Photoshoot fun. And Midnight Nudes.

Here’s a life hack: dont ever tell me an interesting tidbit about yourself and expect that I won’t want to photograph it.

I have an obsession with photographing interesting.

So that’s what happened when my friend Dave told me he used to pose nude at the college for art students.

Not a lot of men are comfortable in front of the camera, and even less are comfortable nude. Praise Jesus For such an opportunity! 

I needed him for my portfolio (which is 99.9999% women).

Of course he said yes. Who wouldn’t want to work with me? Who wouldn’t want to strip down (with the possibility of being drenched in fake blood), be yelled at and asked to do awkward things? Nobody! Because as hard as my photo shoots are to get through, the end results speak for themselves.

When Dave came over for the shoot he brought his confidence and his friend Jim Beam. Perfect. 

The great thing about my job is that I’m able to see past the fake smiles and what people try to hide. I make it my objective to shoot the expressions in-between the posed shots. Those tiny moments when real emotion seeps out.

                                         Posed is nice, but pensive is better. 

 

It’s taken me years to develop the skills to be able to bring these expressions out of people. The right questions need to be asked, the right tone, the right words. It’s a unique formula that I am still developing. The result…..

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…breathtaking. (Lets all take a moment to pat me on the back. Come on. Don’t be shy)

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Dave has a beautiful soul and I wanted to capture that.

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I have these moments during a shoot where I completely leave the world around me. My brain automatically takes control over the technical jargon that I’ve spent years and years jamming into my head (Don’t forget the rule of thirds, ISO, depth of focus, shutter speeds, apertures, angles, lighting etc etc). I’m glad my brain doesn’t need much focus for that stuff, because it leaves space for the artist in me to come alive. For me to become the character I want to portray.

And while I was shooting Dave, my brain ran absolutely wild with ideas. The mood shifted. And suddenly I had a story I wanted to tell.

“Don’t freak out” I told him. “I have an idea”.

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I am so grateful to him for not ruining my vision with awkwardness, and for not questioning my professionalism. Bless him for following my directions so perfectly (even when I was slightly manic).

Pretend you hate me. Pull my hair. Put your hands on my throat. Pretend you love me. Don’t worry about the pain. Squeeze my arm. Perfecto!

I become quite bossy when I have a vision.

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But Dave didn’t actually need too many instructions. As though being naked hieghtened all vulnerability and he was standing there with such raw emotions only inches under his skin.

Great stuff.

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This shoot could have gone south a bajillion times over (I mean, come on), but Dave’s natural theatrics came through and we were able to tell a beautiful story. These photos leave so many questions unanswered. They leave you feeling split open, melancholy (Hi Ali!), self righteous, angry. All the good feelings. All the bad feelings. All of them. And if I can do that, then I did my job. People say art needs to SPEAK. I say NAY!! ART NEEDS TO SCREAM. ART NEEDS TO SLAP YOU IN THE FACE. ART NEEDS TO LEAVE YOU BLEEDING. Because how else can you confront those emotions? Art, baby, art.

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My Aunt Zoila tried hard to get me into modeling when I was younger. That was until I found my calling behind the camera, and a style that might have looked a tiny bit out of place in a Sears ad. But I suppose I could be called both. I enjoy taking self portraits, I love conveying emotions in my pictures. Lately I’ve been trying to find models other than myself (I’m sure my readers are getting tired of seeing my face over and over again). But its nice to jump into a photoshoot every once in a while knowing I can put into it exactly what I need. Nicer still is to find people who can throw me such raw emotions, especially knowing what I usually put my models through.

Bravo Dave! 

P.s. I need to learn how to hide my shutter release remote better. You can see it in almost every picture! *face palm*

 

 

A Lesson in Perspective. And Head Tilting.

 

Photography can teach you many things.

Besides being an outlet for creativity, photography can help heal wounds, cope, organize your thoughts and teach life lessons.

It can also help you with perspective.

Have you ever had a problem so overwhelming you felt drowned? In the thick of a problem you sometimes feel there is no way out, no way around it, no other way but to trudge on through. And that my peons, blows. Blows hard.

Ass! No not ass….butt! No, not butt. BUT…BUT there is another way.

It’s called PERSPECTIVE friends. How you perceive something can completely change the outcome.

