Thursday, December 30, 2010

Double Exposures

My 365 Project is really pushing me to learn my camera backwards and forwards.  Today I played with my camera's double exposure feature.  I could have done it for hours!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Festive Night Photography-Happy Holidays!

365 Days of Snow Globes

Yesterday, in anticipation of Noah Scalin's book signing of 365 A Daily Creativity Journal, I began shooting what I thought was going to be a year of self portraits, but that's been done. Inspired by the reflective quality of my children's snow globe, I fired off some shots.  Here it is.  I'm going with it.  I vow to photograph a snow globe every day for the next 365 days.  I hope to use interesting lighting, seasons, surroundings, people and different globes. Let's turn this creative trickle into a full-on flame, friends! 

 Day one, done. Only 364 to go.  Visit and feel free to follow Snow Globe 365. It's gonna be crazy.  I will try hard to hone my skills, push myself, and entertain, but I will need support.  As Noah says, a project like this is like a marathon.  I will need an audience for support encouragement, otherwise I could keep the project private, and can the whole thing without fear of failure. Let's do this! Start your own 365 project!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sally Mann in the Flesh

Seventeen years ago, my eleventh grade photography teacher took us out of the darkroom and into the light, introducing us to the works of Sally Mann.  It was 1993 and her work Immediate Family had just been released a year prior.  I was taken by the rawness of the images, and also admired her for continuing to create art, even though her subjects were limited in the midst of motherhood.

 I found her innovative, using her children as subjects, depicting scenes that many families would choose to leave out of their scrapbooks. Images of naked children with bloody noses, wet beds, busted ear drums, dog scratched legs, and swollen eyes were beautiful and disturbing.  Sweet and scary. Much like the ambiguity of motherhood.  Her unique perspective and use of natural lighting made you want to study every detail, but at the same time, you wanted to look away, knowing that what you were viewing was intimately personal. Being a fellow Virginian, photographer, appreciater of shock value, and now mother, I have wanted nothing more to be in the same room with the woman who has continued to inspire me over the last decade and a half.

I arrived at the Va Museum of Fine Arts at 9:08 am to get in line for the book signing of she and John Ravenal's exhibition book, Sally Mann: The Flesh and The Spirit.  I was about eighth in line. Though the signing was supposed to begin at 9:15am, the marathon slowed her arrival, building the suspense.  As I got closer to her, my knees began to buckle.  There she was.  I wanted to tell her what an inspiration she had been to me, but I froze, saying nothing as I moved submissively through the signing assembly line.  I couldn't even talk to John Ravenal, sitting beside her, whose child I once taught in preshcool.  Co-writing this book, being a Sally Mann historian, and curating this exhibit, just made him too cool.  Would he really remember me anyway after 12 years? Besides, the talk with the panel was going to begin shortly.

 I walked inside the cafe, grabbed a free coffee, and thought since I had blown my chances of talking to Sally, I should at least say hello to Pam Reynolds, Richmond art icon, museum supporter and donor, standing in line beside me.  We made small talk over the coffee shortage, and as we parted ways, I could hear her tell her friend, that she wanted a signed Sally Mann book.  He said he was pretty sure she could get one.

Sally Mann at her book signing. (got so excited, I forgot to change my ISO)

My friend, Tish was still in line.  It had really grown since I got there.  I called my mom (that's what all the cool people do when they meet one of their heros, right?) and told her how the place was buzzing.  People arriving around 9:45 had to decide if they wanted a signed book or a good seat in the Cheek Theater for the sold-out show.
Sally and John are right behind the sculpture, Splotch #22.
A little after 10am, the panel consisting of photography experts, Vince Aletti (The New Yorker), Brian Wallis (International Center of Photography) and curator, John Ravenal welcomed a full theater to discuss Mann's career.  Then, there was a brief intermission and then the panel was joined by Sally around 12pm.  Hearing her talk about her work, was fascinating.  Even after all of her accomplishments, she continues to doubt whether she can produce another successful exhibit.  She talked about her photography process, where she often uses an 8x10 bellows view finder camera and how hard it is to get a clear image.  She often manipulates the images by using a wet plate process, where glass plates coated in collodian are then dipped in silver nitrate.  The effect is a swirling quality that also exposes flaws in the medium, which becomes part of the art itself.  Sometimes, she admits, her results are purely accidental. 

