Sisterhood is powerful

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

There are a lot of stunned ladies in Columbia today.

The last time we looked at a Monday morning, the eyes of almost forty young girls were on us. We were singing, dancing, screaming at the top of our lungs to the sounds of our sisters in rock, with instruments in a constant state of being moved and played. We were crowd surfing a wave of positive activity and now that we are on our feet…things seem a little…still.

And we are taking it in.

I didn’t expect to be encouraged to pick up a bass guitar and learn five cords in an hour. I didn’t expect to ever ever be singing Cher at a karaoke bar in 5 Points. I didn’t expect this experience to change my life.

If Girls Rock Columbia taught me anything, it is how amazing it feels to dive into the unknown and come out better for it. I couldn’t have been as brave without my Girls Rock Columbia sisters.I know we all felt it.

We all took on tough challenges. We all tried new things. At the end, we were all responsible for our success. We gained new skills, new friends and new experiences just like our campers did.

That’s power. That’s sisterhood.

I taught a “Girls Rock Photography!” workshop with Alexis Schwallier. After we viewed and discussed images, each camper was given a disposable camera and asked to document her camp experience. I couldn’t be prouder of the outcome.

Girls Rock Photography workshop/ workbook


Camp week for Girls Rock Columbia starts Monday, July 21st. Everyone involved is so ready to rock! I will be a counselor all week. I will also be returning with the Rock Photography workshop and a new partner, Alexis Schwallier. She … Continue reading

Those Lavender Whales – Columbia, SC band

Those Lavender Whales make records. They are a band living and working in Columbia, SC. They are so much fun. Aaron Graves   Jessica Bornick Chris Gardner Patrick Wall    

To see the fireflies

by suphakit73

This gallery contains 1 photo.

It occurred to me all of a sudden that I wasn’t going to last outside all night. My husband was feeding a fire with branches he found on the ground. Our son shadowed him, really getting into it. I had been … Continue reading

River Rocks

“The fourth annual River Rocks Festival featuring live music, paddling opportunities on the Columbia Canal, environmental education, family friendly activities, food and beverages. All proceeds benefit Congaree Riverkeeper.”   My legs itched a little, a greensward engraving being pressed into … Continue reading

It isn’t all Barbados, bikinis and body shots


I really didn’t even feel weird about having no plans for Spring Break. It’s never ranked high on my list of holidays. When I go to the beach, I prefer the sound of surf to a noisy house band in … Continue reading

Making Tintypes: Magic and Science

The smell of ether is sharp, sweetish, acidic and strangely sensual. The darkroom had been improvised from a closet  at the Morris Museum of Art. Since the process is not as sensitive as conventional methods, the room wasn’t completely light tight. I pulled the dark curtain across the cracks of light escaping through the door frame and flipped off the “white light.”

“It’s like magic,” the woman said. We watched the chemicals spread across the aluminum plate. An image began to materialize.

“…or science.” said Keliy. The tintype lay across her gloved palm. She rotated her wrist to coat the plate evenly with developer. When she was satisfied, she tilted it until a corner of the tintype rested inside the mouth of a glass bottle and then poured the excess liquid off.

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Anderson-Staley’s 8×10 Deardorff view camera

The dreamy alchemy, the deft ritual and the strange chemical smells really were spellbinding.

Wet plate collodion, which dates back to the  1800’s, has been experiencing a revival in the last few decades as a boutique historical photographic process. I was assisting one of the preeminent artists using this method and I felt like I had won the lottery.

The entire process must be started and completed with a wet plate within ten minutes so agility is required. In the 19th century, where it began, the sitter had to remain as still as possible for an excruciating long exposure.

Now you know why people looked so grumpy in those old-timey photographs.

On this day, Keliy was exposing at a ten-twelve second average.


University of South Carolina Adjunct Professor Eliot Dudik sits for his portrait with Keliy Anderson-Staley


Meg Griffiths, a photography professor at USC, sits for her portrait.

A tintype is a positive image that is made right on the metal plate.

A little fussier than Instagram, sure, but the uniqueness and craft of that singular image is a handmade, one-of-a-kind artist’s original. The very existence of the tintypes today physically connect us to a rich photographic history.

Even though I wore my gloves like I was instructed, the silver nitrate left a zizag across my pinkie nail; a little bronze lightning bolt. An initiation.

Observing Kiley Anderson-Staley, I would have to say that an artist of this measure must be equipped with many things; not the least of which is, generosity.

She instructed, she informed, she posed, she taught and she squeezed people in to a packed schedule with grace and patience.

There is some kind of magic in that, too. WP_006540 (1)

Think you might like this? Give it a whirl! Here are two kits to get you started.

Living Room Session #3: Birdcage


While I am a huge fan of Photoshop, I am not overly fond of using it to alter women’s bodies.

Ok. I will remove a blemish. Bless my heart. I do it with angst.

