On Levitation

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Surreal art, and specifically surreal photography, is something I’ve always wanted to get into. I love the idea of transforming my fantasy land into a format that other people can see, and hopefully get sucked into the way one would with a really good book. As far as actually being able to produce such surreal pieces, it requires A LOT of practice and experimentation, which I, unfortunately, don’t always have time for with a full-time job.

Levitation photography is a form of surreal art that’s actually really popular right now, which is great, except I feel like there is a lot of it out there, so it doesn’t necessarily make my work stand out as much. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and I love having a lot of inspiration to look at, but it does make getting noticed a little more difficult.

That being said, it’s a perfect way to practice some of the more complex Photoshop skills that I would need to move forward with other surrealistic work. So naturally, I went for it.

My first few attempts weren’t bad, (if I do say so myself), though they were a bit complicated to put together as I was unaccustomed to shooting the base images the way I should have. Some were more simple than others, where I could just shoot the background and then shoot the model, but others required a little finesse, if you will.

My first mistakes forced me to adjust the way I shoot the images to give me more options and range of motion. I now shoot separate images for different sections of the body, hair, fabric, etc. And when the final images are taken into Photoshop, I glue my model back together in the position I want her to be in.

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Learning to cut bits and pieces off of each image so you can put them together into one final image forces you to see the work differently. The part of the dress that’s on her chest can also substitute for a piece that’s floating in the air. Or sometimes you need to paint in a section for it to look like it’s naturally floating. As time went on, I learned to see what needed to be added or removed to give the image the illusion I was looking for.

I generally felt that levitation was my stepping stone to more complex art, and in a way, it is. But I’ve also started appreciating it for what it is, even if everyone else is doing it too. Not only that, but I was recently lucky enough to be hired for a specific job solely based on my levitation work! (Yay me!) And with the right connections from an amazing model, Janelle Allisa, I was able to shoot the album cover for Electric Century, (by Mikey Way), for their debut album “For the Night to Control.”

With some graphic help from my boyfriend, Amir, we made a successful album cover that was exclusively released via Kerrang Magazine all over the world.

Hopefully soon I will be able to put together some more surreal work and post it for you all to see, but for now, practice makes perfect!

{For more from this series and others, visit my Instagram}

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Creative People in Public Schools: An Essay

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Ok, so it’s not really an essay.

Look, here’s the deal…

I don’t really like venting to the general public, but there are some things that really just need to be said. Today’s topic: creative people in public schools.

Now, I’m sure many of my fellow creatives have been told the same thing as I have: ‘art doesn’t pay the bills.’  As a young student, generally grades K-12, kids are encouraged to take “elective” classes: art, photography, ceramics, etc. And that’s all those classes are. Electives.  But to some of us, they’re not just electives. That’s what we want to do with our lives. Only problem is, nobody tells you about art schools in high school,* it’s like it was forbidden or something.

*Yes, the is a generalized statement, there are some schools that do mention art colleges, but the majority of public schools in this country like to push people more towards academic schools. (Especially after they cut major funding to the arts and physical education departments nation wide.)

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For the longest time, I never wanted to go to college. There was nothing there for me. I’m not good at math, I’m ok at english but I don’t want to be a teacher or journalist, science is cool and all, but it generally involves, you know, math, and electives are just for funsies, right? No. Stop telling people this.

There was a teacher I had in high school, Brett Tujague. who always supported my love for photography and was the one that convinced me, in the end to go to college. Not necessarily for photography, mind you, as he was in the same boat the rest of them were with the whole art thing. But never the less, he encouraged me to go to a 4 year college to ‘see what I liked.’ And I will admit, the two years I spent at CSU Monterey Bay weren’t completely wasted. I took some amazing classes that I feel made my education a little more rounded. Feminist theories, beginning business, communications, science, and of course, photography. I definitely enjoyed my time there, and had a really fun job as a CSO Officer at our campus police station, which also broadened my horizons as a person.