 She does suggest that artists keep a few projects going at once.  That way if one gets old, you can revisit another on and not feel like a failure.  She is currently taking pictures of old African American churches. She said out of hundreds only one image has made the cut so far.  Instead of getting frustrated, she has another project in the works.  She didn't say what either project was, but I have surmised from online research that the church photographs are probably for her study on the legacy of slavery in Virginia.

During the discussion, a young man around the age of twelve, stood up and asked  if she preferred to depict life or death.  She explained that there was such a thin line between the two.  Exploring death whether on film, or in real life as she and those around her age, makes living that much sweeter.

Wallin, Aletti, Mann, and Ravenal

Though "Immediate Family," spiked her success and left her blindsided by all of the controversy, causing her to retreat back to her farm and family in Virginia, Mann says it prepared her for her future critics.   When she released the work of "What Remains," they hardly flinched.  She and Ravanel agreed to leave her best known work out of the exhibition book, to focus on the process of her other exhibits.  You can, however, see these amazing photographs in the exhibit.

One of the most touching collections in the VMFA exhibit are those taken of her husband of forty years, Larry Mann.  The collection is called, "Proud Flesh," and follows the effects of her husband's muscular dystrophy over the past six years.  She describes him as brave and willing to take part in this documented exploration of not only the effects of the disease, but the female perspective of male genitalia.

She is brave, creative, loving, temperamental, original and provocative.  I was reminded today why I first fell in love with her.  Her style and process is like no other.  When she does work with digital cameras, she reverts the image, using her tried, true and often accidental techniques.  For the past few months, I have been trying to up my digital photography skills, studying techniques that boast "tact sharpness." Yet part of the beauty of Mann's work is trying to determine what the object in the photograph is.  I'm not saying that always works, it doesn't and it's her style.  But, as I have aimed for perfection in my images,  I somehow have forgotten the most important part of the art form is making it your own. 

Though some would tell me to change my white balance and ISO, the blue has an interesting gradient and is more soothing to the eye.  I tried both versions, and thought in the spirit of Sally, appropriate to break some rules.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My First Wedding Shoot

In case the post below piqued your interest about just how lovely and unique the wedding was, here are some pictures.  My friend is a trusting soul.

Painting a Peacock: A Labor of Love

One of my dear friends just got married this past Halloween.  It was a refreshingly unconventional wedding.  Not only did it fall on what some call a holiday, everyone wore costumes (adults and kids), and she wore a black dress.  A corset to be exact. If that wasn't enough, she came up with a unique peacock theme that went nicely with the blue and green jeweled pumpkin table decorations.

Months ago when she showed me the guest book she had chosen, I was really inspired by it.  I don't know where it came from, but something inside me said, "I can recreate this on a larger scale as a wedding decoration." Later I asked myself, "what the hell was I thinking?"  Initially, I thought I could use some of the assemblage skills picked up from my collage class, but then I wondered things like:

  • how would the cottony clouds, sticks and berries I glue on stay?
  • how would I afford all of those peacock feathers?  I could collage them, but I couldn't find any peacock paper in craft stores.  I found a stamper and some ink, but that wouldn't represent scale.
  • how was I going to pull this off?  I don't draw or paint, in fact both of those things make me uncomfortable.

I got out the 16x24 canvas and a pencil, staring at the photo above.  I gave myself permission to mess up.  I had not only an eraser, but another canvas, so if I blew this, I had a back-up.  I started with the tree branches, just guiding my pencil as my eyes followed the lines.  Time for the berries.  Circles.  I could do that.  Clouds, I drew those as a kid. It was looking pretty good. But the branch where the damn peacock was supposed to go was daunting, and empty.  It glared at me.

I got out the acrylic paints.  You know, the starter kit you buy in Michael's when you are feeling crafty, then you take them home, paint a little, decide you suck and you put them up in your closet? I got some of my kids' paintbrushes and began to paint the yellow background, then the white clouds, the brown twigs, and the red berries.  It looked good, but yet there remained a gaping hole.

