Along the Way: Chelsey Hill Photography

Last summer I quit my corporate job in order to spend more time being a mom and to devote more time towards my photography business.  Back then my mind was cluttered with deadlines, appointments and endless to-do lists.  There was little room during the week for playtime with my two daughters.

One hour a day was all I had. That was the amount of time I got to spend with my youngest daughter during the work week. One hour filled with rushing around to get her fed, bathed and put down to sleep. When broken down into the amount of quality time I got to spend with her, I got a whopping 20 minutes.   Just 20 minutes a day to hold her in my arms, to make her laugh, to hold her little hands and give her kisses.

The full-time working mom role is a challenging one. It’s emotionally exhausting trying to uphold an image of that woman who’s got both worlds perfectly balanced. Because being everything to everyone is just not realistic.

I didn’t want those early years of their lives to slip away, but here I was watching them slip by, wondering where the time had gone.

These pictures of my little girls playing in the sink represent a new chapter in our lives.  A chapter filled with fun days at home and adventures with momma. I likely would have never taken this series had I still been working. 

It’s amazing how much more I enjoy these sweet little moments now that our lifestyle has slowed down.  I spend much more time documenting our days together because I know these mundane memories will fade so quickly.  Because once I no longer here the pitter patter of their little feet in our house, it will be these captured moments that I’ll sift through to bring me back to our adventures at home.

These are the moments I yearned for when I was working full-time.  And they are the memories that I now get to savor forever.

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Along the Way: Little Forest Photography

I am not a writer, but I often write.  I am not an artist but I do art.  I am not a photographer but I always take photos.  I do not see myself as any of these things, yet the world label me as such.  I see these labels as prestige, something I wish I was, but I do not live my life that way.  Instead, I recognise myself as a documenter.  I document my life.  I document the life of my children.  I document our stories.  I have been like this for the best part of my life.  I have collected keepsakes for as long as I could remember.  I have always been interested in old family photos, and old family documents, and I often wonder what it would be like to walk in the footprints of my ancestors. 

We are living on a lake at the moment.  Its beautiful, and it is temporary.  I love this time in our lives.  We feel free.  It is almost like it was when I was a child, and got to explore the mountain streams a few hundred meters from my childhood house, where we lost track of time, following our paper boats down stream.  I do not have a lot of photos of that time, and seeing my kids get lost in their own heads, while exploring nature, is my pictures.

I want to document this time for us.  These fleeting moments.  When picking up sticks for our indoor fire was exciting and the most important job.  When walking into knee deep mirror like water was so mesmerising that they did not realise the wetness in their shoes.  I want to capture the details of their eyelashes, the messiness of their hair.  I want to capture how carefree they were at this age.  I want to capture our environment and most importantly, I want to capture relationships.

This is our life.  This is our story.  We are writing it. Me?  I just document what is already there.

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Along the Way: Evelyne Lourenco Photography

It was June 17th of 2015, I remember because I took a photo. That is what I do when I feel down, I take photos. I took a photo not to record my sadness, disappointment or feeling of rejection. I took this photo to remind myself of all that was good and plenty in my life. I am an optimist, and as an optimist I looked at all the possibilities and the positive things I could get from this experience.

For weeks I had been planning and preparing my portfolio for something that I thought would be a positive step in my career as a photographer. I prepared while doubting myself, but built up the courage and sent the submission. I waited as I expected the worst news, and at last the news came. The “NO” that I dreaded, and with it the feeling of incompetence.

I realize now how silly I was, for feeling so down and for putting myself through the unnecessary “pity party”, but being rejected felt horrible. I know many of us has, at some point, had an experience like this, that leads to the feeling of not belonging, of not being good enough for a specific group. I did what felt good to me, I took a photo, and then and there I decided that I would stop feeling sorry for myself and seek ways to improve my photography.

At the time I was part of a small group of friends on Facebook who encouraged each other with comments and likes on each other’s pages. There was one woman in this group whom I admired greatly, and I asked her for help. She was a mentor and so I decided to invest money and time into mentoring with her.

She helped me go through my photos with a purpose of finding the photographs that were my “best”. I was to seek in myself what I really loved to photograph and why. She encouraged me to start a project. She also reminded me of something I did so often while in college and had forgotten all about. She reminded me to print.

During that time I photographed and printed almost every day. There is something so magical about a print, when you can touch an image and look at it form different angles and different distances. Touching these photographs made me feel more connected to them. It made me feel proud of what I was creating. Suddenly belonging to a group became less important. I didn’t feel like I needed the approval any longer and so I felt good, and complete.

