I’ve said it before and I will say it again- Nothing works in my life if I am not working out. It is not a luxury for me, it is an essential part of my life balance. Of course I know this but like most people I forget sometimes. It’s like taking a vitamin…. You don’t know you need it until you haven’t taken it for a while.
I’m like most of the population… (perfectly imperfect) There are a lot of things that throw off my health and fitness goals. Stress, hormonal changes, work, traveling, emotional eating (yes, I am one) socializing and anything else you can think of. I’m also NOT one of those metabolically lucky people who can stay at their healthy weight without a lot of work - I have to work hard to maintain a healthy weight. (in my next life I would like to request a faster metabolism)
A day off here or there - a cheat meal turns into a cheat day or worse yet a cheat week. I start feeling yucky and blah…
And then I step on the scale to the horrifying reality that I put on 10 pounds. On my small 4’11’’ frame - that is a lot. Like most of us I’m emotionally beating myself up - feeling crappy, sluggish - clothes are snug and I hate the way I can feel my newly found fat hanging over my waist band.
My mood changes dramatically and all motivation goes out the window and chocolate is my best friend.
SNAP THE F**K OUT OF IT! It’s time to not let this thing run completely out of control (because we all know it’s easy to do) So, I pull up my big girl lycra workout pants, lace up my favorite Brooks running shoes and get my moody ass to the gym!
AND….. Bingo! I feel like a new person today! I have a ton of energy after hitting it pretty hard at the gym these last couple of days. A funny thing happens when I put in the time, energy and work at the gym - My mind won’t let me eat shit food! My brain literally says - “oh hell no! You just worked your ass off and that crap food is not worth it. Let’s have some protein and some yummy veggies.” Yeah- that is the way it works for me. Working out never meant I could eat whatever crap I wanted to. I become hard wired to eat awesome body fueling clean food because I worked to hard to ruin my efforts with shit food.
So this is my personal and public reminder that without my health and mental clarity nothing else in my life works well. “Off course” doesn’t mean it’s all over - hands up - give up! Off course is temporary and on course is well within reach if you want it. I prefer my normal energy levels which my husband calls “bouncing off walls at 100 miles per hour”!
Moody - low energy - weighed down - no way! Not on my watch!
I surround myself with other fitness freaks like me. They hold me accountable - call and say “hey- meet me for cardio at 4” (Terry Hay)
All it takes is one workout to get back on track and starting feeling better and like cheat meals become cheat weeks… One workout turns to 2 and 3 and 4 and HOLY SHIT I feel great!
So, there it is.
In light of all the discussion surrounding the death of Robin Williams someone asked me to repost this blog I wrote nearly 4 years ago about my own depression.
There have been a few updates... I know now that my condition is genetic and that I don't metabolize foliate which is a necessary precursor to serotonin. With that information my treatment has changed and I have been depression free for more than 2 years. At the time I wrote this I was training for a figure competiton.
Here is my story-
Journey to November 6, 2010 - Depression
This is going to be a very personal blog post. Paul asked me if I was sure I wanted to be so public with this part of my life. I have thought about writing about this for a couple of weeks and I think I am ready to share.
Part of the reason I’m sharing this is because I know there are other people who are reading this that could benefit from my story.
Also, this challenge along with diet and exercise are a vital part of this story.
Most people who know me would be surprised to know that I suffer from clinical depression. There are only a few people that are very close to me who know about this and now I put it out into the world for everyone to read about... (SCARY FOR ME)
It is hereditary and can be linked to my great grandmother. I can trace my own struggles with depression back to the age of 8 years old. It has been a life long battle for me.
Unfortunately, depression has been trivialized socially for many years... We live in a “Prozac” - I feel like crap today can I have a pill to fix it nation.
Let me explain what depression is like for me so it may help you (if you have never suffered from clinical depression) understand the difference between situational and clinical depression.
I have read almost every book I could get my hands on over the years to help me deal with something that I did not want to accept for a long time.
Most people who know me would describe me as happy, energetic, driven, boisterous, outgoing, full of life, optimistic and generally positive. These things are true (at least I like to think so).
People are often shocked when I tell them about my depression and their first response is almost always “You? No way! You are always so happy” Depression is not about being unhappy. I almost always felt hopeful for the future during depression. Depression also “flares up” like an ulcer. It can be managed for a long time and than BAM an episode hits!
