This Photo Series Is Out of This World

A kind of common thing I do is orchestrate large photo shoots with sets that take months to prepare. My last big “set” was the shoot I did with the gas masks last November. This time, my friends and I had one last hurrah before I move to Chicago and start my adventure there. We just kinda partied in outer space, or as I call it, the vacant lot near my house where people smoke joints and kids go dirt-biking. Not like that matters or anything.

I spent six months planning and gathering the things I wanted and needed for the shoot. It turned out much different than I was anticipating, but hey, when does that NOT happen? Story of my life, my friends. I was able to play with some of my lighting tricks, something I was not anticipating a few months back. Can you say SUPAH NOVA THROUGH AMBIENT AND STROBE LIGHT MIXING? Because I can.

SUPAH NOVA THROUGH AMBIENT AND STROBE LIGHT MIXING.

There.

So the idea was there were these alien enthusiasts, kind of like conspiracy theorists, who strongly believed in aliens or whatever (my eloquence is overwhelming, I know.) So one night, while hanging out at their campground for weirdos, looking out for aliens, they have a surprise encounter and everything is awesome.

I busted out the Instax Mini and some special film (Shiny Stars, I think? I got it from eBay.) I was taking pictures of the set, things lying around, and a group shot of my homies throwing up a peace sign.

Oh, and I took a picture of the pile of clothing that needed to be laundered after the shoot.

I have the Lomo Instax Mini, which gives you MX capabilities. It is seriously my favorite, and if you are thinking about getting a Mini, I HIGHLY suggest the Lomo one. Do it and be happy and live life with no regrets.

We had a blast with this shoot, it took 4 hours to set up, and we got done past midnight and went for milkshakes. I would have to say it was a great way to close my summer and days in Michigan. Shout out to everyone who was able to make it special.

Good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately for me, I can’t wait six months to do one shoot while in grad school, so, uh, wish me luck friends.

Happy Shooting!

This Photo Shoot Took Two Years to Plan… Here’s Why:

I had an idea two years ago, where I built a blanket fort in the woods and dressed people in pretty clothing and made the space all misty/dreamy. But, I didn’t have the means to complete my vision, which included lots of pillows, sheets, string lights, a generator and a fog machine.

Yeah, that’s a lot of stuff for one shoot. Not to mention pricey. I’m not rich, so I had to purchase these items over a long period of time.

So, for the past two years I’ve been hoarding slowly collecting the things I needed for the shoot. I learned how to use studio lights, which gave me a way to photograph the scene in the dark successfully, and I became a better photographer overall. I was ready to finally do this thing.

Since I’m working on my dream series, I figured the beautiful scene I imagined would be a good fit. But, a few weeks before the shoot, I had a cool idea: gas masks.

Surrealism is oftentimes executed like this:

one object + another object that doesn’t make sense with the first object = surrealism.

(It’s a teensy bit more complicated than that, but you get the jist.)

I’ve been waiting two years to execute my idea, and last night I was finally able to bring my vision to life.

This shoot was super fun and the results were unexpected. I had the pleasure of shooting with three lovely young ladies who I had never met before, and I had help from a photojournalism student who shadowed me for this shoot. Plus, my boyfriend was there too, and being helpful is part of his job description.

The finished product wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, as I had a fog machine. But, when plugged into the generator, the lights would shut off. I had to make a choice, so I chose the lights. Plus, by the time we started shooting, the lights were turning off and on and eventually shut off completely. The generator called it quits, then my light kit called it quits, and then we finally called it quits.

I was going for creepy, and I definitely created that feeling with the harsh, straight-on flash (which was also positioned on the ground firing on about a 45 degree angle,) which created the flashlight-under-the-chin look. Y’know, like when you’re eight and telling spooky stories? Am I explaining this right?

Oh, did I mention the whole thing took almost seven hours?

Thank goodness for Caroline and her large car. I warned her I had a lot of stuff, but seeing it all in one place even surprised me. Setting it all up was even more of a task. It was super duper freaking cold a little chilly, and we had to take a break at one point because we couldn’t feel our fingers or toes.

Also, don’t let my sweater fool you: I had eight layers on under it.

Or, you can let it fool you and imagine me to have cold-resistant super powers. Your choice.

After hours of setting up, we did the shoot, and celebrated by sitting in Caroline’s warm house drinking hot cocoa and eating warm pizza. It was a wonderful, yet exhausting, shoot.

It feels good to achieve something you worked on for a long time. Try it sometime, but try not to do it at the end of November in the northern part of the world. It’s a bit rough.

Happy Shooting!

Home Sweet Home

At last, my lighting final is complete.

I envisioned this series last summer, but didn’t get around to it because it was easier said than done. Which is code word for I procrastinated and suddenly I had to go back to school which is where all hopes and dreams shrivel up and die in the folds of texts books.

And, at that time, I only had two images planned. Since I had access to lighting equipment, and since I had a deadline, I chose to do it for my final.

