Behind The Scenes: What, you thought this was glamorous?

I recently added a “Behind The Scenes” section to my website (under “stories”) for two reasons:

  1. They tell as much of a story as the final photos themselves, and when I go to photography exhibits, those are often my favorite images on display.

  2. It completely dismantles the artifice of formal fashion and beauty photography, and reveals that it is, in reality, just another job. Sort of.

Ok, it’s not exactly “just another job”, but fashion photography has a long history of dancing the inspirational/aspirational line, often at the cost (or exploitation) of women. Unrealistic expectations are established and rarely met, when the reality is that even the people involved couldn’t meet those expectations, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Maybe other shoots are uber-glamorous, with everyone wearing sunglasses inside, champagne flowing like water, and nobody dares to touch the catering table, but those aren’t my shoots. My shoots are essentially just a bunch of weirdos, listening to David Bowie or Sonic Youth, having a good time and getting a job done. For me specifically, I am probably doing this while covered in cat hair.

I like the idea of a collection of formal, behind the scenes photos since it elevates the process to be of equal importance to the final works themselves. I cannot do what I do without amazing teams, and these photos get to celebrate everyone involved. I’ll still post informal, sneaky snapshots on Instagram (because they’re hilarious), but moving forward, I want to collect a formal record of what my shoots are really like, shot with just a modicum of gravitas.

And if I ever become famous, and have a museum retrospective of all my works, including these behind the scenes photos, there better be KILLER soundtrack playing in the background.

The Essence of Identity

Tonight, I attended a literature event: Adam Gopnik interviewing Meg Wolitzer. As to be expected, she spent most of her time talking about the process of writing, her personal experiences as a writer, etc.. They were somewhat offhand, but she offered two wonderfully helpful nuggets about how to write that could easily be applied to anyone working in a creative field, and I’m sitting here, savoring them, letting them roll around my head, trying to suck every last ounce of goodness from them:

  1. You don’t have to offer all of yourself into your work, but at least a little part of you should always be present. Your "identity”, your “label” in your friend group? That’s the part of you that should come out in your work.

  2. Editing is like Jenga. If you can take something out and the structure still stands, you didn’t need it, you were right to take it out.

The second point is easier for me to wrap my head around, and is something of which I need to be highly mindful, since I have a terrible time paring down...anything. My work, my words, my wardrobe, etc. I like to have maximum flexibility and offer as many possible options as possible. I can still Marie Kondo my life and get rid of anything that is truly unnecessary, but I’m energized by potential. I find comfort in knowing I can consider something from all sides, that I have flexibility and options. It can be overwhelming for sure, but once I make my decision about something, that’s it. I don’t waffle.

The first point is trickier because it asks me to identify my role to my friends. Not why my friends like me (which could easily dissolve into a pathetic grab for compliments), but what purpose my existence in their lives serves; why I *specifically* am kept around. To put this in a professional context, my work could appeal to you (or not) for a myriad of reasons, varying from person to person. But I can’t know that in advance, so I have to go on past critiques/comments about my strengths and weaknesses and offer you as much as I can to appeal to you as much as possible. I have longed for the freedom to say, “this is who I am, this is what I want to offer you, take it or leave it.” But in a hyper-competitive field like photography, “leave it” is a luxury, so many photographers (myself included to an extent), err on the side of maximum appeal and offer up way more than they should.

Part of this creative metamorphosis I’ve been working on the past few months addresses both of Wolitzer’s points. I spent too long trying to appeal to too many potential clients by showing off too many different styles, and in the end, it wasn’t even enough, it was all diluted. It never really felt like I took a creative stand for anything. The work was beautiful, elegant, and clean, but it was safe. I’ve been marinating on the concept of “risk”, at least in the context of my work, and I realized risk wasn’t something that would show up in my subject matter or style. Risk for me means thinking about how to work differently. I need to get comfortable with taking a visual stand and risking potential alienation. I need to not consider “potential” at all, only think in yes or no, never maybe; the burden of potential will kill you if you let it.

I had a reviewer once tell me my strongest images were the ones that felt authentic, but only half the images in my portfolio actually showed that. I was only half revealing something. I was only taking half a risk. She was absolutely right. It’s funny, in my personal life, I have never cared one iota if someone liked me or not, or if I fit in. It’s the only child in me—I’ve always been fine on my own. But as a photographer? It always felt like I was trying too hard to get people to like me. A little too eager. A soupçon of obsequiousness.

That ends now.

Mixed media pieces? Why not?

Mixed media pieces? Why not?

Tabula Rasa, or: Welcome To The New Site!

This is the story of about how my site got flipped, turned upside down...

(cue some sick beats)

I made some changes to the site because, well, I'm making some changes to my career.  Being self-taught, I often have to move forward blindly, just going by gut instinct, and for the last few years, it just hasn't felt right.   I had trouble trying to categorize my work, I think [potential] clients had trouble categorizing my work, and I had all sorts of ideas that couldn't comfortably be categorized, and the anxiety about how I would present these projects after their execution was so great, I just never moved forward on them. 

So I got rid of the categories.

My work--how I consider designing a shoot all the way to the finishing touches--doesn't neatly fit into a specific genre.   For me, it was always a blessing and a curse.  I loved being able to just hit you with the full impact of a beautiful image, and you didn't need to think about it, it was all about the feel of the image, a sensory experience, but I think that sensation, in a professional context, can be confusing.  It's human nature to compartmentalize and categorize.  It's how we understand the world around us.  And that's ok!  It's comfortable and familiar.  And I tried, I really, truly tried, to fit in and adhere to how the industry likes to look at photographers and portfolios.  But it never felt right to me.  And when you get one shot to get on someone's radar, that initial presentation, absolutely nailing it on the first try is all you've got.

The changes I'm making aren't a "rebrand".  The brand was there, it was just fuzzy around the edges.  I'm looking at this as a "recontextualization".  It's a reframing that offers guidance to the viewer, but also grants me permission to really take full advantage of my unusual art background and take all the creative risks I had balked at previously because I simply didn't know what to do with the work when I was done with it.  The sheer relief I feel with this shift is indescribable.  I'm giddy!  I'm excited!  I feel such a renewed enthusiasm for photography, I'm almost manic.  I have so many ideas.  I hope you'll come back and see how they've all turned out.

This new direction is a chance to publicly declare an artistic identity I was afraid to fully reveal before.  

So, here I am.  Here is my work.  Welcome, and enjoy.