60/365: surviving and thriving

the day after leap day, i ended up just basking ... because i survived teaching photography to a dozen high school students for two hours!

we started with the notion of the camera as a passport to experiences. i encouraged the students to describe their own experiences while photographing, and then to find stories and imagine how the journalists felt getting the story. with photography, we usually concentrate on the photograph, the subject, while overlooking the experience of the photographer in making that image. i wanted to bring the students' experiences forefront, to acknowledge the value of the experience itself.

then we moved on to two kinds of portraits: those with the subject looking right into the camera lens, and portraits without showing the subject's face. i was moved by the students' work and their descriptions of why they shot what they shot. and they seemed to value the images and words i brought to them. i even got them away from playing with their cell phones for parts of this informal class! 

i experienced mucho stress in the weeks and days before this class, in preparing what to bring to the students. but all in all, i felt our time together was valuable to them and they took away ideas and techniques they can use in their photographic futures, which were the most important things. one student even gushed as i departed, "you were the best guest presenter we've ever had!" which felt great!

#iseefaces

gratitude project, day 6

my parents gave me one of the greatest gifts ... the love of travel. i always loved how alive i became when travelling, all senses open, soaking in the wonder of a new place.

i realized quickly that my camera gave me that same sense of awe and interest, and i decided on a career in photojournalism because i knew it would offer me the opportunity to keep alive my interest in the world.

today i am grateful for that gift from my parents, and for what really sustains me and feeds my soul. looking. seeing. discovering. a face on a wall!

shift happens

gratitude project, day 5

two days in to a four-day workshop on digital photography workflow. ingesting so much cutting edge technical information. and able to do so. very grateful for having the capacity to learn and grow. and unlearn what i no longer need. for knowing that, even at age fifty, i can still shift gears. 

a fact of beauty

about 90% of the time, i am not photogenic. even my friends will attest to that. some people are, some people aren't. i'm not. and i accept that, since there's really nothing i can do about it. it's like having blue eyes or being tall ... genetics, traits, facts. i have other gifts, but photogenicity is not one of them. 

this photo, however, does not have me cringing when i look at it, at myself, the way many photos of me do. the high angle is better for my round face, reducing some of the roundness. the lighting isn't great but the blues are pretty. 

but this photo is about waaaay more than colors and angles. 

the juice is in my eyes, behind my eyes. my whole self, my inner self, my soul and spirit Self is right there. i am present. i am grounded. i am in my body. there are so many ways of describing this state of being.

ten years ago, i had no idea what this meant, being "in my body." i thought i WAS my body. 

years of study, and evolved friends and teachers, and spiritual experiences, and oh so much work and practice have all helped me to not only understand this concept, but to actually feel when i'm in my body and when i'm not.

some people have a much easier time being and staying grounded/present/in-their-bodies. often those with past trauma or super sensitive nervous systems have a harder time. i find that people who work with their hands are often more grounded than "intellectuals." and surprise, surprise, i'm one of those folks who has to work at getting out of my head, being present and staying in my body. 

i like this self-portrait because i can see my Self, my soul, shining through my eyes, my clothes, radiating. i see me, the real me, not the outer me, not the photogenic or not-photogenic me.

i really see me. and i find myself beautiful. because spirit IS beautiful. fact.

and i'm learning how to say it, to state it. without the outer getting in the way. without my head getting in the way.

i. am. beautiful.

you are beautiful

 myriam

"you are beautiful!" myriam exclaimed as i walked into camp registration. who me? she can't be talking to me. we proceeded to have a transformative conversation that night: beauty is about letting ones inner light *shine* through. it is not about what's on the outside, the physical ... it's all about what's on the inside. i know this t-h-e-o-r-e-t-i-c-a-l-l-y but, ohhhhhh, i could see the storm brewing. so THIS is my secret reason why i came to camp.

i've known for many years that i am not my body and that i (and everyone and everything) am soul, spirit. i had my spiritual awakening the night my mom passed 9 years ago. 

but it's a whole other thing to really grok ... not when i look at others, but when i look at myself. many/most/all? of us are so hard on ourselves and so loving with others. we see their inner beauty. we see their hopes and dreams and tenderness. but when i look in the mirror, i see chubby cheeks, small eyes, thin lips, extra pounds, and on and on. and i hear my mom's unknowing words of many years ago jangling around in my head ... "i wouldn't consider you beautiful, but you're interesting-looking."