I suppose this is the part where I throw in a nifty example that totally correlates with this life lesson…hmmm…I got nothing.

Oh wait, I’ve got something. Once upon a time Brett and I made Hotel reservations in a part of the state we were not familiar with. Upon check-in we realized we’d accidentally booked a nice cozy little death trap smack down in the middle of Ghettosville. Our door had kick marks in it, three dead bolt locks, half eaten food on the bathroom floor and a TV that only half worked. Literally. Only half the screen worked.

All night we could hear fighting and stomping around the halls. And when we got in the elevator we gazed, in horror at a sticker above the floor buttons. It read: EXPIRES 2012. Here we were standing in 2016 hoping the whole elevator didn’t come off it’s hinges, sending us crashing to our collective deaths. (Or maybe it was just me that thought that. I can’t remember).

Time for that head tilting, perspective thing I was telling you about. We could have run for the hills, screaming of bed bugs and expired elevators. But we did not. Instead we were kind of excited. Death was imminent. We were being adventurous. We don’t do much of the whole dangerous thing. Suddenly our trip was kind of exciting and we drove home with PTSD and the proverbial “I survived” mentality. Not to mention a cool story to tell.

See! See how perspective changed the way I viewed the problem and in turn changed the outcome? So let’s go ahead and relate this to photography, shall we?

Sometimes just tilting our heads a little, tweaking and turning, can completely change a picture. The photo of model, Leilani, jumping in the air was lackluster at best. I wasn’t even gonna use it….UNTIL I turned my head a bit, squinted my eyes and imagined it differently. Simply turning the picture upside down completely changed the feel of this picture. What once was a picture of a pretty girl jumping in the air (i.e. blah), transformed into a photo that makes you think. Is she falling to her death? Is she transcending gravity? How does one fly?

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With this picture of Jessi I struggled for hours on perspective. Each version spoke in different ways. Was the Jessi on bottom the real Jessi, trying to communicate with her own downtrodden self? If I flipped it to the side it seemed she was on the other side of a door, begging to come in. Flipping it again made it seem as thought she was listening to herself cry.

See what I mean about perspective peons? Taking a simple image and flipping it, or looking at it from a different angle can change is so drastically.

I encourage lots of head-tilting in these next few shots (and in life!).

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This demon, to me, seemed to be begging for something. Much like a dog. A demon dog begging for scraps. No one likes begging. Flipping it changed the direction the demon was focusing and now it seems as though she is gazing longingly at her own death.

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Turn your head to the left. That’s the original. It shows physical strength yes (How does she hold her whole body weight up??). But it is not as pleasing to look at. At the current angle it shows strength of a different kind. Like the whole world is pushing down on her. Like she is giving her all to hold the world up, and it could come crashing down at any moment. Crushing her. Splat.

In Photography, and in life, sometimes all it takes is a simple head tilt to see things from a different angle. And maybe things aren’t as hopeless as they look.

Different angle. Different perspective. Different outcome. It’s easy, peeps.

 

Photo Shoot Fun: Let’s slap some blood on that shit.

I don’t do impromptu.

The fickle (and brightly colored) parts of my brain that controls my nerves don’t appreciate being rushed. They tell me that everything must be planned out, in perfect order, first. For my comfort, things must be thought out, from every angle, planned, dissected, and then written down. If I could make an itinerary for every day of my life, I would. 

I like lists too.

Bu sometimes things just happen.

And by happen I mean my cousin coming over and saying, “Hey I brought my camera, let’s take some pictures”

WHAT?! Pictures?? Right NOW? What about my lists!? We haven’t planned anything out yet! We don’t have outfits, or makeup or even SOME kind of direction! We just can’t! 

Of course I didn’t say that….Instead I cooly shrugged my shoulders and said “Sure”

Meanwhile my anxiety had an aneurism and died on the floor. 

So yes, this photoshoot had no direction, or aim (I know! Awful right?!), but it still somehow turned out to be pretty gosh darn amazing.

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Katherine and I got half naked, slapped on some cool makeup and brought out my trusty (and well used) bottle of fake blood.

Folks, it was messy, it was sweaty and the fake blood burned our skin after a while.

We took turns using each others cameras so that all the good shots would be on both of them. (I think there may be some blood on my lens. meh)

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Shots of me courtesy of the lovely Katherine.

