i grew up with one brother. never had the pleasure of having sisters, until now. today, 12 of us shuttersisters from camp joined forces once more, in the glorious january sun, to be together, walk together, shoot together, but mostly, to smile ... because we were together.
for so long now, i've had a love/hate relationship with my computer.
and digital photography means that i am tethered to my machine.
i have to sit my ass in a chair in a room in my house in order to complete my photographic vision.
no more standing in a dark room with a red light, often with other people, swaying to music, watching my visions come alive.
nope. here i sit. alone. when all i want is to be out, with people, moving and seeing and living. connecting.
and while i have participated in many online classes, and have had a blog now for a couple years, and even met and had an amazing experience with the first ever people to whom i wrote after reading their blog ...
still, the people in my computer seemed so far away. little links that appeared as "handles" were mostly just that, little letters on my screen with an underline.
i never really thought about the actual people who are on the other side of those underlines, those funny names. until now.
link = whole human being.
link = potential friend.
link = possible soul sister.
and computer = connection.
(kind of like the telephone, but i can "call" people i haven't actually met yet.)
maybe the younger set has known this all along.
but i just realized this at camp when i actually got to meet the living ladies behind the links. and saw how connected people were with their "online" friends, before they ever met in real life.
and i realized, my computer is my passport to the world. and to friends. to love.
this post is for meghan who took the time and made the effort to comment on my blog once or twice over the last many months, and to whom i never responded.
she happened to be in my carpool down to asilomar for camp. and we happened to learn in those two hours that we are total soul sisters.
i could have learned that, had that, a long time ago and had even more yummy sister goodness in my life! now i know!
"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:
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.
ohhhh. so THAT'S why i came to camp.
to learn that i, too, am beautiful.
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.
at camp, we printed our photos and shared them by hanging them on a cute clothesline with fairy lights. we were urged to give and take. make some photos and take some photos. in the name of sharing, all of the photos in this post were taken by my fellow shutter sisters, and i happily share them here.
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/
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)
tracey clark over at shutter sisters wrote two beautiful posts about instagram:
so i've been working toward sharing my photography in an etsy shop, and recently have spent much time browsing around etsy photography. i'm looking for a way to jazz * snazz up my pictures. for some reason, all of a sudden they seem boring and bland and plain. so i'm learning how to use textures to make my pictures look old * interesting * layered * rich. and i'm also looking on etsy for different ways to present my photographs.
and then i found this:
it just so happens that i had already bought some wood blocks and canvas blocks, and had started trying different techniques for mounting photographs onto them.
promptly i left gayle a message singing the praises of her work. i asked if she'd share her technique for mounting. didn't hear back.
must admit i was quite disappointed. you see, i LOVE sharing! i don't think artists need to keep secrets from each other, because inevitably, everyone sees and works differently, uniquely ... even if they use the same technique. but not all artists feels that way. and not everyone wants to share their techniques and methods which may have taken them years to learn. it's understandable, i guess. it's just fear. still, i prefer to think of everyone as an ally instead of the competition. which isn't always easy. but which definitely is my highest self in action.
i also said i'd buy a piece from her. and so i did. and in purchasing her photograph on etsy, i wrote this:
i promised i'd purchase a piece from you so here i am. it will be a treat to have your art in my home.
i'm frequently on the shuttersisters site where so much sharing of information happens ... which is what prompted me to ask you about your mounting process. i hope my asking didn't make you uncomfortable in any way.
keep up the beautiful work!
all the best,
a few days later, the mail came and i received this gorgeous piece from gayle:
wow! thrilled! to the moon! yippee skippee! jumping for joy! happy dance all around!
not only do i now have a beautiful piece of art. and another method for mounting photos on wood blocks: 3M 77 SPRAY MOUNT. (i've been using gel medium as a glue, applied with a brush, which seems to work fine) ...
but i also have SHARED WITH A FELLOW ARTIST/PHOTOGRAPHER.
