Monday, March 28, 2011

My First Group Gallery Show in Houston

While I was on my honeymoon in Lake Tahoe, I found out that three of my photographs were selected to be part of the 'The Gathering of Photographers' spring show put on by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Skeeter Hagler, and former Texas Highways Magazine Photo Editor, Kevin Vandivier. The opening is this Thursday, March 31st from 7pm-9pm at Betz Fine Art Gallery in Houston, Texas.

These are the three photos that will be displayed:

I am so excited to see my photos professional printed and matted. I am also really looking forward to meeting other Texas photographers. I will post an update after the show and let everyone know how it went.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My latest discovery: Oil and Cotton

Two weeks ago, I attend my 1st movie night, put on by my dear friend Sally Glass, at a wonderful venue called 'Oil and Cotton.' Oil and Cotton is a creative arts exchange that is located in the Bishop Arts district of downtown Dallas. One of the owners, Shannon Driscoll, was at the movie event and was as sweet as could be.

Oil and Cotton has a constant flow of art workshops ranging from glass cutting (I want to go!) to drawing and painting to basket making to music recording and mixing to children classes and on. The list is extensive. You can find specific information about the workshops that are offered here: Oil and Cotton Workshops. The workshops are open to the public and very reasonably priced. The venue where the workshops are held are worth a visit alone. The building is a beautiful, old, open space with exposed brick and high ceilings. The shelves are full of art and crafts for sale by workshop attendees.

After coming from NYC were space is limited and very expensive, I am ecstatic to discover a community arts organization, like 'Oil and Cotton.' We not only should, but we must support local arts venues, like 'Oil and Cotton.' So, get out there and let your inner artist shine through!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Social Media Success with DotJenna at SmugMug Dallas

After having personal success meeting and working with professional photographers from the NYC SmugMug group, I was eager to find out what the Dallas SmugMug photography scene had to offer. I have found that SmugMug groups are a great way to get involved with in the local photography scene while hearing some great FREE lectures. Since I just moved back to Dallas/Fort Worth this meeting was perfect. Sure enough, Dallas has a successful and active SmugMug group.

I attended my 1st meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10 at the Tower Club in downtown Dallas. The speaker was the vibrant and brillant social media expert, 'DotJenna.' As usual, I did a little research on DotJenna before attending the lecture. It was easy to see after spending a few minutes on her website and Facebook page that she not only had a very strong online presence, but that she had turned her social media expertise into a very successful business. I was more than intrigued and absolutely going to this meeting.

After a little trouble finding cheap parking (I found out afterwards that I could have parked in the Tower Club for a discounted price of $5) and trouble finding which door to the Tower Club was actually open (I had to walk around the building and still had to try a few doors before finding the ONE set out of six doors that was open), I made it to the SmugMug lecture. The first person I met at the meeting was fellow photographer and representative of the Dallas-based rental company Light Tec, Miguel A. Pardo. We exchanged contact info and discussed what we shot and the Dallas photography scene. So far, so good with the Dallas SmugMug group.

More people settled in and within a few minutes the meeting was underway. Once DotJenna started, there was no stopping her. She was off and running in the matter of a few seconds. If I had to pick two words to describe DotJenna, they would be 'Hot Pink.' Partly because she is always wearing hot pink, but mostly because of her vibrant style, strong, yet positive demeanor, and her total confidence in who she is and what she discussed. It was easy to tell that she absolutely loves what she does and loves to share what she has learned with other people. She talked about where she started and how she got into social media coaching. She then segued into practical and useful tips on how to achieve social media success.

DotJenna's '7 Steps to Social Media Sales Success' are as follows:
1. Define your brand
2. Locate your audience
3. Attract an audience
4. Captive attention
5. Bond with audience
6. Convert into client
7. Engage continuously

I could write an entire post about each one of these topics, but I will leave that up to DotJenna to further explain. A few additional points I took away from her lecture was the importance of being authentic. Now a days, people (i.e. your audience) want to see and know the 'real' you. They want to connect with you and feel as if they truly know you. If you try to be false or put on a front, people will know. So, just be yourself.

Another important point I took away from DotJenna's lecture was the importance of getting out there and doing something. She talked about how in our society we feel that we must do something perfectly or not at all. DotJenna disagreed with this idea. She suggested that doing something is better than doing nothing. This is a topic I can absolutely relate to. I often feel that if I am not giving 110% and doing it perfectly, then I shouldn't do it at all. Today, the opposite is true. What you are doing might not be perfect, but it's so much better than not doing anything.

Starting my Dallas SmugMug experience with a bold lecture from DotJenna was exactly what I needed. It provided encouragement to get out there and do something, and to get involved and to take risks. I hope this blog will encourage my readers will do the same thing!

You can find out more about DotJenna at the following places:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year, Old Connections

It’s a new year and I almost feel cliché writing this reflective post, however, this post is less about 2011 and more about all the years leading up to 2011. People that know me personally know that my husband and I recently transitioned from New York City back to Texas. Life was almost insane prior to, during, and immediately after our move, but now that the move is over, holidays have passed, and life has slowed down, I have the time to think about everything I have done, where my life is now, and where I am going.

Last night, over burgers and beers, Danny and I talked about people that have had an influence on our lives. By the end of our conversation, I was amazed at how many different people from different parts of our lives we could both name. It often feels that we are traveling our path alone and that we, alone, are the ones making the decisions that influence our lives. But after our talk last night, I realized this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some people have had very specific impacts on my life and others have had a more subtle influence. Either way, I have no idea what my life would be like without meeting these people.