what i so needed -- and didn't even know i needed -- i got from myriam the first night of camp, so naturally, so very effortlessly: you. are. beautiful. 

the minute our hosts tracey, myriam and jen started talking, i knew this experience was going to be about so much more than the technicalities of photography: intentions, secret wishes, poetry, permission, passion, sharing, seeing and being seen, gratitude. and beauty.

before reading several soulful poems out loud to the group, myriam mentioned "this is especially for hillary" more than once. she could see that i really needed to get this. i know this poem well, but i obviously needed to hear it again, and apply it to myself: 

 

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

~~

 

when i looked at every single one of my fellow shutter sisters at camp, i could so clearly see their beauty:

wendy 

siobhan ria


stef

when i asked tracey the first night which class i should take, "composition" or "self-portraits," she blurted, "you? self-portraits." 

my comfort zone stared me down. i knew i had to do this, to go toward the scariest thing.

fortunately i was in safe hands. taught by the lovely meredith, i learned that making self-portraits is not the height of narcissism as i had thought in the past (this judgment a sure sign i was really just scared of it). now i know it's quite the opposite, in fact. making self-portraits is a high act of self care, self love. of really seeing my inner self and honoring that. of seeing my truth, my story, not other people's stories about myself. about seeing my inner beauty. ohhhh. 

self-portraitohhhh. so THAT'S why i came to camp.

to learn that i, too, am beautiful.

the sisterhood: a homecoming

i kept stepping into scenes with my heart melting, melting, melting at the sights i was beholding. on the beach. in the lodge. up at kiln. at the bonfire. upon each entrance, a shock quivered through my system, powered with the realization: i am not alone anymore. a whole community of sisters actually exists!! women who LOVE photography as much as i do. real, live, in the flesh, shutter sisters.

and these women share. share their knowledge, their tips, their special sauce ... technical advice yes, and so much more. their dreams and fears. their truth. the generosity of spirit shocked my system, too. the openness and vulnerability and depth were not what i expected from photo camp

we talked a lot about "story" at camp. here is mine: i've been a photographer since high school. my teacher was a man. i went to journalism school and all my photography instructors were men. i was one of very few women photojournalists working in the uber-competitive world of photojournalism in which no one shared their ideas for fear of someone stealing them. because people did steal ideas. literally.

pinups covered the walls in the newspaper photo labs where i worked. the guys returned from football games and printed up pictures they'd taken of cheerleaders' breasts and butts and tacked them above their desks. 

i photographed fires and car crashes and gang warfare and dead bodies. there was no one to talk to about how i felt. 

it took me a long time after my photojournalism career to even understand what shutter sisters was all about. my perspective was so ingrained by all i had learned and seen in my previous world of photography. i didn't get the "shooting from the heart" thing, photographing as expression of tender feelings and family life. sun flare, starbursts and out-of-focus were serious no-nos in all my training. i'd check in on the shuttersisters site every once in awhile, and leave thinking, "this is not the place for me." 

until i was far enough and long enough away from all that i had learned before. i needed a cooling off period of unlearning what was no longer necessary, a melting of all that hardness which was imperative to survive in that world. 

over time, i found myself on the shutter sisters site more and more. learning so much from the archives. seeing what other women were seeing and sharing. joining in on the "one word" and "daily click" projects. commenting on posts. writing a guest post. i even eventually found myself playing with sun flare, starbursts, and out-of-focus! and loving it, i mean, down to my core LOVEing it. cherishing the place where i finally know, i belong. that the shuttersisters site exists in the world is like sailing in the middle of the ocean but knowing there is land. somewhere that is safe. somewhere that is welcoming. somewhere that is home.

 

so to have my journey take me into the actual arms of tracey and all the contributing shutter sisters, and into the arms of women who love photography as much as i do, to have ALL THAT? i had no idea how much i had suffered, and how much i needed this. need this. i am no longer sailing. i am anchored. i am home. and i am so incredibly grateful.

the last morning at camp, the dining hall man took my ticket and wanted to direct me to the tables reserved for our group. "are you a shutter sister?" he asked. yes. yes i am.

