Sculpting of Endless Passages

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Sculpting Passages

Sculpting of Endless Passages

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 my butt out of bed one morning to catch the sunrise.

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I would have to say that the best part of these photo adventures is making new friends and building upon current friendships.

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There was no shortage of cloaks or swords!

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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!

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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.

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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.

© Robert Cornelius Photography

A Trick of the Light

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - A Trick of the Light

A Trick of the Light


A nightstand full of prayers

attend the service of every evening fall

in hopes of an ending

to the yo-yo effect

for opportunities come

and more often they go

and as much as you plead

for the madness to halt

don’t jump so quick

to catch the lightning bolt

beware of the wolf

clothed in sheep’s wool

he discusses the weather

ever so nonchalant

and offers the keys

to a slippery slope

 stand fast to your truth

and butter it with faith

for the universe has a plan

this road’s not unyeilding

as the signs read loud

and the colors so bright

so follow those fireflies

found deep in your heart

for they lead the way

to your true North

Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph

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

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

Behind the scenes moment – sweet laughter. Freezing despite the sun. Jan 2, 2016.

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

Again, Jackie Gellner MUA, thank you for your magical hands for painting the faces that day.

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!

Apr 5, 2016 - 2:48 pm

Abigail - Hi Aunt Marisa!! I miss you and i was in art class and so i was showing my friends some of your work! They love it by the way, but i just wanted to see what new stuff you had and can i say that it is phenomenal!!! I love you!

Apr 5, 2016 - 3:06 pm

Marisa White - You are too sweet! Thank you. Can’t wait to see what we create together when you come visit me this summer. :)

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