I am not sure how to categorize “these people.” Titles vary from friends, previous bosses, mentors, colleagues, peers, strangers, and people I will never see again. Yet, these “people” have altered the course of my life, with most of them probably not even realizing the impact they have had. While I feel very lucky to have had these experiences, this also makes me stop and think that we need to be careful how we treat and talk to others. You never know when you will change someone’s path.

I don’t see these changes in our paths as positive or negative; they just are. They are how things have turned out. These changes make us the people we are now and the people we will become.

I am venturing into a new chapter in my life and I have no idea where my path is going to lead me. I am not sure whom I will meet along the way, but I am excited to see who crosses my path. While I venture down this path, I want to make sure to stop along the way and personally thank some of the people who have helped get me this far. I know my life would not be what is it today without the guidance of others. I’ll be one lucky girl if 2011 is even half as fantastic/interesting/challenging/exhausting/and all around wonderful as 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reflections on Peter Turnley's lecture, "Visual Notes from a Life in Photography"

I just walked out of a wonderfully moving lecture by Peter Turnley. With his background, I had somewhat expected him to be detached and aloof to his audience at B&H. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He told his stories with compassion and elegance. He allowed himself to be emotionally moved during the retelling of his stories and experiences. Of course, Peter’s vast portfolio is absolutely wonderful and ranges from both sides of the life experience spectrum, from both heart-wrench and heart-warming.

It’s hard to actually describe what I experienced during his lecture. His lecture didn’t focus on his images, at least not in the way I am used to viewing the images of a photographer, and he definitely did not focus on what camera or lens he used. His images by themselves are incredibly moving, but instead of just talking about his pictures, we were invited to share in the power of Peter’s memories that come with the images. And to be allowed to watch a photographer react to the power of his memories, well, that’s something special and unique. The experience felt both raw and pure, and was also very genuine, even in a room of 20 strangers.

Maybe it was just my experience with the lecture. I doubt anyone walked out with the feelings I’m having, but that’s the beauty of life. A room full of people can experience the exact same thing and be moved or unmoved in a thousand different ways.

Peter’s lecture connected with me on a very personal level and allowed me the space to think and process some of my own personal conflict. During this past summer, photography has been a part of my life like it has never been before. I’ve survived (a.k.a made some money) as a “full-time” photographer/photography assistant. I’ve had the wonderful honor of working in the studio with acclaimed wedding photographer, Julia Newman, and have also had the opportunity to assist her on shoots. I know that right now, I am learning more than I even realize.

It wasn’t until I was looking at Julia's blog with Danny that I realized how much I have picked up from working with her. I can discuss her use of lights and darks, her focus on detail, and how she interacts with her subjects to get the reactions she is looking for. But one of the things I admire most in her work is her composition. There are so many layers and so much depth to her work. She is truly a storyteller.

I experienced similar admiration today with Peter’s work. He tells very difficult and very beautiful stories with grace. You can see and feel in his photos that he cares deeply and passionately for his subjects and the stories he tells. It was refreshing and inspiring to experience someone that has so much personal investment in his work.

Something I noticed during his lecture was that whenever Peter talked about the act of making a photo, he almost always referred to it as “making a picture.” It’s the difference of a single word, but “making” a picture versus “taking” a picture convey two very different feelings. Making something means that you are creating and eventually sharing something. Taking feels as if you are stealing something and that you are only doing the act for yourself. I want to “make” pictures, not take them. I want to give pictures and share pictures, not keep them just for myself. I want my pictures to open the door to new connections with people and to not close the door on people with suspicion. This minor difference in terminology can affect how you interact with your subjects.

My most fulfilling shooting occurs when I approach my subject(s) with genuine curiosity and interest. I have a motto that I live: I believe that if you approach people and topics with genuine interest and compassion, then people will open up to you no matter how difficult or sensitive the topic. I also think that this belief has led me to some of the most life-changing talks, sometimes with complete strangers. Everyone has something valuable to share if you take the time to listen and ask questions.

Here’s to feeling inspired and truly motivated to make the world a little bit of a better and brighter place…

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Value of Your Time

August Pug Meeting with special guest Jared Platt

Before I get into a recap of Jared Platt’s lecture for August’s Pug meeting, I want to thank Pictage for putting on absolutely amazing monthly workshops!  If you are a wedding and/or portrait photographer in the NYC area and you are not involved in Pug meetings, then you are really missing out.  Once a month, Pictage brings in a well-accomplished photographer from all over the U.S. to host a FREE meeting.  I have definitely become a regular at these meetings.

This month’s speaker was Arizona-based wedding and portrait photographer and photography educator Jared Platt.  He gave a 2-hour lecture at Calumet about post-production workflow in Lightroom, the value of photographer’s time, and why clients hired YOU.  Let me say, I attend a lot of lectures around NYC, but I have never heard anyone speak about workflow like Jared did.  I was truly blown away by the end of this lecture!

Jared’s lecture began with him giving the two reasons why clients hire you: 1) They want you!, and 2) Your eye and your vision.  As photographers, we see the world differently.  We see angles, movement, composition, light, shapes, colors, etc.  Clients hire us for the way we see the world.  As professional photographers, we trust our eye and gut instinct in the field and now we have to learn how to trust our eye and gut instinct during image selection.  This means letting go of your old way of selecting images and changing bad habits.

Jared compared a film workflow to a digital workflow.  What he said really resonated with me and got me excited to try a new way of post-processing.  He said that when photographers worked in film, they would use contact sheets of 36 images.  From the contact sheet, series of images were identified.  Within the series, individual images were selected and compared to each other.  Select images were picked for closer inspection.  The photographer would then use a loupe to closely inspect an image and mark which images were going to be used with a grease pencil.  Only images that were going to be used were marked, which means none of the rejected images were marked, saving the photographer a considerable amount of time.  All the images that were not picked for closer inspection ended up on the cutting room floor, i.e. rejected.