At some point during my time, I was doing some photography research online and found this school, Brooks Institute, that specialized specifically in commercial photography. I sent out for a course packet to see what they were all about, and that was that. I was a Brookie from then on.

The point is, you can be a professional photographer or artist. Instead of telling people it can’t be done, you really need to get into the reality of the situation here. You just have to be smart about it. Don’t get in the mind-set that art can’t be taught, because believe me, it can. Especially with a technical medium like photography, it’s really important to go to school and learn all you can about your art form. Brooks Institute and the amazing teachers there* taught me more about photography than I had ever hoped to learn. It’s a difficult, (and expensive) road, and you’ll get a lot of rejection and struggle along the way, but you can, in fact, be an artist for a living. You’ve just got to look at it a little differently. 

*Shout out to Ralph Clevenger, Paul Meyer, Eliot Crowley and Bill Robbins!

There are a lot of artists who won’t sacrifice their vision for money, and I get it, we’re usually a pretty stubborn bunch. But for the rest of us who don’t want to be stuck at a desk job, or customer service knowing we will never be passionate about it, we’ve got to find a way to do what we were meant to do. It’s ok to gear yourself towards a commercial form of art. The way I see it, commercial art is still creative, and it pays the bills. You can always do your own art along the way, but at least your day job isn’t slowly killing you inside.

“Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Build your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career.” – Kevin Claiborne

{To see more of my work, visit my Instagram}

**On a more sad (and horribly ironic) note: About 2 minutes after posting this blog and tagging my totally awesome teachers in it, Paul Meyer replied back saying they just announced TODAY that Brooks Institute is closing for good on October 31st, 2016. After being open for 70 years of higher education, I am proud to say that I am one of the ones who graduated before it all ended. I would not be the same person I am today without the inspiration and knowledge given to me by the wonderful faculty of Brooks Institute. It saddens me to know that future generations will not be able to experience Blue Spheres, 6 Pack, Grey Box, Black Glass, (whispy-dos and whispy-dont’s included), and many other tedious assignments that turned people who like to take pictures into professional photographers. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

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Sisters

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As a photographer, I’m constantly bombarded with my own ideas. Ideas that I may or may not be able to execute due to budget, lack of location, models, etc.

There are times though when the mood strikes that I really just need to get an idea out. It’s not always a large production with professional models, makeup, hair, wardrobe. And to me, I feel like that’s what gives it character. I don’t want to always see models. I want to see people. Real people.

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Meet Siobahn and Anstiss. Two close friends of mine that are always down for a spontaneous photoshoot, even if it requires standing in the southern California sun in a blazer. I love the idea of shooting siblings with a little bit of a twist, and their unique looks both bring something extra to the images.

This particular shoot was a bit of a struggle for me. I will admit, shooting in natural sunlight has never really been my strong suit, (as odd as that seems), and I’ve been making an effort to practice more. It’s difficult for me to even out the contrast of dappled lighting and capture lens flare in a way that doesn’t wash out the image. It’s something I’ll need to work on I think, so I’m sure there will be more of these spur-of-the-moment shoots to post about in the future. As they say, practice makes perfect.

Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. -Kim Collins

{For more photos from this series and others, visit my Instagram}

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The Photographer’s Dilemma

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The Idea: The Main Vision

Any creative person would agree that sometimes ideas just kind of pop in your head.  It can be triggered by pretty much anything; a thought you had, something you saw, read, felt, etc. Half the time, the idea is unexplainable to the general public and then you have to try to come up with something that they’ll understand, but really, you saw the image in your head and thought it would look cool. I feel like a lot of people want to know exactly what the artist was thinking when they created their masterpiece, or the reasoning behind it, what they were feeling. Personally, I lean more towards art that I can interpret my own meaning from, and hope that the people who view my work do the same. Yes, there are times when I do have a specific meaning or mood behind my work, but ultimately, I don’t want to have to explain myself, because not everybody is going to understand. Why do I put facial hair on my models? I dunno, I just like to.