From this experience with my mentor, I made my favorite collection of photographs, which later I turned into a very special book. Almost every day for weeks we visited our local park and I photographed what it felt like to be there. I captured what I saw, what I felt, what I wanted to remember of this place. Today, a year and a half later, I am still doing this. We visit the park, two, three, sometimes five times a week and I photograph my girls, experiencing this park, experiencing nature, the place we belong.

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30 minutes in the life: January 2017

Along the Way: Kelly Jacobi Photography

It seems to me that some of the most powerful and significant art is created by those who bare their souls to the viewer. They open that door to their hearts, minds, and souls. Desperation, joy, fear, heartache, anticipation; a gambit of emotions and they let us see it all.

Being that kind of artist does not come naturally to me. In fact it can be downright painful.

Not only am I introverted to the tenth degree, but I have always found myself in the position of an anchor. I am always grounded and steady so that I can be resilient for others.

I have to work really hard at setting time aside to reflect and peel back layers to get to the heart of how I truly feel about things. I have to work really hard not to swallow the words I fear to say out loud. I have to remind myself that my words could be a safe place of comfort for a friend or total stranger alike.

Part of me thought that the simple act of bringing my camera to my eye and taking a photo of a meaningful person or event was honesty in my work. It wasn't until life got really hard and I had to have some real conversations with myself that I realized the art of reflection and transparency.

The short version of a long, hard year was I was not happy. I no longer had a career that defined me. I didn’t know who I was outside of being a wife and mother. My body was not my own any longer; it belonged to all-encompassing Hashimoto’s. I loved my children with my whole heart but there were times that I didn’t always like them. My body just didn’t have the energy to keep up with three boys and a full time class load.  I missed my husband who was over 1,500 miles away in flight school. I struggled with being so proud of him yet felt a sting of resentment that he wasn’t here with us. This was not where I saw my family at this point in my life, this was not who I thought I would become. I didn’t know how to change it or how to simply enjoy it just the same.

After I was honest with myself and allowed myself to say some things that had always made me feel overwhelmingly guilty for even entertaining, I broke free. I began to allow myself to be transparent in my life and art.  These internal conversations turned on a faucet that helped drain all of the negativity and fear from my soul. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to tell people you are hurting and don't have it all together.

The next time I picked up my camera after being honest with myself I asked my son to come to the basement of our barn. In very low and barely there light, I asked him to place his cheek against the wall and reach his hands up like he was trying to climb out. Click. I feel like I am drowning and am desperately trying to climb above this.

If I wanted people to really feel my work I needed to really show them what I was feeling. It was in these moments that I found my voice as an artist; somewhere in the shadows and harsh contrasts.

I wax and wane. I am not always brave with my images; and it's even more of a struggle with my words. But I have a path and I know where I want to go. I am learning how to let go and how to bare my soul even in the face of fear.

Kelly Jacobi

Kelly Jacobi Photography

Mama. Wife. Photographer. Day-dreamer. Coffee-drinker.

Wausau, Wisconsin

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Along the Way: Heidi Ramaker Photography

Photographing for ME

I have a box of memories I like to look at. As a kid, I was always fascinated with words, imagery and emotions. For the longest time, I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, a poet. I know right – who wants to be a poet? When I was about 5 years old, I had a little wind-up Kodak film camera. I remember being so excited every time that I received a new little canister. I wasn’t any good, of course, but boy did I love taking photos. It just felt so awesome being able to create and capture. I was in control, at a time where my family life was filled with such uncertainty and instability, I could always turn to writing, art and photography to simply breathe and escape.

By the time I was a teen, I had appeared in the local newspaper for my creative writing 3 times. I realise now, as a mother of my own three children, how much of a “big deal” this is, but at the time I thought it was so annoying, embarrassing even, that people were making such a fuss over my work.

So here I was, thinking I was going to be a writer and journalist for a while… And then for the next few years, I just felt so lost with the direction that my life was headed. I was working in retail, I was at university studying, I was partying every weekend and I was in a very toxic relationship. I wasn’t enjoying life, I wasn’t being true to myself, and I was slowly dying inside.

I realise I wasn’t doing anything for ME. I was trying to please everyone else, trying to make everyone else happy. Of course, by the time I came to this conclusion, I was completely burnt out and it took a long time for me to feel like myself again.

Enter Alexander - the wonderful man who is now my husband of almost 10 years and the father of our 3 gorgeous children. He has always encouraged me to do what I want and love to do… Fast forward to 2007, I had given birth to our firstborn son and immediately became fascinated with documenting his every move. My husband noticed and my first Mother’s Day present was a DSLR. I loved photographing my own child and before long, other people started to notice and sure enough, my love for photography was taking over. By 2010, after the birth of my second child, I put my big-girl pants on and started my photography business, simply embracing every opportunity that came my way. By the time our third baby came along in 2012, the balancing act was all I knew.