But enough of the back story, here is my artist statement and my images.

 

“Home Sweet Home” is a self-portrait series about the relationship I have with the house I grew up in. My house was and never will be an ordinary house, as it has been cycling through adverse conditions since I was three years old.

At the age of 3, the ceiling started to leak.

Almost a year later, we discovered that our house was slowly caving in.

At the age of 4, we swung in a steel beam with a crane and jacked the house up, like a car getting new tires.

When I was 8, after years of catching rainwater in buckets in our living room, we decided to rebuild the front of the house.

At the age of 9, we dug up the front porch and broke the main sewage line for the neighborhood- but only after we were approved to dig by the city.

A year later, my father fell off the roof and severed his wrist and broke his hip. While he barely escaped with his life, his left hand will never work the same way again.

At the age of 10, I moved out of my room so my family could finish working on the front of the house.

At the age of 15, the front of the house still was not done and I still did not have a room of my own.

When I was 16, I moved into the downstairs bedroom, formerly my dad’s office.

At the age of 17, the declining economy affected my family.

At the age of 21, the house is incomplete. There are still open ceilings. Power outlets don’t work. The roof still leaks, we have table saws in the place of beds, there are wires instead of curtains.

It may not be much, but it is home sweet home.”

Front YardFront Yard
We used to have a garden. While my mother would work on it, I would play in cardboard boxes, pretending they were a house, a rocket ship, anything.

Living RoomLiving Room
The ceiling has been exposed for as long as I can remember. I would try to hang sheets from the rafters and swing like I was Tarzan. I tried to make a hammock a few times.

Bathroom
Bathroom
We’d always use out shower rod to dry our clothes, since the dryer was broken every other week.
 

My Room
My Room
This room was going to be my bedroom, once the house was finished. Ten years after moving out of my room, it’s still a construction site.
 

Mom's RoomMom’s Room
I lived in my mother’s room for about five years, from the ages 11-16. I did a lot of growing up in that room, which was half-storage-half-bedroom.
 

Dining RoomDining Room
The kitchen table is frequently a mess, as my father runs his small business from it. We’ve learned not to move anything, because if we do, it’s guaranteed to go missing.
 

Kitchen
Kitchen
In-between the refrigerator and the wall, we store plastic shopping bags to recycle as garbage bags. We’ve had an overabundance of these for all my life, and I’ve wondered if we would ever run out.
 

Back YardBack Yard
In the summertime, my mother would build me blanket forts on our clothes line. We would sit and read inside these tents until the sun went down.


This series, as you might be able to guess, is very personal to me. This is my house. I didn’t do anything to make it look like it does, I only went to each room and made my sets. Sometimes I was embarrassed of my house, since all my friends had normal homes with walls and carpets, with a dining room table meant for eating, with a bedroom of their own to play in. Now that I’m older and I don’t live at home for most of the year, I’m able to take a step back and examine my past in that house. And it was not bad. In fact, if it weren’t for my house, I doubt I would be the creative person I am today. I wouldn’t be as resilient, as thankful, or as diverse. My mother and I made it work.

ANYWAYS onto lighter stuff.

Those boxes? Yeah, called ABC warehouse and they gave them to me.

That hammock? It was a pain to string up. I got a nice arm workout from all the knot making I was doing. Getting in and out of it was no picnic, either.

AND THAT GARBAGE BAG GOWN? My mother is a saint. A sewing saint. I told her what I wanted to do a few weeks ago, when I initially got my final assignment, and she got to work. We ran out of white garbage bags- I guess I proved to my childhood self that getting rid of those things can happen!

I’m happy with my project and I’m on cloud nine. I hope you enjoyed looking in on my life as much as I enjoyed making these images.

 

So You Want to Shoot On-Location? Well…

Today, for the first time, I experienced a certain struggle of an amateur photographer.

I’ve shot on location tons of times. I’ve had shoots where I had multiple people helping, where I had to use trucks to bring the props, where it took longer to set up that it took to actually take the pictures.

Tonight, these ordinary struggles were magnified. I did an on-location shoot with portable lighting equipment. And it was a pain. Fortunately, I had a lot of people helping me carry things and I had to do almost zero heavy lifting. The editing gave me a headache though.

First of all, only two images came out. All the images I took looked great on my itty-bitty screen on my camera, but when I got home- NOPE ALL BUT TWO WERE BLURRY. So, thanks, eyesight. Thanks a bunch. Thank goodness I shot with ISO100, otherwise there would be no way to salvage my images. But I tried, and I think I did okay.

It’ll do.

My boyfriend did me a favor and took pictures behind-the-scenes with his point and shoot digital camera. These make me really happy because I love seeing my friends and family helping out, and now I have documentation of it. Plus, you gotta admit, it’s a little fun to see the behind-the-scenes fun. I wish people would show the fun side of their work more often, and not just the end result.

And that’s how my first light-kit adventure went. I hope next time will go smoother, but for now I am content.