My pictures this week are reflections and windows. Seeing inside or out. Surfaces opaque and translucent. For some reason I have been attracted to them and their depth. It fits my theme. I was asked by a close friend to reflect on self-image. She inquired why I don't doll up anymore. Wear the stylish clothes, polish the nails, and sport hairdos. I'm sure she thought better of asking about my unshaven legs, the wild eye-brows, and ever lasting bed-head. I DID brush my hair that day but only after I napped with it wet, which proved I showered too. Never mind my black sweat pants that proudly show each and every one of my dog's white hairs. And oops...my socks don't match. So I'm asking myself? What really happened?
Some extra weight, some good old-fashioned modesty and an amazing since of LIBERATION! I'm exhausted from YEARS of expensive nail salons, clothes, purses, heels, boots, socks, 9 million pairs of flip flops, hair extensions, jewelry, hose, and extreme tanning. Painful bleaching, tweezing and waxing. Skinny jeans, plastic surgery, itchy contacts and don't even get me started on lacy thongs. I once glued and taped myself into an evening gown for a pageant. I even shaved my toes as they sported FAKE toenails! I realized I felt as though I were worth nothing but my looks and what I could use them to get. I remember feeling overwhelming panic that everyone in the world may not see me as attractive. Expensive diet pills, painful workouts, sharpie eye liners, and illicit use of stimulants. I remember "spray" tanning at least once a week to mask my unhealthy ways. None of it worked for long. My dreams never came true, I didn't get my way, someone else 'got the guy' and most devastatingly, I was a covering up all that I really was. That's NOT to say that any of these beauty treatments are "wrong", they just didn't work for what I was seeking. (a sense of well-being and realistic self-acceptance)
I'm not sure when I started to change. I sport an extra 30 pounds since giving up most of the rituals above. Its part of why I don't feel the need to strut my cellulite in a miniskirt anymore. At the same time, I'm OK with it if I have some arm fat showing when I wear a tank top. I think God kept some weight on me so I had to look at myself in a different light. My eating habits could not be tamed without the drugs I gave up. What choice did I have? Importantly, I have noticed that I'm a little more than OK with NOT attracting sexual attention from men. I had a lot of help with this part from others on this same spiritual journey. I just don't crave it anymore. It has simplified my life dramatically. I don't pluck my eyebrows and I only shave my legs when I feel like it. I don't dye my hair because its just too much work and I'm kinda lazy. I still like to tan though and dance. I will always love to dance.
I'm lucky and blessed with the way God worked things out for me. Against all odds, the man I plan to marry next month TRULY thinks I'm gorgeous. Weather I'm in an evening gown at 120 pounds, or a sick wretch with swollen eyes from hay fever; I can see it in his eyes that he sees no difference. Did HE make me ok with myself? No. It came before him with NOT SO HARD work on myself and TONS of help and support from other WOMEN. I was just plain LUCKY to find him. My overhaul was NOT physical. It was and is spiritual and ongoing. My relationship with Jerry is the icing on the cake. The golden egg in the Easter Egg hunt. I didn't have to hunt for it. I sorta tripped over it and recognized it was golden.
I am consumed with self-improvement on the inside. New dreams have been re-awakened. My goals are different now. I like to get dirty and play with snakes. With or without make-up...On me or the snakes. Do I have dreams of sporting nice clothes as I work in my dream studio or on location? Always. Do I wanna wear SOME of the clothes that hang all lonely in my closet (the jeans that wont go past my knees)? Yes. I'm still human and still a woman. Do I get a little envious when I see someone look FABULOUS in a bikini? Of course. Am I gonna beat myself up to be someone else? No. Will I dye my hair? Maybe. But I have far more important things to focus on...like grocery shopping in my pajamas, and I don't have time for a broken nail.