When photographers switched to digital, most of them completely lost their film workflow resulting in a lot of lost hours. We started spending hours upon hours looking at every single image individually, instead of using a comparison system (like with film contact sheets).

Jared applied a film workflow to digital photography and came-up with the following system:  1) Survey, 2) Positive selection, and 3) Gut instinct.

His workflow in Lightroom started by looking at a group of images in grid mode, which acted like a digital contact sheet.  When I did this, I zoomed out and had 21 images per “page,” or 3 images down and 7 images across.  Next, he would pick a series of between 2-6 images and pull those up in survey mode.  This is where the challenge of letting go of old habits began.  He DID NOT look at every image up-close in the series, but instead compared images to each other by either flagging or starring them.  He used positive selection and trusted his gut instinct.  Images that were not starred or flagged were out, rejected, done.

When he found an image that he might want to use, he zoomed to 1-to-1 and checked sharpness and facial expression.  If he liked the image he marked it and moved on.  The number of images he picked per series varied between 1 to 4 images.  He then closed the series and moved on to the next group of images.

Ok, here’s where another big shift in post-processing habits occurred.  Once he closed a series, he DID NOT revisit any of the images that were not selected.  Those images were done, out, rejected.  He wasn’t spending any more time on them.  He trusted his first and only selection and his gut reaction to images.  This process allowed him to pick his best images quickly and efficiently while spending significantly less time on image selection.

Jared had several photographic philosophies about why this type of workflow can be incredibly beneficial.  First, it saves a tremendous amount of time.  Jared said that if you use the image selection method described above then the amount of time you spend on image selection would be cut in half. 

I tried out Jared’s new workflow system yesterday on a large batch of Roller Derby images I had shot and I have to say, I was amazed at how easy and efficient Jared’s system was.  By comparing images, I quickly selected images I wanted to use and rejected those I did not want to use.  I flew through my image selection process and felt more confident in my selection choices.

One of the biggest changes for me will be getting used to not going back through images a second or even third time.  Once I pass an image, I am done with it.  And I have to say, there’s a certain amount of relief associated with this system.  It felt pretty damn good to know that I was done with a very large batch of images in a short amount of time.  I could now spend time on making those select few images that I wanted look awesome.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New York City SmugMug Meeting with guest speaker Candice Cunningham

When fellow photographer, Feuza Reis, asked me what Candice had talked about at the last Smug meeting, I thought why not post a recap of what she talked about.  I'm curious, how many people would like me to do a short post following our Smug meetings?  If you would like me to do a recap blog post, please leave a comment on this post.

Last Tuesday, SmugMug group leader Jason Groupp hosted July's meeting and brought in Candice Cunningham to speak.  Candice is a wedding photographer based in Ventura County, California and is quite the expert in how to use social media to build and grow your photography business.  I was impressed with all of the tips and tricks Candice gave to our group.  

One of the most interesting pieces of information I took away from Candice's lecture that that YouTube is the second largest search engine, with Google being the first.  I knew YouTube was powerful, but I had no idea it was being utilized to this extent. 

What this means for photographers: we need to be on YouTube.  You don’t necessarily have to shoot video, but turning your photos in slideshows and posting them on YouTube is going to expand the number of people you reach.

The next point Candice discussed was the importance of CORRECTLY naming images.  I am definitely guilty of not doing this.  I will leave my images unnamed as something like KGV_0976.jpg.  What I didn’t realize was that this name has an affect on how Google tracks and ranks you.  Candice suggested to individually name every image you post.

Below, I will expand on how to get the most our of naming your images.  Let’s use this image as an example:

A poor file name for this images is:
KGV_8164_small.jpg (yes, that was the real name)

A better file name would be:

An even better name would be:

Candice suggested being as specific as possible.  Also, notice that in the last two file names dashes (–) are used instead of underscores (_) or spaces.  This also improves the strength of your file name.  The third and strongest file name in the examples above included specific locations and venues names.

The last few points from the meeting that I will leave you with is to make sure you have strong keywords in your Alt Tags, include text (even if it is minimal) on and between all images, and if you need to include the name of the couple in your file name, put it last.

All of these tips are to help you bring more people your way.  You and your images should be searchable and easy to find.  If you want to learn more about social media, check out Erik Qualman's book, "Socialnomics."  Huge thanks to Candice Cunningham for her awesome lecture and to Jason Groupp for organizing the event.  Good luck! 

Please leave me a comment if you would like me to blog about our monthly SmugMug meetings.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Identity Project: Update

I am not happy with the quality of video when posted on Blogger, so all videos, photos, and interviews for the Identity Project will be posted on my website.  I have created a link specifically for the project.  The video from the first shoot has been posted.

Check it out here:  The Identity Project  

Please send me a message if you are interested in participating in the project.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Identity Project

Artist Statement

Our society frequently asks people to identify and define themselves through rigid, closed-ended questions, thus forcing people to either identify as something they are not or forcing the individual not to answer certain questions. The purpose of this project is to give people a space to identify themselves in a way they would like to be identified. "The Identity Project" will use environmental portraits, short audio interviews, and an open-ended questionnaire to give participants the chance to identify themselves in the way they see fit.