Peacock, why do you have so many effing feathers? Like painting one isn't going to be hard enough. Yet determination and my word persevered.  I just kept giving myself permission to accidently ruin it.  I even told the upcoming bride, that I may not be able to pull it off.  She gave me permission to give it up, too.  So, there it was.  I could quit, or keep at it.  My pencil began sketching that skinny ass bird, leaving lots of room for his boastful feathers. He actually started looking like a bird.  I'll be damned.

I knew painting each individual feather wasn't possible, so I covered the feather area in a coat of green paint.  I then dug up so old gold calligraphy ink (another creative trip to Michael's in hopes of a hobby) and painted the outlines of oval feathers.  I went in and dotted the feathers with blue paint, and then went back to add whispery feather details.

I wanted it to be a keepsake, so I put their names and wedding date on it.  But, I wasn't going to push my luck.  I dug up some old scrapbooking letters (another abandoned hobby) and applied their names in the top left corner and the awesome date at the bottom right. I think it's a decent representation of the original, I gave it all I had, and it wasn't so bad.  Proof that abandoned hobbies can be a blessing if you stop fearing failure.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

InLight Richmond 10/22/10 7pm-12am

Spinner, Nadia, poses for a picture.

Melody Gulick and Andrew Prousalis, "V." Six projectors cast upon dancing curtains with beautiful continuous movement while a sombre soundtrack played in the background.
Not only were the exhibits fun for adults, they were fun for kids, too!

Medeology Collective projected onto a parking garage door of the Martin Agency, creating constantly changing images that create "moments of brief consciouness from a trance of consensual hyper-reality."

Sean Kenny's "Sound of Trumpets."
To view the complete album with information on the artists and their exhibits, you can go to my public album link here.

In Action on Monument Avenue by Ivon Samuel

by Ivon Samuel

Since I'm usually behind the lens, I don't have many pictures of myself (second from the right).  This photo was taken by fellow Richmond Photography Meetup member, Ivon Samuel as we did our night shoot on Monument Avenue. He took some great shots that night. It's neat to not only see us all in action from his perspective, but seeing the collective online albums we create from all the different shots we get being in the same place at the same time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Walk Down Monument Avenue

Here are some photos taken from my shoot last night on Monument Avenue. Night photography is fun! Richmond Photography Meetup, is great for creative camaraderie, and learning new skills.  It was good exercise, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

VMFA class...Collage & the Altered Photograph.....

Two weeks ago I took a class from the VMFA called, "Collage and the Altered Photograph," by Susan Svendsen.  It was a nice opportunity to pack my bag full of art supplies (old photos, magazine clippings, bleach pens, oil pastels, ink pads, sandpaper, brushes, glues, scissors, and various types of paints) and do nothing but "get in the zone" from 10am until 4pm.  BLISS!

The kids have been taking art classes there on Wednesdays and I thought it was my turn.  I'm glad I did.  I have so many old photographs that I don't really think are frame worthy, but maybe patched together, they are?  The jury is still out, but at least I got to dig them out of my closet and go to town.  The hardest part for me is knowing when to stop.  Does it need something else? More paint, more interesting bits?  Who knows, I may continue to work on them, or not.  The important thing is I had fun and made an attempt to make use of my abandoned art.  I apologize in advance for the crappy images of my collages.  I was tired, it was late, and I didn't feel like getting the lighting right.

"Losing Track"
Since knowing where our food comes from is one of the themes of this blog, I'll start with my most passionate piece.  I used an old train photo taken at Hollywood Cemetery and collaged it with a Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden spring tree photo scene as the background, and the road from Skyline Drive.  This piece looks nothing like it did when I left class. It felt disjointed and you could see the seams of where I had pieced things together.  NO!  Not cool.  I pieced together some magazine clippings that seemed to compliment the photos and ease the seams creating one large image, hopefully creating a statement about the food industry. Will anyone get it? I have no effing idea.  All I know is it's my favorite, but next time I will work harder on insuring that the glue is smoothed since lumps are visible.  Perfection, people.  It's hard to come by.
After cutting out the train tracks in the above photo, I accidently created the shape of this bird.  I  glued him onto a sunset printed on watercolor paper, cut some bird lashes from some shadows taken from the treehouse at LGBG and whomp, there it is. What will I do with it? Your guess is as good as mine.

