National Association of Broadcasting….
What am I doing at this convention? This is way above my head! No kidding… you can buy a satellite dish attached to a news van here or an SUV with a crane and a camera attached to it. There are green screens and weather reports going on… robots moving video cameras - Eighteen wheelers complete with media studios inside. I sat next to Henry from Sweden on the plane. He was European, overly friendly and just a little intoxicated after 11 gin and tonics in the last 18 hours. He owns a company that builds these huge media trucks…
“Ohhh… so are you vendor at the show?” -“No,no,no - I’m just going to see what’s new.”
In my mind “Yeah, cool - fly 18 hours to see what’s new in the broadcasting industry. Right on my new friend! Holy SHIT…. what have I gotten myself into.
4k video - pulling stills from video.. What the hell does that even mean? Can Celentano handle this? If you tell her what you want and give the tools to make it happen she will deliver……
I’m terrified - I’m pacing…. These guys shoot this camera for a living… I’ve been playing with it for a month - but I’m already in love with it. (as in love with a machine as you could be!)
Study… figure out what they are doing… learn the techno language…. pay attention…. Shit - screw it all - do what you do……
Just give me the dang camera and take all the rest of that crazy shit attached to it…. (pull focus, sliders, HD monitors……)
Just me the camera and my subjects…… THAT’S IT! That is all I need to do what I do.
Why me? There are so many other truly qualified people to take my place and deliver this program….. So, why me?
I have been teaching on the national lecture circuit for more than 15 years and being born to perform on Broadway ( my childhood dream) I have never been nervous to step on stage and share what I know… what has been given to me by others (Monte, Hanson, Susan, Rudy, Steve, Clay, Joe…. and so many others…..
But this is different - It’s Canon and it’s NAB and I feel lost…….
You’re here and there’s nothing to fear…. Speak from the heart…. Speak from the heart… Be you and only you…… Just you!
It worked…. How could it not? When you are just you - honest - organic- pure - it always works.
The crowds came and my excitement for new technology shined! … because I am truly excited.
The true lesson in all of it… You can walk into anything that is out of your comfort zone - if you try to just fit in - you will not succeed - If you can maintain yourself - who you are - what you do- you will inspire - create and rise from ordinary to extraordinary!
We need to be pushed so far out of out comfort zone that we are pacing… and nervous and questioning- for it is these moments in which we dig deep and figure out how to be - just BE-
Be who you are in it’s purest most simplest form. You can’t fake it! That’s a lie and lies never work. Flawed or flawless - being true to yourself is the only way to live a truly happy and authentic life…. Everything else is bullshit and you know it and so does everyone else.
Be glorious, be courageous, be flawed, be silly, be true, be bitchy, be kind, be sweet, be sassy, be sexy, be honest, be beautiful, be ugly (sometimes), be brave, be a mother, a wife, a friend, a lover, be smart, buy the damn shoes.….. But above all else be YOU!
Thank you so much to my incredible friends at Canon USA who continually look after me and help to push me in new directions creatively and professionally. Thank you asking me to speak for you at NAB - I was so proud to represent a company that I love and is so supportive of this incredible photographic industry!
It may be one of those rant days.... Maybe not a full on rant but a "snap out of it and get over yourself" kinda rant!
I came across an old picture of myself this week. It was taken 11 years ago. I don't fully remember but I bet I didn't like it at the time. Who knows why??? My hair, my face, the freckles... But 11 years later I thought "wow, I was pretty cute". This thought reminded me of something I hear from people all the time. "I hate having my picture taken, I never like the way I look in photos". If I have heard that statement once I have heard it a hundred times.
I photograph families -it really is a passion of mine. I adore photographing people and relationships - parents with their children, brothers and sisters and one of my all time favorite sessions to photograph is grandparents with their grandchildren. We live in a media driven perfectionistic society where hardly anyone feels good about having their portrait taken. Except of course for this generation of teeny boppers who are "selfie" crazed. Just wait until that first wrinkle, smile line or grey hair shows up.... Those "selfies" won't last long. We are so used to looking at over-retouched unrealistic images on the covers of magazines that we have no idea what reality looks like. Not a single person looks like the cover of a magazine. Not even the person on the cover. Like most people, I see the covers but I also realize how much “PhotoShop” is done. It really hit me while watching the Oscar red carpet shows. All of the actresses look like they had aged 15 years since the last time I saw their picture in a magazine. No one is flawless and flawless is boring and bullshit anyway. Why would anyone want to live up to “flawless” (Sidebar: the song from the musical Rent “Take me as I am” is playing in my mental sound track right now.)
