Monday, September 30, 2013

Feeling Beautiful with Short Hair & Boosting Your Self-Esteem with Photography

A couple months ago, I stayed up 'till 3am with my friend Sophie, talking about why I photograph women and how being photographed affects the way women feel about themselves. Sophie had recently shaved her head and I was so fascinated by the emotional roller coaster she was riding all because of a hair style. I totally get it though - girls and their hair. It's a big thing. A couple days after this late-night conversation I photographed Sophie and asked her to share her hair story here on my blog. Take it away, Soph... 

"About a month ago I shaved my head. I wasn’t trying to conduct a social experiment, 
challenge the media’s portrayal of female beauty, or send any new signals about my 
sexual orientation. I was just bored of dealing with long hair and thought it would be 
fun to chop it all off. 

It turns out I was about the only person who didn’t think my new ‘do was a big deal. 
Strangers crossed the street to tell me their opinion of my shaved head. Several 
women I encountered seemed to think I must be a fearless badass, and confided 
that they wished they had my courage (as if I had done something much more 
heroic than getting a haircut). Men wanted to know WHY (Did I have cancer? Was I 
demonstrating solidarity with someone ELSE who had cancer? 
Was I gay? No? Then WHY?) 
Apparently a shaved head has to MEAN something. 

When my little girl cousins saw me for the first time they didn’t run and jump on me 
in excitement as usual, but approached with caution and asked what happened to 
my hair. Out of everyone, they were the most adamant that I needed to grow my hair 
back immediately. “You’re a girl. Girls have long hair. You look like a boy.”

"As usual, the kids got to the truth of the matter. I realized that people’s discomfort 
arose from the fact that I no longer fit into the heteronormative standard of female 
beauty. Long hair is feminine, short hair is masculine. By that logic, a woman with a 
shaved head represents something gone “wrong” (sickness, non-standard sexuality/
gender, etc).

Part of me celebrated- I’m all for challenging gender and racial stereotypes! And 
I would love to say that I continued to rock the look with pride. But another part 
of me became increasingly self-conscious. Before shaving my head I was never 
asked personal questions about my health or sexuality. My behavior was accepted 
without hesitation and people in general treated me with respect and kindness. I 
had never realized it, but just by looking the way society expects a woman to look 
(long hair, makeup, shaved legs and underarms, feminine clothing…) I enjoyed a 
lot of privileges that I was completely oblivious to. Shaving my head was like being 
kicked out of a club that I didn’t even know I belonged to. 

When I confided in Chamonix that I didn’t feel feminine with my short hair (and 
that, in turn, I felt less accepted, approved of, attractive and confident) she offered to 
photograph me. I don’t know if it was the photographing process itself, the gorgeous 
images that resulted, or the fascinating discussion we had about self-esteem,
femininity, and the unattainable standard of beauty portrayed by the media, but 
somewhere along the way, I regained my confidence. And instead of willing my hair 
to grow faster, I think I might just keep it short for a while. 

Footnote: I know I’m not breaking any new ground by observing that it is 
unpleasant to have assumptions made about you based on a superficial physical 
characteristic (I’m also aware that as a heterosexual, white, able-bodied woman, 
lamenting society’s prejudice against short hair is not particularly compelling.) But 
hey, in the words of Mr. Hall from Clueless, “Tolerance is always a good lesson”."

And of course, I can't resist creating a Before & After! It was a hard to decide which photos to use as the 'afters'. I love this woman so much (we've known each other since high school Spanish class) and just looking at her radiant and genuine smile makes me feel happy. Although the smiley photos really capture her joyful spirit, I chose to use these two final images in the Before & After because she's staring straight at me with a simple expression that really gives you the chance to see the softness and strength in her beauty. Sophie my love, you are an inspiration, my space space where I can share anything and everything, I love your honesty and how you always support me with so much enthusiasm. Thank you for letting me photograph you again and being vulnerable in front of me. These images are my gift to you and I hope they remind you to focus on what makes you feel beautiful and confident. I hope they remind you that you do have that "supermodel beauty" inside you, like all women do. So much love to you from Hawaii to Portland.

Have you ever drastically changed your hair style?
Did people treat you differently?
Did you feel differently about yourself?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

{Grateful on Sunday} Coping with New-ness

Aloha my friends!