Two areas that will be specifically focused on in this project will be gender identity and sexual identity. In order to protect the confidentiality of participants and to encourage honest responses, no names will be associated with the project. Through this project, I hope that stereotypes will be broken and that conversations will develop around topics that are difficult to discuss. I hope that this project empowers people to speak-up about how they would like to be seen and encourages people to be proud of their identity.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Identity Project

I've started a new, personal project called The Identity Project. I did my first photo shoot for the project earlier this week. Images and an artist statement will be posted in a few days.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Artist is Present, by Marina Abramovic at the MoMA, Part 1

Forming the Line to Sit with Marina Abramovic

10:46 am – on my ipod: A Face in the Crowd, by the Kinks:

Today was the day I was making my first attempt to sit with Marina Abramovic at the MoMA.Joe Holmes had given me suggestions on what time to get there and where to stand. He had warned me that the line could get aggressive, but I had no idea what was ahead of me.

My day officially started at 7:15 am. I was up early, because I wanted to be at the MoMA around 8:30 am. I left the house at 7:45 am to start my Marina Abramovic adventure. I arrived at the museum at 8:30ish to line-up to sit with Marina. There were already four people ahead of me.Tim, the first person in line, had arrived at the museum at 6 am. The line slowly grew, but remained orderly. Everyone was very friendly. We were given specific details on how the event would happen by a girl that had sat with Marina 27 times. This was to be her 28 times.

At 9:30 am, the far right door was opened and we were allowed into the main lobby area.Through the revolving doors we went. One girl got ahead of me, but we regained our original order once we got into the ticketing line. Well, that wasn’t too bad. Phase 1 was complete.

Once we were moved into the main lobby area, you could feel a shift in the mood of the group.There was tension, excitement, anxiety, and chatter. The next step was going to be moving from the ticketing line to the bottom of the staircase.

Prior to reaching the bottom of the staircase, a.k.a Phase 2, I had become friendly with the four people ahead of me and a few people behind me. We had a verbal agreement that we would remain in the same order once we were upstairs, as we had arrived that morning.

By the time we moved into the ticket line in the main lobby, our group had remained strong. As the time came closed to moving to the bottom of the staircase, the line grew with people and emotion. Two ladies had slinked up to the right of me and were attempting to be the first in line. One was wearing goth make-up and a white ruffley skirt with a braid of black hair and a top hat. My guess is that she was well over 60. Her friend had curly hair and a white linen dress. As soon as they walked up our group could sense that they were going to be a problem.

Immediately they started talking to Tim, who was the first person in line, as to why they should be allowed to cut in front of everyone. They were friends of Marina, they were writing a story about her performance, the lady in the top hat was only going to sit for two minutes. It went on and on. Finally, they stopped talking to Tim and started making snarky comments about the people waiting in line. “Could you image sitting across from that all day?” said the lady friend in the top hat. I wanted to say, “you mean people that have been waiting for hours in a orderly fashion and getting to know one another?” Both ladies talked about the people in line as if we were the lowly “general public.” Finally, they gave up. But their mood had shaken the group and it felt as if it had become “us” against “them.” We continued to wait.

After waiting about 40 minutes, we were getting ready to move again. There were three lines for tickets, but only our line was supposed to move forward towards the bottom of the staircase. That didn’t happen. The first few people in my line moved forward and then all three lines made a mad dash to the stairs. There was no chance for the MoMA employees to check tickets. I was in the front of the line before we moved forward, but got pushed backed after the dash to the staircase. I still had the people I had met in view, so that was good. It was time for Phase 3, the final dash.

A MoMA guard stood on the top of the staircase and gave a speech, saying that they we were all number 1 and that they wanted to keep us safe, so there was to be NO RUNNING up the stairs.Five guards with walkie-talkies were going to escort us all up the stairs. There was a shift in the MoMA employees that indicted that we were moving forward and we were off.

Pushing and shoving, we made went up the stairs. You had to run because people behind you were running and pushing you. One girl that was experienced with the event had lost her shoe in the dash. But she kept on moving. Tyler, the guy running next to me, some how reached down and grabbed her shoe.

Before I knew it, the official line to sit with Marina had formed and I was nowhere near the front of the line. Originally, I was fifth in line, but now I was probably 25 people back. Tyler, my friend that had flow from Florida just to sit with Marina, was with me. Nope, I wasn’t having that. I had been in line at 8:30 am well before most of the people that were now in front of me.

At the front of the line, I spotted the people I had met earlier that morning. I told Tyler that I was moving forward. As soon as the girl that lost her shoe saw me walk up, she allowed me to take my spot in front of her. I gestured to Tyler to come up to the front of the line and he took his spot behind us. I was now in a much better position to sit with Marina. I was now 11 people from the front instead of behind over 25 people.

So now I’m in line, close to the front and my adrenaline is still going. The first person sits with Marina and leaves. Then the lady in the top hat. She had managed to be second in line. Wow, she was sneakier than I gave her credit for. Next, Joshua, the baker in the top hat with a yellow tie and orange socks. Then a group of students followed by a few stray additions to the line.Then me.

I sit, stand, and watch. Talk some, write, and listen to music. I needed to calm down from the running and pushing this morning before I am ready to sit with Marina. I withdrew from the people talking in line for a while into music and writing to calm myself down. I was getting to feel much better and much calmer. For this exhibit, it does not feel right to me to hold extensive conversations while I wait in line. I am in a difference space. I want to focus on what’s going on and bringing my mood down before I sit with Marina.

I sit and wait for my turn.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Artist is Present, by Marina Abramovic at the MoMA, Part 2

Sitting with Marina Abramovic

11:38 am –on my ipod, Iron and Wine:

I was in my own world with my headphones on, writing, when I looked up and spotted a friend, Jay Mack, from across the exhibit. We had made eye contact at the same time and we both looked surprised to see each other. I gave a big wave and he came over to talk to me, since I didn’t want to leave the line. We were saying “hello” when Joshua, my friend in the top hat, came over to talk with us. He had finished sitting with Marina a few minutes before he came over to us. He looked shaken. He asked how long he sat and I said I think for about 10 minutes. He replied that it felt like a lifetime. He joked that he thought he was going to die and that he found himself actually counting to 60 while he sat.