I won’t lie, there have been a lot of bumps along the way - balancing my husband’s shift-work roster, whilst having 3 children with school commitments and activities, and trying to build my little business!

The biggest “aha” moment was realising that people loved the way I photographed my own children, so a few years into my business, I made the move into lifestyle and documentary photography and it has honestly been the best decision. My images are authentic and emotionally charged, filled with fun, love and connection.

I feel that every photograph I take of my family, I am photographing for ME and that has to be the most rewarding feeling in the world. My aim is to capture all the “everyday” moments – the baths, the laughs, the fights, possibly them playing nicely together…

Heidi Ramaker

Heidi Ramaker Photography

Sydney, Australia but travels all over Australia

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Snapchat: heidi.ramaker

Along the Way: Sharmilla Jade Photography

Angst. 

It’s a word often associated with moody teens.  It’s a word that implies deep anxiety, nervousness and disquiet.  It’s also the only word I can think of to describe my current relationship with photography.  

And like any proper angsty teen, I’ve done plenty of navel-gazing recently to try and determine how I got to this place.  What I realized, after much contemplation,  is that my arc into photography has followed the growth of my own children. 

Like so many of us, I’ve always had an interest in photography, but it wasn’t until the birth of my children that this tiny seed of desire, to capture the moments and details of my sweet babies, grew into something larger than I could contain, and was realized in the birth of an actual, bonafide hobby. 

As the babies grew, so did I.  They cooed and babbled with new language.  Thrilled at the sounds they could make like “da-da” (always first of course), and “ma-ma”, and I learned too the language of photography; what aperture was, and ISO, and shutter speed.  They learned to sit, and crawl and stand, and I learned alongside them how to take an image that was almost properly exposed, and sometimes in focus.  Then came the baby-steps, sweet and faltering, like tiny drunk people, they cruised along furniture until they could muster up enough courage to take a step on their own into the big world.  I did the same, practicing each component of picture-making over and over again until soon, I could produce an intentionally composed image with a blurry background. Boy, did shallow-depth-of-field ever make me feel like a big girl!

We were excited… me and them.  Discovering big new worlds together.  Feeling mesmerized, dazzled and yes sometimes overwhelmed by all the colours and sounds and possibilities that lay before us.  Often when it was too much, and they and I were on the verge of melt-down, thisclose to tantruming, frustrated byskills we couldn’t conquer,  we did the only thing I knew could help and rested.  A self-imposed time-out, vital space to recharge and feel ready and brave enough to try again.

It didn’t take long though, as all mothers learn, forthose sweet babies to outgrow diapers, nursing and potty-training, and move on towards big kid challenges.  I watched as they learned to navigate their world with unbridled enthusiasm and confidence.  Every new friend was their best one.  Every tree was for climbing, and I grew right along with them… feeling unstoppable, like I could conquer every obstacle the way they did the playground.

Following this period of magical childhood comes the dreaded teenage years.  The innocent, beautiful faces of our children become obscured by a moody sullen mask.  We see the surety about who they are begin to change and take on new shape,  trying to fit into molds created by their peers and media those voices easily eclipsing all others.  These are the days of wavering self-confidence, where young people question their identity, self-worth and what their place is in the world.  We watch our teens mimic the celebrities they idolize,  trying on and shedding personas as easily as the discarded outfits that litter their floor.  Comparing themselves, with often painful results, to those that have perceived popularity and recognition in their world.

It is here that I recognize myself too.  Still trying to suss out who I am in terms of photography.  Most often found looking to sources outside myself to guide me into something that feels comfortable and familiar.  Trying on editing styles and genres, and hoping something sticks.  I know too well the angst that comes of not feeling good enough,  of losing inspiration and wondering if it will ever return.   The confusion of trying to fit in, and wondering if there is anything in us to contribute.  If we are worthy. 

Luckily,  I’ve been witness to the calm after the storm.  I’ve observed the renewed confidence and wisdom that comes with growth and time.   With maturity comes solidarity in who we are, and pride in whatever path our journey has taken.  We start to care less about what others think of us, and more about living in our truth, whatever that is.  We surround ourselves with those that support our honesty.  And we continue to learn. Always.