When a depressive episode strikes the world through my vision seems to appear gray. Colors in nature are muted. Insomnia sets in and sleep is nearly impossible for me. I become withdrawn from friends, family and all of my passions and interests. Talking to people or socializing is painful - I just want to be alone. Doing just about anything feels like it requires every last ounce of energy I have. I feel lost and disconnected from the world. I am aware that I am deep down happy in my life but everything seems difficult. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking through water - like there is a current working against my energy. I know something is wrong but I can not “snap out of” it or just “cheer up”
PMS is a nightmare..... it starts about 2 weeks before mother nature comes knocking on the door for her visit. I dread the PMS.... It’s the physical symptoms of PMS that are the worst. Body aches and soreness of my breasts that normally do not exist are painful and last for almost 2 weeks. One of the reasons we know (myself and the doctors) that is is clinical depression is because of the effects on my hormones and the physical changes to my body. When I am being treated for depression or not in an episode those physical affects of my cycle are not there at all.
I mentioned before that I am not a crier. During depression the tears appear for no reason at all. They are just there - uncontrollable, inexplainable crying..... I am actually laughing while crying sometimes because I know it is ridiculous to be crying when I have no reason but the tears just won’t stop. I often times can not remember driving somewhere or where I put things.
The whole world sometimes feels like it is moving in slow motion.
The frustration of depression can make you feel insane sometimes. There were times in my life when I was genuinely happy. Everything was wonderful. I had nothing to be unhappy about but I just couldn’t snap out of the depression and I also had no reason or could not explain it to anyone. It is like living in a dark hole.
I would actually call my depression “the dark side of Michele”.
When I was younger I would ignore the early signs - the symptoms would get increasingly worse until I felt like I was losing my mind. As I have gotten older I am much more in tune to the early signs and try not to let it take over me before doing something about it.
Situational depression has a reason... Someone died, you lost your job, you got divorced, you moved to a new city and you are having a hard time adjusting, taking care of elderly parents, illness.... All of these stressful things can cause situational depression. Some of these things can also trigger clinical depression. You can work through situational depression - go through a grieving process and move past it. Clinical depression (for me) doesn’t work like that. You can’t grieve, talk or work your way out of a genuine chemical imbalance.
At the age of 24 (my 5th episode) my doctor at the time said that as I got older episodes of depression would be more frequent and last longer. It was already very difficult to deal with the fact that I had this problem. At that point I would have rather had diabetes or heart disease.... only because you could see those in a medical test. They were sociably acceptable. “Mental illness/depression” was not. I was so pissed off that I was dealing with this. I was angry about having to take an anti-depressant. It was a joke for most people. -Take your “happy pill”, you need prozac..... -
In the early 90’s doctors started handing out anti-depressants like they were candy and in a way devalued the legitimate medical problem that it is.
I think I would have preferred to have a test taken of my brain chemistry that states....
“Yes, Miss Celentano your serotonin levels are quite low and your norepinephrine levels are also too low for “normal happiness” levels”.
To my knowledge there are no such tests and the diagnosis is based on patient and doctor conversations and the patients symptoms.
Since I was diagnosed more than 16 years ago I have been on several different antidepressants. Some have been extremely effective and some have not. I am not always on medication - only when an episode hits. Eventually, most antidepressants will become ineffective. The body gets used to them and then the chemistry is no longer affected.
What is especially important to note here is that there were many doctors over the years and not one has ever asked me about my diet or how much exercise I get.
Not one doctor asked me about what I eat, what kind of vitamins I take, or what I did to workout. I have learned over the years that pharmaceuticals are only part of the equation when treating my depression. Please note this is only my experience. Antidepressants have come along way over the years. The side effects are less, they are more effective in lower doses, time released helps sustain even moods and they treat more than one brain chemical at a time.
There is no doubt in my mind that diet and exercise play a HUGE role in managing my depression. Which is why writing about this is critical to the the journey I am on now.
I have figured out that running helps me control depression in a big way. I can increase my own endorphins with running thus improving my mood.
I digress to an earlier post in which I talk about putting poor quality gas in your car and expecting it run well. I firmly believe the same is true for our bodies.
If the cars computer is the central system that makes everything else in the car work correctly than the brain is the same for the body.