Now, to give Joshua major credit for his experience sitting, because he was the third person in line to sit with Marina. The two people before had had only sat for a few minutes and I imagine he was still feeling the rush from running up the stairs. I know that I would have definitely been shaken if I had not had a chance to calm down before sitting with Marina.

Joshua gave me a hug and left. Jay asked what time I had gotten in line and I told him about my previous experience that morning. We briefly caught up about what was going on in our lives and our conversation came to an end. I went back to my place in line. Again, I waited. I waited for my turn to sit with the artist in the large atrium of the MoMA while visitors watch.

12:14 pm – no music:

I’m forth in line. The line has grown quiet. I text my Dad, in Texas, about what I am up to and let him know that he can watch live online via the video feed that is set-up in the museum. I text him a few more times as I slowly move forward in the line.

1:43pm – 2:00pm – sitting with Marina Abramovic:

I am next up in line. I was looking the other way when I was tapped on the arm that it was my turn. I stood up next to the guard.

“Are you ready?” he says.

“Yeah, I think so.” I say back.

“Well, you’ve waited long enough."

He gives me a run down on what I am supposed to do in a quiet voice. “You’ll walk in and sit down, when you are down put your head down. Try to maintain eye contact.” So simple. The instructions are minimal, yet the feeling is intense. I know that I am about to become a part of the Marina’s living exhibit.

I am given the cue from the guard to go forward. I quickly slip the straps off the back of my shoes and try to not have them fall off while I walk towards her. I let my focus shifted only to my walk to the chair I was going to sit in and try to keep my eyes on Marina. The chair is made of heavy wood and is a few feet away from the artist. There’s no turning back now. I am filled with a determination to do something different during my sitting.

Marina’s head is still down and her eyes are half closed as I take a seat in the chair across from her. I kick my shoes off and pull my legs up so I’m sitting cross-legged. My hands naturally fold into my lap.

Marina slowly brings her head up. Her eyes open and meet mine. She smiles. I immediately feel a sense of relief and almost amusement by her reaction. I got a sense that she was comforted to see that I have removed my shoes and was sitting cross-legged.

To give everyone a little bit of background on the performance, anyone can sit with the artist. As I stated before, you are supposed to maintain eye contact with the artist and not speak, but those are the only instructions that are given. The visitor sitting with Marina determines the length of the sitting. Some people sit for 5 minutes, others for an hour, but the average for the day I was there seemed to be about 20 minutes.

Everyone that sat before me, sat with their feet firmly planted in front of them usually with their hands stiffly on their laps. No one told visitors that the experience had to be so rigid or serious, but that seemed to be the way most people interpreted the experience. Often, people can be seen crying either while sitting or after sitting with Marina. My experience was nothing like that.

Marina’s smile to me felt warm and welcoming. I felt as if we were playing a game after her initial smile. She would shift and I would shift. I smiled, and she smiled slightly. We both blinked quite often while we were getting comfortable with each other. I had anticipated that my experience was going to be incredibly intense, after all, many people, both men and women, had been brought to tears, but my experience was nothing like that. It felt playful and fun. Serious, but also a little absurd. For the first few minutes my eyes were locked onto Marina’s, then we both settled.

Once I was settled, I began to notice the noise that surrounded me. There were people on all four sides watching me sit with the artist, but I couldn’t see them. I could pick up certain words, “she” and “her,” but I could not determine the context of the conversation. Where they talking about me or where they talking about Marina? How did the viewers react when they saw me take off my shoes and sit cross-legged? I also knew that over Marina’s left shoulder, my friend Jay was watching me. Was he still there? Or had he left?

The most districting part for me was the blurred vision of the massive telephone lens pointed in my direction. Twice, my gaze broke from Marina’s when I could tell the photographer as taking a picture of me. I think my gaze broke two other times, but I am not really sure what caused the shift.

My thoughts moved around while I sat relatively still. At times, I wondered what Marina was thinking. Was she trying to figure me out? What did she see? What was she feeling? There were times were I was engaged with what I was thinking and feeling. Sometimes it was something completely shallow like “I’m sitting with Marina Abramovic, that’s so cool.” And, “She’s looking right at me and only at me, wow.” Often, I found myself look directly at Marina but my interest was in the movement of people behind her and the blurred shapes on the wall. I was seeing people and shapes out of my peripheral vision, so they were all blurs that would move, pause, and then move again. I could make out a blurry guard swing his arms, probably in boredom. Sometimes, I felt as if I was in a living picture.

I studied Marina’s face; the color of her eyes, the shape of her mouth, the complexity of her skin. She was natural, with no make-up and she was beautiful. Her mouth and eyes said the most during my experience. Slight shifts left me with different feelings: happiness, wonder, and curiosity. The things I noticed the most was that she had beautiful lips and beautiful, but tired green eyes.

During my time sitting, I never left Marina’s eyes leave mine, but I thought I could feel shifts in her moods. Sometimes it felt like she was close to tears, but more in a positive, relieved way. Or, that’s at least how I’d like to think of it. Sometimes, I felt her drift off, as if she was no longer in the moment. And I would feel myself drift off. Then we would both come back and we were again, connected to each other.

Only a few times, did I wonder how long I had been sitting. At one point, I could feel how tense my body was, especially my back and legs. Had it been 5 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour? I had no idea. I would take a deep breath and felt my body relax further into my sitting position.

