Spotlight on the students of FOOD AS ART with Anna Larson

Why is food photography important? Although the photographs can easily stand on their own, in Food as Art, we also explore our personal history and how food is woven into our daily lives….it can carry both positive and negative experiences. No matter what our culture, food most likely plays a big role in shaping it.

Online courses are unique in that we gather from all over the world. We’re able to share stories from our own culture, as though we’re sitting around one big table. Here’s what one student shared and the reason why photographs are so important…

“Food was such an integral part of me and my brother's upbringing. Being Syrian, it was everywhere….Recipes were almost never written down, but passed on verbally, and everyone loved to talk about how each household (or region) made certain dishes differently. Food was in the air we breathed.…

When we would go to Syria in the summers, we were always greeted by an insane meal and a gigantic table filled with my grandparents, my mom's six sisters, one brother and all of my cousins (well us young'ins would usually get booted to the other table). And every day after that first day, everyone would stop what they were doing to come have lunch at my grandmother's and take their post-lunch naps (common practice). Lunch was just that important culturally. In Syria vegetables, fruits and meats only came locally, and things were only consumed seasonally or after they were preserved or frozen if off season. These were things I very much came to appreciate later in life.

Now, there is no more Syria (or the Syria we knew). There is no more grandmother's house (my grandmother lives in Jordan with my aunt in a 3 BR flat). The siblings are all scattered throughout the world, most likely never able to gather around at a single table ever again, and some of them, never able to see my grandmother again. Food is a legacy. It's a story. And I've realized in the past few years how important it is to preserve that story, for it might forever be lost. I love that photography can preserve that story in a visual way. And I want to somehow bring that story to light.”

- Omayah Atassi

During the two weeks together, we explore everything from backgrounds and surfaces, to props, lighting, editing, styling and photographing food off the table. Here is some of the beautiful work that was turned in by students during the fall run of Food as Art…

xo,

Anna Larson | Instructor of FOOD AS ART

If this resonates with you and you’d like to tell your own food story, FOOD AS ART opens for registration on November 29th at 9:00 am EST.

Spotlight on the students of SERIOUSLY SOCIAL with Rowe Timson...

Hello there! For those of you who don’t know me, I have been a photographer for most of my adult life, an obsession that started in high school with a Canon AE1 and far too many hours playing in the darkroom when I should have been elsewhere.  I shot commercial fashion initially and later moved into portraits and kids fashion. 

My love for social media had me take on a couple of social media clients back in 2012 as a part-time gig, but gradually I transition from full-time photographer to a full-time Social Media Manager, doing commercial photography on the side. 

I love everything about social media and I am super excited to be teaching my third round of Seriously Social in just a few days on Monday 17th! The workshop is all about approaching Social media with intention! Making the most of the time we spend online. Working smarter, creating a strategy and making use of the tools available to implement your strategy in the most efficient way.
Featuring students is a rather tricky task for this kind of class because we cover so much and students are often working through the content well after the class ends and also focusing on one platform at a time, implementing changes slowly. That being said, a few students were happy to share some thoughts about their journey and where they are at with things since the class ended and I am so proud of them and thankful for their kind words!

  Instagram //Merja Varkemaa    Rowe’s Seriously Social class was a real eye opener for me. Of course I had been aware how social media is everywhere, but I had never realized to which extent. There was so much to learn and I’m still learning and implementing what Rowe taught us in class.    Photography is my passion and creative outlet and as I’m not in business, my personal approach might differ from that of many others. What impacted me the most was all her knowledge that she shared about Instagram. A passionate amateur photographer like myself is all the time looking for ways to share one’s work, to put it out there. With Rowe’s guidance, I discovered this tremendous online gallery that IG is for us photographers. She helped me to make my profile look more like me and my work, explained the algorithm, use of hashtags, how to curate my feed and many other features. For those in business, she shares valuable information about growth strategies and how to market one’s work. I’m personally still at the stage of organic growth but now have plenty of ideas for the future.  Before the class I had not spent much time on Instagram and hardly ever posted. I’m now addicted, it is such a wealth of inspiration and a source of endless motivation. There are so many artists out there sharing stunning images that are waiting to be seen.     My thoughts on Merja’s Instagram -    I just adore Merja’s work and have loved watching her vision evolve over the last couple of months. She has a great eye from a curating perspective and I really like the way her grid has a gallery feel to it almost resembling a portfolio. It’s unique and works well with her compositions and her emotive editing style. What’s not to love! I can’t wait to see what she does on her other platforms in the future.   See more of Merja’s work -  INSTAGRAM  //  FACEBOOK  //  WEBSITE

Instagram //Merja Varkemaa

Rowe’s Seriously Social class was a real eye opener for me. Of course I had been aware how social media is everywhere, but I had never realized to which extent. There was so much to learn and I’m still learning and implementing what Rowe taught us in class.

Photography is my passion and creative outlet and as I’m not in business, my personal approach might differ from that of many others. What impacted me the most was all her knowledge that she shared about Instagram. A passionate amateur photographer like myself is all the time looking for ways to share one’s work, to put it out there. With Rowe’s guidance, I discovered this tremendous online gallery that IG is for us photographers. She helped me to make my profile look more like me and my work, explained the algorithm, use of hashtags, how to curate my feed and many other features. For those in business, she shares valuable information about growth strategies and how to market one’s work. I’m personally still at the stage of organic growth but now have plenty of ideas for the future.
Before the class I had not spent much time on Instagram and hardly ever posted. I’m now addicted, it is such a wealth of inspiration and a source of endless motivation. There are so many artists out there sharing stunning images that are waiting to be seen.

My thoughts on Merja’s Instagram - I just adore Merja’s work and have loved watching her vision evolve over the last couple of months. She has a great eye from a curating perspective and I really like the way her grid has a gallery feel to it almost resembling a portfolio. It’s unique and works well with her compositions and her emotive editing style. What’s not to love! I can’t wait to see what she does on her other platforms in the future.

See more of Merja’s work - INSTAGRAM // FACEBOOK // WEBSITE

  Pinterest // Deb Schwedhelm     I thought I had my social media shit mostly together, but knew that I had more to learn. What I didn't realize is HOW MUCH I had to learn from Rowe's class. From day one, I was blown away by all the information that Rowe was presenting. Of course, I very quickly realized that I did NOT have my social media presence together and all the work I had to do, under the incredible guidance of Rowe's tutelage. So lesson by lesson, I worked, improving my Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest presence. Seriously Social reinforced that to be successful in social media, one must be organized, active, authentic, and engaged. There really is a method to the madness.  I had been a longtime user of Pinterest, but I was using it for fun. I have had so many boards over the years, but I hadn't realized that I could actually use Pinterest to my advantage. Yes, I could still pin things that I love, but I could also create boards that would assist in marketing my photography endeavors. So I cleaned existing boards up and created new boards. I also got back to being regular active on Pinterest. Who knew that Pinterest could be such a strong force?!   I can't thank Rowe enough for her time and guidance. She goes above and beyond to ensure that each student is taken care of, which is not an easy task in a social media class. I'm forever grateful for this class and the push that it has given me to be better.     Pinterest home page where Deb has selected her own work to be front and centre in the banner at the top and in her featured boards -      The first two rows of her boards tab -

Pinterest // Deb Schwedhelm

I thought I had my social media shit mostly together, but knew that I had more to learn. What I didn't realize is HOW MUCH I had to learn from Rowe's class. From day one, I was blown away by all the information that Rowe was presenting. Of course, I very quickly realized that I did NOT have my social media presence together and all the work I had to do, under the incredible guidance of Rowe's tutelage. So lesson by lesson, I worked, improving my Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest presence. Seriously Social reinforced that to be successful in social media, one must be organized, active, authentic, and engaged. There really is a method to the madness.

I had been a longtime user of Pinterest, but I was using it for fun. I have had so many boards over the years, but I hadn't realized that I could actually use Pinterest to my advantage. Yes, I could still pin things that I love, but I could also create boards that would assist in marketing my photography endeavors. So I cleaned existing boards up and created new boards. I also got back to being regular active on Pinterest. Who knew that Pinterest could be such a strong force?!

I can't thank Rowe enough for her time and guidance. She goes above and beyond to ensure that each student is taken care of, which is not an easy task in a social media class. I'm forever grateful for this class and the push that it has given me to be better.

Pinterest home page where Deb has selected her own work to be front and centre in the banner at the top and in her featured boards -

The first two rows of her boards tab -

   My thoughts on Debs Pinterest -    Out of Deb’s 10 boards featured on the first two lines we see when we visit her profile, 6 boards contain her own imagery which is exactly what you want. For people to visit your profile and know who you are and what you do! The other 4 are full of photography related inspiration which is just perfect for reaching her target audience… Who is her target audience? Photographers looking to be inspired and educated.    Note: Deb is an incredible photographer who happens to also be an    amazing illuminate teacher   !   See more of Deb’s work -  INSTAGRAM  //  PINTEREST  //  FACEBOOK  //  WEBSITE    A few fun Pinterest facts…  It’s actually not a social media platform. It is essential a search engine. Being successful on Pinterest is less about your number of followers and more about how many people are seeing your pins. You can have next to no followers and be rocking Pinterest! To do so, you need to create brand relevant boards and pins and use keyword rich descriptions so people find your content. Of course, posting frequently is important too because the more active you are, the more your pins will show up which means a higher chance of repins which equates to more traffic!  I used to get around 10,000 views a month on my  Pinterest profile  After implementing a super simple strategy and more regular pinning practises, that number rocketed to 200,000 views a month! I recently created a Pinterest strategy and pinning schedule for  one of my clients  and after just 6 weeks she has over 400,000 views a month! I know… Crazy! Pinterest honestly is worth taking the time to learn. Get in now. Be an early adopter before it’s saturated and it is hard for your pins to be seen. It’s a pretty easy platform to master and its super fun.

My thoughts on Debs Pinterest - Out of Deb’s 10 boards featured on the first two lines we see when we visit her profile, 6 boards contain her own imagery which is exactly what you want. For people to visit your profile and know who you are and what you do! The other 4 are full of photography related inspiration which is just perfect for reaching her target audience… Who is her target audience? Photographers looking to be inspired and educated.

Note: Deb is an incredible photographer who happens to also be an amazing illuminate teacher!