As you can see, I used the train again.  I also pieced together some photos I have taken of water, but most of them got covered up by acrylic paint.  I like the coverage of the paint, but up close it looks too lumpy, I need to sand over it, or cover with something else.  Anyway, I was inspired by these bad-ass ladies with their shields.  This one is definitely the most wacky, if I could only improve the texture.  It's also one that doesn't feel completely done, however, it has had many different looks, that I keep changing.  I worked on this for days after class. Inspired, tired and somewhat frustrated at the results. Cool, but Dali would you be proud? Doubtful, but he may cheer me on.

This piece is the most altered as far as keeping my materials to only photographs, sandpaper, ink and a few dots of a bleach pen.  This photo was taken at "The World Famous Old Pressley Sapphire Mine," in North Carolina around 2001 with an old point and shoot.  The gem mining itself was an experience, and I am drawn to the colors of the photo (green and blue are my favorite) but it was never enough.  After wetting and sanding, I cut the LGBG shadow photos and dyed them with a green, aging ink.  I used them as borders for the three horse images (all the same horse image, just different sizes).  I used a stronger glue since the photo paper is not conducive, nor as receptive to a mere glue stick.  I got tired towards the end since I added the other two photos late at night, days after my class, and got a little sloppy with the glue.  The texture is visible on some parts, but what are you going to do?  I will work on craftmanship my next go round.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Carrot Apple Muffins

Here is a recipe from Mother Earth News to use in season apples and carrots for muffins.  I left out the walnuts so the kids would eat them and for a few more batches of pesto.  The kids LOVED the end product.

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (I omitted, but I bet that makes them even better.)
2 cups raw carrots (about 2 or 3 carrots)
1 large apple
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (brown, white or a combination)
3/4 tsp baking soda
11⁄2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs (yay for farm fresh eggs)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (I used 1/4 of ground ginger)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin cups or insert liners, if using. Peel and finely grate the carrots and apple, setting aside for later.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Stir in the nuts. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, ginger and vanilla extract. Fold the wet ingredients and the grated carrot and apple into the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Makes 9 standard-size muffins or 12 small ones. 

Green Bean and Pasta Salad

Here is a great recipe to use your local, in season, green beans from your local farmer's market.  I altered Real Simple Magazine's Green Bean and Pasta Salad Recipe a bit and it turned out great.  It makes a great, filling lunch or dinner and is approximately $2.60 a serving.  Use the entire can of beans and cook a little more pasta to stretch the meal even further.



  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
  2. Toss the cooled pasta and green beans with the red beans, parsley, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Divide the salad between 2 containers and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Maternity Shoot

This past weekend I got to take my first belly photos.  I had a lovely subject and got to document the henna art of Colleen Heller.  I also started a photography class last night at the Cultural Arts Center to get a refresher on aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc since I apparently haven't retained the technical info I learned almost 17 years ago in my very first high school class.  I think my shots are missing some depth of field and I would like more bokeh in the background of my portraits. My teacher helped me realize that I had accidently set my camera to overexpose my shots.  Whoops.  I still am pleased with the results, and am grateful to further my photography experience with patient, beautiful souls.

My next portraits will hopefully be accompanied by an external flash (with a white piece of cardstock taped to the top of it, to extend the light even further) to really make eyes POP!  I may also get a reflector, not to mention the lens I'm lusting for, but maybe for Christmas.  Did I mention photography is an expensive hobby? But, I guess really any hobby is and it's worth it to feel fulfilled.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My first Senior Portraits

I had the privilege of taking my niece's senior portraits this past Labor Day weekend.  I've known her since she was six, so to have the opportunity to watch her grow, mature and blossom into this lovely, kind, and funny young woman over the past twelve years has been an absolute joy.

She wanted the pictures taken at Fishing Bay, which is a place that is very special to all of our family and where we all spend most of our summers. The home on the Piankatank River was her great-grandfather's and has watched many a child grow and explore the natural surroundings, while becoming enchanted by the calming waters.

Her friend, Christie, who has been coming every summer since 4th grade, also asked me to do her portraits.  I had fun watching them get dressed up, pose, laugh, and remember the excitement and fear I felt seventeen years ago, when I was about to embark upon my final year of high school.