Happy Sunday :) This past week, our second week in Hawaii, was full of new experiences, some of which were uncomfortable and some which just require a little getting used to — but hey, they say you're only growing if you're feeling uncomfortable and confused, right? I hope they say that. It was my first week at my new job as a staff photographer for Karma Hill Photography — it isn't easy transitioning from self-employment back to full-time work for someone else. It isn't easy taking pictures in the bright tropical sunshine (when you're used to shooting in Arctic darkness) and it isn't easy spending the days away from Miggy - my best friend, companion and human comfort blanket. Miggy and I have also been busy hunting for cars, houses and jobs (for him). Hawaii itself is still completely new to us and settling into a new home is always going to be uncomfortable at first, especially for someone who loves to feel comfy and cozy in familiar surroundings. So, to survive through all of this new-ness, I've kept my eyes peeled for things I was feeling grateful for — things that helped me live in the present moment and be thankful for where I am. I think I'm starting to realize that the more one practices gratitude, the more things one finds to be grateful for. So this week I have a long list of Sunday Gratitude......

Today, I am grateful for my first rain storm in Maui

beautiful tropical bouquets (especially the ones that have English roses), 

the funky record store on the corner near my office that sells GIANT Papayas for $1,

arriving home to a handsome husband earning money (a.k.a. reducing our rent) by planting grass,

our first Hawaiian fish tacos - a local staple, 

waking up early every morning to a sunrise over Haleakala Volanco, 

encountering my first wild peacock,  

receiving a box of chocolates from my mom as a gift to help me celebrate Hump Day (yum - I shared a little bit but mostly just ate them all by myself.... in 2 days — they were melting, I had to do something about it lol)

spending an evening with my dearest friend Cheryl (+ Miggy + her husband Sean) in Lahaina and blowing dreams into beautiful little umbrellas,

awesome cloud formations caused by Maui trade winds, 

the trees that I drive underneath on my way to work every morning, 

having a job that requires me to be on the beach at sunset (almost) every night, 

driving home with my hand dancing out the window in the warm wind, 

feeling excited to start shooting/editing again so I can build a Hawaiian portfolio, 

cinnamon scented pinecones,  

living in a place where Safeway sells exotic flowers I've never seen before, 

making it to Costco, just in time (we were THE LAST costumers allowed in the store last night), 

how happy Miggy is when he's playing in the waves,  

looking up at green leaves, 

our brand new car!!!!!!!!!!!! It's a manual and neither Miggy nor I have much experience driving a stick, so we spent all of yesterday cruising around Maui shifting gears. (I only stalled like 50 times - woohoo! I stalled 3 times at one light. Embarrassing.) We zoomed down the road to Hana — the most beautiful part of the island (in my opinion) and I saw my first bamboo forest! AAAAHHHH.....MAZING. I was so afraid of getting into an accident on this windy road or having a driving emergency and not knowing how to handle it in the new car — my adrenaline must have been in hyper-speed because my hands were all shaky and at one point when Miggy was driving I just sat there with my head hanging and cried — I was so scared. Nervous-wreck much? haha I got over that melt down pretty fast though when the radio started playing and I just pretended I was on a jungle themed roller coaster ride at Disneyland. So I guess that means I'm also grateful for my imagination. ;) 

I hope you have a wonderful week finding things that make you smile :D

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

thePhotoChicks [podcast] :: 10 Quick Tips for Maximizing Your Productivity Every Day

It's another beautiful Saturday, ready for a new podcast episode from thePhotoChicks!! In this episode, 10 Quick Tips for Maximizing Your Productivity Every DayCheryl Ford and I get down and dirty with how much time most of us waste and widdle way without even realizing it. In March 2013, Cheryl wrote a couple blog posts that listed the top ten ways you can take control of your time so you can WORK TO LIVE and free yourself from that pesky LIVE TO WORK cyclone that we're all getting sucked into. 

You can listen to this podcast episode on thePhotoChicks website, iTunes, or right here:

If you'd like to have the tips written down in front of you while listening to the podcast, check out Cheryl's blog posts here:

Items Mentioned in this Episode:
Things You’ll Learn in this Episode:
  • How Cheryl Changed Chamonix’s Life!
  • How to prioritize yourself.
  • How your emotions get in your way of being productive.
  • Why social media is your ice cream dessert?
  • What your brain takes 8 minutes to do when you go one Facebook every hour!
Enjoy my friends!