The Inspiration: The Problem With Pinterest

Once the idea hits, now you want visual stimulation to keep you on the right track. This is where Pinterest usually comes in. Problem no. 1 with Pinterest: what the hell do you type into the search bar? ‘Edgy models with moustaches,’ ‘fashion editorials with shoulder epaulettes,’ ‘naked women touching themselves, but not in a pornographic way?’ Not everything comes up the way you want it to, and there’s no real saying you’re going to find what you’re looking for to keep your inspiration going. And you HAVE to keep the inspiration going.

Problem no. 2 with Pinterest: the inspiration you need pops up, but so does a lot of other cool stuff. This is where the inspiration overload comes in. This is where your ideas change, and evolve into what you will eventually attempt to create.

The Idea: Again

After way to much inspiration, you kind of have to start at the beginning. The idea has become something different, but relatively along the same track as where you started.

The shoot: Technical Difficulties

As with everything else in life, things don’t always go as planned. Don’t worry, you’re still going to get your vision out there, it just may not be as easy as you planned. Or maybe it will, who knows. I find that about half of the shoots I plan out, I have one idea in my head, but when I get there and I’m shooting, it doesn’t quite look the way I imagined. This is where you kind of have to just roll with it.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of an unusual artist. Most artists go with the flow of life. Their creativity comes easily and they can just create, create, create. My process is actually quite structured. I have to really think about what I’m doing and plan accordingly. That being said, this step in the process is where I’ve had to really learn to let go. Instead of getting discouraged when something doesn’t quite look the way I plan, I have learned to alter my process as things come up. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments of frustration, but in the end, I know I’ll still have workable images, even if it’s not what I originally pictured in my head.

The Post Production: The Part the General Public Pretends Doesn’t Exist

This is the most painstakingly slow part of the process that a lot of photographers hate. This is also the part of the process that the general public likes to ignore. “You can shoot this event for me for $50 right? I need 150-200 images.” Do you know how long it takes to do the post production for that many images? No. Absolutely not worth it for that price. But at the same time, fashion magazines and celebrity photographers get so much crap for the amount of retouching they do. Let me tell you, EVERYTHING is retouched. If you’ve had your portrait taken, and it looks like an unretouched version, it’s not. You just went to a really professional photographer. You have wrinkles, but they are lessened. Your skin looks clean and not to shiny, that would be the patch tool. The idea is to give you the best version of yourself. It looks untouched, but it’s not. That beautiful photo of the Scottish countryside that must have been just that gorgeous? The saturation has been brought up, maybe a different sky put in, the random person in the background with their hand in a cows backside has been removed completely.

It’s tedious and time-consuming, but for me personally, the retouching is the therapeutic part. The part I’m most proud of. Look how good I made this photo look! Please don’t ignore the fact that I spent six hours making it look perfect so you can criticize how much I pushed someone’s arm in so the proportions look the way they would in person.

The Final Product: Completely Different From the Original Vision

No, it’s not ALWAYS different, but sometimes it is. And that’s ok. The point is to get your creative idea out there. You still have a beautiful piece that showcases your talents and gives you an outlet to express yourself.

The Submission: Picking the Magazine

In the end, we all want to get our work out there. Most of the personal work I do, I try to get published. It’s hit or miss, and more often than not, ends in disappointment. But I keep doing it, because there’s no point in not trying.

A big part of submissions is picking the right outlet for your work. If you shoot landscapes, don’t submit your photos to a fashion magazine and vice versa. Common sense really. That being said, I shoot fashion, and there are a TON of different styles and magazines that showcase different types of fashion. Picking the right magazine is very important, so study them all, and pick carefully.

The Waiting Game

The last part of the process, waiting  to see if your work gets picked. The tricky part is how long do you have to wait before trying a different source? Most magazines want exclusive editorials, and if they don’t decide to go with your work, they’re not going to take the time to tell you, “sorry, we’ve gone with another candidate at this time.” Some websites will have a submissions section that will say that if you don’t hear from them in about a month, then they probably haven’t picked your work and you can submit to somewhere else. Others don’t, so you just have to use your best judgement and hope that you’ve waited the proper amount of time.

