When I was younger, like two years ago, before I was working a 9-5 job and trying to balance getting dressed in the morning with working out at some point - I prided myself on being reflective. Like spending Sunday’s in church and literally traveling to foreign countries to find spaces, small holes in time, where I could look back at everything that had happened and forward at everything that I wanted to.
I spent a day, silent, in a convent in Belize - and a week living into relationships that were brand new in Jamaica, I went to retreats in the mountains, and wrote in journals. I was in consistent pursuit of ‘thinking’ and ‘remembering’ and in a lot of cases just being.
And then I graduated school and got swept into a new world - where reflection was reserved for therapy and the odd moment I had on the treadmill or in yoga class where I was thinking about something other than how many calories I was going to burn (more on that later).
But now - in an airport - on the eve of my 24th birthday and on the way to Chicago (more on that also, later). I am taking the 45 spare minutes I usually would be spending scrolling through Instagram - to write down a couple of things that happened this year - and a couple of things I learned from them. Really for no other reason than - I think I’ll probably care one day.
First. We have a tendency to believe in ‘right’ choices. There are no right choices. I spent the better part of this year trying to figure out what was ‘right’: like what the right time to quit my job was, and what the right thing to say when I did it was. I tried to create the ‘right’ art that would get my a raise at work or the projects I wanted on the side. I tried to fit into the ‘right’ clothes. I tried to find the right thing to say to someone I knew I loved but had already told the timing wasn’t right, in all the wrong ways. I spent hours stewing over things only to realize that there would never be a good time, and I would never say the right thing. I would say what I said and leave when I did - and it would all be hard. I’d figure it out anyways.
Second. I had a tendency to lean, in a disordered way, into things that I thought would make me healthy. For as long as I can remember, working out had to involve running on the treadmill for no less than 45 minutes and eating healthy was only healthy if the plate was full of kale (which, I’m allergic to) and unseasoned chicken. I spent the first half of this year self-flagellating because of medication that created a hormonal imbalance that caused unwanted weight gain - and the second half of the year, trying, desperately to get ‘healthy’. And only recently I realized that I needed, desperately, to reform the relationship I had to all the things I had told myself were ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ - or actually to just reform my relationship to myself. It’s a lot of work, but it feels worth it.
Third, I learned undoubtedly to read your contract twice. Make sure you’re on the same page with everyone: your clients, your romantic partners, you friends, your parents. It will make things harder up front and easier later. Let yourself decide how things start and end - but just, put it in writing - or at the very least, say it out loud. I guess that also means, just, for the love of god, have a contract in the first place.
Fourth, I watched a lot of people lose things, and lost a couple myself (jobs, friends, passions). I heard a lot of people promising that something better was coming - and I even I, the most cynical of cynics thinks that one day there will be - something better - something right. But I also sat with them as they grew weary of the search, got tired, tapped out or turned things down because they didn’t feel better. I learned that maybe what’s coming won’t be better, but it will be what’s next. And that maybe the point is, if you let yourself you might enjoy the searching.
Fifth, I learned to take protecting my creativity seriously. I signed on to too many projects and stayed at a job that stifled me. Instead of balancing my books to give myself room to write and moodboard and travel - I worked myself to the bone. It was good - it was a year of growth and change, and I needed to hustle to get there. But it was also dramatic and frantic and sometimes boring. It was good - but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.
Sixth, I edited how I felt more than I should have. And I think I confused the shit out of everyone I cared about. I should have just said I didn’t know how the fuck to figure some things out. I worried so much that someone would get cut on my sharp edges that I refused to have any edges at all. I didn’t set boundaries or clearly set up anything. I just said I couldn’t in a way that probably just sounded like I wouldn’t.
Seventh, I learned to believe who people have shown me to be. I’ve met some new people and loved some old and learned that words would always just be words. I decided to spend time in my relationships watching closely and listening deeply. And I learned a lot about people that way. I only wish I had believed who people had shown me to be and tempered my reactions to what they had to say accordingly.