Without the right or enough amino acids my brian chemistry is off. Without exercise my brain chemistry is off - things that affect my chemistry are sugar, artificial sugar, lack of vitamins and amino acids, lack of exercise, processed foods, fast foods, not enough fruits and veggies, not getting enough sleep.... the list goes on.
Clinical depression is when all of those things are right and I still go into that dark place with no explanation or reason and then medication is necessary.
My mother and I lived with my grandparents until I was 13. As a single moms do, my mom worked full time in NYC. I spent most of my week day time with my grandparents and especially my grandmother who my daughter Anna is named after.
Nanny suffered from depression in a terrible way. We didn’t know it then. In the 70’s it was not talked about and if it was you were classified as “crazy”. I’m sure she had no idea what was happening to her or why she felt like she did. Looking back, I know now from my own experience that she suffered from depression. Nanny never had a drivers license, she walked everywhere. She got plenty of exercise everyday just from walking to the stores in Brooklyn. She walked so fast, as a kid I had to trot just to keep up with her. She was a tiny little thing - maybe 4’ 10” weighing less that 100 pounds. She cooked nearly everyday and ate well, but there were times I would find her sitting in the dark just crying. It broke my heart even as a little girl. I would always curl up to her and ask her “Nanny, what’s wrong, why are you crying?” She would say “ I don’t know, I just have the blues”.
That would last a couple of days, she would be really quite for a few more days and in time Nanny would return to herself. Eventually that cycle would start again with no explanation.
It is not always easy to stay healthy and on track with diet and exercise. If depression hits - it makes it that much harder to stay motivated to do the right thing for my body.
Weight gain is generally a sign of depression for me. It means that I’m not interested in working out or running (things I love to do). It means I don’t have the energy to care enough about what I am eating. It can be a vicious cycle because the worse I eat and without exercise depression will worsen - and the worse it gets.... well - I think you get the point.
Looking good and fitting into cute clothes are all a sweet byproduct of why I really workout and eat well. It is not a choice for me. If I don’t work incredibly hard at keeping my body running well, I risk going into a depressive episode. It is for my mental health more than anything that I work as hard as I do (something else most people find surprising).
For me staying antidepressant free and mentally healthy on my terms is far more important to me that being a size 2. Looking great is a huge benefit but not the priority for me.
I share this part of my life because I want to stress how much this type of training and doing a challenge like this helps me. I am not alone- I have an amazing trainer (who now knows about my depression) a trainer that will push me when I can not push myself. I also rely on a community of people who workout with me and motivate me (you all didn’t know you were doing that -did you?) Having a trainer and a group of amazing people/friends to workout with that hold me accountable is important. It’s that life-team I talked about in an earlier post.
This amazing challenge is not only changing my body but it is keeping my mind healthy. It’s knowing I have a goal to meet, a trainer to work with and people counting on me being at the gym that keeps me motivated.
Thanks to all of you who keep me on track and who have been there for me without even knowing it-
I could write an entire book on my life long journey and battle with depression along with detailed stories of each episode but I will end it here for this post and hope that my story has helped even one person see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Some of my favorite books on the subject of depression:
Depression-Free for Life
by: Gabriel Cousens, MD
Obesity, Cancer, Depression - Their common cause and natural cure
by: F. Batmanghelidj, MD
Healing Depression The Mind-Body Way
by: Nancy Liebler PhD and Sandra Moss, M.S.P.H
Thanks again for reading - if you have any questions please send me a personal message if you don’t want to post a comment here.
Until next time.
The Power of Branding and Packaging
$50 nail polish? Really? But are you really buying nail polish? Christian Louboutin has done it. “Rouge Louboutin”
“In it’s most-coveted nail lacquer debut from one of fashion’s most iconic footwear designers. The bottle is an objet d’art. The formual is exquisite, in a signature shade with a patent leather finish.”
This truly is a great study in marketing, packaging, branding, name recognition, status and a brands signature. There is a lot to be learned from this “objet d’ art”.
Some will be running out to buy it - just to say they were the first and that their nails now match the bottom of their shoes. Other will scream “ridiculous!! I would never pay $50 for a bottle of red nail polish”
Louboutin knows his client - and he never for one minute thought “how can I compete with Sally Hanson nail polish that sells for $6-$8”.