The hardest part, is that during the time you’re waiting, you can’t post the images on any social media outlet or even your own website/portfolio. As I said, magazines want exclusivity, so if people have already seen the work, it’s a no go.

All in all, the process is long and tedious and sometimes frustrating, but every part of it is another push forward. Take your time, don’t get too attached to the work and just let your creative process flow naturally.

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Hydromania

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I will admit, as a photographer trying to get work, I have way to many “water” photographs in my portfolio.  But, no matter how many I have, I always seem to want to do more.  I even used it for my own self portraits, as shown on my previous, (and first), blog post. I know throughout my career I will probably continue to use it in different ways to express my work.

There’s something that fascinates me about water. Water can be reflective, still, active, soft, foggy, moody, light… the possibilities are endless. I love the way it makes hair swim, and move, and float. The way fabric clings, flows, becomes opaque. It’s beautiful.  Not beautiful in the “plastic bag from American Beauty” kind of way, but in a way people all over the world can understand.

Water has the power to not only be impactful and expressive, but to warp and distort as well, which fascinates me even more.  I almost feel like my creative mind is attracted to it because it can change a beautiful image or model and add new meaning to it. What was beautiful and light, can become dark and somber, in the best way possible. And I think that darkness is very much a part of life, though I know many people actively try to ignore it.

I, on the other hand, choose to embrace it.  I’ve found that some of my darkest moments have given me more creative inspiration than the lighter ones, and the resulting image is so much more interesting if water is involved. Water is the essence of life and beauty and art. And art is only art if it makes you feel something.

“She is water. Powerful enough to drown you, soft enough to cleanse you, deep enough to save you.” -Adrian Michael

{For more photos from this series and others, visit my Instagram}

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This Needs Some Explanation

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I’m not really self-conscious about my body. I don’t have a problem with my shape, size, skin, etc.

No, that’s not really true. Don’t get me wrong, I have insecurities just like the rest of the world. I guess what I should say is that I’m content with what I have enough to not let it hinder my daily life. I do love that my skin and hair make me unique and separate me from a vast majority of the world’s population. I know that being ginger, I’ve been given something rare and beautiful. That being said, I’ve never really been satisfied with other self portraits I’ve taken.

I find myself always wanting to take self portraits the way that I would with my models, focusing on the clothing and positioning my body in what should be the most flattering. I am, by no means, a model. And I’m ok with that. I think the struggle that I constantly face is that as a photographer, surrounded by beautiful models on a regular basis, I get caught up in the work, wanting to make it aesthetically pleasing to the general public as much as possible. This is never usually my original goal when I do self portraits. I mean to express myself the way that I am.

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I made a conscious effort with this series to take self portraits that represent who I am as a person. I’m not quite sure why I had to concentrate on this so much, as my personality should be easy enough for me to photograph. I think sometimes as a photographer I get in this mind-set that everything in the frame needs to be perfect, including the subject. Problem is, perfection is not necessarily what I am trying to capture. It’s a fight between doing what I would for fashion editorials and what I’m actually looking for in myself.

As I thought about it more, I realized that in order to capture who I am, I also need to capture part of what made me who I am. Hence the ‘couple’ photos. Throughout my relationship with my loving boyfriend, Amir, I have evolved into a completely different person than I was 5 years ago. I’ve noticed many changes in myself, all positive, that I know I can link directly to his presence in my life. And the best part about it all, is that he is a photographer and artist too, and understood my need to express myself. He even went so far as to join me.

I am a firm believer that all photographers should do at least one self-portrait series in their lifetime. I think that being on the other side of the camera can give you a different perspective on not only your work but on what your models are doing. Try to remove yourself from what other people think and show what you want to show.

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This is how I chose to introduce myself to the world. I know art is subjective, and not everyone is going to see it the same way. So here’s the deal, I’m gonna be me, you’re gonna be you and we’ll all live happily together inside of a shoe… or whatever.

{For more photos from this series and others, visit my Instagram}

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