What is wrong with us? When was the last time you looked at a photograph of someone you love and thought "Oh, they should have lost weight before taking that picture." or "Wow a little Botox would go a long way on that forehead" or "I can't believe they allowed themselves to be photographed at all." How ridiculous does that sound? We would NEVER say that about someone we love (especially if they are no longer with us).
If only we could see and feel about ourselves they way that our family does -for even just 5 minutes. Imagine how different we would look at ourselves - how much less critical we would be. Those people who love you the most do not see the flaws you think you have and if they do see them.... they don't see them as flaws - it's what they love about you.
My Nanny used to complain about how "old" her hands looked. I loved her hands. They were veiny and wrinkled and perfect in every way. She had the smallest hands and tiny little skinny fingers. Those were the hands that held mine as we walked to school or church. Those were the hands that always hemmed my pants. Those hands were the home of her engagement ring that she wore everyday of her life and that I now wear. To her -her hands were old and worn to me they were beautiful and comforting.
As I travel the country and meet with photographers I often ask when was the last time they had a family portrait taken. Most of the time they can't answer me or they say "I'm behind the camera for a reason. I don't like having my portrait taken" So, your family really doesn't have any pictures with you and you are a photographer? How does that even make sense? Well, it doesn't.
Having photographs with your children is truly a gift you give them. Without a doubt when a person dies the first thing we start looking for are pictures and there are never enough of them. It's all we have left - a visual memory of what they looked like. We wear the jewelry they left and keep some of the things that were special to them but I know for certain the one thing that means the most is photographs.
Never hesitate to be photographed, especially with people you love. I'll give you a few good reasons why.
1. You are not getting any younger. If you don't like the portrait today I promise you in 10 years you will love it!
2. The chances of you losing those last 10 pounds are unlikely and not a single person who loves you cares about it any way!
3. How will you tell your life story to your children and grandchildren without pictures?
5. What will leave behind for them when you are no longer here?
6. I don't wish for much in life but I do wish I had more pictures with my grandparents. There are no do overs - I can't take anymore pictures of them and I only wish I had more of them.
Next week I will be celebrating my 44th birthday with my mother in NY. I am taking her to see La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera House. You can be sure I will be taking pictures of us that day. We will dressed for the opera and I will want to remember the two of us together on my 44th birthday!
If you are a photographer, practice what you preach and make sure you have plenty of pictures of your family and close friends that include you. You won't be here forever and someday someone will be saying they wish they had more pictures of you.
If you are not a photographer, I recommend hiring one and having professional portraits created of your family. You will never regret having family portraits taken but someday you may regret not having enough pictures of the people you love the most.
This is part of my bullentin board next to my desk... I have a few pictures with my grandparents there but I really wish I had more of them.
So, it's the end of a very cool and emotional week. Photography has filled my soul this week. Three sessions stand out as the reason why my spirits are lifted.....
First, Megan… Beautiful Megan! 24 years old and about to deliver a baby boy. I photographed Megan's maternity portrait which was no ordinary session. Megan has Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheel chair. She has no use of most of her tiny body. She is one of the most joyful people I have ever met. She genuinely lights up a room…. and it's not just all those fancy lights on her wheel chair - it's her smile, her energy and spirit. She married an incredibly amazing man 2 years ago and was determined to have a full life despite her condition. She and Jake wanted a family together and this past Friday she delivered by C-section her son Bronxton.
Photographing Megan was a challenge since her body is like a rag doll -she has no muscle control and so posing her was difficult. She was an amazing model. She gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted photographically and her husband Jake is truly heaven sent. He cares for her in every single way imaginable. Witnessing their relationship was seeing what true love is all about in it's most raw form. He undressed and dressed her for the session. He moved her and helped me position her body. They laugh together and trust in a way I have never seen before. This session is a moment in time I will never forget or be the same after.
Then Dawnylle - another gift to those around her. She has battled anorexia for many years. This year she decided to enter and train for a figure competition. There was a lot of worry since the eating is so strict and body issues are common post competing. I know I have competed twice and always thought that if someone had any kind of eating disorder they should never compete. But Dawnylle beat the odds and came out the other side understanding how eating more calories actually builds a stronger body. She feared for so long eating would put weight on her body and she has finally figured out that eating is SO good for the body and is needed in order to build strong muscle. She came away from this experience stronger and healthier than she has been in years. I had the privilege of documenting the results of her journey.