Who am I? I have been confronted with this question a lot as of late. I often contemplate it after facing criticism. This goes for the things I want to hear and the things I don't. Third party perspective means a lot to me as long as I let it past my EGO. That part of me that feels hurt, or flattered. Defensive or elated. My feelings are just that...feelings. Not a fact or even a definition of who I am. They change with the weather and muddy my thinking. But what am I underneath it all? The RAW and unedited "ME" who has been so confused by layers and layers of ideas absorbed by the realities I've sensed from birth? Has it really been so hard to stand firm on any ONE or MANY things? Am I wishy-washy and weak minded because I see 17 sides to every story? Am I a chameleon to get what I want by pleasing others? Am I open-minded or truly closed and set in my ways. Probably both.
My favorite book (Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse) is about a man who thinks of himself as a "half wolf/half man." He describes his life as constant contradiction between his carnal nature and one of order and obedience. He later finds that he is not only two split beings, but he is many beings and selves. And those selves have selves. Some selves co-exist, others are at odds. I have found some peace in this and some answers for my own selves.
I always want to have the answers. I want to know it all and be everything to everyone ALL the time. However, my carnal nature simply doesn't care what you think. I'm in it for myself. My little bun-headed, librarian self has another agenda. She says I should find a happy medium...but the body builder lady self thinks as long as I look good all will be well. But then that spiritual lady...the heavy one with a loud voice and tender manner, says I should seek God's will. And then there's the self that has horns and a pitch fork. The pseudo-bad ass that loves death metal and animal bones. I have a Mommy self that would give anything to hold her son right now, and the little girl that just wants to be held. There's a wolf self that doesn't care about any of this as long as she gets a cheese burger and a donut soon. Then there's that pain in the butt self that is self destructive and wants to party. That self is constantly bickering with the spirit in me that stands firm on what I can and cannot do. What I cannot do is based on patterns of past behaviors. It is physical proof that cannot be disputed. Partying (the use of mind altering substances and beverages) is OUT. On that, ALL the selves stand firm...cept the party self. He is now sulking and trying to get me to do a whip-it.
From one human being to another I feel my connection to others flows strongest through creativity and similarities. But as I look back, my most valuable relationships have been with people I have felt the least comfortable. The ones that were my bosses, teachers and mentors. They made me see beyond myself and I really didn't like them for that. I hated being made to be a team player because I wanted to do it all by myself...except when things went badly. Then it was the team's fault. I respected these people though, and the relationship grew if my selves allowed it. The true gifts came from that discomfort. I am now beginning to see my many selves as part of a much larger self and I am not the center of it. I am a part of a whole and so are you. One is no better or worse than the other.
I was somehow going to make these photos match this blog entry but like my selves, they are not quite in agreement. With the exception that I am very inspired by this dark metal band, Behemoth. I was so honored to be allowed to photograph them last week. They are extreme in their right to express themselves as artists. They provoke thought and emotion deep inside me. Though I do not always agree, or even understand all they represent, I am certain of this...I stand firm in self expression. I crave to share my selves and communicate all I see, hear and feel through art because it doesn't have to make sense. Its a spiritual expression of what simply IS. My passion is parallel and all my selves are in harmony. I AM an artist.
My dog, Bossk, has never failed to make me smile. He is the first and last "person" i see each day. I owe tribute to my best friend today. I recently had painful surgery following an injury and I was down for a long time. During my recent healing process, I have had a very faithful companion. I put my bed up against the window so my friend wouldn't get cabin fever during such a time of quiet and stillness. I swear he sent me comfort everyday with his looks of encouragement. He sensed when i was down and nudged my hands to pet him. Through my tears i saw hope in his eyes as i struggled with confinement. We went side by side to the bathroom the whole time i was on crutches even though he was afraid of them. He led the way when i crawled because the pain was just to great to walk. He was right there with me the whole time. I sensed an overwhelming relief when his glossy eyes said "It will be ok. We will soon be tromping in the woods...this memory behind us. "
Being an artist, I felt very bored and frustrated. I spent a lot of time watching online tutorials about other photographers, portrait and sales techniques. I learned Adobe Illustrator and Advanced Photoshop. I chatted with old friends. I learned to hop quite a distance on one foot. I learned I could use pain medication responsibly, and that Ibuprofen works better anyway. I learned to persevere through the pain because for some reason, God wanted to keep me still. In being still, I have healed amazingly fast. I'm still not sure what God's plan is for me as i wait in this cocoon but I'm sure I sensed Him in everyone who supported me. Everything i have learned in recovery showed up when i needed it most. I never knew how many people were in my corner, my biggest coach being an 10 pound fur ball with boogly eyes and satellite dish ears. God works through others. I'm sure of it. His light kept mine aflame with hope. Thank you friends and Family. Thank you God and Thank you Bossk The Chihuahua. I am blessed and grateful to be yours.