See more of Deb’s work - INSTAGRAM // PINTEREST // FACEBOOK // WEBSITE

A few fun Pinterest facts… It’s actually not a social media platform. It is essential a search engine. Being successful on Pinterest is less about your number of followers and more about how many people are seeing your pins. You can have next to no followers and be rocking Pinterest! To do so, you need to create brand relevant boards and pins and use keyword rich descriptions so people find your content. Of course, posting frequently is important too because the more active you are, the more your pins will show up which means a higher chance of repins which equates to more traffic!

I used to get around 10,000 views a month on my Pinterest profile After implementing a super simple strategy and more regular pinning practises, that number rocketed to 200,000 views a month! I recently created a Pinterest strategy and pinning schedule for one of my clients and after just 6 weeks she has over 400,000 views a month! I know… Crazy! Pinterest honestly is worth taking the time to learn. Get in now. Be an early adopter before it’s saturated and it is hard for your pins to be seen. It’s a pretty easy platform to master and its super fun.

  Website // Ellen Keith Shaw    Really, we put so much time and effort into our businesses and I’m increasingly realizing that speaking to an echo chamber can be so defeating. I’m thankful that Rowe’s class, Seriously Social, has started me on the right path of posting consistently (with the help of a scheduler, which was life changing), and engaging with my audience. She taught me that a engaged authentic audience is much more important than false inflated numbers. She helped me establish a look and feel to my Instagram thread which finally feels cohesive. I feel that that effort also spilled over to my website which I recently overhauled to have it better reflect the audience I am trying to reach.  The class included conversations with a branding expert and with a copywriter which was such a bonus. I studied branding in college, but that lesson helped me apply the branding process to my own business. The copywriting one reinforced that the voice of our businesses is so very important. The tips provided during that call helped me to refine my about page—the voice of which influences all of the other communication around my business.  Rowe Timson and Seriously Social far exceeded my expectations. I was not a fan of social media and in some ways resented spending my time on it, but with Rowe’s help I am now able to see it in new light and as a valuable place to put some of my energy in building my business. The class ended with me feeling inspired, along with many actionable steps to help me continue to build my audience.     Ellen’s Portfolio -

Website // Ellen Keith Shaw

Really, we put so much time and effort into our businesses and I’m increasingly realizing that speaking to an echo chamber can be so defeating. I’m thankful that Rowe’s class, Seriously Social, has started me on the right path of posting consistently (with the help of a scheduler, which was life changing), and engaging with my audience. She taught me that a engaged authentic audience is much more important than false inflated numbers. She helped me establish a look and feel to my Instagram thread which finally feels cohesive. I feel that that effort also spilled over to my website which I recently overhauled to have it better reflect the audience I am trying to reach.

The class included conversations with a branding expert and with a copywriter which was such a bonus. I studied branding in college, but that lesson helped me apply the branding process to my own business. The copywriting one reinforced that the voice of our businesses is so very important. The tips provided during that call helped me to refine my about page—the voice of which influences all of the other communication around my business.

Rowe Timson and Seriously Social far exceeded my expectations. I was not a fan of social media and in some ways resented spending my time on it, but with Rowe’s help I am now able to see it in new light and as a valuable place to put some of my energy in building my business. The class ended with me feeling inspired, along with many actionable steps to help me continue to build my audience.

Ellen’s Portfolio -

   My thoughts on Ellen’s website -    Last week I was checking in on my students, visiting their profiles to see where they were at and really loved Ellen’s Instagram and then I visited her  website…  Sigh… It's just so beautiful, as are her images! Simple and unique! I honestly love everything about her branding, right down to the fonts she chose. I think she has really rocked every aspect or her website overhaul and I cant wait to see how her other platforms evolve over time!   See more of Ellen’s work -  INSTAGRAM  //  PINTEREST  //  FACEBOOK  //  WEBSITE

My thoughts on Ellen’s website - Last week I was checking in on my students, visiting their profiles to see where they were at and really loved Ellen’s Instagram and then I visited her website… Sigh… It's just so beautiful, as are her images! Simple and unique! I honestly love everything about her branding, right down to the fonts she chose. I think she has really rocked every aspect or her website overhaul and I cant wait to see how her other platforms evolve over time!

See more of Ellen’s work - INSTAGRAM // PINTEREST // FACEBOOK // WEBSITE

 Instagram // Wendy Atkinson    Seriously Social by Rowe Timson helped me to learn how to manage my Social Media accounts to be able to gain followers who were right for my photography business. I learned how to curate an Instagram feed that is truly my voice and my brand. I learned how to create a workflow to help me manage the time I spend posting and engaging with my audience. I believe that implementing the strategies that Rowe teaches has helped grow my business, interact and engage with clients and prospective clients.  After taking Seriously Social I felt lead to help a non-profit organization that I support because I noticed that they have a great ministry that very few people know about because their social media was scarce. In two months I have helped them to gain new followers, and to spread the word of the mission of their organization. They have received feedback that people are excited to see the great work they are doing across the globe.     My thoughts on Wendy’s Instagram -    Wendy had a clear vision early on in the class, keen to create a consistent posting plan using a mix of photos and quotes and she executed it brilliantly! I really love the consistency of her clean, fresh imagery and how she varies the content to keep things interesting! I am so pleased she was able to put her new skills to use to help a non-profit and they had received good feedback as a result of her handwork. Looking forward to seeing more from her!    See more of Wendy’s work -  INSTAGRAM  //  WEBSITE

Instagram // Wendy Atkinson

Seriously Social by Rowe Timson helped me to learn how to manage my Social Media accounts to be able to gain followers who were right for my photography business. I learned how to curate an Instagram feed that is truly my voice and my brand. I learned how to create a workflow to help me manage the time I spend posting and engaging with my audience. I believe that implementing the strategies that Rowe teaches has helped grow my business, interact and engage with clients and prospective clients.

After taking Seriously Social I felt lead to help a non-profit organization that I support because I noticed that they have a great ministry that very few people know about because their social media was scarce. In two months I have helped them to gain new followers, and to spread the word of the mission of their organization. They have received feedback that people are excited to see the great work they are doing across the globe.

My thoughts on Wendy’s Instagram - Wendy had a clear vision early on in the class, keen to create a consistent posting plan using a mix of photos and quotes and she executed it brilliantly! I really love the consistency of her clean, fresh imagery and how she varies the content to keep things interesting! I am so pleased she was able to put her new skills to use to help a non-profit and they had received good feedback as a result of her handwork. Looking forward to seeing more from her!

See more of Wendy’s work - INSTAGRAM // WEBSITE

That’s all for now but I will share more soon! Sing out if you have any questions about the workshop or social media related questions in general. If you are interested in taking my class, head HERE to grab a spot. Class starts Monday.

Thanks, Rowe.

Spotlight on the students of The Simple Edit with Leah Zawadzki

I get so excited about sharing student work because, well, my students make some pretty exciting strides by the end of The Simple Edit. Many people come in with the belief their editing is inconsistent and they don't make cohesive work. By the end of class, students see their work in a completely different way. And they make new work that blows me away!

I have been struggling with how to put words to this class, a short blurb on what this class is all about, something that grabs you and makes you want to take this course with me. But to be honest it's hard to sum it up in one line--we cover a lot in three weeks.

This is a full-on Lightroom class. If you don't know how to use it, you will by the end of the class. If you know how to use it, you'll learn a few new tricks and workflow techniques to save time and add value. I get super excited to show everything I know it's capable of; how it can take hours off your workflow, keep you out of photoshop, create collections to be shared online, make books that hold a family's favorite memories, use the print module to make grids for sharing....and so much more.

In addition to all that technical stuff, we also explore style, editing technique, shooting with heart, learning and growing from the work you make and curating the strongest images.  It saves a lot of time when we can decern between what makes our heart sing and what's not worth the struggle--put your time where it matters. Realize where you are making mistakes, shoot your next image with the right exposure or step back next time, every time we improve our in-camera work, we save time in post-processing and take our work to the next level. Lightroom is a great platform for this kind of reflection.


One of our assignments is to make new work and use the skills learned in Lightroom to curate and edit. Here is a sample of the work made my a few of my students this year in class. So proud!


Toward the end of class I teach them how to make a grid in the print module (comes in handy for all kinds of things, not just printing). At the same time, I have them scour through their work and curate a "best work" grid. They need to include about nine images that reflect the kind of work they want to make and then re-edit with their new set of eyes. By the end, I've talked most students into the fact that their work is indeed cohesive.

 "I first started learning how to edit in Lightroom about 3 years ago. I learned mostly from my brother in law and watching tutorials here and there. I ended up figuring it out and making do with a system I thought everyone had for LR - I just saw it as this beast that I only understood partially, but in the end, was what I needed to edit my photos. If I would have known about Leah's class back then, it would have saved me so much time and energy. I now can honestly say that I now have the tools to do my job, and do it confidently and efficiently. There was so much about LR that I learned in this class that I didn't even think was possible. Thank you so much Leah!!"  Mindy Dunlap

"I first started learning how to edit in Lightroom about 3 years ago. I learned mostly from my brother in law and watching tutorials here and there. I ended up figuring it out and making do with a system I thought everyone had for LR - I just saw it as this beast that I only understood partially, but in the end, was what I needed to edit my photos. If I would have known about Leah's class back then, it would have saved me so much time and energy. I now can honestly say that I now have the tools to do my job, and do it confidently and efficiently. There was so much about LR that I learned in this class that I didn't even think was possible. Thank you so much Leah!!" Mindy Dunlap

 
 "This class really opened my eye for simple vs easy. There is nothing easy on having a good filing and organizing system and the ability to edit your pictures so that the edit looks simple. But it's so worth it to learn. And this is what Leah teaches. She has a fabulous style and I love what she taught me on my edits. This was really eye-opening." Anna Weber

"This class really opened my eye for simple vs easy. There is nothing easy on having a good filing and organizing system and the ability to edit your pictures so that the edit looks simple. But it's so worth it to learn. And this is what Leah teaches. She has a fabulous style and I love what she taught me on my edits. This was really eye-opening." Anna Weber

 
 "Leah is an open book, she shared so much knowledge over the course of this class. Her feedback is personal and heartfelt which made the experience really lovely. I learned so much about editing, but also about Lightroom, which was an unexpected bonus and a real game changer for me. I am now culling my images with more conviction and seeing my editing process evolve into a more intentional one. I highly recommend this class and am thankful to Leah for all that she gives to her students."  Ellen Shaw