To top off this week I photographed one of my favorite families in the rain. I gave Jackie the option of rescheduling and she said "no way - we already have hair appointments and I have no other time" We made it work. Plan B was the studio but I knew I wanted something outside. I ran about 5 miles today - I ran past a spot I have run past a million times but today I saw a new location. I texted Jackie we would be outside and to bring umbrellas. Jackie being who she is said "cool - let's do it" The results are some of my all time favorite images. I have been photographing this family for 6 years - through good times and not so good times. They are resilient, strong, funny, loving and adventurous! Jackie, Jeff, Lennon and Noel…. you are always a part of my heart. I know someday you will look back on years of family portraits and remember the great laughs we had each year.
All of these moments make me so happy that I am able to do what I love. I photograph people but somehow it's more than that…. It can be a celebration, or a healing process or even just a memory made…. It's always a blessing!
I finally get it. The whole idea of social media has plagued me since the beginning. Seriously?.... who cares about what is going on in my day to day life. I have engaged - of course- because everyone and their mother was engaged. But the truth is I didn’t really understand why.
I read “The Thank You Economy” by Guy Waynerchuk, but still it did not really sink in why social media is so powerful.
And then recently, it was brought to light that several very high profile photographers were actually plagiarizing and using material that was not theirs on blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts.
How many followers do you have? How many people do you follow? How many like my post, my tweet, my Instagram? Oh the pressure!!! The term “following” is completely incorrect... As kids we were taught to be leaders not followers so the idea of “following” was just plain weird to me. Why would anyone want to follow me? What makes me follow-able? I’m not that interesting. I’m like everyone else - living a busy life as a mother, wife, photographer, business person - I’m making sure the fridge is full and the stupid laundry is done and I occasionally make the bed. (I hate laundry and mail)
Finally, today it hit me.... It’s not following - it’s connecting on a different level. CONNECTION - that is what all humans crave and that’s why social media has become what it is today.
I like your image, I like your thought - I am connected to you. You like me I like you - we're one big happy family.... (I know you are singing the rest of the Barney song right now)
Why did the plagiarism bother me so much? Beyond being an issue of stealing from someone else - I now know that it wasn’t you who I was connecting with and reading about. It was bullshit and everyone who read it was betrayed. We were betrayed the same way we would be if a friend lied right in front us.
We believed your story - what you said - it moved us - but it wasn’t you. I had been advised that if I wanted to grow my social network I needed to blog everyday, to search the web for inspiration and ideas - but that bothered me. It meant that I would be fishing for something to say instead of just sharing my story with the world.
The basis of any relationship is trust and authenticity. Without those two bricks of a solid foundation even a virtual connectedness is compromised.
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night of day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Can any words be more true? We all have a story to share- to exchange- to connect to.
Your story is your own as mine is my own. I am enjoying meeting people that I connected with first on social media and then met in person. In most cases the first time we met I hugged that person because I felt like I knew them - not because I followed them.
I won’t search for material to talk about - I won’t betray the trust of those who have connected with me. I will share my stories and hope that you share yours too. I hope that we meet and can then talk instead of type. I will know your children from the pictures and stories you share and you will know mine. When we meet you will know that the words you read came from my heart and not the internet. When I put my head down on my pillow at the end of each day I know I have been true to myself and therefore true to those I have connected with.
So, I won’t have something to say every single day but when I do it will be my story- (I don’t blog everyday but when I do, I drink red wine) it will be - my words - my thoughts - my feelings and if you connect with me and if I in some small way make a positive difference in your life, I will know my purpose in life has been fulfilled.
Having an epiphany moment at 11:30pm is not ideal... but I had to write this or it would have been a sleepless night for me. Thanks for reading my ranting thoughts!
I sort of apologize for the swear words but not really because if you were standing in front of me that’s what I would have said.... so be it!
Virtual hugs will someday turn into live hugs....
Hug you soon-
It’s Sunday and I just finished making pancakes for 4 pre-teen girls after a sleepover. All of you who know anything about me know that my kitchen in a no-phone zone.
So, it was no surprise that those 4 girls sat around the table in silence until I prompted a conversation. “How many aunts and uncles do you have and where do they live?”
Sure enough within a couple of seconds everyone was telling me about their families. That’s cool! At about 7pm last night the winds kicked up in Anthem and the power at my house went out. Again, 4 girls lost in the idea that their phones might die... Who had 50% - 18% - 30% and so on. They were basing the fun of the rest of the night on how long their phones would last. We lit a bunch of candles and turned on a few flash lights and silence...
At this point I am thinking I have to get a conversation started and so “Would you rather?” was started. In just a few minutes girls were giggling and answering silly questions. It was a lot of fun getting to know my daughters friends and a reminder of the power of living without technology. Not only did we not have technology we didn’t have electricity. It brought back memories of my own childhood and blackouts during hurricanes. I remember it was always exciting and kind of spooky as a kid when the power went out. They were fun times!
