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.

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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

To see the fireflies

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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 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.

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.

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

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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 connects 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, informed, posed models, and 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.

Another year over and a new one just begun

This is it.

2014

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 Sessions – August

I have always fantasized about taking empowering photos of women. So many messages in our culture tell us that we aren’t enough or that we need to be fixed.  The mass media (i.e., television, magazines, billboards, movies, websites, blogs, etc.) … Continue reading

Mission San Francisco de Asis

Mission San Francisco de Asis

I am going to be posting a series of photos taken in California in December. I am starting with images from a morning spent touring Mission San Francisco de Asis, popularly called Mission Dolores. We toured it on our first morning in … Continue reading

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry: Pictures with Santa

Having your picture taken with Santa is a rite of passage.

You are never too young for Santa's lap but I think there might be a cut-off at some point...probably about fifteen-years before this was taken.

You are never too young for Santa’s lap but I think there might be a cut-off at some point…probably about fifteen-years before this was taken.

Not everyone has the same traditions, sure…

…and we don’t all celebrate the same holidays…

…and I’m not saying everyone should have to promote ideas of charity and unconditional love coming from a jolly old man with fur-trimmed boots…

…but I sure do!

Keeping this household as magical as possible is one of my maternal obligations. It goes sciatica, labor pain, Santa. In that order. And if you don’t believe that I get up every morning to walk the unicorn before I have tea with the gnomes in the garden, well then, I think you are boring. I still totally support your uniqueness so don’t be mad at me. Call me later.

Photos with Santa don’t always go well. They often end in tears. It is an idea ranking somewhere in the realm of birthday-party-clowns. A classic reminder of the distance between childhood and adulthood.

I have no hard data but I am giving us all a fifty-fifty chance that the event will go down like a mug of toasty hot chocolate, with all the warm fuzzies of a towheaded toddler in a sweater vest with a penguin on it.

The rest of you will just have to take comfort in the fact that your child has misgiving about sitting on a strange person’s lap and find a way to laugh about it. There are plenty of online galleries. There is even a book on the topic. Google it!

If you are a gambler, there are some fine local Santas in Columbia, SC!

Check out:

I know firsthand that Cynthia and Grookett are quite capable of creating a beautiful, tearless shot!

This is not a definitive list. Feel free to comment with your favorite.