For editing I threw beauty out of the window. These shots were incredibly raw from the start, so I continued that theme when I sat down to edit. I didn’t edit out the flaws: The bags, freckles, pimples, age spots, blackhead, what have you. (It wasn’t laziness I swear! It was VISION! Honest…)

Instead I amplified the flaws. Mostly because I didn’t want these photos to turn into glamour shots, but also mostly because that’s just how I roll. There is a time and a place for blood and glamour, this night was not one of those times. 

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I didn’t want editing to take away any of the detail, to smudge, and heal the rawness from these. To me they are messy, and ugly, and REAL and beautiful.

And no, they don’t have a message or a meaning, because I didn’t plan them. But they SPEAK!

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This was one of the last shots and I think it is fitting. It was after 1am by the time we filled our memory cards.

After showers, we crawled into bed with visions of blood and awesomeness.

Amen peons.

Amen.

My Spirit Animal.

“Native American tradition provides that each person is connected with nine different animals that will accompany him or her through life, acting as guides.”

I wanted to do a self portrait that showed the inner workings of my soul.

I have a lot of pathways in my mind, different sides to me that speak to different animals or beings. To say I have only one Spirit Animal would be limiting myself to one type of being. And that I am not.

Peewee Herman is the Spirit Animal that speaks to my naive, childlike side.

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He is forever living inside a child’s brain, uncaring what the world thinks of him. Even as society continues to change around him, he stays the same. Like Peewee, it takes very little to make me happy, and I get overly excited over dumb things.

The Warrior Klingon, Worf, is the Spirit Animal that speaks to my angry side.

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Worf lives with the constant battle of taming his warrior ways to live among a gentler race. Like myself, he is a strong, brave man who burns underneath with unbridled rage. And he is forever struggling with control. In my life I find it hard to control who I am to live among people who aren’t like me. I understand his frustration.

John Merrick (The Elephant Man) is my Spirit Animal in many, many ways.

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John was a gentle soul. And an educated man. Smart, kind, peaceful and loving. But nobody saw that. All they saw were his deformities. This plight speaks to me. Even in my thirties I am judged for the way I look. I have been named druggie, lowlife, bad mother, freak. But had they taken the time to get to know me/him they would have found a deeper well of emotions and sincerity underneath.

Since I am relatively young (Shut your whore mouth!), I haven’t discovered all nine of my spirit animals. But there is one animal that I have felt connected to all of my life: The Horse.

I love to run. Sprinting makes me feel alive. And horses natural nervousness speaks to me. Safety in number. Flight over fight. That’s me.

Since I happen to have a few of these beautifully flighty animals in my backyard I have photographs abound of their natural grace.

The hard part was taking a picture of myself to match. I don’t look much like a horse (again, shut your whore mouth). But that’s not the point is it?

I’ve been struggling with time and inspiration. I just couldn’t find the time or the oomph to sit down and take a picture embodying my connection with horses. But THEN…..Bing! I remembered that Katherine and I did a horse/Indian photoshoot over a year ago and the amazing shots have been sitting in my computer just waiting to be edited.

Don’t you just love when problems solve themselves?

For this shoot we geared up in all of the amazing outfits and real props that Katty had. My outfit was pretty dang snazzy. Except when I bent over and my Mommy pouch (that flappy pouch of skin you get after having kids), sagged in all it’s glory. So either my Indian character was a mother of three, or I just had to stand straight the whole time.

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No biggie.

After dressing in the totally proper (and not at all offensive) Indian attire, we gallivanted out to the barn and began to shoot.

IT WAS FREEZING! If I had known my nipples would freeze and fall off during this shoot I might not have done it. But all photo shoots come with sacrifices. Hey, I said might! 

The shots were beautiful. But you can see the goosebumps on my skin. Sacrifices people. Sacrifices. (Speaking of sacrifices, Katty and I were barefoot. Think about that. Barefoot in a giant litter box with fresh horse apples squishing between our toes. Don’t ask me why.)

It was all worth it though, with the right amount of grain and carrots we scored some gorgeous pictures.

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Others…..not so much.

 

But in the end we got this shot:

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And I think it shows my love and revere for the equine species, the smell of horse sweat and flying. Maybe in the next thirty years I will discover more of my Spirit Animals as they become needed in my life. For now I am happy to have discovered the few that I have.

Happy shooting and happy editing.