 

 

wowed.

sitting in the dining hall for breakfast the first morning at squam, i met a woman.

she: where are you from?

me: california.

she: what do you do?

me: i'm a photographer.

she: oh, i know of a great photographer out west somewhere. i follow her blog. can't remember her name. but her photographs are amazing. 

another friend at the table: was it eyechai?

she: YES! eyechai! that's it!

me: wow.

turns out that she, the hilarious and loving patricia hurley, is also amazing. patricia writes over at michelle shopped.

me: wow. wow. wow.

pasting faces

this is one of the most powerful photographic projects i have ever seen, ever. JR is asking all of us to share our portraits and stories. anyone can upload a portrait to his large-scale art project inside out and receive it printed on a poster to *paste.*

you'll see ...

i'm uploading this portrait:

this is my dear friend laura. her lovely mother has had cancer for the last several years. every time we speak, i hear courage in laura's voice. and vulnerability, and heartbreak. and strength. and love. this is the story i am sending to JR's project.

just what my heart needed

arrived home this afternoon weary, exhausted. too much to do, too many decisions, too too too. until i saw the package from germany placed on my front porch. and i knew, this was exactly what my heart needed. i waited until the right moment, and sat, and touched the linen cover, let my eyes drink it in. and opened.

i had been anticipating this *stunning* book by ubertalented stylist/photographer/traveller pia jane bijkerk for months after having discovered her blog. not available yet on US amazon. after searching around for the past three weeks since it was released in australia, i finally found one, i think from amazon germany. MINE! i jumped on it with my credit card.

tonight my heart will wander, with pia's, to france and holland. and then further on, my heart will continue to wander. mine heart.

photoflow: instant bliss!

just five days ago, i fell in love. again. (some of my friends find me fickle. what can i say, i just love lots of things!) 

this time, it's a love affair with *instagram

i had seen it around the internet, but didn’t really get it, so didn’t look into it. i’m never at the front of the pack when it comes to tekkie things, and usually i’m months if not years behind.

this time, i’ve discovered something toward its debut (instagram launched in october 2010), and it’s so much fun to see it grow. in just the last five days! it’s spreading like wildfire.

so let me share with you what i've found, to make it easier for you to join in the fun! here's the skinny:

instagram is a *free* app for iphone that lets you take pictures and add filters with a tap of your finger (similar to hipstamatic, but simpler) which turn regular photos into magnificent beauties. it also has a "tilt shift" feature which enables you to control depth of field.

the most exciting thing about instagram is its instantaneous sharing possibilities. once you take the picture, you can automatically upload your photo to fb, flickr, twitter and more. and just like fb, you can "friend" people and see their photo streams (they call it "feed") and they can see yours, instantly! these are viewed in the iphone itself, and on third-party websites (the one i use is called webstagram. i also like inkstagram).

as soon as i learned of this new delight, i emailed my friends in france and england to share. my friend manny started instagramming that very day! now i can *see* what her daily, hourly, life is like! 

in fact, i had sent manny a care package with some coconut chai which she loves but can't get over there, and this morning i saw this in my feed by manny:

it warmed my heart to see her enjoying my gift. so instead of emailing her back, i decided to instagram her a photo of my morning coconut chai!

and that is how technology can actually create connection, with someone on the other side of the world!  

here are the links and info i've found which may be helpful:

official instagram site for download: http://instagr.am/

official instagram blog: http://instagr.am/blog/

helpful articles about instagram: http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_18147909?nclick_check=1, http://blog.appboy.com/2010/10/5-things-instagram-got-right-that-others-before-it-couldnt/

webstagram site for viewing instagram photos: http://web.stagram.com/feed/

inkstagram site for viewing instagram photos: http://inkstagram.com/

i'm sure there's much more. maybe i'll see you there! (my username is eyechai)

my very first photography student says ...