He designed a bottle that resembles his famed shoes… a bottle like no other. “The cap is a full 7 inches - the same height as the famed Ballerina Ultima shoe.”
It is sold out on sephora.com. SOLD OUT!
Dig deep here for a second….. Would you buy it? Do you believe there are plenty of women who would? Do you feel sort of outraged that any sane woman would spend $50 on a bottle of red nail polish?
Our own feelings about how we spend money directly affect the way we price our products in our photography businesses. The perceived value of our own work often drives the way we price. The reality is there is a price for everybody and knowing your market is the key to pricing.
Have you created a recognizable brand? (the color red at the bottom of a shoe) Have you designed your business to be worthy of the price you ask? (top quality, packaging, customer service, perceived value)
In most cases when a person says “the prices are outrageous” what they are really saying is “I can’t afford that”. This is not a bad thing as long as we understand that there are people willing to pay for what they can afford when they feel they are buying something outrageous. I’m willing to bet that Christian Louboutin shoe wearers are buying this bottle of “Louboutin signature red” nail polish.
I might just buy a bottle - not to wear but to put on my desk as a reminder of the power of branding and creating a signature that some consumers are willing and able to pay for. A bottle of red nail polish that will be a visual reminder of the way I would like to brand my own business.
I can promise that my photographs will outlast that bottle of nail polish.
Interesting? Isn’t it?
(*screen shot from Sephora email)
What to wear for your family portrait…
One of thethings I find that stresses mom out about having portraits created is clothing.
Clothing is an essential key element when it comes to family portraits. The game has changed quite a bit in the last few years. For a while many photographers including myself suggested that everyone wear the same color and no patterns. Solid dark colors were best.
The ideas behind keeping it simple were:
The clothing should not be competing for the subjects faces.
Patterns can be distracting
It was easier to have everyone is the same color….
For traditional portrait photography trendy clothes and colors could eventually date the portrait and since fashion styles change photographers didn’t want their clients looking back on the portrait in ten years and think to themselves… “what the heck were we thinking with that outfit?”
Simple and classic would always stand the test of time….. except when it gets boring.
And…. it did start to get brining, especially if you have clients come back year after year. Families would want their yearly portrait to have differences besides the ages of the children. Change of location of course - but a change in clothing and colors started to become necessary.
Now that the clients have more choices when it comes to clothing it can be hard to coordinate everyone. Too many colors or patterns can be really distracting and take the focus away from the subjects. Some moms are fashion savvy and some moms (like me) are not.
Here are my top 10 tips to help when designing the clothing platte for your family’s portrait session.
Choose color pallets that work well together.
You can choose a solid color and add patterns and colors that blend with the main color.Grey as a base is wonderful because you can put almost any color with it. Grey and black -Grey and yellow or pink or green.
Younger children can handle brighter colors and patterns with parents in a coordinating solid color is fun without being overly distracting.
Don’t go crazy trying to do something that doesn’t look like your family. If your husband doesn’t like to wear pink -don’t put him in a pink shirt.
Accessorize - bring hats and scarfs for the kids - it will show some personality and let them have fun too.
Add neutral tones to jewel tones. Cream/Ivory with burgundy or royal blue can be a great combination.
The number of subjects in the portrait can play a role in how many colors you add. For larger groups up to 3 colors work best… it can be very distracting if you have too many colors with a lot of people.
The location can also play a part in deciding the color palette of your portrait. The beach lends itself to blues, coral, yellow, cream or pastel colors. Fall foliage may work well with dark green, brown and cream tones.
The room in your home where you will display the portrait can be the inspiration for the clothing choice. If your room is earth tone you can use your portraits to pop color into the room.
Have fun and express your family’s personality with style and color.
Keep in mind dressing too trendy can look dated quickly and you want to enjoy your family portraits for many years.
I always let my clients know that if they are unsure they can send me pictures or stop by with what they are considering. Some clients buy new clothes - my suggestion is to buy more than you need and we can put the right combination together at the session. Leave the tags on and return to the store what we didn’t use.
Keep in mind dressing too trendy can look dated quickly and you want to enjoy your family portraits for many years.