Eighth, My mom always told me that we become the people we spend time around. I didn’t know that applied even when we don’t spend time around anyone.
Ninth, I left my job. I literally walked out of work at 10 am called my dad and said today is the day I do it. And by 1pm had freed myself of a million burdens that were never mine to carry. I learned that walking away was important - but also that staying was valid. I learned a lot about being scared and making decisions because of it; I learned that sometimes those decisions are necessary and sometimes they eat you alive. Mostly I learned that self - preservation can be a really bullshit excuse.
Tenth, a lot of people I wanted to lean in, leaned away. The only thing that made it feel any better was drinking Juneshine in my best friends backyard or flying to San Francisco to see concert and watch Youtube videos on my friends sofa. Instead of chasing the things that had already said no, I leaned into the places where the answer has always been yes. I know my heart won’t always let me let go that easily (I’m not right now) but a worthy thought to remember anyways.
Eleventh, what I’ve realized now - after stewing on the trip I’m about to take for two weeks - is that time is a funny thing. We try so hard to speed it up and slow it down - to get around it and under it and through it. We want things to happen right now and are desperate to stave off something else (like wrinkles). We think a lot about how awful it is to be this young and lonely and are terrified of being old and in a stable relationship. We tie ourselves, most of the time into catch-22’s that are ways of hiding from the intimacy of things and blaming it on the world. I have nothing profound to say about that, other than I hope this year, will be the year I stop doing that bullshit to myself and the people i love.
And so, twelfth……….here’s to what was 23, and whatever 24 will be.
may is my birth month and one that is always full of whimsy and femininity. shedding seasonal depression - blinding myself with morning light and reconnecting to the brighter things.
may is pink.
this time, three years ago, I think, my friends and i took a road trip to palm springs. it was a long weekend…or maybe it was a week off, honestly i have no idea. i took my camera to work on a project for my darkroom photography i class.
it was an environmental portrait assignment - a concept i still don’t really understand - considering i’ve never been in a space that I even think can contain me, let alone encapsulate everything i am. so instead i took pictures of my friends in wide open spaces - places that i thought could hold everything they were to me - tastemakers, risk-takers, therapists, daughters, girlfriends, students, interns at media companies and record labels - the making of atmosphere.
we spent the weekend driving to bombay beach and drinking at some terrible mexican restaurant. i took my first tequila shot and i think cried over some flippant drunk comment that i can’t even remember. i shot all of it - through a lens of trying to make work that would please my professor (the most terrifying and inspiring artistic influence i had at the time - and in my mind the person who was in charge of not only my grade but the future of this weird, nebulous thing I had fallen in love with).
the second we pulled into the driveway of my boujie Lincoln Blvd. apartment I put on sweatpants and headed to the pitch black of the darkroom to develop my film. i could still tell you what song i was listening to, can still feel the lurch in my stomach as my fingers fumbled with the reel and dumped film fixer into the canister. the film came out and it said everything i wanted it to - everything i didn’t know how to explain in words … that seemed like the point of art anyways.
when i showed the images to my teacher he told me it looked like i had spent the week romping around the world with my friends. he critiqued that the environment said nothing about them, that the focus was fuzzy and that i had cut an arm off of my friend in the framing of one of the images.
i was crushed but had absolutely not a single word to explain why i thought that these image said much more than any picture in a college apartment or next to a book shelf. so i reshot the project and turned in some non-descript, technically bad, images of people doing things that were maybe kind of relevant to who i thought they were.
and now - three (maybe) years later I look at these pictures and see a portrait of something different - maybe an answer to the assignment in the first place.
i see our becoming. i see my hands shaking on a lens as i choose to become an artist - one who will decide that learning this craft will become one of the only things that means anything.
i see girls exploding into the atmosphere as they should - being big and loud, drunk and obnoxious, deciding to do what they want to do - ‘romping around the world’ and figuring out who they’re supposed to be.