To those of us who are tuned in to it, the damaging messages coming from popular media are as blatant as a Kardashian. I am not playing by those messed up rules.

I think you are honest-to-goodness the best looking thing I have ever seen; with your history and your story all over your body.

Our latest Living Room Session was the first really conceptual collaboration we have done. Our first session was mostly iconography already in pop culture. Our second did the same, we just narrowed our focus to the B-movie genre.

Our latest session was inspired by Rococo themes of sexuality, using the birdcage to represent sexual awareness. We went nude (with our model), we moved our location and we used a brand new lady.

There was a good bit of flesh and Patron in the room. We talked about Photoshop, women’s bodies, runway angels, and Courtney Love.

The kids are hip. NPR recently reported that awareness of media culture and it’s effect on body image just might be increasing. Young girls are becoming  more critical of what they see in popular media. Does it matter that Lena Dunham was Photoshopped by Vogue? What do you think?

A good thing to keep in mind: Does the audience know it isn’t real?

Here is a simple example of the harmless (?) changes one can make to an image.

Pre                                                                                Post

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The Spring 2014 Aerie ads feature women who have escaped the touch of the digital brush. It is a step in the right direction. They are already impossibly beautiful. Touching up their bodies would be a bit ridiculous (but it is done.)

I, for one, think the world would be a really boring place without bad tattoos, panty lines and scabs. I also want to interpret the woman as a whole person and not just a collection of lovely parts.

Doing what is true to my aesthetic doesn’t embolden me to flaunt my stretch marks, if that’s what you are thinking. I am quite comfortable on this side of the lens. I know it isn’t easy to ask someone to expose their bodies and their fears to the lens. That takes a lot of trust and confidence on the part of the sitter. It is a trust that is sacred to me. I couldn’t do my best work without it.

It also doesn’t stop me from admiring the amazing work by artists who choose to smooth and straighten all day long or to experiment with the tools they use. Heavens to Betsy, it is great stuff!

At the end of the day, the choices we make are what set us apart and define our style. The best thing we can do is embrace what makes us different. Good to remember in work and in life, eh?

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The line between editorial and art can get muddy. Styling, posing, lighting, digital editing; they are all part of the wizardry that creates a flattering image.

Here is our inspiration pinboard.

I wanted to see how we could use the symbolism of the cage to explain the complex, shifting relationship between a woman and her own sexual power.

I used a strobe (Speedlite 430ex II) flash and cable. I hope to have a lighting kit with a softbox soon. Same with the backdrop. It’s a flat sheet.

Art is expensive.


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LRS_Birdcage_04 copy

A little history on the Living Room Sessions project:

This is a collaboration between two creative Columbia, SC women. We like to test new ideas, create cool, funky portraits and give other women a forum to express themselves. It is all done in our homes with minimal equipment and a lot of wine. We really hope you will follow us as we build up our gear and our body of work.

LRS_Birdcage_01 copy

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Another year over and a new one just begun

This is it.


A new year and my final undergraduate semester. I thought I would never get here and now, as I settle into the last week of my winter break, I look forward to this coming semester with a sense of excitement, trepidation and unadulterated fear. It all seems so unreal and enormous.

What happens to the dream when you awaken?

I am lucky to have wonderful distractions: a family vacation, a wedding, Living Room Session #3 , and  a new toy; an Argus rangefinder. Of course, children move through life like small–but-mighty comets and, if you aren’t watching every moment, you are definitely missing things. I could spend all my time in starlight, watching them fly. They are moving so fast!

I had a really rewarding photography class with Eliot Dudik last fall that has me warily convinced I might actually be an artist.

And so now, I need to treat myself like a professional.

“Free” exposure is very alluring. Social media makes a lot of seductive marketing promises. And local jobs are actually paying…albeit, way below my asking rate. I am meeting people. My work is being seen and people like it! But, it comes at a price.

The film in my hands, the smell of developer, the finger bloodied from cutting mat board: physical manifestations of how valuable my time is. And it isn’t just the work done in the photo rooms at McMaster…it is the bedtime stories I sacrificed to be there…the family missing me so that I can have the luxury of time spent making art.

Once you post anything on the internet it is as good as gone, regardless (and often because) of current laws, etiquette or privacy settings. So, I have decided to seriously limit the amount and size of my work on the internet. Also, I am going to enter more shows. It requires research and a much tougher skin. I am getting there.

It is also time to join the clubs and follow up on the job postings that will get my PR muscles strong enough to enter the job market with some confidence this year.

So, wish me luck and I wish you the same.

More time doing what we love and more time with our families and more value for what we do. That’s all. And it isn’t asking too much!

Happy New Year.

Living Room Session #2 – September

Living Room Session #2 The tunes The tools The magic We took our momentum from the last session into October with a photo shoot inspired by B-movies. The medium is forgiving and wide open to experimentation so we went outside this … Continue reading