Here are a few samples of well put together and coordinated clothing options. They each look classic, fun, personal yet timeless.
clothing for portraits
michele celentano blog
I’m a photographer and so it makes sense that I am passionate about photography and image making. It seems the older I get the more I appreciate photographs - not just any photograph but portraits of the people I love. Photographing people is more that just a passion -it’s a mission.
Tomorrow I will attending the funeral of my dear friend Terri's grandmother - Grandma Jennie. She lived a full life of 91 years. She was a mother to 5 children, a grandmother to 12, a great-grandmother to 29 and a great-great grandmother to 17. Incredible!!!
When my friend Terri spoke of her with such love and affection the first thing I think I said to her is “have you been photographed with her?” In my mind any age is a good age to have a portrait made but 91 incredible years young certainly deserves a portrait.
We all want pictures of when we are young and flawless (or at least we think we were flawless) but the truth is how many people that are important in your life right now even remember you when you were a teenager.
Our children can’t look back at pictures of us before they were born and connect with or relate to that person from way back then. Let’s face it our kids can’t relate to a world without internet so a portrait of you from 30 years ago doesn’t represent who you are to them today. And…. the truth is they are probably making fun of your BIG 80’s hair, parachute pants and the boom box sitting on your shoulder.
Before I moved from NY I had no idea what Senior portrait photography was. In Brooklyn (back in my day...) a photographer came to your high school, set up a studio in the basement next to the cafeteria, put a fake graduation gown on your shoulders and your picture was in the year book. Done.
Meanwhile all over the country high school senior photography was a huge market. Fun, big elaborate sessions marking the end of high school and celebrating the entry into real life.
High school senior photography is all about a bright future yet to be lived - youth, hope, dreams, a future family, career and life. Let’s celebrate the possibilities.
I loved photographing Spencer as she celebrated graduating from ASU. She has the most contagious smile and the sweetest spirit. I wonder what it would be like to photograph her again 50 years from now. What will her story be? What will the lines on her face say?
But what about the real seniors…. the ones often forgotten about and sometimes marginalized by younger generations?
What about photographing a life well lived? A life that may be winding down a bit - the hopes and promise of a long and prosperous future no longer in front of them but a full blown epic movie of a life well lived that is seen from the rear view mirror. Why are we so afraid of aging and celebrating the life we lived. Most people I know can’t stand the thought of aging - but really - there is no option - you are either living and aging or you are dead. Maybe we should stop seeing aging as a negative and start celebrating the benefits of hard earned aging.
At this point in life the people who love you most remember you perfectly aged with tiny lines that tell the story of your life - the laugh lines, the sun filled days that left pretty freckles on your nose and cheeks we now call age spots….. and what about the beautiful veiny hands that are attached to the fingers that held your hand and wore the rings you now hold so dear.
One of my favorite songs written by Phil Hanesroth performed by Brandi Carlile:
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
I’m not going to lie - I have belted that song out on many runs along the streets of my neighborhood and I didn’t care what passerby's thought!
What about photographing the people who made our life and our children’s life possible….
We run from aging and everything associated with it. Why….? A life well lived filled with stories and history should be celebrated with beautiful portraits.
When you talk to a high school senior the conversation is all about what lies ahead. What school, what career path, what dreams and aspirations do you have….? It’s a beautiful time filled with great anticipation. Parents are so proud of the children they raised - smart - athletic - polite - funny- and all the things young life has to offer.
When you photograph a great-great grandmother she tells the story of her life. Jennie’s story is incredible - She had a fourth grade education - like many of her generation she had to leave school to work and help support her family (at the age of 8 or 9 years old) She loved and was always faithful to her family. She was a strong independent woman until her final days. She was the matriarch of her family - the glue that held them together. She was the one you went to for solid advice because she had a lifetime of experience.
In her grand-daughter’s Terri’s words “ She made us laugh always telling funny stories, in short she made us all better people and made us all stronger.
I’m truly blessed to have had the chance to photograph Jennie with Terri and Bethany (her great grand daughter). What a gift for me that was!
As an industry I believe we need to photograph the winding down of life as well as the fresh start of young seniors and everything in between….. Let’s not forgot about the ones who came before us - that started our story - remember them the way you loved them most.
In Terri’s words, “Thank you dear friend for helping to capture what I would have lost if we had not taken your advice.”
These are two more examples of some of my favorite portraits I have created in my career.