i see an environmental portrait - of every single fight we had, and all the things that pulled us together and eventually pulled us apart.
i see my own environmental portrait… of the person i became.
and yeah - i get why that didn’t meet the project requirements.
truth is there is no consensus.
from brand to brand, agency to agency and photographer to photographer you will get a vastly different answer. some will tell you that is any image that includes propping, others will say it’s an image that evokes a lifestyle (in a setting) and some will insist it requires the inclusion of a model.
these nuances have come up throughout my career no matter where i work or in what capacity. so - this is me, officially, admitting i have no idea what it exactly it might mean to you, and instead offering alternative terms we can use to communicate what kind of images we are producing in our work together.
product - this images include only your product and a colored background (or a white background depending on your needs) with a mood created only by specific lighting.
styled (flat-lay and standing) - these images include images that are styled with props, fabrics, etc. etc. etc. - whatever is necessary to set the mood. when discussing these images let’s note whether we want them laying flat or standing up - or if you want a certain amount standing vs. lying down.
in the wild - your product anywhere in the wild - kitchen, bathroom, beach, etc. along with props to set the mood.
live image - these include models and can be more styled or more in the wild, let’s chit chat more about the vibe + exactly how much of the model we want to show up in the image.
the joy of freelancing, creating my own hours and working with a diverse set of clients is the ability to continuously refine my creative process and to find new ways of working that allow me to open my creativity and protect my client/artist relationship.
at it’s core this process is meant to provide you with the highest quality product with the lowest time investment from you and your team - after all you hire a freelance artist to cut down on your team’s time and energy not add to it. that being said - i welcome ways of working outside of my own and value openness and honesty from the first signed contract to the final delivery. so - if you read the remainder of this post and are worried that something won’t work with your team or structure - please reach out so we can adjust upfront and protect your final product. what my creative process looks like:
kick off call (or meeting, or brunch)
however we structure this I just want to understand what exactly you’re looking for and what approach I will need to take in order to reach your final goals. bringing any samples of previous work you loved or hated, mood-boards, inspo pics to this meeting is abundantly helpful.
after we chat about what your project looks like from a logistical standpoint i like to provide a moodboard. this moodboard governs the general color pallet and propping of your shoot. of course as we move through the process things may change but know that if we align on a generally yellow, spring toned moodboard your final images won’t be black and white or if our mood is all flat lays your shoot will not include models - that would be considered a separate product and incur a separate charge. so please! take your time to think over the mood and make sure that it feels right before we move full speed ahead.
alignment, quote, contract.
once we’ve aligned on our vibe and mood we will move through the formal stuff like quoting and contracting. your quote will include the price of set design, any models needed along with the work to set up, shoot and edit your shoot. additional work outside of scope will be discussed and billed separately. for your knowledge, no work will begin until a contract is signed and a 50% deposit is provided upfront.
once all of that is done and dusted we get to the fun part. you are free to provide me with a specific shot list (i can provide you with a good template that gives me all the deets i need) or we can discuss and create one together. things to keep in mind during this step of the process:
what’s your final use occasion for the images: email, website, instagram, instagram story, ad sets?
what products do you need to feature and do they need to be shot in certain pairs or groups?
do you need a certain amount of laydowns vs. in the wild vs. live shots?
do you want a certain amount of shots to look like x (please provide example) vs. y?
from there I will take care of the planning shooting, editing etc. and deliver you a final product that we’re both STOKED about.
a few notes/disclaimers/post scripts
Due to the nature of how i work i unfortunately cannot provide NEF RAW images to my clients - unless discussed in the contract. With that being said the number of images you purchase = the number of images that will be delivered to you in high-resolution .JPG format. for larger shoots i may provide you with a contact sheet for you to choose selects from - this will be discussed during contracting.
If you feel that in any way I have missed the mark based on our previous communications (moodboard and shot list) please reach out so we can discuss where the communication breakdown was and how best to amend the product.