"Leah is an open book, she shared so much knowledge over the course of this class. Her feedback is personal and heartfelt which made the experience really lovely. I learned so much about editing, but also about Lightroom, which was an unexpected bonus and a real game changer for me. I am now culling my images with more conviction and seeing my editing process evolve into a more intentional one. I highly recommend this class and am thankful to Leah for all that she gives to her students." Ellen Shaw

 
 "Leah's class, 'The Simple Edit', was so much more than I thought it would be. Prior to the class I only used presets and while I had a fair understanding of how to alter them I was not achieving the final image that I had envisioned. I can now edit from scratch and alter presets when I want to, I can see what I want to do and know how to do it! My understanding of Lightroom modules and workflow has also really improved. This is what I was hoping for but Leah also took the time to get to know each student individually. She guided each of us appropriately, to our differing skill levels and to our personal styles, she emphasized the importance of staying true to what we love and helped us achieve that. Leah was so caring and gave her all, this is more than just an editing class, it is so worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable. I loved it!" Megan O'Donnell

"Leah's class, 'The Simple Edit', was so much more than I thought it would be. Prior to the class I only used presets and while I had a fair understanding of how to alter them I was not achieving the final image that I had envisioned. I can now edit from scratch and alter presets when I want to, I can see what I want to do and know how to do it! My understanding of Lightroom modules and workflow has also really improved. This is what I was hoping for but Leah also took the time to get to know each student individually. She guided each of us appropriately, to our differing skill levels and to our personal styles, she emphasized the importance of staying true to what we love and helped us achieve that. Leah was so caring and gave her all, this is more than just an editing class, it is so worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable. I loved it!" Megan O'Donnell

Leah Zawadzki | instructor of The Simple Edit

The next run of this class starts September 17. Active seats sold out in the first few days, but there are still a few silent seats left if you would like to participate. This class will teach you Lightroom, including workflow optimization and editing techniques, which will save time and allow more space to focus on artistry and vision.

Head here to grab a seat. 

Spotlight on... the students of Street Smart.

As an in-home documentary photographer the past 10 years for both clients and my own children,  I quite frankly was drained creatively.  We all get in ruts, but this one wasn't a rut. It was a need for change to push myself creatively as a photographer.

I discovered street photography about 5 years ago and was hooked.

Street photography is definitely a genre that is picking up steam.  Street allows you to be totally present in the moment creating images solely for you.  Not for your client, not for your kid's memories, but 100% for YOU.

I am thrilled that Illuminate has given me a place to share my love of street with the community. The first run of Street Smart earlier this year was an incredible eye-opener for the students, most of which had never hit the streets before! I was blown away by how quickly they produced captivating images of the society around them and pushed through fears to get to the other side.  There is no greater photography 'high' in my book than nailing that fleeting moment on the street.

Another thing to note? Street can be shot ANYWHERE. I'm lucky, I live near NYC, but I also shoot suburbia where I live with my family. On the beach, a boat, downtown, suburbia, a park, the possibilities are only limited by your own mind. Street puts a mirror up to society whatever that society may be and the students of Street Smart did just that, and well.

Here's a sample of some of the work a few of the students produced as we cycled through the lessons on overcoming fear, composition, juxtapostion, what makes a great street photo (versus a snapshot) and that critical decision of presenting your street photo in B+W or color.

Jennifer Tonetti Spellman | Instructor of Street Smart

Julie Bishop.jpg

image by Julie Bishop

Rebecca Hannicutt.jpg

image by Rebecca Hannicutt

Rhi.jpg

image by Rhianna Sgardner-Meems

SUSAN HAYES.jpg

image by Susan Hayes

Erica Kenecht.jpg

image by Erica Knecht

Nicole Graziano.jpg

image by Nicole Graziano

HalliePaulson.jpg

image by Hallie Paulson

Kenzi Tainow.jpg

image by Kenzi Tainow

Dawn wessman.jpeg

image by Dawn Wessman

Arieldolfo.jpeg

image by Ariel Dolfo

Ann Leaver.jpg

image by Ann Leaver

JaimeMitchell.jpeg

image by Jaime Mitchell

Street Smart will be offered again this fall, starting September 10. Click here to register.

Spotlight on the students of...EMBRACING YOUR INNER ARTIST with Deb Schwedhelm

After 10 years of teaching ‘Embracing Your Inner Artist’ (to include an earlier version of the course), I am absolutely still in love with teaching this class. Nurturing, encouraging, educating, pushing, supporting the students from day one through day 21 — it makes my heart so happy. My students leave excited and motivated and so do I. If I’m being completely honest, I love teaching as much as I love photography. I believe I was meant to be a photographer AND a teacher and photography gifted me the path to both. Anyways, enough about me. Today, I want to share with you a few students, from my May 2018 Embracing Your Inner Artist class, who blew my socks off. 

For one of the assignments, the students are encouraged to try something new, something that will push them and challenge their current photography skills.

© Beth Rooney
© Beth Rooney
  Beth Rooney  came into class with a degree in photography, having interned for Lauren Greenfield, and covered the 2007-08 presidential race. To say that I was a bit intimidated is an understatement but I knew that I had to just do my thing and she wowed me in class with her talents.  At the conclusion of our three weeks together, Beth shared that she doesn’t feel lost with her style anymore and that the class recharged her and showed her how to enjoy photography again.  For the assignment, Beth photographed a discarded ice sculpture that was left in a church parking lot. Can you believe the images that she was able to make by photographing a melting ice sculpture? Amazing, right?!  And here is her image that was made at a stoplight, through a car window.

Beth Rooney came into class with a degree in photography, having interned for Lauren Greenfield, and covered the 2007-08 presidential race. To say that I was a bit intimidated is an understatement but I knew that I had to just do my thing and she wowed me in class with her talents.  At the conclusion of our three weeks together, Beth shared that she doesn’t feel lost with her style anymore and that the class recharged her and showed her how to enjoy photography again.  For the assignment, Beth photographed a discarded ice sculpture that was left in a church parking lot. Can you believe the images that she was able to make by photographing a melting ice sculpture? Amazing, right?!

And here is her image that was made at a stoplight, through a car window.

© Beth Rooney
  Marina Locke  pushed herself and photographed this incredible double exposure.

Marina Locke pushed herself and photographed this incredible double exposure.

  Lisa Tullet  photographed through a hole in a leaf (yes, a leaf!) to make these two amazing photographs.

Lisa Tullet photographed through a hole in a leaf (yes, a leaf!) to make these two amazing photographs.

  Jamie Sampson  attempted panning for the first time and got this killer image of her husband biking with the dog. It’s not easy to get panning right and look how awesome she did.

Jamie Sampson attempted panning for the first time and got this killer image of her husband biking with the dog. It’s not easy to get panning right and look how awesome she did.

Last but not least...

© Sung-Hee Seewald
© Sung-Hee Seewald
© Sung-Hee Seewald
© Sung-Hee Seewald
 I wanted to share Sung-Hee Seewald, who came into the May class after being a previous student in  Project Development + Fine Art .  Sung-Hee blew me away when she shared her new project on women and female diversity. You can visit her  entire body of work on her website  but here’s a small sampling of the brave work she is currently making.

I wanted to share Sung-Hee Seewald, who came into the May class after being a previous student in Project Development + Fine Art.  Sung-Hee blew me away when she shared her new project on women and female diversity. You can visit her entire body of work on her website but here’s a small sampling of the brave work she is currently making.

Deb Schwedhelm | instructor of Embracing Your Inner Artist 

The next run of this class will be in September. There are still some silent seats left if you would like to participate. This class will help you get to the heart of who you are as an artist, drown out the noise and feel free to BE YOU! Head HERE to grab a seat. 

Spotlight on the students of....WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED with Amy Grace

In life, there’s a fine but permanent line, separating what we keep and lose, what we say and don’t say, what we remember and what fades.

Every photo we make is an act of love for this world. 

A defiance and homage to time. 

And every picture has a story behind it. 

Often, one we never get to hear.

Written and Illustrated is about sharing our stories, not swallowing them down.

Art is the best way to tell the truth, for many of us.

There are the facts  - and then there’s what moved us, changed us, made us feel.

No one ever knows what we hold inside, unless we let it out.

Never perfect, always important.

I am ever moved and impressed by the sheer guts and grace of my students - their honesty, differences, fresh eyes, revelations, formidable experiences, and willingness to stretch their comfort zones and use their talents to understand themselves. 

And to make pictures of it, say it out loud.

It’s a profound experience to be the one sharing, and to be the audience.

Written and Illustrated runs for 3 weeks, this October 2-22. You can register HERE starting August 22nd at noon EST.

This collection of student work is the first of more I hope to share…

Amy Grace | Instructor of Written and Illustrated

 Sometimes I want to let fear guide me. She reaches out her hand and I want to take it, climb into her hot air balloon and disappear.   I'm too honest for them, they won't let me be myself and all that bullshit.   What would it solve? What am I running to?  Nothing, Nothing, nothing.  Trust is here for me. She is standing behind me. I didn't see her. When she hugs me in a deep warm embrace, I remember how loved I am.    Tatiana Johnson

Sometimes I want to let fear guide me. She reaches out her hand and I want to take it, climb into her hot air balloon and disappear. 

I'm too honest for them, they won't let me be myself and all that bullshit. 

What would it solve? What am I running to?

Nothing, Nothing, nothing.

Trust is here for me. She is standing behind me. I didn't see her. When she hugs me in a deep warm embrace, I remember how loved I am. 