I am extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to work with Hillary as my photography coach and mentor. It had been at least 20 years since I had taken a photography lesson so I was starting from the beginning. Hillary's lesson plans were very well thought out, well organized and were catered to fit my camera, my interests, my timeline and my learning pace. I really enjoyed how each lesson was divided into the technical and visual/creative aspects of photography. She was very patient in helping me learn how to use my camera and how to read my manual! I told Hillary in the beginning of our lessons that I wanted to be able to show in my photographs how I view one of those fleeting moments in life, or a beautiful landscape. Through her encouragement, enthusiasm, patience and very talented teaching skills, I am now able to do this and I am so excited every time I take a photograph and it shows my vision! I am still learning and practicing, but because of the lessons I have had so far, I feel that there is a lot of potential for me and my photography. Hillary is an extremely talented photographer and a true artist. She sees so much depth in an image and brings life and emotion to these images. She is also technically strong in the elements of photography. Not every amazing photographer can teach photography. But Hillary is one of those people who also possesses the talent of knowing how to teach others...with patience, kindness, heart, and encouragement. As she continues to pass along her knowledge to others who have a passion for photography, she is passing on a gift of enabling each of us to show everyone how we each uniquely view this incredible world and the people we encounter. I am eternally grateful for her passing on this gift to me and I look forward to many more photography coaching sessions with her! Thank you Hillary!

megalicious

it is this kind, patient soul that i owe the becoming of eyechai.

she helped me start when i was too intimidated to begin by myself.

steadfast. smart. practical. problem-solver. everything that my dreamer-self needed.

and when the time was right, she rekindled her own true passion, teaching and tutoring, and left eyechai to venture on her own path. by then, i could stand on my own two feet. 

meg. my dear college friend. for over 30 years now. 

she came to see my studio, to oooh and aaah and be happy for me. 

dear meg, thank you for helping my dreams come true. 

(and for being my most willing photographic subject for 30 years!)

a studio of my very own ...

in a matter of weeks, my studio went from this to this:

it is soooooooo beautiful and turned out a million times better than i expected. 

i'm not sure i've ever worked as hard in such a short time, or been as stressed as i was that last week. 

thing is, i signed the lease just three weeks before the bi-annual open studios and badly wanted to be open for the occasion. needed to paint, hang lighting, edit and process photos, print, paint the wood boards, mount the photos, and print flyers. the day before open studios, i moved in. brought in furniture, hung the photos, put up signage, etc, etc, etc. 

so many glitches, and yet so many more things went unimaginably smoothly. people kept showing up at just the right time to help. one of my oldest friends and a brand new friend (met her the week before) gave so much of their time, talent and energy to help pull this thing together. it would have been absolutely impossible without all the help i received.

it seems that the universe is saying to me, clearly and loudly: YES! and helping me along my way. all week, i kept saying "thank you" right back when things were easy and flowing smoothly, and i said it a lot.

many friends came out to show their support:

and my very first sale was to young lauren who bought a small ttv piece for her mom for mother's day:

here are some more views of my little 13' x 16' space:



and my signs outside my doors turned out awesome! (designed them myself, i just love to design.)

we're open again this weekend, so if you're in the area, come on by!

ICB building, 450 gate five road, sausalito.

saturday 11- 4:30, sunday 11-12.

it's gonna be awesome!

 

tracey clark's motto is: "it's gonna be awesome."

and it was!!!

day two of tracey's workshop, held at teahouse studios, started with a photo walk. i focused on my fellow classmates sharon ...

and julia ...

and even a little boy in the park ... 

then some color in the park ... 

and of course, flowers ... 

yesterday i practiced shooting ttv (through the viewfinder) with a vintage camera in the studio. decided to bring in my dad's rolleiflex today, though i was sure it wouldn't work because there's a focusing circle and gridlines on the glass. tracey encouraged me, "just try it!" and so i did, with pretty cool results. i am definitely NOT going to clean that glass!

in the afternoon, tracey taught us how to make sun flares!

here's one of stef ...

and one of tracey ... 

she is awesome!

an uplifting, inspiring weekend, full of passion for photography and lovely, lovely women.

so. much. fun.

such light

 

big fun with tracey clark today. my first time to meet this inspiring woman face to face. she's the rockstar of expressive photography, founder of shutter sisters. in person, she's even more lovely, authentic, crazy talented, and warm as i found her to be online. but taller than i had imagined!

 

 

all day in stef's gorgeous and inviting teahouse studio space.

yummy, happy day. new friends, cameras, beauty, sweetness and light. mmmmmm.