Sharmilla Jade Photography
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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30 minutes in the life: November

Along the Way: Emmy Lou Virginia Photography

As a child, I remember apple blossoms almost breaking my heart with beauty; the pale pink veins, the gnarled branches. A flowering cherry tree had spent my childhood growing tall beside our house, and one year, a branch climbed through the window and bloomed into my bedroom, and oh, it was breathtaking. I collected all the buttercups that grew in our field, fistfuls of them, because I thought they looked exactly as yellow was supposed to look.

It wasn’t just flowers. It was the solidity of a strong wind when you lean against it; that unexpected flash of smile from a stranger; a tired mother tucking back wisps of hair as she bent towards her child. It was the shadow of a sheer skirt flowing across the pavement in the noontime sun - the way even the shadow seemed transparent. How an ocean so infinitely absorbs the pinpricks of falling rain, without a sound, and how our little son runs headlong into his daddy’s arms, without a doubt. And I stand at the edge of it all, and how am I so blessed to witness all this beauty?

 I picked up my camera because of the heart of photography.

 I know very little, really, about how my camera works, and about the technicalities of photography, and I occasionally google photographic terms that I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t fully understand. When talking to those who know far more than me, I nod wisely and hope they don’t ask me any questions.

 This is not to say that the technical side of photography is not important, because of course it is, or that I don’t feel I should learn more, because I should. But what I have discovered about my approach to photography is this: what a photograph feels means far more to me than the lens I used or the shutter speed I shot it at. I want a mother to have a visual record of how it felt to reach for her toddler’s hand as he took some of his first steps. I want sunset pebble collecting to feel as dreamy in a photograph as it does when I am standing on the beach, breathing in the misty light. I want my images to remind you of what old books smell like, and the texture of the dusty pages between your fingers. And the tender helplessness of a newborn searching for his mother’s touch.

 And yes, often I feel like a fraud. I see so much, but capture so little. The few times I’ve received emails from clients telling me that my photos made them cry, I cried too, because at the time I’d felt like I was only photographing the ragged edges of their beauty, but they saw through that to the heart of what I did.

Moments are so short, and beauty can be so intangible.  It is a precious thing to save them, and a precious thing to be given the gift of photographing this intersection of real moments and beauty.

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Weekly Favourites {Double Post} Portrait: With Me & Portrait: Shadows and Light

Weekly Favourites and Photographer of the Month for October.

{Weekly Favourite}: Portraits - Up Close, Judge: Julia Forsman

I have absolutely loved looking at the beautiful portraits posted this week. Having to choose so few has proved very difficult. I chose the following because they kept me looking and sparked a real interest in the subjects as people. All the pictures show the marvellous skill of revealing layers of character to us. The connections they show are brave and intimate, daring to really see another person. The winner this week is a portrait full of a complex mix of strength and vulnerability, and shows the depth of the connection between photographer and photographed. Thank you so much to everyone who shared images this week. I have learnt a lot from them and feel truly inspired to get closer in my portraits.

Winner: It's Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Wilson

Lohnet Wanihi

Along the Way: Sheree Kershaw Photography

Illumination

The moment the light turned on inside my artistic mind was when I stopped listening to the overwhelming visual traffic which flooded my world every day, and I began to think about own self-respect as an artist.

Two years ago, as a newly hatched photographer, I was struggling to get traction with clients and to forge my own identity. I wasn't feeling too jazzed about this new career I had invested my heart and soul into and I was having an existential style crisis. I am sure we have all been there? I had my wheels spinning, spending my days critiquing my work, questioning: Where do I fit in?  Will people get my style? What category does my work even fall into? Will people feel what I see? Will my peers in the photography community get it? (does that really matter?) Will clients get it? do I get it? Aaarrrgh! 

I felt like I had no place to go but backwards. 

So I quit this photography gig. Actually I quit many times -  I put my camera down, swore never to take photos again. But it never lasted long.

 We were based in Melbourne, Australia at the time, and my husband suggested we take a trip home to the motherland. So during one of the coldest winters, we came back to New Zealand with no real plan other than to visit our family and friends and see where our journey took us.

And where did our journey take us? Back to reality I guess. My illumination moment happened on a cold, damp and overcast day. The light was low but the setting was, typically New Zealand and stunning. Very close to home, with my sister and her son we visited a local arboretum and as the boys played I found myself drawn into their moments. The emerald green grass, bare trees, dirt and three little boys, pale with pink noses, wet up to their knees soaking up the first quality cousin time they had had for a year. I started seeing their moments, flashes of joy framed through the scenery and set off by the muted light and I started documenting it.

There was something that happened to me while I was here, the intensity of it all was truly confrontational and the complexity of it messed with my head.