Tatiana Johnson

 Mother’s Day is upon me. I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom always – I get two little ones up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark. I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping. But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom. Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes. Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.  It was already late  enough, and a wild night,  and the road full of fallen  branches and stones.  But little by little,  as you left their voices behind,  the stars began to burn  through the sheets of clouds,  and there was a new voice  which you slowly  recognized as your own  -Mary Oliver, from The Journey   Sarah Kieffer

Mother’s Day is upon me. I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom always – I get two little ones up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark. I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping. But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom. Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes. Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own

-Mary Oliver, from The Journey

Sarah Kieffer

 Everything That’s Wrong With Us and Our Battle With Life   The earth under my head feels grounding. The scratchy grass tickles the back of my neck. That brittle, Australian grass everyone has. It doesn’t need to be watered. "Save Water. Every drop counts".  In front of my eyes. And miles away, clouds threatening. Rolling. Their unrivaled domination of the sky. Then they are the sky. There’s nothing but their slow crashing.   A tiny escapee descends. It’s final dance ending on my lip. Bravely disengaged from it’s source. Adventuring to the unknown below. Now part of this planet’s human moment. Tsk, where’s my umbrella.    Hurrying back, hoping to dodge the inconvenient deluge or momentary shower. Either way, my suede shoes and leather skirt can't get wet. A week’s wage each. Organic leather. Bred indoors to be soft wearing.   I trip over something as I round the last corner home. Looking back, over wind licked and rain specked hair across my cheeks, I see it was two plastic bags full of grass cuttings.   Back inside my four safe walls, freshly painted with acrylic white. Aircon on. Droplets already gone, quickly dried from my face. Nature accepts it's impermanence. Understands the fragility of life. No life without death.   Tap, Kettle, Cup. Hot, sweet tea on my tongue. Milk from our local dairy. Rarely, but with a soft west wind, I can hear the mother cows' sad chorus. Aah, the steam in my lashes. Heaven.   I can’t shake the vision of those bags though. That intervention. A human. Must have known better. Wrapped the grass in plastic. Nature’s course now suspended. Garbage truck driver waves hi on Mondays.    Discarded, buried. Long after that gardener is laid to rest, the grass is still waiting. For it’s captor to crumble. So that it can rejoin nature. But never without it’s eternal plastic virus.    Chilli yaps. Her irritating, staccato signature. Like white noise echoing in my ears. What must the neighbours think. My doomy daydream violently interrupted by this soaking wet dog.   Rose Punch

Everything That’s Wrong With Us and Our Battle With Life 

The earth under my head feels grounding. The scratchy grass tickles the back of my neck. That brittle, Australian grass everyone has. It doesn’t need to be watered. "Save Water. Every drop counts".

In front of my eyes. And miles away, clouds threatening. Rolling. Their unrivaled domination of the sky. Then they are the sky. There’s nothing but their slow crashing. 

A tiny escapee descends. It’s final dance ending on my lip. Bravely disengaged from it’s source. Adventuring to the unknown below. Now part of this planet’s human moment. Tsk, where’s my umbrella.  

Hurrying back, hoping to dodge the inconvenient deluge or momentary shower. Either way, my suede shoes and leather skirt can't get wet. A week’s wage each. Organic leather. Bred indoors to be soft wearing. 

I trip over something as I round the last corner home. Looking back, over wind licked and rain specked hair across my cheeks, I see it was two plastic bags full of grass cuttings. 

Back inside my four safe walls, freshly painted with acrylic white. Aircon on. Droplets already gone, quickly dried from my face. Nature accepts it's impermanence. Understands the fragility of life. No life without death. 

Tap, Kettle, Cup. Hot, sweet tea on my tongue. Milk from our local dairy. Rarely, but with a soft west wind, I can hear the mother cows' sad chorus. Aah, the steam in my lashes. Heaven. 

I can’t shake the vision of those bags though. That intervention. A human. Must have known better. Wrapped the grass in plastic. Nature’s course now suspended. Garbage truck driver waves hi on Mondays.  

Discarded, buried. Long after that gardener is laid to rest, the grass is still waiting. For it’s captor to crumble. So that it can rejoin nature. But never without it’s eternal plastic virus.  

Chilli yaps. Her irritating, staccato signature. Like white noise echoing in my ears. What must the neighbours think. My doomy daydream violently interrupted by this soaking wet dog.

Rose Punch

 We almost died getting to Lost Creek Campground. Died a thousand times in our imaginations: toppled off cliffs, slipped spiraling down corkscrew turns, lost and found and lost again in the midsummer dark. When we got there, the camp was closed, but the angels were having a party. They said, “sure,” we could stay the night. So we trespassed under the pines. The colors ate up the sky, thick and alive. We could feel them in our bodies, through the pressing clouds – purple, orange, magenta, gold.      My last thought before sleep was of the world – a watery memory of itself – suspended in a single tear.   Jaime Greenberg

We almost died getting to Lost Creek Campground. Died a thousand times in our imaginations: toppled off cliffs, slipped spiraling down corkscrew turns, lost and found and lost again in the midsummer dark. When we got there, the camp was closed, but the angels were having a party. They said, “sure,” we could stay the night. So we trespassed under the pines. The colors ate up the sky, thick and alive. We could feel them in our bodies, through the pressing clouds – purple, orange, magenta, gold.    

My last thought before sleep was of the world – a watery memory of itself – suspended in a single tear.

Jaime Greenberg

 We are such collectors. Collectors of memories, of comforts, of reminders. Of things that make us feel something. Not because of the value that the thing itself holds, but what it reminds us of.   These photos are from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. Chemicals and paper. But the reminders that are mirrored on these slips of paper are my heritage and my story. The photographs belong to my grandfather. I have borrowed them to scan, to preserve, to distribute.   I love this photo of Momaw tending to their property. The soft greens, the pale blues, the faded red of the mower. It was taken sometime in the summer of 1968, developed in January 1969. Before they planted the tree that would one day hold our tire swings. Before they moved her mother in next door so they could take care of her easily in her last years. Before they had to install the ramp for Momaw, just so she could get to the door. Before they sold the house to move closer to the hospital, just in case Momaw had "another little spell" with her heart. Before the new owners put an ugly red roof on it, painted over the green siding, ripped down the cabinets and took out walls. Before the white outbuildings were leveled and every one of these trees were chopped down.  See that garden behind her? That was the very soil of my childhood. My Popaw and my dad tilled the garden, plowed the rows and planted the seeds. Popaw tended to it every morning and afternoon. Momaw picked the cucumbers, canned the beans, shucked the corn. My mom helped dig up the potatoes, slice the radishes and snap the beans and make strawberry jam. Eventually, my sisters and I helped plant those wrinkled corn seeds too. We sat under the maple tree with the women, dish towels in our laps and paper bags rolled down beside us and laughed and listened to stories as we shucked the corn. We sat cross legged on the green astroturfed porch, watching cars drive by as we pulled delicate strings and broke green beans into thirds and tossed the pieces into a Tupperware bowl. We did not like picking cucumbers because the fuzzy leaves made our legs itch. But we liked to help her make and eat pickles. We chose fresh tomatoes for slicing every day, lined them up by size on the porch steps.    A lot of what I learned about life came from that garden, those days, those people.    The photos from those days are my anchors.   Fires give you no time to prepare for loss. But hurricanes do. When Irma was headed our way in September, I gathered all of our home videos, our family albums, our hard drives, and these old photos from my Popaw. I slipped them into crude black trash bags, tucked down inside plastic totes with lids. Protection from water, just in case the roof collapsed or the windows blew out. The totes went into my car, and we carried them into a friend’s safer-than-ours house a few miles away. We took only our real treasures: our pets and our people, our photos and videos, the hand-stitched quilts she made and gave to us, a box of memories and letters and truly-irreplaceables, the kids' chosen loveys from their babyhood, food and clothes to last a week.    Everything else, stayed. Anything that could be rebuilt or replaced or rebought, stayed. Furniture and books and appliances and kitchen gadgets and those toys they just had to have, the decorations I put all that thought and effort into, the televisions and the computers that we spent a small fortune on… we determined it all to be “just stuff” in the end.    Just stuff.    The hurricane could have it.    Stacey Woods

We are such collectors. Collectors of memories, of comforts, of reminders. Of things that make us feel something. Not because of the value that the thing itself holds, but what it reminds us of. 

These photos are from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. Chemicals and paper. But the reminders that are mirrored on these slips of paper are my heritage and my story. The photographs belong to my grandfather. I have borrowed them to scan, to preserve, to distribute. 

I love this photo of Momaw tending to their property. The soft greens, the pale blues, the faded red of the mower. It was taken sometime in the summer of 1968, developed in January 1969. Before they planted the tree that would one day hold our tire swings. Before they moved her mother in next door so they could take care of her easily in her last years. Before they had to install the ramp for Momaw, just so she could get to the door. Before they sold the house to move closer to the hospital, just in case Momaw had "another little spell" with her heart. Before the new owners put an ugly red roof on it, painted over the green siding, ripped down the cabinets and took out walls. Before the white outbuildings were leveled and every one of these trees were chopped down.

See that garden behind her? That was the very soil of my childhood. My Popaw and my dad tilled the garden, plowed the rows and planted the seeds. Popaw tended to it every morning and afternoon. Momaw picked the cucumbers, canned the beans, shucked the corn. My mom helped dig up the potatoes, slice the radishes and snap the beans and make strawberry jam. Eventually, my sisters and I helped plant those wrinkled corn seeds too. We sat under the maple tree with the women, dish towels in our laps and paper bags rolled down beside us and laughed and listened to stories as we shucked the corn. We sat cross legged on the green astroturfed porch, watching cars drive by as we pulled delicate strings and broke green beans into thirds and tossed the pieces into a Tupperware bowl. We did not like picking cucumbers because the fuzzy leaves made our legs itch. But we liked to help her make and eat pickles. We chose fresh tomatoes for slicing every day, lined them up by size on the porch steps.  

A lot of what I learned about life came from that garden, those days, those people.  

The photos from those days are my anchors. 

Fires give you no time to prepare for loss. But hurricanes do. When Irma was headed our way in September, I gathered all of our home videos, our family albums, our hard drives, and these old photos from my Popaw. I slipped them into crude black trash bags, tucked down inside plastic totes with lids. Protection from water, just in case the roof collapsed or the windows blew out. The totes went into my car, and we carried them into a friend’s safer-than-ours house a few miles away. We took only our real treasures: our pets and our people, our photos and videos, the hand-stitched quilts she made and gave to us, a box of memories and letters and truly-irreplaceables, the kids' chosen loveys from their babyhood, food and clothes to last a week.  

Everything else, stayed. Anything that could be rebuilt or replaced or rebought, stayed. Furniture and books and appliances and kitchen gadgets and those toys they just had to have, the decorations I put all that thought and effort into, the televisions and the computers that we spent a small fortune on… we determined it all to be “just stuff” in the end.  

Just stuff.  

The hurricane could have it. 

Stacey Woods

 Who are we now?  What is left of us?  It feels like     We have been eroded away      By the course of our life.    Julie Guertin

Who are we now?

