What a month it’s been! I hope you’ve been taking good care of yourself, and that everyone in your life has been taking care of each other.

Sometimes I feel like I want to erase 2020 and have a do-over. I know I’m not alone in that feeling. A lot of people are struggling out there, in our nation, in our world. In some ways it has felt weird and maybe inappropriate to be in a good mood, to be optimistic, to focus on the good. But it seems that the only thing I can do about any of the problems I see is to try and be the best version of myself possible, with love, gratitude, care, and as little judgement as I’m able.

I’m so grateful for my life right now; I live in this cool city on my little white boat, and I have the ability to keep my head above water and pay for my adventures by doing something that I love. I’m even a little grateful for the initial pause that was the stay at home orders. That space allowed me to send these emails, to build my business, to work on my portfolio, and to explore the idea of a new kind of portraiture.

In many ways I’ve been quite successful as a photographer: I have made a living off of my work, I have taken on plenty of projects that have been artistically fulfilling, and I have made some great connections and friends. If you had asked me what kind of photographer I was three years ago, I would have said that I photographed “portraits, weddings, and events.” Indeed, I was just gossiping with another photographer and this was the very way she described her business. She went on with a story about chasing fall color with her clients, having bad luck after a strong wind storm, and ending up in a QFC parking lot because it had a colorful row of planted maples. It all sounded so awfully familiar. It is no photographer’s dream to bring your client to a QFC parking lot. Lately I’ve found something oppressive about the description, “I do portraits, weddings, and events.” It falls short of my dreams. That description does not feel like success to my artistic soul.

The sort of shoots I’m exploring now are different. They’re really imaginative story-telling. I work with my clients, getting to know their needs, their dreams, and who they are. We brainstorm, I make storyboards and Pinterest pages, we come up with an idea, a dream, a vision like a movie still. I want to hunt for the exact right locations for the scenes we’re creating. I want to build dreams out of borrowed books and draped cloths, out of dramatic couture, discovered spaces, and people’s stories and imaginations.  Call me a romantic, but I believe that a really good photo, aside from making you adore the photographer, should make you adore, or be intrigued by, the subject. And for that magic to happen, location and props and wardrobe need the cohesion to become more than the sum of their parts.  I want to do work that I’m ALWAYS excited about. And I want my clients to share in and be inspired by that excitement too. Each time I complete a shoot like that it feels like success – for me and for my clients. For the artist inside of me.

Walela brought a magical combination of adventure, movement, and, somewhat to my surprise, stability into my life. Through this messy, wonderful process I found that I had both the support and the ability to complete this massive project, even though I went into it not knowing what a Phillips head screwdriver looked like. In creating my home I went from being someone who said, “I don’t know how to do this, so I probably shouldn’t try,” to someone who says, “I don’t know how to do this, but I bet I can figure it out.” That shift has been incredible for me, and I’m working on applying this new courage to my art and my business. Of course, it’s still a work in progress—marketing still seems like a black hole of doom, and my photography, my art, still feels like a direct measure of my creativity and capability (and is therefore sometimes a scary thing to share)—but now I’m able to approach with confidence the wilder and more fanciful projects of which I’ve always dreamed.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” — T.S. Eliot