Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Photo Tip: Give Yourself Permission to Wander

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

start here.

You know what’s funny about me and starting new things? It’s funny that when I start things, or most things, I always have in mind that I will eventually quit them.

“There will be an end to this,” I often tell myself when I commence upon dietary restrictions, writing projects, and anything else that I feel uncertain about the meaning or worth of my efforts. This is why I can’t finish a novel or James Frey’s “a million little pieces” for the life of me.

I  usually can’t just flow in murky waters. So what I usually do, when I can, is not commit to treading in these waters at all.

Or, usually, I’ll start with an exit plan in mind. So, for instance, when I said last month that I would be giving up chocolate. With that pronouncement, I already decided in my mind that I would only stay true to this commitment so long as a) I was not given free chocolate cake, b) I got eight hours of sleep, c) I didn’t stumble upon an “easy” chocolate recipe that contained ingredients I actually had in my pantry.

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I never did get eight hours of sleep, so that commitment went out the window. Of course.

It is in my nature, I realize, to give myself leeway out of open-ended commitments that I think I can’t, or, rather, don’t want, to live up to. I do this because I take my commitments and life very seriously. I do this because I’ve been conditioned to think in absolutes and certainties. Everything means something.  Every hobby must lead to a profession. Every good conversation must lead to a friendship. Every start must have a end, a good one, for me to stay motivated. This is my personality by nature. And it’s why when I don’t live up to my commitments, I feel bad and make excuses to explain, to myself, why I didn’t.

I am saying this now because it’s something that I now recognize as a problem. If you’re always looking for destinations, meaning, stated goals, and certainty, you lose sight of what it means to be alive.

wander today.

You miss the unexpected joy and sense of relief that comes when you decide in the midst of new and unfamiliar territory that you are not lost, just wandering. And usually in wandering, you’ll find a new way back to where you wanted to go anyway, or you’ll find someplace better than you thought. That’s the joy of wandering.

This year, I’ve willingly wandered, drifted into new things– new fitness classes at the gym, auditions, new writing opportunities– without an exit plan or clear exit sign in sight.

And in doing more of this, old things in my life are beginning to make more sense. Like photography.

People often ask why I “do photography.” And when I buy new camera equipment, I ask myself the same.

I want to say because one day I’ll make money from this hobby, but that’s really a lie.

I think the joy of photography has always been, without me knowing it, the wandering part. Yes, I enjoy taking pictures of my children. But more than that, it’s one of the few things in my adult life that I’ve allowed myself to grow in without a clear goal in mind for the end. The journey itself is my “why.”

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This is my life tip that can be applied to new photographers or anyone else listening. Wander in the craft and good things will come.

IMG_7721Yes, knowing how to shoot in Manual matters.

Knowing what good light looks like matters. But more important than that, especially when you’re starting out and none of that stuff makes sense anyway, is this: To get better at taking pictures, you must be willing to continue on when you aren’t yet taking better pictures.

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I never had a plan to continue with photography when I started out four years ago. But I kept with it, through bad pictures and a lack of motivation, because I enjoyed the process. My pictures weren’t great, but I kept going because for once, with photography, this new thing I didn’t understand, my desire to tell my story was greater than my desire to give up.

Ah, the beauty of wandering.

Have you ever started something without a clear goal in mind? What was it and how did “it” end up?

Finding Happiness in the Snow

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Along with most of the East coast, we’ve been hit by snow.

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Lots and lots of snow. More than we’ve received all season.

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I’m usually an adult when it comes to snow. I hate it, or I don’t hate it, but I hate being in it. It’s cold and wet and gets in the way of my car pulling out of the driveway.

But my children don’t feel the same way. Like most children who see snow and see its better “half,” they love the snow.

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So whenever it does snow, even if only an inch, they beg to go out in it, play in it. “It will be fun,” they say. And I usually don’t believe them but end up outside anyway, usually in my pajamas wrapped beneath my down coat and hopes that this “just be over soon!”

