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Week 26 // Stardust

 

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This image marks the halfway point in my year-long self portrait project. This is both exciting and also a little bit nerve-wracking. When I look back… it is hard to believe that just six months ago, none of these images even existed. It’s almost impossible to believe in fact, because they are so much a part of me that I cannot imagine a time when they did not exist. Perhaps in some way, these images have existed inside me far longer than I will ever realize. It’s a curious thing to wonder about. It’s nerve-wracking because, well let’s face it, I have no idea where I am going from here. I have so completely started my entire life over since my fiancé’ died… diving head first into the unknown… its naturally scary to wonder just what will happen when the final day of this project comes.

What will I do with all of these images? Will I be able to showcase them as I truly dream to – in a solo exhibition printed large and sprawling across walls, ten feet tall? Will I be able to find a publisher to create a book of this journey, as I so dream to? What on earth will I do next year? At halfway, I’m struggle more with worrying about what lies ahead… with the next stage of building this new life. But, as I remind myself often, there’s no going back. So I might as well keep on moving and just trust whatever is going to happen will all work out okay. (We all know that’s easier said than done though!)

This week’s image is quite different from all the others I’ve done up to this point. It came about in part by accident. While processing the original image, I switched to the wrong blending mode in photoshop and created something of a double exposure look. Originally it was just a duplicate of the figure, but once I saw the effect, I instantly got a visual in my mind of using stars and nebulae. So while the original feel of this image was more of a searching into a white void… it became instead about a beautiful, mysterious interconnectedness. It became about the connection that each of us has to all those we love who have died… our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, cousins, friends, sisters, brothers, grandparents and far away ancestors. They all make up this grand, collective energy that I believe wants to help guide us in this life.

I personally do believe we are very much connected with the spirits of those passed and the universal energy they create and reside in. I know it in my heart, because I use that connection every single day to guide me and help me decide things in my life. I’ve followed intuition along every step of the journey since my fiancé died. To me, those gut instincts come from that greater universal collective – not really from me at all. Often times, I get very specific visuals for photos to create – that seem to arrive out of thin air. Some of the most popular of my images in fact have been such. And those I believe come from some collective energy of souls guiding me. We are all connected to that every day. Even if we aren’t aware of it, I think in the quiet moments – if we get still enough to really hear it – we all can find the guidance we need… it lies in the stardust.

 

“You are stardust, as am I… And one day I too will return to the sky.”

-Excerpt from a poem of mine, Stardust

 

Week 15 // Surrender

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I’m in Hawaii this week and next visiting a friend, so this week’s portrait is from the beautiful island of Kauai! I wish you could see it here – lush rainy jungle the likes of which I’ve never seen. Powerful coastlines, ancient volcanic ruins, and an immense canyon where you would least expect it. It’s one of the lesser inhabited islands as well, so there are many areas where it feels almost as if you’re the only people who have ever been there. I would venture to say the spirit of this place rivals the Grand Canyon for me – which is my favorite place on earth.

I’ll have to post some more pictures soon just from the hikes we’ve done, but for now… the portrait…

I stumbled upon this incredible location right down the beach from our hotel Friday morning last week. We’d tried to book several other hotels with no luck. Being that I am a firm believer in how the universe and those in spirit guide me… I have no doubt I was led right to this spot to capture my next image. I went out early in the morning while my girlfriends were grabbing breakfast, just to climb around on the lava rock and take some pictures… and my jaw dropped when I came across this broken-heart rock – split almost evenly three ways.

In the journey of grief, to lay in our pain is to lay also within our love. The heart may be broken, it may feel a pain that is unbearable, but it is only because that is where our love resides so deeply. Losing my fiancé has taken me on a journey of learning to find acceptance of my pain… learning to surrender into what is broken. It’s never an easy thing to do. I can always feel the cracks and the breaks beneath me. Learning to accept today does not mean I’ll be able to accept it tomorrow necessarily. It’s a constant exercise to practice in order to find some level of peace.

This image also reminds me of surrendering to something greater than myself – be that called God, the universe, or my spirit guides. A medium I visited once told me – when I feel the most lost and the most in pain – to lay myself out on the ground and spread my arms open to the sky…and to lay this way and pray. I’d never thought to pray in such a way before (and was never really big on praying to begin with before Drew died), but I have done it many times since my visit with her and there indeed has been something powerful about it for me. It feels like I am physically giving myself to some greater whole and I end up always feeling comforted and connected instead of isolated and alone. This image reminds me that – in the raging waters of life, in the pain of a broken heart, there is still a space of peace to be found. I need only be still, and open my broken heart, and love will come through.