What are your best strategies for maximizing the use of your time?
Which of these 10 tips is your favorite, and why?
Leave your answer in the comments below!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Why Artistic Nude Portraits Are So Special

Nudes nude nudes. I'm all about nudity at the moment. haha I did my first nude shoot just over a year ago (click here to see that shoot) and I was so worried about where the line between fine art nude & pornography would be drawn. I had little to no experience and no one to discuss it with. I was paranoid I'd ruin my reputation (that didn't even exist yet). I decided to go for it. I felt awkward but did my best to hide it, act casual, focus on her eyes not her boobs, and keep talking. I figured if it all went terribly wrong I could simply hide the photos away in the depths of my laptop for the remainder of eternity. One year later, I've found my comfy spot in the world of photography and I now know exactly how I feel about artistic nudes – I LOVE THEM. I've practiced shooting silhouettes, nearly naked, boudoir, suggested nudity, and full on "hello, this is me in my birthday suit" portraits. Shooting nudes has made me realize how distracting clothes can be when you're really trying to create a photograph that draws attention to a woman's beautiful facial features. My favourite thing about nude portraits is how without the clothing, all of my attention zooms straight to a woman's eyes and somehow, in this vulnerable state, her eyes radiate so much more strength.

Have you ever taken nude portraits?
Have you ever posed for nude portraits?
What was your experience like?
If not, would you ever consider it? Why / why not?
Thank you to my gorgeous model Miss. Rachel Tuttle — you're beautiful as usual! I miss you! :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My 'DO IT NOW' Workflow + Goofy Gorgeous Lorenna

So... I was browsing through my blog and I was surprised to realize that I haven't been publishing as much of my artwork as I thought. Apparently, I've gone for weeks at a time without sharing any new images! Shocker, and totally not acceptable for someone who calls themselves an artist, wouldn't you agree? This lack of photo sharing is especially problematic now that this BLOG is my online headquarters.

I cast all the stones of blame for this shameful lack of photos onto my unexplainable fear of clicking 'publish.' For some unknown reason, I create a whole bunch of work and then I keep it in the archives, tucked away, never to be shared. I tell myself I should publish it but I never feel like the time is right. I'm always waiting for a big moment, the perfect day, the optimum timing but it either never comes or I realized it's already passed. 

But (good news!!) I have a new system! What I've noticed is that everything works out much better when I keep the ball rolling. Things work super smoothly when I basically do everything right away — I've started taking pictures in the morning, editing them in the afternoon, ordering the prints in the evening and publishing the images on the blog (Facebook, Instagram etc....) the morning. If I'm selling the images then I contact the client directly after editing and I order the prints directly after the sales session. So far it's a splendid system that's stress-free, uber-productive and extremely NOT draining of my precious energy. I thought it would be more work to do everything all at once but it's actually way less work and it frees up my mind because I don't have to add anything to my "to-do later list"! Try it.

Prepare yourself for lots more artwork, comin' atcha!!

This beautiful woman is Lorenna - she's is auntie-like to me. Lorenna is basically a synonym for goofball. She can't resist making funny faces at the camera (I think she rolled her eyes at me a few times too when I asked her to wiggle herself into awkward poses). I somehow convinced her to pose with a bright red hat (ha!) and she's a Hawaii-addict too so I'm hoping I'll get to see her from time to time on the beach! I photographed her back in June with her daughter Angie (you'll see Angie's photos soon too... I promise I'll click publish). 

And a nice big round of applause for Hanna Mazur, my wonderful make-up artist who worked with Lorenna & Angie behind the scenes! She's always a gem :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

{My Happiness Project} Celebration Success Depends on Planning

On Week One of my Happiness Project, I decided to start celebrating Hump Day again by treating myself to a tasty brownie! But when Wednesday rolled around, I was caught empty handed. No brownies in my lunch box and no brownie mix in the cupboard. The very idea of driving to the store and baking at the last minute made me feel exhausted. So, I forgot about it and totally failed to celebrate my little mid-week holiday. 

On Tuesday of Week Two, I was driving through Redmond, WA passed the Flying Apron Bakery. My quick reflexes turned me into the parking lot and I bought myself a fudge brownie to-go! I controlled myself for 24 hours and on Wednesday afternoon I treated myself to that little piece of chocolatey heaven. Hump-day celebration success! 

On Monday of Week Three, I was busy packing my bags for Hawaii and my very sweet mom offered to bake me something. She offered molasses cookies but again, my quick reflexes kicked in and I shouted, "Brownies, please! And wrap one up so I can take it to Hawaii and eat it on Wednesday!" (Thanks mom!)