Every time I see these images I am reminded of the power of photography and how it is often our last visual connection to someone we love.
Way back in the day…… (or) Once upon a time…. I was a wedding photographer and LOVED photographing weddings. Over the years and a few personal ups and downs I lost a little of my enthusiasm for the world of weddings. As weddings started to take a back seat in my business - infants, children and family portraits became more of a passion for me.
I put all of my energy into my portrait business and only photographed weddings upon special request.
There was one wedding a couple of years ago the re-ignited the wedding photography flame for me. It was a last minute wedding (I was asked the afternoon before since the original photographer was sick). Nate is the son of at the time an acquaintance (now one of my greatest friends) Anyway…. I did not know Kelsey, the bride at all and showed up to begin photographing her wedding by introducing myself and asking her what style of photography she had in mind for her wedding.
I remember feeling inspired during the ceremony and thinking to myself “I forgot how much I love weddings”
There were a few more weddings that helped to remind me of where my career in photography started…. Christina and Ashley…. Christina’s mother and my mother have been friends for almost 60 years. Patty (Christina’s mom) babysat for me and I babysat for Christina so it was a great honor to document her and Ashley’s day.
It all comes full circle as we celebrated the marriage of our oldest daughter Allison and her new husband Austin. Having so many talented photographers in the industry as good friends the choice in wedding photographers could be endless. Alli and Austin decided to have their wedding in southern California and the first call I made was to Roberto Valenzuela. He is in LA and truly one of the great modern day wedding photographers.
I can not begin to explain the excitement I felt when he said he would be there to photograph the wedding. You can see Roberto’s work here…. (but wait until you finish reading this)
I was lucky enough to spend some time watching Roberto work when he photographed Alli getting ready and my husband seeing her for the first time. He INSPIRED me so much! I’ll be spending a few days with him at his LA workshop in September.
Austin and Alli's wedding https://vimeo.com/96956031
Again I was inspired by Bob Davis, Christine Bentley, Kenny Kim and the rest of the team as we photographed the LARGEST wedding I have ever seen. It was truly an amazing experience watching Bob work. His lighting is phenomenal and I knew I wanted to learn more. I also realized how out of the loop I am when if comes to modern day wedding photography. I have been so immersed in portrait photography I paid little attention to the changing trends in wedding photography.
The switch has been turned back on….. I am feeling incredibly excited to learn again and practice what I have been learning. A limited amount of weddings are surely in my future. I know I don’t want to go back to shooting 50 weddings a year (I value my weekend family time) but I know I want to dive back into and photograph weddings again….. Coming full circle from my professional wedding photography roots.
Next month I have the honor of photographing Nate’s sister Bethany and her fiancé Ryan’s wedding. The Hay family has become part of my family and I really can’t wait to photograph Ryan and Bethany. I actually photographed the proposal and that was so fun too.
You never know where the journey will take you. You may think you are past or done with a part of your life but then some pretty special people inspire you to learn something new....
After more than 25 years in this amazing industry I am so blessed to continuously find new mentors who continue to raise the bar and inspire me to be better than yesterday.
I would like to take a minute to recognize some of my greatest teachers and mentors.
there are many more......
Weddings, family, friends and then there is Roberto Valenzuela:
It all happened so fast. One day I was born, then I was getting married, having a baby, getting a divorce, falling in love and gaining two more daughters while marrying my husband Paul. The girls were so little. Then I blinked and one was off to college and almost 10 seconds later she was engaged to be married and 3 seconds later I watched her dad walk her down the isle.
WTF? Can we slow down just a little bit. Well…. maybe it didn’t all happen that fast but sometimes it feels that way.
I have been a professional photographer for more than 24 years. While in recent years I am most known as a family portrait photographer my career began in wedding photography. I have photographed hundreds of weddings over the years but nothing prepares you for one of your own daughters wedding. The day you know your own child is getting married nothing else matters except hiring the BEST wedding photographer. As photographers we know that the day goes by in the blink of an eye and the only way to relive each moment is through the photographs. The beautiful dress will be packed and put away most likely never to be seen again, the cake is long gone, the flowers have wilted and all that is left are the memories, funny stories and of course the photographs.