What is left of us?

It feels like   

We have been eroded away    

By the course of our life. 

Julie Guertin

 Dear me,  Slow down.  Look up.  Breath.  Pause.  Life is going to be full of wonder. But if you keep hurrying along, you will miss so much of the beauty among the chaos of everyday.  You are young and naive.  You think you need to keep pushing full ahead.  You think you have to follow some predestined path on the journey of life. But you don't.  You may have grown in the most traditional of family ways.  You may still be hurting from watching your parents marriage collapse, your family home crumble, and the life you knew fall apart. But do not let this define you.  The traditions that you have learned - keep them close, but don't let them hold you down. They are a part of you - but they do not own you. Do them because you love them, you feel them, and they bring you joy. Let the expectations go.  You have freedom - let it carry you.  Only too soon will you make big decisions - some of which you will question and challenge for many years to come.   Please yourself.  Take care of yourself.  Be mindful.  Love yourself.... and love will come to you in many unexpected ways, in many forms, in glee and sorrow. It will carry you through.  Love,  future me   Allyson Ell

Dear me,

Slow down.

Look up.

Breath.

Pause.

Life is going to be full of wonder. But if you keep hurrying along, you will miss so much of the beauty among the chaos of everyday.

You are young and naive.  You think you need to keep pushing full ahead.  You think you have to follow some predestined path on the journey of life. But you don't.

You may have grown in the most traditional of family ways.  You may still be hurting from watching your parents marriage collapse, your family home crumble, and the life you knew fall apart. But do not let this define you.

The traditions that you have learned - keep them close, but don't let them hold you down. They are a part of you - but they do not own you. Do them because you love them, you feel them, and they bring you joy. Let the expectations go.

You have freedom - let it carry you.

Only too soon will you make big decisions - some of which you will question and challenge for many years to come. 

Please yourself.

Take care of yourself.

Be mindful.

Love yourself.... and love will come to you in many unexpected ways, in many forms, in glee and sorrow. It will carry you through.

Love,

future me

Allyson Ell

 I called you from the payphone at the corner store, but there was no answer.  Headed up the Delaware highway in your rusted out blue pickup  Drove the stick shift while smoking my cigarette  Barefoot,  t-shirt, cutoffs  Flicked the embers and drove by the glow from the moon,  It was a long way, it was our way  Kicked up the dirt from spinning tires, on the long stretch of barren road  Pulled into the gravel drive after a long night  Spent the summer sleeping on the pullout  There was nowhere to hide  It was a six-pack of another time ago.  Some days I’d like to burn it all to the ground, watch those embers float off into the universe. It's history,  it went down like this.   Elizabeth Huffman

I called
you from the payphone at the corner store, but there was no answer.

Headed
up the Delaware highway in your rusted out blue pickup

Drove
the stick shift while smoking my cigarette

Barefoot, 
t-shirt, cutoffs

Flicked
the embers and drove by the glow from the moon,

It was
a long way, it was our way

Kicked
up the dirt from spinning tires, on the long stretch of barren road

Pulled
into the gravel drive after a long night

Spent
the summer sleeping on the pullout

There
was nowhere to hide

It was
a six-pack of another time ago.

Some days
I’d like to burn it all to the ground, watch those embers float off into the
universe. It's history, 
it went down like this.

Elizabeth Huffman

 I like keeping everything. All of my kids baby clothes, photos, mementos, any cards or letters people send me .. I am basically a packrat. I can give something away if I know someone will use it and love it. Not a true hoarder but I am very sentimental. In December we had a fire near us (did not affect us) but I had to pack just in case .. and made me think .. and all I packed were my hard drives with photos, my laptop, my jewelry and some documents and passports. Told the kids to pack their school uniforms and an extra change of clothes and that was all. It was not freeing but anxiety provoking but as I looked around I knew I could not take it all and really I took stock in what was important, and only our lives were.This trait comes from the fact that I have very little from my early childhood. I lived in India with my grandparents until I was 5 and then came here to live with my parents and besides some photos to document that time and my memories, no one saved any of my "stuff".    I am sharing a picture (believe it or not) of a pencil that I saved when I was in elementary school in NJ from Kindergarten .. I even made a box for it back then and wrote in calligraphy that I learned in 4th grade and was so proud of .. It's my way of honoring that sentimental child I always was .. even at that age. I forget that I have always been that way .. and that having kids did not make me this way! Even a simple blue bitten up pencil has a special box and place.   Rohina Gandhi Hoffman

I like keeping everything. All of my kids baby clothes, photos, mementos, any cards or letters people send me .. I am basically a packrat. I can give something away if I know someone will use it and love it. Not a true hoarder but I am very sentimental. In December we had a fire near us (did not affect us) but I had to pack just in case .. and made me think .. and all I packed were my hard drives with photos, my laptop, my jewelry and some documents and passports. Told the kids to pack their school uniforms and an extra change of clothes and that was all. It was not freeing but anxiety provoking but as I looked around I knew I could not take it all and really I took stock in what was important, and only our lives were.This trait comes from the fact that I have very little from my early childhood. I lived in India with my grandparents until I was 5 and then came here to live with my parents and besides some photos to document that time and my memories, no one saved any of my "stuff".  

I am sharing a picture (believe it or not) of a pencil that I saved when I was in elementary school in NJ from Kindergarten .. I even made a box for it back then and wrote in calligraphy that I learned in 4th grade and was so proud of .. It's my way of honoring that sentimental child I always was .. even at that age. I forget that I have always been that way .. and that having kids did not make me this way! Even a simple blue bitten up pencil has a special box and place. 

Rohina Gandhi Hoffman

 i long for a calm life  a field of giant hydrangeas   watered by pure rain   Alena Nobs    

i long for a calm life

a field of giant hydrangeas 

watered by pure rain

Alena Nobs

 

 I took this photo in April as I rode on a small boat, very low in the water, crossing a big river in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was regretting taking the boat as I was imagining being tossed carelessly aside by one of the big passenger boats criss-crossing in front of us and my subsequent disgusting death by drowning in the sewage-filled river. At this moment, my shutter button became my life preserver. I clung tightly to my camera and became one with the beautiful man steering boldly into his future.    Shelly Han

I took this photo in April as I rode on a small boat, very low in the water, crossing a big river in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was regretting taking the boat as I was imagining being tossed carelessly aside by one of the big passenger boats criss-crossing in front of us and my subsequent disgusting death by drowning in the sewage-filled river. At this moment, my shutter button became my life preserver. I clung tightly to my camera and became one with the beautiful man steering boldly into his future. 

Shelly Han

 My earliest childhood memories are all little pieces of sand reflecting a too bright sun  No one spoke the same language... and I, so dreamy, didn't even try to parse out meaning.  I let the YiddishRussianGerman wash over me like the water I loved, like the sand pouring out between my ocean sticky fingers.  Time was endless, and I was so patient, so much more patient than my children  The ENDLESS dinners, with me trying to gag down food until my grandfather, thankfully, would take my food from my plate onto his so I wouldn't have to sit there with the "5 more bites before you can leave the table" over and over and over  Summers at the pool by the long island sound.  Allowed to go onto the sand, but not into the polluted ocean waters.  Cold mornings as I slid my tiny body into the water for swim club  Sitting under my grandfathers drafting table, or watching him paint or sitting in the red of the darkroom "helping" to work the enlarger, sitting up on the table so that I could pull the metal strand to turn the big red bulb on or off  Sitting under my mothers sewing machine, listening to swears and threats lobbed at the big noise machine that wasn't sewing correctly  Summer camp, endless freedom, dirty dusty woodland trails to the metal swing set.  No one telling me what to eat, a summer of saltines and sugar water, swimming in the lake, songs around the campfire, sneaking out to go to church with the church going children.  I loved it there, until you forgot to pick me up on Saturday after I was gone for a month.  When they had to call you to come get me, and so you came on Sunday.  I was 9, and you forgot to pick me up  It all goes south from there.... taunted at school, bullied at a time when bullies ruled and "just ignore them" or "he does that because he likes you" was the norm  Staring out the window during, the endless, stomach churning, hours in school.    Too small,   too small   too small.    No I am not going into Kindergarten, I am 10, I am going into 4th grade, they already held me back because I am "too small" and now I am "Bored and not living up to my potential" This blue Benji lunchbox is for fourth grade, not kindergarten.   car rides in the old blue woody station wagon.  Sleeping in the back with the window down on the way to Florida.  We ran out of gas, Daddy had to walk away to find gas.... We ran out of money, we had to get off of the highway and avoid the tolls, it was gas or tolls   new school, again, still the smallest in the class, never have to wonder where I will be in the line when we line up by height, always first, or always last, whichever order they were going in.  Always someone saying "what's for dinner???  Shrimp!  ha ha ha ha" Or picking me up, don't pick me up!  But I always like to think back to the endless summer days, my grandmother and her other giant busted friends in the pool, me in the sand, watching it slip gently through my fingers, slowly finding it's way back to the ground, filtering down, with the sun sparkling in the sky, and my sticky blond curls in clumps on my head.  Just waiting to go get a lime ricky with my grandmother   Phyllis Meredith

My earliest childhood memories are all little pieces of sand reflecting a too bright sun

No one spoke the same language... and I, so dreamy, didn't even try to parse out meaning.  I let the YiddishRussianGerman wash over me like the water I loved, like the sand pouring out between my ocean sticky fingers.

Time was endless, and I was so patient, so much more patient than my children

The ENDLESS dinners, with me trying to gag down food until my grandfather, thankfully, would take my food from my plate onto his so I wouldn't have to sit there with the "5 more bites before you can leave the table" over and over and over

Summers at the pool by the long island sound.  Allowed to go onto the sand, but not into the polluted ocean waters.  Cold mornings as I slid my tiny body into the water for swim club

Sitting under my grandfathers drafting table, or watching him paint or sitting in the red of the darkroom "helping" to work the enlarger, sitting up on the table so that I could pull the metal strand to turn the big red bulb on or off

Sitting under my mothers sewing machine, listening to swears and threats lobbed at the big noise machine that wasn't sewing correctly

Summer camp, endless freedom, dirty dusty woodland trails to the metal swing set.  No one telling me what to eat, a summer of saltines and sugar water, swimming in the lake, songs around the campfire, sneaking out to go to church with the church going children.  I loved it there, until you forgot to pick me up on Saturday after I was gone for a month.  When they had to call you to come get me, and so you came on Sunday.  I was 9, and you forgot to pick me up

It all goes south from there.... taunted at school, bullied at a time when bullies ruled and "just ignore them" or "he does that because he likes you" was the norm

Staring out the window during, the endless, stomach churning, hours in school.  