I spoke about this to some degree at Skip Cohen University Summer Session last week.
I think it’s important to take a break from technology and reconnect with people face to face. It was actually one of the best parts of being at Summer Session. Meeting people, having lunch, exchanging ideas, laughing together, taking candid pictures together and just getting know new friends.
Let this be a reminded to make an effort to disconnect a little bit each day, to have a space in your home that is “tech free”. We all want balance in life but we fail to have balance with these handheld computers that connect us with the world in an instant.
For me being balanced means quiet time. I know what you are thinking.... “the woman who runs at 100 miles an hour needs quiet time?” After teaching for three days I generally get home and shut down a little bit. Like everyone else I need to recharge my batteries. Growing up an only child I actually crave and want alone time.
Balance is a decision - it just doesn’t happen. People who live balanced lives work at it. Balance is planned and scheduled. Make a certain amount of time for email, social media, internet browsing and then turn it off. Make time to have uninterrupted dinner with your family - even if it can only happen one of two nights a week. Schedule weekends off to do fun things. Set aside time for work, play, relaxation, friends and family. Have another hobby or interest besides photography. I am a personal trainer because I love the gym and working out. Training a few mornings a week helps to keep me balanced and connected with people. Like the rest of the world I get unbalanced but I have techniques in place to help re-balance myself.
I traveled a lot this summer and feel way out of balance now... Time with my husband and family was limited, gym time was cut, my normal clean healthy eating was out the window and so today I’m planing how I will spend the next couple of weeks getting back in balance. Back to my normal workout schedule, cooking whole foods, running, yoga reading books, spending time with my family and friends and getting back to work. Create your own balance plan - try it for a couple of weeks and see if you feel better. I willing to bet you will.
In closing I want to say what an incredible experience Summer Session in Chicago was.
If you were there you know that on the last morning no one wanted to leave. Everyone stayed in their seats and just wanted more. I saw tears in the eyes of the attendees as they hugged and said their goodbyes. That right there is balance and connection.
Here is a fun little collage of this past week in Chicago at Skip Cohen University.
Here we are... Just about 2 weeks out from SCU (Skip Cohen University) summer session. It’s truly a week I look forward to all year. You might be asking “Why do you look forward to this week so much?” And, I would say “ Are you nuts? It’s one of the greatest weeks of year.”
Most of my year is spent sitting in my office working on images, orders, invoicing, marketing and sales.... Spending a few days with a group of photographers who are dying to learn and share is a wonderful break from the rut we may all get stuck in sometimes.
Growing up our parents (most of them I hope) encouraged us to get an education... get an education.... and get an education! It was a running theme in my house. For some crazy reason photographers often fail to truly educate themselves in their craft.
Many people are under the assumption that better equipment makes you a better photographer so most newbies will spend money on “stuff” instead of getting educated.
That is really sad to me because without an education how in the heck are you supposed to use those expensive tools to the best of their ability?
Online education is a wonderful new resource for learning but it CAN NOT and never will replace the experience of a hands on workshop. Meeting other photographers with the same passion as you have and learning from instructors who love to teach and pay forward the gifts that were given to them by their mentors and instructors.
Nothing fires me up more than seeing the light bulb go on in the eye of a photographer who “got it”! After making mistakes with posing in the class they pose a group perfectly and they are so excited. That just can’t happen when you are sitting staring at a computer or TV screen watching someone else demonstrate things you should be learning hands on.
I can only imagine what it would have been like to learn black and white printing online and then going into the darkroom to try it myself without someone to help me..... or learning to drive online and then taking a road test without experience driving a car. You can learn all the rules of the road online but you can’t learn to drive online or in a book.
Take the time to invest in yourself, your craft and your business. It will be the best money you spend in this industry. Workshops are not just for the learning experience alone but also the socializing and networking that takes place.
If you are feeling frustrated and stuck and need a good kick in the photo”ass” - get yourself to SCU this summer. As Hanson Fong always say “just close your eyes and pay!”
I can not express enough how passionate I am about teaching and doing live workshops because without a shadow of a doubt the work I create today is a direct reflection of every workshop I have taken (and there were a lot).
So are you really excited to take your work to the next level, to have a learning experience like none other? Go.... right now and make the greatest impulse buy you will make all year.... sign up for SCU.
Dream- Learn- Expand- Create- Inspire- Live- Love and most of all Laugh....
See you in two weeks.