On Tuesday of Week Four (yesterday), I thought to myself "Oh dear, tomorrow's Hump Day and I forgot to get my brownie BUT I remember there's a cute cafe on the drive to work where I can stop and buy one. Check! Problem solved!" Cherry on the cake..... I got home from work and found a package in the mailbox from mom — she's sent me a box of Hawaiian tea & Chocolate-covered Macadamia Nuts, for hump day!!!! THANKS again mom!

The moral of the story: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
Don't leave your celebration arrangements to the day-of. 
Chances of you following through go down the toilet. 
A little forethought makes all the difference and BOOM, just like that you're celebrating regularly without fail!

Check out previous Happiness Project Posts:

Resolution 4: If you want to celebrate, you have to PLAN

How do you celebrate Hump Day?
Do you have a weekly/monthly tradition?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Secret Source for Acres of Tulle Fabric at a Fabulous Price

10 months ago I decided to make my first tutu. My strategy was simple: buy miles of white tulle fabric and stitch it quickly onto a ribbon that can be wrapped around anyone's waist. The fabric store wanted to sell the tulle to me at $2.50 / yard. That's not big bucks.... until you order 50 yards (because you're a crazy photographer that wants to wallpaper her studio with it). The total cost would be $125. Too much. So I stomped home with determination to find a better price on the interweb. After HOURS of online investigation, I hit the jackpot. I've had multiple people ask me where I buy my tulle and because you're such a beautiful person, I'm going to share my hard-earned little secret with you today..... This website caters to brides on a budget which is perfecto for us, right? The specific type I buy is: 

50 Yards
= 59¢ / yard

That's a savings of $95.50!!!!!
So go my friends, snatch up all that world's beautiful tulle, wrap it around the beautiful women of the world, take beautiful pictures and voila tulle-tastic artwork!!!

PS: Thank you Miss. Rachel Tuttle for always letting me wrap you up like a burrito in tulle. On our first shoot you weren't convinced but I know you've since converted to the land of tulle. As always, you're gorgeous my dear!

Monday, September 23, 2013

House Hunting in Maui, Crazy People & Aquatic Adventures

We've been in Hawaii for just about a week and we've been busy critters. We have been to Costco 3 times. We've visited a handful of potential rental houses. We've been to three car dealerships. We've driven around the whole island (almost). We've stopped at a beach everyday to take on the waves and collect more sand that we're storing in our hair — that sand gets everywhere! It's crazy!!!

We're staying in a neighborhood in Kihei (on the south coast of Maui) with a nice man called Rob who is originally from California. He rents out a couple of the rooms in his house on airbnb. We're staying here until mid-October. It's kind of like a family around here — we all sit around together in the evenings on the porch or watching TV. We've got two puppies here — 7 month old Australian Shepards (Zach & Zeek) — they jump up and down all day long with so much playful energy. My favourite part about staying here is the front porch where I eat breakfast. It's surrounded by tropical plants and in the morning it's so breezy and refreshing. Oh, and then there's Mike — our fellow housemate at Rob's house. Mike is a boozy German windsurfer who has lived in Australia for 25 years but migrates every few months to Hawaii and some other island following the ideal windsurfing waves. He's really quite crazy. So living with him is an adventure in itself. ha!

We've been house-hunting around Haiku — a very lush country-like area of the island. We love how fresh it is up there — so hilly and green. Plus the house rentals up there are less expensive. The downfall of this area is that I'd have a longer commute into work and we'd have to drive to the beach. So this weekend, while we were driving through Wailea we started talking about the possibility of looking for rental houses down here on the south coast. It's hotter and muggier down here but it would be cool to have a little more activity, job opportunities, beach life and shorter commutes. 

We've met some crazy interesting people during our house hunting adventures including a sweet Filipino couple who studied chemistry at Iowa State University and now grow tilapia, an overly-frank hippie (for lack of better words) heath-nut dog-sitter, and a disabled medical marijuana dealer in government housing.

On Saturday night, we were at the beach for sunset. I waded around in the water a little but I'm basically terrified of drowning in the ocean so.... I'm working my way into the water slowly. Miggy on the other hand should have been born as a dolphin or something because he can play in the water for hours without stopping. He lays there in the sand letting the waves push him in and pull him out; every now and then he's not looking and a giant pile of water crashes down on his head. Five seconds later he pops up from the deep blue with a giant smile on his face — his hair looks like a wet sheepdog's hair clinging to his forehead and blocking his vision. ha! So while Migs was busy with all that aquatic adventure, I was lying up on the beach towel reading 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert & enjoying a vain little photo shoot.

Happy Monday friends :D