Too small, 

too small 

too small.  

No I am not going into Kindergarten, I am 10, I am going into 4th grade, they already held me back because I am "too small" and now I am "Bored and not living up to my potential" This blue Benji lunchbox is for fourth grade, not kindergarten. 

car rides in the old blue woody station wagon.  Sleeping in the back with the window down on the way to Florida.  We ran out of gas, Daddy had to walk away to find gas.... We ran out of money, we had to get off of the highway and avoid the tolls, it was gas or tolls 

new school, again, still the smallest in the class, never have to wonder where I will be in the line when we line up by height, always first, or always last, whichever order they were going in.  Always someone saying "what's for dinner???  Shrimp!  ha ha ha ha" Or picking me up, don't pick me up!

But I always like to think back to the endless summer days, my grandmother and her other giant busted friends in the pool, me in the sand, watching it slip gently through my fingers, slowly finding it's way back to the ground, filtering down, with the sun sparkling in the sky, and my sticky blond curls in clumps on my head.  Just waiting to go get a lime ricky with my grandmother

Phyllis Meredith

 If I place my thumb  on one side of the bridge,  and a finger on the other,  then I can feel you.  Your heartbeat pulses;  I can almost hear your laughter.  I let go; work to do.  Quickly I return to me.  To the smile held long past its honesty.  Jaw clenched with conflict  in the trap of current time.  Tonight the night guard will cover his shift.  Work to undo the damage done  from the battles fought between us.  Since this time last night;  when I felt you.  Your beloved rhythm of wonder.  You say that I've forgotten.  But I have not.  I swear - I am still you.  It's just that there is now so much  to lose.  Too much.   Erin Hughes

If I place my thumb

on one side of the bridge,

and a finger on the other,

then I can feel you.

Your heartbeat pulses;

I can almost hear your laughter.

I let go; work to do.

Quickly I return to me.

To the smile held long past its honesty.

Jaw clenched with conflict

in the trap of current time.

Tonight the night guard will cover his shift.

Work to undo the damage done

from the battles fought between us.

Since this time last night;

when I felt you.

Your beloved rhythm of wonder.

You say that I've forgotten.

But I have not.

I swear - I am still you.

It's just that there is now so much

to lose.

Too much.

Erin Hughes

 First, there was darkness. The train so bright against the blackest black that all I could do was stare back at myself. We were driven underground, the train car rocking to and fro like a mom shushing an anxious baby. When we arrive we climb out and up, blinking in the dim lighting, herded forward so that all we see are the backs of those in front of us. The hum in the distance mingles with the shuffling of our feet, a cacophony made into melody by the buzz of energy that quaked in the concrete. And then we were there, here, everywhere. The center of the very center of the world. I emerged looking up at constellations bathed in green, perched above a sea of bodies. It didn’t take long before I was swept away.    I fell in love 16 miles north of Manhattan. But it was on those street corners where first love became something lasting. Aquarius stood watchful as I ran against the current into open arms. 16 miles too far a distance, eight hours apart torturous and slow moving. A string connected us on this commute, laid down on the tracks, covered in centuries old soot, to bring me there to that spot. Every time.    Through the years the buildings echoed our laughter, shielded us from the cold that we tried to drive out with our bodies huddled close. Even the memories are fast moving, swept to sea. That concrete island that held so many of our secrets and our joys. So much of our longing floating up with the steam and noise.    From a distance, I felt that pull. Even through the heartache of a city laid gutted and torn, broken and weary, I felt that hope you can only feel in the city. The only city that doesn’t need a name to be known.      I return now as a stranger. The string connecting me to another place far away.  But Orion can still find me in the midst of those bodies. And he smiles, like we have a passing secret long buried in the deepest corners of our memory. It’s a secret we keep, a hope that springs eternal every time I come back to the place that, though never home in the way we’re used to, was home to the purest parts of my soul, to the dreams that I only found strength to utter in its streets.    Elaine Palladino

First, there was darkness. The train so bright against the blackest black that all I could do was stare back at myself. We were driven underground, the train car rocking to and fro like a mom shushing an anxious baby. When we arrive we climb out and up, blinking in the dim lighting, herded forward so that all we see are the backs of those in front of us. The hum in the distance mingles with the shuffling of our feet, a cacophony made into melody by the buzz of energy that quaked in the concrete. And then we were there, here, everywhere. The center of the very center of the world. I emerged looking up at constellations bathed in green, perched above a sea of bodies. It didn’t take long before I was swept away.  

I fell in love 16 miles north of Manhattan. But it was on those street corners where first love became something lasting. Aquarius stood watchful as I ran against the current into open arms. 16 miles too far a distance, eight hours apart torturous and slow moving. A string connected us on this commute, laid down on the tracks, covered in centuries old soot, to bring me there to that spot. Every time.  

Through the years the buildings echoed our laughter, shielded us from the cold that we tried to drive out with our bodies huddled close. Even the memories are fast moving, swept to sea. That concrete island that held so many of our secrets and our joys. So much of our longing floating up with the steam and noise.  

From a distance, I felt that pull. Even through the heartache of a city laid gutted and torn, broken and weary, I felt that hope you can only feel in the city. The only city that doesn’t need a name to be known.    

I return now as a stranger. The string connecting me to another place far away.  But Orion can still find me in the midst of those bodies. And he smiles, like we have a passing secret long buried in the deepest corners of our memory. It’s a secret we keep, a hope that springs eternal every time I come back to the place that, though never home in the way we’re used to, was home to the purest parts of my soul, to the dreams that I only found strength to utter in its streets. 

Elaine Palladino

Spotlight on...the students of Food as Art with Anna Larson

The first run of Food as Art  was this spring and I was blown away by the work of my students. My heart is so full from watching others become inspired and motivated to grow in this area of photography. It's incredibly fulfilling to see concepts absorbed and then come to life through everyone's work. Food is such an important part of our culture and I love that the students created work that was meaningful to them.

After two weeks together in our online classroom, each student is invited into a private Facebook community where we continue to grow alongside each other. This is all about the journey.

I'm already looking forward to the next round this fall! If you've been wanting to dive into food work, I hope you'll join me! Registration opens on August 22nd at 12 noon EST. 

Anna Larson | instructor of Food as Art

Now for some beautiful images from my alumni...

 Dianne Reilley

Dianne Reilley

 Dianne Reilley

Dianne Reilley

 Tania White

Tania White

Registration for this class and all Illuminate classes opens on August 22nd at 12 noon EST. Last time this class sold out so don't hesitate to grab a seat if you are interested. 

Two and Never Any More

When my son Henry was three, I longed deeply for another baby.  Our eldest, Jane, was six, Henry - three, and it felt like the time to either jump into having a third baby, or decide that two was the right number of children for our family.

We decided Henry would be our last.

unnamed.jpg

Once the decision was made, I felt a light switched off in my heart.  I was so lucky to have two beautiful, healthy babies, but I couldn’t keep myself from turning black.  Selfishly, I knew I already had so much - but there was a part of me that couldn’t deal with the finite nature of the decision.  No more sleepless nights.  No more lush legs slung around my hip.  No more sweet smelling baby heads or hazy nights of nursing.  It was the end of an era in my own womanhood and its passing felt exquisitely sharp.

I wrote a blog post about my twoandneveranymore children.  I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.  And I stopped photographing all newborns.  

It was so painful to realize I wouldn’t be able to photograph a baby of my own again - so how could I possibly photograph someone else’s?  Just the thought of it made me weak.  I was worried I would cry at the session, or loose my creativity under a wave of emotion.

Slowly, after a quiet year, like the universe knew what I needed, a few newborn inquiries trickled in.  Most times I wanted to say no thank you, but when I said yes, it was usually exactly what my artist heart needed.  I would race to my car after the session, shutting the door just in time to welcome a flood of tears.  With my camera still around my neck I would click through the RAWS and see intertwined mother and baby, father and child, human touch, connection. I oddly felt relief.  When I let my heart drive, the most beautiful images surfaced.  Images that felt a bit like a hug or a bandaid.  I knew art was a gift I could give to my clients, but never did I think taking these photos - OF OTHER PEOPLES BABIES - would also be a gift I could give to myself.  

My kids are older now - Jane is nearly 13, my baby Henry, 9.  Like most moms, I still well up when I look at pictures of my babies, because their childhood is going so fast, but I really don’t miss babyhood anymore or long for a third child.  But what persists and grows is my love of photographing new babies.  I think it’s because perhaps, I am still healing.  Our own work is always carving, shaping, healing us - even when it is created for someone else.  And perhaps the greatest peace comes from capturing the tender moments for others I never did with my own son, simply because I didn’t know he’d be my last.  

There is a two-way path we tread with our clients.  They choose us for the art we have the ability to give — and we choose them, because our own creation provides the precise healing, insight, and growth our artist heart needs.  Sometimes it takes years to see these patterns and realize the path, but I believe the images we take are never one-sided and our client/photographer relationships meaningfully intertwined.  What are the clients that are drawn to you?  What are the gifts you are designed to give?  And how do client sessions provide insight into your own creative journey or personal healing?

____

Here is my original blog post on this subject written five years ago.  Just remember the healing, the journey, the making - it always continues:

http://www.roxannebryant.com/blog/2013/05/twoandneveranymore.html


©+Roxanne+Bryant.jpeg

Roxanne Bryant

Hi, I'm Roxanne.  I am a photographer and writer, and took my first film class over 20 years ago!  My journey began as a studio based fine artist, focused on drawing, painting and design.  These early disciplines shaped the way I photograph and work with color today.  With an MFA in Art Education, I have taught a wide range of artists - kindergarteners through seniors prepping for art school, to professionals honing their editing skills.  Teaching is core to my artist heart.  I believe that color, like light, is key to crafting an image and telling our stories.  In both my personal and client work, children are my favorite subject because they never sit still:  a blur of imperfection, color, and motion.  Coastal New England is my home, and being on the water with my family is my very favorite place to be. 

website  |  facebook  |  instagram  |  email

Spotlight on...the students of The Magician's Cape with Heather Robinson

Motherhood is weird.  The entrance into this strange new world happens so quickly really.  I mean 9 months is nothing when you think about how many years of living and becoming a unique individual that all of us experience first.  And then one day you wake up after days, months, years of this new identity called “Mama” and you realize that all those earlier years of your life (the pre-motherhood days) feel so distant almost as if they never even happened.  But they did happen.  You had an identity before motherhood.  You have stories of a life before children.  And you will have stories of a life long after your children have grown up and left the nest.  What’s more, you have stories that are occurring right now as you live out these fleeting days of motherhood.  

