we start ramping up for winter time, and with the first snow already out of the way, it was time to put the finishing touches on this piece with the adorable Grace Potter. A Rabbit Hearted Girl was originally inspired by Florence’s powerful song, Raise it Up. Like most of my pieces, certain concepts immediately create themselves while others round out and take form on the drawing board. This one was no different, perhaps being a combination of the two.

This concept was photographed on a warm day back in February. The sweltering temperatures rose into the 40’s that day! It wasn’t too warm to melt the snow but warm enough to hang outdoors without a coat. Yes, that’s me there wearing some thin yoga pants and a light sweater. It’s a Christmas miracle! And Ann Marie, I promise Grace’s foot was only exposed for a few quick frames and then tucked safely and snuggly back into her Uggs!

Grace, thank you for being a willing model! For bending to my crazy and weird, creative whims! And thank you for your encouraging words. You have no idea how much they meant to me. :-)

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - A Rabbit-Hearted Girl