I have had many great mentors and the two most notable are Hanson Fong and Monte Zucker. Monte passed away 7 years ago. Monte was simply contagious. He loved photography, people and teaching. The combination of those three things make him the legend that his is. I have always said “there will never be another Monte”. He could make you laugh and cry in the same sentence and you had no idea where all this raw emotion was coming from. He never stopped learning and being curious about new technology. He is one of the greatest influences in my career and he will always be a huge part of my heart.
And then Roberto Valenzuela was born. Humble, funny, inspiring, kind, smart, genuine, curious, lover of people…. He creates a class all his own.
Roberto was the very first phone call I made when I found out Alli and Austin were planning a May wedding. Heart pounding and praying he would be available I called and left a message -
He made me laugh when some of his first words were “Michele Celentano is calling me to shoot her daughters wedding? (insert funny Mexican accent) “Yes, Roberto” - “Michele, who did you call before me?” Me…. “Ummm no one Roberto, I called you first” Roberto- “are you freaking kidding me?”
This went on for several minutes…..
Roberto checked his schedule and prayers were answered when he said he was available!!!
Most weddings involve some stress - ours was no different. The engagement was 12/31/2013 and the wedding was planned for 5/25/2014, there is no time to waste in getting plans made.
Alli and Austin wanted the wedding in California and so we were not able to help much in the planning process.
I knew it was going to be emotional for my husband Paul (he is such a big mush when it comes the the girls). Roberto made sure that Paul had a very special moment seeing Alli for the first time after she was dressed. I wanted to be there and so I held the ICE light and tried to stay out of the way. (Oh Jerry.... if you are reading this I would really like an ICE light!)
Part of the fun for me was just watching Roberto work. They way he thinks about every single image. Not one image he creates is by chance - they are all by design. The light, the pose, the background, the expression - he masterfully crafts each image. The way he interacts with his subject is magical. He is charming and funny and even kind of silly. He directs his assistant with backwards directions “Could you move that television into my shot a bit more, I really like the LG logo”. Translation - move the freaking TV, it’s ruining my carefully crafted image.
Of course Alli ran an hour late as most brides do and that gave Roberto less time - but in no way did he appear rushed or worried about time. He didn’t rush his images - he still took time to stop, think, create and execute the images he wanted. While watching him shoot I kept thinking I want to spend a week in one of your workshops….. I wanted to study more and learn to slow down, think a bit more, be less reactive and more creative. It was inspiring.
Throughout my years in the amazing photography industry I have met thousands of people. Some were students, educators, vendors and people just wanting to make a living creating photographs for people. I have said a million times that the business of photography is 80% personality and 20% technical knowledge. Roberto is the real deal or the “full Monte”!
He is 100% personality and 100% craftsman!
When Monte passed I felt that there would never be another Monte….. What Roberto possesses as a person, a human being, an artist, a teacher and a photographer are the same qualities that made Monte who he was. He was so loved because he made everyone smile, laugh and cry. He was the most authentic persons I have ever known. In this current culture of “Rockstar Photographers” -everyone and their mother is teaching and selling something. I have seen many inflated egos rise only to be popped. But - to have an inspiration like Roberto is a powerful reminder of what we are all about - people! Caring about people, teaching, learning, laughing, never taking life so serious that you can’t laugh at yourself.
In this wonderful industry I have many many acquaintances, a lot of good friends, a few great friends and a handful of those who became family (maybe two handfuls) Roberto and his beautiful wife Kim are family. They forever captured along with Mike Colon a moment in time. The beginning of a story, a life together - the emotions of a father letting go of his little girl and watching her become a wife. There will never be enough thank yous, or words of appreciation.
In the end all we have left to remind us of the greatest moments in our lives are the photographs that documented those moments. How incredibly lucky and blessed are we that Roberto, Kim and Mike did that for us.
The morning after the wedding we had a chance to sit down and exchange book signings… it was pretty hilarious. My daughter Anna asked if Roberto could sign one of his books for her.
We sat giggling in mutual admiration affectionally signing books for each other. This may be one of my favorite moments of the weekend and my husband Paul was there to document it.
Roberto my friend, always stay as pure and humble as you are now. Maintain your silliness and love for people and your craft. You are the present and the future of an amazing industry that needs more leaders and craftsmen like you. It is an honor to call you my friend and family and I will spend at least a week in one of your workshops because I know I will be a better photographer and person after studying with you.
Love and hugs,