Our down time window light portraiture...
I was honored this week to do a fine art portrait session with a very talented ballerina, Madelyne Wang of Dayton Ballet. I have a long time love of dancing and i wanted to capture the grace and beauty of ballet. I'm impressed by the discipline and respect to small details of movement and posing. In a way it's very similar to photographic technique. I believe the details make the photo go from mediocre to stunning. Though i use Photoshop, i still believe the value of a photo lies in the details and traditional techniques. I cannot make a photo great with software. I can only enhance what it already there. Artistic trends will change but the core of photography is a very disciplined science. In school I was told we were "Lighting Technicians" I thought it would look awfully awkward on my resume but i now see the relevance of such a description. Creativity does not excuse sloppy technique in any art form. I had to learn to distinguish between fine art and creative experimentation. I recently spent my down time re-learning the techniques I was taught in high school and college. After years of ego based kicking and screaming, I have gone back to the basics to return to tradition. I've found clean portrait images to be timeless. Wall portraits and heirlooms. They will never go out of style. When doing a wedding i ask myself, "is this creative portrait of the bride going to hang over the mantle or is the shot of the entire family going to be there?" I know my choice on my wedding day and I'm leaving it the hands of a talented and technically sound documentary photographer. This attitude is my new approach to creating portraits. Anyone can make a gorgeous photograph today. I have seen some very impressive phone selfies and been envious!!! My eye is not unique. What can i do to convince a client to hire me?
I had many painful lessons while learning sports photography. At my first high school football game, I remember asking my boss, Marshall Gorby, which one the "quarter back" was. It was hard to get a good shot so I went for a safe one. My first few track meets were blurry disasters and as basketball season rolled around, I asked the boss to have me shoot anything but sports. He said he'd take care of me. So he did. He sent me to a girls basketball game EVERYDAY for the entire 1996 season. I remember the frustration but somewhere between studying Joe Thiesman's Football for Dummies, and silently cursing the boss, something started to change. I started enjoying the games and my work began to improve. By spring I was ready and enthusiastic to shoot the state track and field meet. Eventually, through painstaking running along all 18 holes of golf, getting soaked on sidelines, run over during plays, knocked out by a soccer ball, taking a straight pitch to the ankle and never ending deadlines, I became passionate about sports photography. My favorites became football and wrestling. Two of the toughest sports to capture in action for me. My weekends consisted of a high school game on Friday, college on Saturday, and if I was super lucky, NFL on Sunday. The most valuable lessons I learned were in the slow process of discipline and humility. Today, I cherish every moment of shooting sports events. The present and the past. All the support I had from the staff at News-Sun. James Mahan, Chuck Mathews and Jim Laskay. Today I do a lot of freelance sports. Id love to shoot for some glossy magazine or huge daily newspaper but im just as happy, here on earth, shooting the next generation of athletes. The passion of young athletes is something that seems to disappear in the professional sports world. Passion is the essence of sports photography for me. The energy and life in the children is contagious and it takes me out of myself. I look forward to many more years covering youth sports. Wee Arrows Action Photo galleries are coming soon! I have to be sure to get an action shots of each child wrestling. Cant wait!
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