We as the family historians become so consumed with the task of documenting our children’s childhood stories that we forget to also include ourselves in their history.  We shrink away from the camera.  We silence our voices.  We disappear from this history which we seek to preserve.  We deny not just ourselves but also our children from an incredible gift.  We don’t get do-overs in motherhood or in childhood.  When the days together are done, there is no going back and starting over.  When we don’t show up in the family stories that we tell, we are holding our children back from forever knowing the beautifully complicated and magical identity that is “Mama”.  

In my self-portraiture workshop “The Magician’s Cape”, I call upon the students to search their hearts for the hidden stories.  I urge the students to embrace themselves not just as mothers but as women so that they can create artistic and revealing self-portraits that tell their unique stories.  I inspire them to set the record straight by showing realistic images of what strong, intelligent, and beautiful women look like as they live out the days of motherhood alongside their children.  

Below are a few magical self-portraits that the students from the first run of my workshop created during our two weeks together.  I couldn’t be more proud of these women and of the special community that we have formed through this amazing experience.  

Heather Robinson | instructor of The Magician's Cape

There are still a few active and silent seats left in the spring run of this class. If you are interested, be sure to grab a seat becuase this will be the last time this class will be offered in 2018. 

If you would like to learn to take self portraits so that you can be in the frame WITH your kids, head HERE to grab a spot in this amazing class. 

 

 

Portrait Revolution with Lindsey Bergstrom Giveaway

 

PORTRAIT REVOLUTION WITH LINDSEY BERGSTROM

Creating a portrait is an intimate act.  A wordless interchange of trust that passes between the sitter and artist.  A portrait is far more than just a photo of a person; it is their story as an art form preserved in a single moment.  Portraits can be spontaneous and intuitive or calculated and crafted.  They can challenge, soothe, offend, and knock us over.  All are wonderful in their own way.  But what way is your way? What is your portrait voice? What stories and relationships do you want to tell with one single image?  Click above to learn more and good luck!

 

Seriously Social with Rowe Timson Giveaway!

SERIOUSLY SOCIAL WITH ROWE TIMSON

Most people have a love-hate relationship with social media. On one hand, we love to connect with friends and like-minded people. It makes us feel good! On the other, it’s a huge time suck and although we hope our social media channels will generate income, we rarely see those connections convert to real clients and sales. What Rowe knows for sure is, social media is an imperative part of owning and running a small business in today's world, so we need to learn how to get the most out of the time we invest online.

 

The Magician's Cape with Heather Robinson Giveaway!

THE MAGICIAN'S CAPE WITH HEATHER ROBINSON

Rise and shine!  Wipe the sleep from your eyes.  I know you are tired.  I know this because I am tired too.  I am you.  You are me.  We are mothers.  As we know, a mother’s work is never done.  Even in sleep, we work.  We dream of our greatest works of art, our children.  And sometimes we lie awake at night unable to rest our weary minds.  Worry is a poor bed fellow.  Yet, we keep company with it because we love with such an intensity that we constantly want more.  We want more for our children.  We want to be more for them.  There is a desperate need to give our children all that we never had.  We share our love through bountiful acts of devotion.  Sometimes we are so busy carrying out the multiple roles of motherhood that we overlook one incredible role.  We forget to leave a trail for our children to follow should they become lost one day and need to find their way back home to us.  Every person’s story begins with mother.  

Spotlight on...the students of The Simple Edit with Leah Zawadzki

The Simple Edit Class, over this last year, has become everything I wanted it to be. "Editing" to me is so much more than a throwing a preset on a photo, or spending hours to make an image just right. It's a small bit of a larger picture, from the point the shutter clicks to a final photo, observing and learning and then picking the camera up again. It's a full circle; it's integral to the process of making photographs and our growth as artists. 

I love what one of my students had to say; she got it....

The Simple Edit has taught me more than I can say, from editing to organizing, to simply taking better photos. Leah has helped me shape my photos into what I have held in my mind for so long, but not quite been able to make appear on the page. In this class, I have learned to follow the heart of the image I see in the edit. I now view editing as a way to further the telling of a story instead of viewing it as a correction process. This shift has helped me tremendously in my work. Leah's feedback and warmth have helped me bat away my insecurities and move forward in becoming a better photographer.  Lila Smyth

"I have learned to follow the heart of the image I see in the edit." That's a great line. 

All that said, it's still a Lightroom class, and we learn heaps about how to use the program. I love using Lightroom and teaching it because I am convinced that once we get our workflows down, we have more time for all the good stuff mentioned above. 

So proud of all my students and the work they do during our three weeks together. Here is a sampling of work made during class for the project due at the end of week two. I love that in the time it takes to start learning Lightroom, students also learn so much about themselves and the work they want to make.

   Deb Lamb  | Winter 2017

 Deb Lamb | Winter 2017

  Anne Marie Inge  | Spring 2017

Anne Marie Inge | Spring 2017

  Holly Parker  | Fall 2017

Holly Parker | Fall 2017

  Lila Smyth  | Fall 2017

Lila Smyth | Fall 2017

Another favorite assignment is two-fold. First, I have the students take a look at their current body of work and curate to about ten images that represent the kind of work they want to make, re editing images if needed. It's amazing how hard that can be! But editing is not just about the color tone or curve you use in the develop module; it's about being able to differentiate between images and commit to the work you want to make. 

This exercise forces students to do that, at the same time making a grid in the print module. The print module is so much more than about printing! Photo grids for blog posts have never been easier and can all done in the same program. Not saying that learning the print module is easy, it's tricky at first, but with a little practice, it's a great tool to understand. 

  Catherine Aldrich  | Winter 2017

Catherine Aldrich | Winter 2017

  J  essica Murphy  | Winter 2017

Jessica Murphy | Winter 2017

  Jennifer Chase  | Spring 2017

Jennifer Chase | Spring 2017

  Amber Pembleton  | Fall 2017

Amber Pembleton | Fall 2017

Love my students and so happy that I am able to share some of the great work that is out there!! Hope to see some of you in Winter session! 

xo Leah

The Simple Edit winter session will run for three weeks and starts January 22, 2018.

Registration for this class and all Illuminate Classes opens November 29 and 12 noon EST. 

Street Smart with Jennifer Tonetti Spellman giveaway!

STREET SMART WITH JENNIFER TONETTI SPELLMAN

You don't get more real than street. It is the most challenging yet fulfilling genre of photography in Jennifer's book. You cannot plan for the moments, you cannot predict what you will get, you can walk around for hours and not get a single shot!  All you can do is merely hit the streets, be mindful and present and hold a mirror up to society and see what you presents itself. Easier said than done, you say? Well, welcome to Street Smart.

The number one question Jennifer has received from people who see her work is "how do you get past that fear of shooting strangers?" This class will address that question not only in the written words of the PDF but most important in 'live' recordings of Jenn on the street doing exactly what she suggests to you to combat fear. From composition to what to look for, to what to shoot to how to process to complete the story, she covers all the basics for those looking to dip their toe in the street pool and does it all 'live' on video. Because in street seeing is not only believing but understanding how attainable street photography can be for anyone.

Spotlight on the students of...THE FAMILY HISTORIAN with Heather Robinson

On the first day of my workshop, The Family Historian, I share a quote that I wrote years ago.  The words carry great weight in my motivation to create my own family legacy.  

“none of this was all that extraordinary. just some in between moments that would quickly fade from our memories. yet these moments are the glue that holds us all together as we journey from one remarkable moment to the next.”

Days spent with little ones can linger on like an eternity.   And then one day much sooner than we can fathom they push off leaving us reeling.  It is as if these times never even happened.  

These early days are filled with repetitive acts.  Routines lace up our days.  And no matter how many times we tie a bow, those shoe strings never stay tied.  

We could quite easily spend all these childhood years going through the motions as we count down the minutes until each day is done.  Or we could take our eyes off the clock and instead use our cameras to see the beauty of these everyday moments while there is still time.  

During class, I teach my students how to reflect on what matters most in their everyday.  They learn to see the repetition in a new light.  Using not only dramatic light techniques but also creative compositions, my students begin to reveal the beautiful stories that are constantly unfolding in even the most mundane moments.  

It is my sincerest desire to create a safe space in which the students can feel at ease to share their vulnerabilities.  By opening up and finding their truths, the students learn to pair images of the seemingly unremarkable moments of life with intimate, revelatory narratives.  It is through the writing that we connect the dots to see the bigger picture.  And what a breath taking picture it turns out to be.  

I challenge my students to embrace these vulnerabilities so that they can “show up” in their stories not just through their words but also through their presence in the photographs.  These self-portraits often end up being the most treasured of all the family photographs. 

The students regardless of whether they were active, silent, or alumni dedicated themselves to finding their own unique voices with which to retell their family histories for the rest of their days.  Below is just a sampling of the beautiful “in between” that my students captured for themselves and their families.  