i shared my money with her. she shared her arwork with me. she shared a technique with me. and now i've shared our techniques with you. woot!
thank you gayle, for sharing with me!
q: what did you learn on the internet today, honey?
a: sharing is fun!
i'm kind of crazy about adding words to photos. i LOVE (whole body shudder) finding the *right* words for a certain image. and the *placement* of the words in the photo, or next to the photo. then choosing the *font*. the *size* and *shape* of the letters. the *color* of the letters. sometimes i even use *more than one font* in the same photo. ooooooo!!!!! ohhhhh! i iove it so. and as i continue with words + photos in my 'wisdom words' series, i love it even more.
i've never had any formal design training. can't even remember when exactly i first picked up the text tool in photoshop. certainly it wasn't when i was a photojournalist. must've been when i started my boutique stock photography agency see jane run. i created my own marketing materials. (heck, i did everything.) and i didn't know how. i just banged around until i figured it out, or figured out who to ask for help.
i'm still learning where to get great fonts (i've downloaded some at 1001freefonts.com and dafont.com). then i had to learn where to move the downloads on my computer so the fonts would show up in the drop down menu (Library - Fonts folder). i know, pretty basic huh. i really don't know what i'm doing. but i know i LOVE what i'm doing.
in an e-chat with tracey clark with our fellow picture winter attendees, i asked tracey how she got here in her career. she said something like "i just followed the whims of my passions." wow. and look where she is now: founder of shutter sisters, uber popular e-photo course instructor at big picture classes, writer, photographer, etc etc etc! she is lovely and deserves it all.
oft times, it's murky waters finding our passions. but this words + picture thing? no bout a dout it, this is my passion. one of em. all mine. purely truly mine. from the core of me mine. not whispering but shouting through my whole body: I LOVE THIS!!!!!
so i can't NOT do this. and so i begin. and i try. and i learn. and i do. most important, i do.
i add to wisdom words once a week, sometimes more. creating those pieces is always a completely pleasure-ful creative endeavor.
being in creative flow is the ultimate place to be, and a few nights ago that's exactly where i was: playing with words and images, the ones you see in this post.
i'm thinking of adding a new line of greeting cards with words.
someday, i'd like to add more than a few words ... my own words of wisdom.
would love to hear what you think of the words + photos? words + photos on cards?
i'd appreciate SO MUCH any tips about using the text tool and words + photos design in general. and where do you get great fonts?
If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera.
my photo of my neighbor's antique pinocchio was featured on shuttersisters "picture winter" gallery a couple days ago. picture winter is an e-photography class offered by shuttersisters founder / photographer & teacher extraordinaire / sweet soul tracey clark.
i have to say i like this image. there is something so sweet about this little guy ... his feet dangling off the edge of the mantle, his peaceful smile, his arms relaxed but ready to spring into action. he reminds me of little boys, in their own dreamworld but ready to jump up and participate in this world when the time is right.
i also like that i included the pink wood cutout moulding on top. and that i muted the colors a bit.
part of photography is about knowing how to use the camera and lens well enough to get what we want: exposure, focus, depth of field, all the mechanics ... thinking activity. and the other part of photography is all about heart and feelings and intuition ... making photographic choices by feeling them, the way a painter paints and just knows from the heart where to use what color, texture, shape.
with many of my portraits over the years, i often opted for an absolutely plain background, making the subject even more prominent. i've always liked a clean look. but lately i include some context, some background, even if just a little. here, this moulding angles just enough to create some framing, some "place" for the little guy.
and sometimes i get a little (lot!) heavy with the vibrance and saturation sliders in lightroom, making the colors *pop.* but other times, i'm seeing the beauty in subtlety.
we really are changing all the time. our tastes change, or at least shift, as long as we're still breathing, or depending on our mood. photographs are a great record of our own feelings, over time, or of a specific time. a diary in image form. and sometimes they show us a subtle shift we didn't even know had occurred. like rereading last year's journal pages, we can see how we have evolved and what tendencies remain.
My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph. ~Richard Avedon