If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

 

Week 9 // Bleeding The Darkness

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This past week was a struggle for me both personally and creatively. My fiancé’s birthday was over the weekend, which means weeks of riding various emotional waves and traveling to new levels of grief I have not yet been to. It becomes hard for me to create photos when things feel very raw. For that, I often turn to painting or writing. But I had no choice but to push through, I won’t allow myself to skip a single week of this portrait project.

I’ve sat with this image actually for several weeks… mulling it over. Exploring what it means to me. Unsure even about sharing it, perhaps because I have needed to find my own meaning in it first. Often times I don’t have a plan when I go out and shoot, so it can take time before I begin to even know exactly what part of my myself and my grief I am diving into.

This image was certainly one of those, but it began to resonate with me this past week, with his birthday approaching. Those days and weeks leading up to a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday create a special kind of darkness when you have lost your partner, or anyone you loved very dearly. My mornings have been empty, hollow, filled with a vacant weight – not of nothing, but of even less than nothing, the loss of something. Someone. They are the days when you cannot want to get out of bed or eat or get to work or be awake or be asleep. Moments when you feel neither dead or alive, but hollow, and all-consumed by the darkness inside you as if it is bleeding right out of your skin. It is not a part I enjoy being in, nor a part I enjoy sharing particularly. But it IS.

This image is about seeing yourself still standing, even though you do not feel like you are there. Somehow, with all the pain, some part of you  – of all of us – keeps standing. That is what I see here… a part of me that is beaten and broken, the part that is in such pain that it’s bleeding out darkness from her pores. And she is caught in a moment of showing it unapologetically. It is about facing life and truth head on – not because we want to but because we HAVE to, each day.  It is about saying “This is me. This is what my darkness looks like. And I will not apologize for it or hide it away. I will be me, where I am, how I am, as I am.”

Love to you all.

 

If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Beach Art

I just had to share some beach art that I am incredibly proud of… my nephew David (15 yrs old) created this amazing large-scale portrait out of sea weed last week while we were down on Padre Island. We were all so blown away – he is truly talented! Way to go David!

 

 

Inspiration: Photographer Nick Brandt

Yesterday we spent our work-day doing an inspiration search at the mall… shopping around in competitor clothing stores and other artsy and creative shops. The very best thing I took away from our day was the name of a photographer that I am – and till the end of time will be – in love with. I found the book of his work entitled “On This Earth, A Shadow Falls” at Neiman Marcus.. and was instantly breathless. The intimacy and emotion radiating from every single image was just stunning.

Brandt has spent about a decade photographing the wilds of East Africa. It’s his passion to capture the beauty of this place and it’s animals, and you can tell his heart is in it. Using no more than an old Pantex camera, some B&W or infared film, and only two lenses.. Brandt creates this greatness. What impresses me even more, is that he does not use telephoto lenses to zoom in on the animals. He states “You wouldn’t take a portrait of a human being from a hundred feet away and expect to capture their spirit; you’d move in close”. And that’s exactly what he does when capturing the wild and untamed animals of Africa. His work is the kind that truly inspires me and gives me hope of the power that photography can hold. I hope it’s touched at least one person who’s reading this even half as much as it has me.

View more of Nick Brandt’s work at his official website.

 

Operation No-Budget Photoshoot!

Hiya folks!

I came across this article the other day about how to create a portrait studio setting outdoors on pretty much no budget. This sounds like my domain for sure.. especially since I’m pouring all of my excess money right now into savings for a new car. Finally, after 10 years.. I will have a heater and power windows! (This will benefit everyone.. especially those who have kindly given me rides on the coldest of winter days.. and the rest who have heard me endlessly bitch about driving anywhere in the winter.)

So the article basically describes making a “set” by draping a sheet over a wooden dowel hanging on two folding ladders. The rest is basically playing around with bouncing sunlight onto your subject. Sounds simple enough even for me! Not to mention, fun!

The results look pretty promising too! Kind of jealous that I will not have a rooster in my shots though..


Things are in the works to have my first shoot this weekend and hopefully a second shoot the weekend after. Very delighted to so far be having a great turnout of friends interested in helping out and getting their portraits taken! Such brave souls they are. ;)

Toodles!
*st

Photo credits: Alexis Godschalk

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