I dug deep and kept on snapping. You see, those moments on that day were the perfect embodiment of my style, raw, dark, moodily cheerful and above all real. Because they were my moments I could suddenly see what my clients could see. I realised that I had been too busy trying to be somebody else, please my peers, the established norm, stay current etc. What I needed to do, was to embrace ME, because I am ME and I am nothing if not real. Real joy, real emotions & real moments happen every day, in the rain or the sun and my job is to capture beautiful authentic examples of these moments for my clients. 

 You see, when you capture one of these epic, real moments your heart reaches into that image and feels at home because everything that makes up your subject is there, as bold as brass in a little glass box. The clients instantly fall in love because they know that they now have all their feelings captured forever and can invoke them till their dying days with a simple view. When you capture children at play this is particularly true because the parents own ego, self-image issues & preconceptions are irrelevant - they simply see their perfect children, as they see them every day.  

 The disconnect with what I had been doing or thought I should be doing was that none of it took this idea far enough. We are on a spectrum, with rigid posed portraiture way back behind us and the future ahead. I think the future is reality and I suddenly realised I might be further ahead than I thought!

After this my imagery started to scream back at me, I began to trust my artistic voice, and build momentum, without the camera in my hand I felt disconnected.

I now embraced my style – which has always been dark, I love to show case grittier tones, shadows, or shoot through things to convey complexity and depth. The things others may view as flaws - I see as real and authentic, moments which are expressed through each subject’s unique personality, intimacy and deep connections.

 It all sounds, deep, I truly love what I do, and the people I have met through this journey.

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Along the Way: Kate Bragg

Journey to Artist: Along the Way

by Kate Bragg

Nothing about photography has come easily to me.  I did not start out with any intuitive knowledge for how to use a camera, or an inherent ability to understand composition and styling.  I thought of myself as creative but not artistic.  It’s taken me years of practice to learn the technical aspects of photography. It’s taken even longer to have a clear vision of what I want to create, and what I want to say with my art. 

Early on in this journey, I knew I was drawn to food and still-life photography.  After I got over the initial guilt of realizing that I preferred to photograph inanimate objects instead of my precious children, I took classes, studied, and practiced.  It was a messy business, both figuratively and literally.  Thankfully, my husband is a patient and supportive man, and has never once complained about the mess in the kitchen or my failed baking experiments that have all happened in the name of pursuing my love of food photography.  He has always been there to talk me down from the emotionally messy side of learning a craft and pursuing a dream, and for that I am grateful. 

While I was learning a lot on the technical side, I was plagued by the concern that I didn’t really have a clear vision of what I wanted to create.  I most certainly did not feel like an artist.  I didn’t know what it meant to express yourself through your art.  I remember being asked “what are you trying to say?” and wanting to scream “I have no idea!” in response.  I was afraid that I didn’t have anything to say, that I didn’t really have a vision.  I would feel ridiculous trying to figure out what I wanted to say with a photo of banana bread.  Was saying “this is a tasty banana bread” not enough? 

It turns out that sometimes that is enough, but most of the time it isn’t.  I discovered, with the help of some excellent instructors, that what I want to express through my food and still life photography is the sense of peace and contentment that I associate with a well-lived life.  I want to share the quiet moments and the convivial gatherings.  I want to convey the world in my head, which is filled with old farmhouses, rolling pastures, bucolic countryside, wood stoves, gardens, copious cups of coffee, and muffins for breakfast every, single day.  My world is somewhere in the mid-18th century, but with modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and home furnishings stores, to supply my never-ending need for attractive coffee mugs.  I have learned a lot about what it is that draws me to an image, the feelings that I want to create, and that has helped me to not only find, but refine, my vision. 

I need not have worried that I didn’t have a vision.  We all do, it just sometimes takes a while to develop.  In retrospect, I’ve always had this vision, it just showed up in different ways.  Now I have photography as a medium to express my vision and I am thankful for it.  I am refining it every day, and learning the skills I need to bring it to life.  More importantly, I am learning to embrace that I am an artist – always have been, always will be.   

 Artist Info:

Name: Kate Bragg

Business Name: Kate Bragg Photography

Location: Winterport, Maine, United States

Social Links: (IG) Kate Bragg Photo

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30 minutes in the Life: October

Sharleen N Stuart Photography - South Florida Photographer

Sophie James | Bluebells on the Green Lifestyle Photography, Scotland.

Sonia Epple Fotografie

Paige Everson | Fine Art Portraits

Amanda Voelker

Stacey Markel | MD Photographer

Lynzi Berg Photography

Hayley Hay Photography / Lausanne, Switzerland

Karen Hunt / Virginia Photographer

Liz Godfrey

Julia Forsman

Jasmine Keath

Cindy Cavanagh| Lifestyle photographer in Sydney