Heather Robinson | instructor of The Family Historian 

 “Sometimes I feel like all I want is to be by myself, to clean and cook, and sleep.  Alone.  All alone.  But when I look at my favorite spot to photograph without my tribe I feel an emptiness. An echo that pricks my heart that I know that life without you all would lack purpose, and would be essentially empty.”  image and narrative by  Shelli Dame

“Sometimes I feel like all I want is to be by myself, to clean and cook, and sleep.  Alone.  All alone.  But when I look at my favorite spot to photograph without my tribe I feel an emptiness. An echo that pricks my heart that I know that life without you all would lack purpose, and would be essentially empty.”

image and narrative by Shelli Dame

 “The play doh "factory" has seen many hours of work in its day. and for once, I didn't hesitate to let you play with it wherever you wanted. and although there were pieces of orange and yellow and green and blue strewn across the floor...and the tables...and the chairs...and the shelves...you took your little orange dust pan and broom and you cleaned up after yourself. but you left your "hummus" on the table as a token of the fun that was had while mom was busy making dinner. and I'll help you clean up any day of the week when you're willing to chip in and do the same.”  image and narrative by  Megan Millsop

“The play doh "factory" has seen many hours of work in its day. and for once, I didn't hesitate to let you play with it wherever you wanted. and although there were pieces of orange and yellow and green and blue strewn across the floor...and the tables...and the chairs...and the shelves...you took your little orange dust pan and broom and you cleaned up after yourself. but you left your "hummus" on the table as a token of the fun that was had while mom was busy making dinner. and I'll help you clean up any day of the week when you're willing to chip in and do the same.”

image and narrative by Megan Millsop

 “it doesn’t happen every time I see your precious belly, but today when you paused your building task to have a peek at your belly button my thoughts went straight to your mom, your China mom, your birth mom, your biological mother. I don't even know exactly what to call her yet. it changes, but we do talk about her. someday you'll even ask me about her. what i know is so very little. but I know about a pink bag, a red coat, and a fancy hotel all evidence of care and concern for you.  evidence of love. my heart is tied to hers just like you were once tethered to her from that very spot that captures your interest in this moment. I wish I could share her with you and you with her. and I cannot. but I will do my best to fill in the missing pieces of your story, but know I cannot fill it all. if I can give you enough that the sadness exists alongside hope, that will be enough. and I will always be there with you even if it is not.”  image and narrative by  Stephanie Bieniarz  

“it doesn’t happen every time I see your precious belly, but today when you paused your building task to have a peek at your belly button my thoughts went straight to your mom, your China mom, your birth mom, your biological mother. I don't even know exactly what to call her yet. it changes, but we do talk about her. someday you'll even ask me about her. what i know is so very little. but I know about a pink bag, a red coat, and a fancy hotel all evidence of care and concern for you.  evidence of love. my heart is tied to hers just like you were once tethered to her from that very spot that captures your interest in this moment. I wish I could share her with you and you with her. and I cannot. but I will do my best to fill in the missing pieces of your story, but know I cannot fill it all. if I can give you enough that the sadness exists alongside hope, that will be enough. and I will always be there with you even if it is not.”

image and narrative by Stephanie Bieniarz 

 “Today you found a dress buried in the closet. It's one of the few that I brought with me here that used to be mine. Before we moved here I went through and found a few things that I wanted you to be able to use when they fit you. You ran to me, and told me about this beautiful dress that you found. In reality its pretty faded, and worn, and smells like it's been in storage, but that didn't change your mind. When I told you that it used to be mine, and that Grandma made it, well that made you even more excited. You told me that you were going to wear it all day, all night, and tomorrow.”  image and narrative by  Chrissy Gilliland

“Today you found a dress buried in the closet. It's one of the few that I brought with me here that used to be mine. Before we moved here I went through and found a few things that I wanted you to be able to use when they fit you. You ran to me, and told me about this beautiful dress that you found. In reality its pretty faded, and worn, and smells like it's been in storage, but that didn't change your mind. When I told you that it used to be mine, and that Grandma made it, well that made you even more excited. You told me that you were going to wear it all day, all night, and tomorrow.”

image and narrative by Chrissy Gilliland

 “Your room is small, I know. Luckily you love being close to each other and have never complained about sharing a space. You will be older one day and each have a room of your own. Will you visit each other in one room sometimes? Will you stay in your room with your doors closed and music up loud? What will your relationship be like when you are teenagers? Right now I enjoy your need for closeness. You orbit around each other throughout the day, interacting with closeness I can't relate to as an only child. I observe with awe and gratitude that you have one another. “  image and narrative by  Sara Wright

“Your room is small, I know. Luckily you love being close to each other and have never complained about sharing a space. You will be older one day and each have a room of your own. Will you visit each other in one room sometimes? Will you stay in your room with your doors closed and music up loud? What will your relationship be like when you are teenagers? Right now I enjoy your need for closeness. You orbit around each other throughout the day, interacting with closeness I can't relate to as an only child. I observe with awe and gratitude that you have one another. “

image and narrative by Sara Wright

 “You have been missed. The whole of last week whilst you were away on a school trip your little brother has wandered around the house not really knowing what to do with himself. He's been teasing your little sister and bothering your older sister because his pal and playmate was away. The family dynamics completely changed and although you have been a bit of a pain just recently and I thought it might be good for us all to get some space we actually don't function very well without you.  So now you're back the equilibrium is restored and you go straight back to your imaginary star wars games with your brother. I can see he is more relaxed now you are back to show him how to do stuff, playing Star Wars on your own is a lonely business.”  image and narrative by  Abigail Fahey

“You have been missed. The whole of last week whilst you were away on a school trip your little brother has wandered around the house not really knowing what to do with himself. He's been teasing your little sister and bothering your older sister because his pal and playmate was away. The family dynamics completely changed and although you have been a bit of a pain just recently and I thought it might be good for us all to get some space we actually don't function very well without you.  So now you're back the equilibrium is restored and you go straight back to your imaginary star wars games with your brother. I can see he is more relaxed now you are back to show him how to do stuff, playing Star Wars on your own is a lonely business.”

image and narrative by Abigail Fahey

 “We used to eat dinner together every night. That was before daddy and I switched our schedules around so we could have a little more time home with you guys. Now I work a little later at night so I can be home with you in the morning while daddy works in the morning to be home with you in the afternoon. By the time I get home you are done eating and are ready to curl up on the couch and watch TV. You always liked TV more than your sister, who is probably off playing somewhere right now. Your brother is just starting to eat `big people’ food so he eats a little slower. Plus daddy makes sure you two are fed before he feeds your brother. I look forward to the weekends when we all eat together as a family again.”  image and narrative by  Debbie Deonier   

“We used to eat dinner together every night. That was before daddy and I switched our schedules around so we could have a little more time home with you guys. Now I work a little later at night so I can be home with you in the morning while daddy works in the morning to be home with you in the afternoon. By the time I get home you are done eating and are ready to curl up on the couch and watch TV. You always liked TV more than your sister, who is probably off playing somewhere right now. Your brother is just starting to eat `big people’ food so he eats a little slower. Plus daddy makes sure you two are fed before he feeds your brother. I look forward to the weekends when we all eat together as a family again.”

image and narrative by Debbie Deonier  

 “Daddy coming home from work is one of your favorite things ever!  Kissing him with your big open mouth makes you howl with laughter mostly because Daddy can't help but dramatically wipe all your slobber off his face. Even though all Daddy wanted after a long day was to sit down and drink his beer, he happily indulged your games. He knows you need the quality time. It feels like we never see you and your sister anymore. Later tonight, after making it a mere 6 days at home, you big brother is being readmitted to to the hospital. You and your big sister will be back in the loving arms of Grandma who is lovely but, no one plays quite like Daddy.”  image and narrative by  Heather Barrett

“Daddy coming home from work is one of your favorite things ever!  Kissing him with your big open mouth makes you howl with laughter mostly because Daddy can't help but dramatically wipe all your slobber off his face. Even though all Daddy wanted after a long day was to sit down and drink his beer, he happily indulged your games. He knows you need the quality time. It feels like we never see you and your sister anymore. Later tonight, after making it a mere 6 days at home, you big brother is being readmitted to to the hospital. You and your big sister will be back in the loving arms of Grandma who is lovely but, no one plays quite like Daddy.”

image and narrative by Heather Barrett

 “You hate when I change your nappies so I try to trick you with kisses cuddles and lullaby (your favorite one "Ainsi font font") that you don’t feel vulnerable. I love those moments. It s part of the routine and when you are on top of the change table we are at the same level. You sometimes put your little arm around my neck and put your head on my shoulder and I melt… Not this time though you were too busy playing with my necklace.”  image and narrative by  Nadia Stone

“You hate when I change your nappies so I try to trick you with kisses cuddles and lullaby (your favorite one "Ainsi font font") that you don’t feel vulnerable. I love those moments. It s part of the routine and when you are on top of the change table we are at the same level. You sometimes put your little arm around my neck and put your head on my shoulder and I melt… Not this time though you were too busy playing with my necklace.”

image and narrative by Nadia Stone

 "These days have been some of the longest of my life.  I know I'm blessed to be your mama.  To have had two years of post nap wake ups.  But some days are prettier than others.  There are often lots of tears.  And little hands grabbing at my pants or a toddler on my hip as I try to pull dinner together.  I hold on for dear life until I feel hollow from giving or guilty for giving into laundry and choosing to fold instead of play.  More days than I care to admit I blow up Papa's phone, shooting text after text until he finally walks in the door.  But. The smell of your hair still damp from sleep.  The weight of your body as you snuggle into me while the sleep drifts from your eyes.  The smoothness of your skin as I tickle your back to soothe your emotional, over-tired nerves.  When I stop, everything falls back into balance.  And here I am on the brink of heading back to work.  And I'm scared.  Not of the work.  I'm scared that I missed it, that I didn't soak it in, that I wished these days away.  Tell me it isn't so.  Put your little fingers in my hands, snuggle your downy head into my chest, tell me it will be all right.  And let me tickle your back for a few more minutes."  image and narrative by  Sylvie Grahan

"These days have been some of the longest of my life.  I know I'm blessed to be your mama.  To have had two years of post nap wake ups.  But some days are prettier than others.  There are often lots of tears.  And little hands grabbing at my pants or a toddler on my hip as I try to pull dinner together.  I hold on for dear life until I feel hollow from giving or guilty for giving into laundry and choosing to fold instead of play.  More days than I care to admit I blow up Papa's phone, shooting text after text until he finally walks in the door.

But. The smell of your hair still damp from sleep.  The weight of your body as you snuggle into me while the sleep drifts from your eyes.  The smoothness of your skin as I tickle your back to soothe your emotional, over-tired nerves.  When I stop, everything falls back into balance.

And here I am on the brink of heading back to work.  And I'm scared.  Not of the work.  I'm scared that I missed it, that I didn't soak it in, that I wished these days away.

Tell me it isn't so.  Put your little fingers in my hands, snuggle your downy head into my chest, tell me it will be all right.  And let me tickle your back for a few more minutes."

image and narrative by Sylvie Grahan

This class will be offered this fall. Registration for the next run will open on August 23rd at 12 noon EST right HERE. In the past, the active seats have sold out within minutes so don't hesitate if you are interested.