I checked in with myself and thought I am almost done, but then that shallow thought crossed my mind, “I am sitting with Marina Abroamovic and I should enjoy it just a little bit longer.” I go for a few more minutes and am able to keep my focus strictly on Marina. I am happy and decide that’s enough. I slowly move my head down and lose my eye contact. I reach down and put my shoes back on. I stand up and walk away. Done.

2:00pm - My experience after sitting

My experience was nothing like I expected, but everything I could have asked for. When I walked away, I felt completely energized and connected. I thought I would reaction like other people and want to be by myself, but I did the complete opposite. I walked back to the line of people and plopped myself back down next to the people I had met.

My goal was to sit for about 20 to 25 minutes, which was about how long I sat. Tyler asked me if Marina looked at me when I took my shoes off. I had to stop and rethink the experience. When Tyler asked me the question, I wasn’t completely what had happened. What I remembered was that Marina’s head was down while I was taking my shoes off and I was completely settled before she looked-up at me.

Tyler told me that Marina had given me a huge smile when she looked up at me. This made me really happy. I could not have asked for a better reaction from her. The girl in between Tyler and myself was currently sitting with Marina. She had left her purse with Tyler and Tyler asked if he could leave his personal items, wallet, cell phone, and watch, with me while he sat. I half jokingly asked if he was going to sit for hours before I said yes. He said no and gave me his things. I left the line and walked around the viewing area to see all the different angels. I was completely amazed at the amount of trust we had all felt with each other in line. We had only known each other for a few hours, yet we all felt comfortable asking the people around us to watch our belongings. Part of this was because there was security everywhere, but the biggest factor, at least for me, was that I felt a sense of closeness to the people in line.

A gentleman asked me if I minded sharing my experience with him. We talked for a few minutes and then we both moved on. I finally settled on the side and sat so I could see the profile of both Marina and the participant. Tim, from earlier that morning, finds me and we discuss our experience. He was still unsure what he thought about the whole thing and said he would need to process it for a while. However, he was definitely emotionally moved.

The girl sitting with Marina finished. She had completed her 28th time sitting with the artist. Tyler was up next. I was in and out of conversation with the people around me, while Tyler sat very serious and straight-faced. That is until the very end. I saw him move out of the corner of my eye and could tell that he had cracked. A few tears and he stands up and walks out.

I wondered if he had seen me sitting on the side since I had all of his stuff. He speed-walked to towards the bathrooms. Two women attempted to ask him what his experience was like. He kept walking. After a few minutes, he took a seat beside me. We hang around for a few minutes and then decide it’s time for some lunch. I decided that I am going to come back another day to see the rest of the exhibits at the museum. I didn’t want to see anything else today.

We walk out of the museum and our time with Marina Abramovic and the exhibit The Artist is Present comes to an end. Well, at least for today. Tyler and I grab some food and talk for a while. He decides to head back to the museum and I go to Central Park. He has my card and we both say that we are going to keep in touch. We wave goodbye.

I take a seat in the grass in Central Park. It’s a beautiful day outside. I text with Joshua about my experience and tell him that I will email him the pictures taken of him sitting with Marina when I get home.

Then I talk with my Dad on the phone. He recounts to me what he saw while he watched me sit with Marina via the live video stream. My Dad and Step Mom were both able to watch my experience live. My Dad said that he had watched a few other people sit before me, but when I walked up, he felt an intense nervousness for me. He said he felt like he was there sitting with Marina. I was surprised to hear that his experience of watching me sit was almost as intense as me actually sitting with Marina. He shared what he saw and I shared my experience. We both agreed that Marina seemed to be energized by my presence and that she maintained a strong presence during my time sitting with her.

I hang-up with my Dad and give Danny a call to tell him about my experience. Another call ends and I find myself sitting in the park, and continuing to reflect about my experience. I remain energized and excited about the whole thing, especially my actual experience of sitting with Marina, until later that evening when a wave of exhaustion hits me.

I am honored and humbled that I had the chance to participate in Marina Abramovic’s exhibit The Artist is Present and am looking forward to hearing more about the exhibit once it closes at the end of May.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Check Back

I've been busy, but one of the things I have not been busy doing is blogging. Things are happening and projects are in the works. I plan to post a better update soon.

Check back.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Start of Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect...Is it going to work? I don't know. How big is it going to be? I don't know. Do I believe in it? You bet. Am I excited? Hell yeah.

Logo by Ivan Boden

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When a Photographer Cannot, Should Not Share Their Own Images

What does photography mean when you can't share your images?  We've become a society that over shares both personal and professional images, leaving little room for privacy.  I'm definitely guilty of over sharing.  I have a flickr account, post pictures on facebook, and post information on my blog.  In the last few months, I have drastically decreased my amount of sharing, mostly of images, on all of these sites.  The truth is that not everyone needs to see all of these images.  Some are meant for friends, some for family, and some are meant for no one at all.  Plus, I think that having too many images available for the general public could decrease interest instead of invoking interest.

The way I use photography has drastically changed for me.  When I first starting shooting, my primary focus was on getting the great, interesting, __(fill in the blank)___ image.  It was all about what I could capture.  Once I shot, I would share my images online with others.  I would get nice feedback about my pictures and developed some wonderful friendship through the use of flickr.  Then I stop posting.  Even though no new pictures were up my site continues to get hundreds of hits.  I still get the occasional comment and favorite tag, but it doesn't mean as much to me anymore.  What I am interest in is how I can use my photography and social work to help others.  And I think I've finally found a way to do this: by providing free family portraits.  I can't take credit for the idea, that would go to the folks at Help Portrait.  But I am responsible for keeping the spirit of the project going even after it ended.