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Months before today, I read a book called, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. In the book, she documents her year long journey to be happier. One of many, many lessons I took from the book is that part of being happy is sometimes faking happiness. It’s our attitude that sets the precedent for our behaviors, and, thus, our lives. If we live lightly, if we open ourselves up to enjoying the moments we dread, if we decide to lead with happiness..then so our lives will be, happier, light, enjoyable.

I have, over the years, become something of a curmudgeon, not necessarily towards my children, but towards everything and everyone else. I complain about things, things I hate, things that feel uncomfortable, things that make me feel too vulnerable, I’ve realized, because I think that complaining will make me feel better about that said thing.

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But, you know what? Complaining only makes you feel worse. It makes you feel unhappy and hard and miserable.

So, today, in the snow, I decided to “fake it.”

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I initiated this snow man, which is big, since I usually feign ignorance when my children ask to find accessories and body parts for their created friends in the snow. I faked it until I was able to let go and just enjoy this moment, this snow man, this snow. And…it felt good.

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So, about the snow. I think I like it now. I think.

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Happy Friday and Valentines all! Stay warm! xo.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

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Whether you’re celebrating or not, I hope your holidays are as bright as your dreams! See you in the new year! xo.

Love,

Jessica

p.s. I’m now the staff writer at Vista Imaging Group. I’ve started a series for newbie photographers called “Just Clicktastic.”

Check out the most recent posts here:

Just Clicktastic: The Newbie Photographer’s Guide to Taking Amazing Digital Photographs

The Three Basics of Amazing Photographs

Hello, Fall.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

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Stay beautiful.

Love,

Jessica

 

parenting girls in princess culture

Friday, October 18th, 2013

I am a bit disturbed that my daughters have become like most daughters across America, obsessed with  all things princess.

As a parent, I went into parenting thinking that if nothing else, I would shield my girls from this, or princess mania and pink infatuation. I dressed them in browns and blues and until my second daughter came along and they discovered, through a playdate, the “glory” of Disney and pink glitter nail polish, I didn’t push, through my shopping habits, certain gender ideals or plush or plastic representations upon them.

But with time, things changed. The older they’ve gotten, I’ve come to realize that princess and pink (the official color of princess) , are everywhere.

Even if I refused to turn on the TV, they cannot be immune to it. The mint smelling sales clerk lady at our local Walmart has nicknamed them the “twin princesses.” The dance class that I considered enrolling my three-year old in last year is now called “Princesses in tights,” since I guess, “Dancers in Motion” wasn’t descriptive enough. Brushes, hand bags, and even pairs of scissors are now available in pink with sparkles, which is obviously made, my three-year old tells me, for princesses like her.

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For awhile I celebrated the whole princess thing alongside them, seeing the whole princess thing as a developmental phase of normal girlhood and an opportunity to awaken the comatose girlie girl within me. And while uncomfortable with many of the ideals of princess culture in context,  I forced myself to overlook those “imperfections” and swallow my squeamishness because I convinced myself that it was me who had the problem. I was too hard on Ariel and Belle. I presumed. I needed to lighten up. So, lighten up, I did.  I made my first princess purchase a little over a year ago: a pair of plastic heels that I knew would be disastrous on our hardwoods. I lifted my no Disney princess policy and allowed my girls to watch musical scenes from Mulan and Cinderella on Youtube.

In the process of that, I became princess-ified. All of my old concerns ceased to matter as I began to believe more in the women-friendly themes of princess-dom. I saw the beauty and self confidence of the modern day consumer driven princess as a sign of the times, of progress among women today. But that lasted for only a few months, or until I realized that the Princess thing, as I had long assumed, was also indicative of much more and meant much more in my three and two-year old’s fresh brains.

My three year old once told me that she didn’t want to climb this twisty slide thing at the park. Her excuse for not taking the plunge? Princesses don’t do that.