The family portrait project I have been a part of has changed and challenged all of my previous views of the functionality of photography.  At this point, most people have heard about the Help Portrait project that took place all over the world on 12.12.09.  The purpose of the project was to offer free family portraits to families that might not be able to otherwise to afford family portraits.  The project was a huge success.  Most of the families we shot had never had a professional family portrait taken of their family.  The family were thrilled with their images and my photographers were just as moved by the opportunity to use their skills to give back.

Due to the population we were worked with, the images did not go public nor will they go public.  All my photographers were asked not to share these images on public website or to use them in their portfolio.  As far as I know, everyone has been okay with this request.  They understand why we are not sharing the images.  

What does it mean to be the photographer that took an image, but not be able to share the image?  It's a new question that I've been tossing around.  For me, the confidentially of the family I shot is way more valuable than a few views and comments on flickr.  I can definitely feel my social work ethics and values coming through with this project.  The hardest part about not sharing the pictures are that they are so powerful and so amazing.  I want to share them, yet I know I shouldn't/can't.  The only time the images were shared was when the pictures were given to the families.  I can't share them, but the family can do wanted they want with the pictures.  It's a strange feeling not have control over your own images.

On January 30, I'll be organizing my 2nd free family photo shoot.  This time it will be at a Pediatric Hospital.  The rules and regulations around the images are going to be even stricter than my last shoot and after meeting the children and staff, I completely understand.  They want to protect the children, which I can't argue with.  Individuals and families "at-risk," "in need," or whatever you call it are frequently exploited through images.  Images are so often used to show suffering, need, and the inability to care of oneself instead of showing the power and strength in individuals and families.  It really saddens me that images are so frequently used this way and how little trust people have in how photographers use images.  

I hope to help change this perception of photographers and photography.  I want my images to show people's power and beauty, no matter what their circumstance.  

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll have more to say after the shoot on Jan. 30, when I can share stories and experiences, but not images.

I will include one image in this post. It's of my amazing team of photographers that volunteered their time and skills on 12.12.09.  It was an honor working with each and every one of them and I hope to work with them all again in the future.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Homemade Meatball Sandwiches

How to make your fiance happy: homemade meatball sandwiches and the cowboys game.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A lull in production brings forth creativity

There has been a lull in my production of pictures lately. However, not a days goes by that I don't think about my photography. Lately, I've been grappling finding my artistic voice. I am no longer satisfied to just take candid street shots. There is nothing wrong with candid street shots, there are plenty of fantastic photographers out there that are success with this type of shooting, but that is not how I want to define myself as an artist. My latest interests are night photography, specifically light painting and strobes. I like how desolate the city can feel at night, especially in Astoria. I want to use my art to connect other people. This is where I feel like my social work is going to come into play. How can I use my skills as a social worker, psychologist, and photographer to help others? I don't have the answer to that question...yet.

I have recently found motivation in watching TED talks. If you haven't discovered this website yet, you need to do it now. RIGHT NOW! The talks are typically 15 minutes and cover an array of topics. I have started to find most of my inspiration for my photography from other art forms, such as literature, poetry, sculpture, etc. I just haven't quite figured out how to translate this into images. Even though I haven't been shooting much, I have actually enjoyed this part of the creative process. I am asking why? Why am I shooting? What am I shooting? And what am I trying to say?

Here are a few of my favorite TED talks so far:
Vik Muniz: Art with Wire and Sugar
Olafur Eliasson: Playing with Space and Light


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Go, go, go...

"Things are going to start happening to me now."
-Steve Martin, The Jerk

I recently applied to the Aperture portfolio contest and the Critical Mass contest. I feel that I've come to a point where I need to start putting myself and my photography out there. I have several projects in the works and am very happy with the portfolio I submitted to the most recent two contests. I will post more about that project in the near future, since I am not ready to put the project online yet.

After a short break, Dennis and I have picked back up with the David Del Tredici biography. We are meeting Joel Conarroe for the second time tomorrow morning. He has decades worth of letters, postcards, and reviews for DDT. Joel is an amazing and interesting person. He has been warm and welcoming to Dennis and myself by opening his home and life to us. I am looking forward to interviewing Joel in the upcoming weeks.

I am in my second summer session in school and wrapping up with my first internship. It's hard to believe that I've been working at the Supreme Court for 6 months and that I will be done there in 2 weeks. I have a few weeks off from school and work in August and early September, but will be very busy with other activities. My matron of honor, Nicole, is coming to visit with her little boy, Hunter, the second week in August. She has never been to NYC, so I'm excited to show her around my city. Near the end of August, Danny and I are taking a trip to Santa Fe, NM to start planning our wedding. It will be a semi-vacation, but our time will mostly be spent looking at venues and meeting with wedding planners. I am definitely ready to start planning our wedding. I can't believe it's already been 6 months since we got engaged.

That's all for now....

Sunday, May 31, 2009

NYC Photography Workshop Book

I am very proud to announce the completion of my first group book.  "New York City" is a collection of photographs taken by members of the NYC Photography Workshop.  I am also very excited that this book has made it to Blurb's Bestseller list!

Check out a preview of the book here:  New York City

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chris' TCU Graduation

My little brother graduated from TCU a few weeks ago.  I am so incredibly proud of everything he has accomplished.  I can't wait to see what life has in store for him.  We are a TCU family no more.  We are now a family of alumni forever indebted to TCU (both financially and educationally).  Congratulations Shishtopher!

Pictures from Chris' graduation:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mr. Asher

I was home this past weekend for my brother's graduation from TCU and to spend some time with the family.  I had a great time playing with my nephew, Asher.  


Monday, May 4, 2009

Overdue Update

Life has been busy these last few weeks.  I finished my first semester at NYU, which included four final papers due all the same week.  It's hard to believe that I will be done with my MSW in almost exactly a year.  

Dennis Tobenski and I continue to interview David Del Tredici every two weeks for his biography.  A few weeks ago, we had our first interview with someone other than David.  We interviewed Tison Street, a composer and violinist, and long time friend of David.  The interview with Tison went very well and I also snagged a few pictures.  Tison and David are the first two subjects in my long-term photo project on American Composer.  

For more recent news, today I purchased my first macro lens.  I am the proud owner of a Nikkor 60mm 2.8 micro lens.  Pictures with my new lens to come soon.  For now, I leave you with a few pictures from a car that caught fire on our street.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday at the MoMA

I spent Good Friday, and my day off, at the MoMA and making new friends in Central Park.  I was incredibly excited to practice some of the new techniques Joe Bug taught me during our meeting on Thursday.  I decided to only shoot with my 50mm and to really focus on the composition of all the pictures I took.  I was very pleased with how my pictures turned out.  More to come soon...Happy Easter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pillow Fight, NYC 2009

Old friends, new friends, and lots of laughs.  
Pillow Fight, 2009, Wall St., NYC

Friday, March 20, 2009

San Fran and Back

Danny and I returned last night from a wonderful trip to San Francisco.  Ms. Erin Stone was our personal tour guide for the trip.  The first day we spent walking all over the city.  We saw Lombard Street, Pier 39, Russian Hill, and various other parts of the city.  More importantly, we ate a brownie sundae at the Ghirardelli Factory and drank a beer and ate pizza at a great dive bar in Russian Hill, and heard a guy from Jersey yell at the conductor of a cable car.  

The next day, we headed to Golden Gate Park.  We strolled through the Arboretum and visited the De Young Museum.  The most impressive part of the museum was the "Warhol Live" exhibit.  The exhibit consisted of 4 rooms that made you feel like you were part of the Silver Factory experience.  As we made our way through the massive exhibit, we noticed that there was a whisper going around.  It turns out that the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly was walking through the exhibit at the same time we were.  He was pretty hard to miss, besides the entourage of artisty folk following him, he was wearing an eye patch and black boots covered in splashes of vibrant paint.  Of course, Erin and I had to find his book in the museum store.  We were both quite impressed with his work.

Our final day, we spent cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.  The fog was heavy by the time we reached the bridge, but we were lucky enough to catch little breaks every now and again.  We had planned to bike always to the Redwoods, but thought that lunch and lying in the sun sounded better.  When we got back to the Ferry Building, Danny and I grabbed a beer and a crab salad and then met up with Danny's Aunt, who happened to be in town at the same time.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect afternoon.  All in all, our trip to San Fran was amazing.  I was so happy to spend time with old high school friends (Ethan and Erica) and their significant others.  Danny and I will definitely be back to visit the great state of California. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A little Snow

We got about 6 inches of snow on Monday.  
The whole neighborhood was sledding by Monday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Interview I

Yesterday, Dennis and I had our first of many interviews with David Del Tredici.  I have to say upfront that David's apartment is beautiful.  The walls are covered with wonderful art that he's collected over the years.  I'm not going to give away too much about this project right now, but I will say that we are working towards something big.  I came along to the interview primarily to take pictures, but ended up being very involved with David's interview.  I felt that David was very easy to talk to and very honest about his life.  I ended up taking something like 10 pictures because I became so engrossed in his story that I just put down my camera.  I appreciate Dennis for first, allowing me to come along, and second, for allowing me to help with the interview.

I cannot wait to see where this project takes us.  More to come...

Friday, February 20, 2009


One of the first pictures I took that got me interested into photography

I'm in a strange mood today- kind of contemplative, a little withdrawn, and becoming more reminiscent.  I blame a majority of this mood on the weather.  We were starting to have nice days with temperatures moving into the 40s and 50s, when SMACK, we are hit with wind that makes it feel like it is 3 degrees outside.  I really don't mind cold temperatures and I actually like winter, but I do not like being caught off guard by the weather and going from beautiful temperatures to below freezing.  I'm hoping that this is our last cold front before spring starts to emerge.  

I am quickly moving forward with both my photography and career in social work.  I might have a few upcoming (paying!) photography gigs and I'm starting to think ahead to my next internship in the fall.  So, all and all, life is good, really good.  But every now and again I get in these moods that are really hard to shake.  They don't last long, but they always get me thinking.  Thinking about where I am, but mostly thinking about the past.  I'm hoping that I can start to use these moods to my creative advantage, I just have to figure out a way to do this.

Sometimes you have to look to the past before you can move forward.  


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You've got to love getting an email from Darth Vader.  I guess I've gone to the dark side....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Two words: Comic Con

I am not ashamed to say that I spent a majority of the weekend at Comic Con.  I didn't really have any idea what it was all about until I showed up Saturday afternoon.  The event sounded like it would make some good photos, so out I went.  I had such a great time that I went back again on Sunday.  I was lucky enough to score a free ticket into the show Sunday afternoon.  This was pretty sweet since I wanted to go in, but wasn't planning on buying a ticket because they were $40.  I wandered around for quite awhile, mostly just people watching.  There was a great energy at the event, it was hard not to have fun.  My only regret is that I didn't talk to many people.  I was a little reserved, because I was new to this environment and felt out of place.  Next time, I will definitely talk to more people.

On another note, I've been a huge slacker with my blog.  I plan on trying to post regularly again.  Check back soon for more updates.  For now, I leave you with a few pictures from Comic Con 2009.  Enjoy!