“So what do princesses do then?” I asked, feeling very disturbed.

“They just wear dresses and look pretty.”

And this comes from a girl who has seen parts of the amazing stories of “princesses” who score husbands, yes, but also save China, offer a more tolerant path, involving nature and colors of the wind to European settlers, tame beasts, and overcome voodoo.

Princesses do amazing things, but perhaps those amazing things and messages are intended for their parents who are, often, left hopelessly grasping for substance in these problematic, love stories.

It’s scary, really. Or maybe not. No…that it’s so pervasive and seductive and feels compulsive, does make it scary. Every girl and her mom (and even her dad!) are “doing it,” it seems. So, why shouldn’t I?Why can’t I?

Why can’t I just suck it up and sit through the one and half hours of “Cinderella Remastered” and commentary like my three year asks? Why can’t I just celebrate the straight haired beauties in Princess land and not question why a (possibly brown?) curly haired girl, who isn’t represented as being an “unconventional,” “rugged” beauty like that red-haired girl in Disney/Pixar’s “Brave”movie, never make the cut? Why can’t I just buy the princess blow dry and clip on nail set that my two year old wants and celebrate it as just something that’s cute and harmless and good for girls?

Why can’t I just be normal?

I ask myself these questions often because as a parent, I feel like I’m often doing something wrong for denying my daughters the right to be colored pink and glazed with sparkles like their friends. Mothers (and fathers) should celebrate the little princesses in their daughters, right? We should do this because we know that our daughters are amazing, and like the girls they see on TV, “worth” the expense.” Right?

The answer to this, I think, should be “yes.” Right?

So, why is it that every ounce of me screams, “No!”

When I was growing up, I didn’t know of any princesses personally, or not in the way my daughters do at two and three. I was never really into the old-fashioned tales of blondes and brunettes who overcame mean people to get married. I did watch Jem and the Holograms and Punky Brewster and was ecstatic when my mom bought me a faux, brown horse tail from the My Little Pony series. I did like dolls, but only to the extent that I could cut their hair and fashion it in braids. I remember pink in my childhood, but I always preferred blue, red, or purple. I wasn’t a tomboy, I don’t think. I think I just felt like of all the options available to me, why not choose other things?

And perhaps that’s what my issue is with today’s princess culture. My issue is that it’s so pervasive and seductive that little girls feel like they have no other choice. It’s kind of like gang culture in that way. Or, maybe not. But kind of. Every girl knows that to be a girl is to want to aspire to Princess-dom. So, little girls are princesses, always, and filter their experiences and voices through that lens. And this is what’s so disturbing.

Also disturbing is the fact that this fascination would seem to be immune from the guidance of parents. It’s almost like there’s a whole princess world out there for girls only. Their parents must then sit on the side lines and be, willing or unwilling, spectators. This is what it, at times, feels like to me as a weary parent with my nose pressed to the sometimes foggy window of pink princess land.

But perhaps this need not be the case.

The other day, my three year old told me that when she grows up she would like to be a fire(wo)man. She told me this after a week of learning about fire rescuers who she told me “do wonderful things without wearing pink and sequins.” This may not seem like a major thing, but considering that until that day all of her imagined prospects for careers included the word “princess” in them, it was major.

This experience with me thinking outside of the princess box and teaching my daughters, through very innocent propaganda, that women can do more with their lives, hair, and nails is still new, but I think I may be on to something. I can’t, I’ve realized, create a bubble for my girls that includes everything but princesses and pink.  But, as a parent, I can be another voice, offering them the possibilities for “girl” that I knew in the 80s and early 90s. I can encourage them to go down “scary” twisty slides and see the beauty in blue and they may listen because even though there is princess power, there’s also something called “parent power.” And I’ve got a whole lot of that.

What do you think about this generation’s obsession with all things princess? Do you encourage it or not in your children (girl or boy)?