My Photography Story - A Selection of Work (Now Showing at Blue Moon Camera & Machine in N Portland)
I have lived AN INTERESTING life so far and I could write about many stories...I could write, for example, about my experience growing up as a child of an alcoholic mother. I could write about my history and survival through two domestic violent relationships, I could include my journey of working full-time while being a single-mother through undergraduate, and then graduate school. I could tell you that against all odds I made the honor rolls. I could tell you my life as a diabetic and the troubling world through our healthcare system and also living in denial of my own mortality and NOT taking care of myself when I was young. I could tell you the experience of all members of my family passing away as a young woman. I could tell you of my journey applying to a PHD program in Canada, and getting IN. I could tell you of my kidneys almost failing and my liver failing twice. I could tell you of dying, going to the other side and coming back. I could tell you of all these things and my successes and failures along the way, not to mention the growing -- and the accumulated joy, wisdom, strength and abiding tenacity to create my own life...
But this story is about my journey into art and, more specifically, photography.
This post explains the 30 images I am currently showing at Blue Moon Camera and Machine in N Portland, Oregon. (Nov. 1, 2018 - Nov. 30, 2018).
I am completely humbled and honored to share this story and the images within.
Image #1: IN MY BAG 1371. This was about four years ago. I never had taken darkroom in high school, like most. I somehow got the idea into my head after starting my own fledgling business promoting others' small businesses - that I wanted to learn photography. So I signed up for darkroom at PCC SE Tabor Campus. My instructor was Mike Riches and I asked him for assignments. One of the first assignments he gave me was to read up and apply to JAPAN CAMERA HUNTER'S "IN MY BAG" series. You see, Mike had heard my beginning in that I went blind about 5 years ago.
THAT'S RIGHT. I WENT BLIND JUST BEFORE I BEGAN PHOTOGRAPHY.
I am a type 1 diabetic who never took care of herself working through grad school and it was catching up with me fast. My retinas were detaching and (one of many miracles in my life...) surgeries saved my vision - for the most part.
I started this fledgling business and wanted to learn photography, so here I was in darkroom learning in a tactile way....all about light. And I get this assignment: Apply to Japan Camera Hunter. I put together contents in my backpack, which became my never left-behind camera bag. And yes, in this camera bag, I always carry (still to this day because sometimes I still need it) my blind cane. And what do you know? But Japan Camera Hunter featured it and published it on his website, my In My Bag submission! I was over the moon. My first publication. This is my first photo in the Blue Moon show.
Image #2 is titled Pure Honesty. Well, yes, I will walk around Portland and take photos of all things interesting. My goodness I was enthusiastic. My goodness everything looked new to me as I envisioned it as a photo! So the very first month I go out walking with the camera I passed a long block of homeless people who liked to congregate near Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital. I was intimidated but I thought maybe a good conversation would start with me and my camera. Nothing happened and I walked the block without anything interesting happening until I walked past this one houseless man who had the most magnetic expression on his face. It was like wisdom incarnate, and I walked past and without even consciously telling myself to do it I turned around - and he was waiting for me. I snapped this photo of him telling me exactly how he felt about me taking his picture. This image was later awarded finalist in the 11th Annual Pollux Awards in Documentary & Reportage.
Image #3 is titled: Surprise Snap. This is photo is from the first film roll I ever took, from a $15 thrift store camera with a plastic lens. I was near Fred Meyer on NW Everett and this lovely couple were holding hands under this gorgeous fall tree. I kept trying to focus my plastic lens (not knowing I couldn't! Remember, very green at this point!) and the couple actually pointed me to my left. I wondered, "What the heck?" I turned, and this lovely resident of a fenced in yard had popped up, frankly, to have his photo taken. This photo later made my first submission into a photo contest: Krappy Kamera 2016 - and it got accepted in the NYC, Soho Photo Gallery Show. It also got featured in the Huffington Post and I was off like a shot in photography. (Another miracle....it's becoming a theme here.)
Image #4 is titled: Jazz Loft Project. YES, well since I got a photo accepted into Krappy Kamera in NYC, I had to go! My daughter was going to college in Brooklyn at the time, and it was a wonderful opportunity to go see my own framed photograph in a show in New York. (Who gets to do that?! Certainly not me.) So I went. I went with my partner, and he graciously held my coat, got me to calm down, walk the perimeter of Soho Photo Gallery and start talking to people. In fact, there was one man in the place that my partner suggested I go talk to because he was so friendly and taking photos of people and, I swear to God, he had this golden light emanating from him. I walked over to him and asked if he was the photographer for the show. He said he definitely was and we started talking about many things. I even told him that I was going to embark on my first photograph SERIES of a Portland transgender model with a Holga camera and he said he was the President of the gallery and would love to see the work when it was done. We exchanged cards and I felt a warm glow of new friendship and possibility. So I went on to enjoy the rest of my short trip in NY. I had gotten another assignment from my teacher back home. He had said to go find the address 620 Sixth Street. That the old Jazz Loft Project used to be there and to just go see what I could check out. Well, I looked it up and the story of the place gave me chills! Thelonius MonK? The jazz greats just hanging out here with a photography 'great', Gene Smith?? I went and even got inside, all the way to the top. I got to Gene Smith's darkroom/studio door before I was "invited to leave." I felt exhilarated. This photo is sacred to me. This is the stairway up into the Jazz Loft Project and I daresay, I completed the assignment.
Image #5 is titled: Canal Street. This is a photo I took on many subsequent trips back to NYC because I later applied, formally, to Soho Photo Gallery and became a member. This is one of my favorite photos of Canal Street because this street is so rauco. Yet, it is right near the gallery. Once you step off Canal Street in any direction, things quiet down rather quickly. It becomes a whole other world. I stayed in a hotel once, on Canal Street, and have walked it many, many times. This encapsulates one of my favorite street photography photos. In fact, it reminds me of Burnside Street in Portland, for anything strange can happen upon it anytime, anywhere.
Image #6 is titled: Burnside Skate Park. This photo was yet another early assignment and I was told about this park under the Burnside Bridge. What? I walk Burnside downtown all the time. I never knew there was a skate park under there? I went in with a plan. I did not want to draw undue attention. I did not want to use a flash. I did not want to get in people's way and be a nuisance. So I walked up wearing my Brooklyn hat, waited quite a while to see what the skaters' reactions to me would be. If they asked me to leave I was going to do just that. After my presence seemed to be accepted, I took out my film camera and just held it so everyone could see that I was openly holding a camera. Still everything seemed okay. No confrontations, no one asked me to take a hike. Then, I started snapping photos. What fun. So cool to see these skaters in action. A couple of them even began skating for me, it seemed. I was thrilled, but did not overstay my welcome and took a stream of photos and quickly left just as inconspicuously as I had arrived. Later when I looked at the film I had this iconic photo of the skater walking with his board, making the "I" in Burnside. I had completed yet another assignment.
Image #7: A Portrait. This is another early photo I took when I realized I wanted to start growing as a photographic artist and taking photos of people. This is a photo of a friend who I asked if I could experiment with and take photos of her down on Portland's South Waterfront. It was a windy day and I was worried every photo I took would turn out to be total crap. But, in fact, we got a couple of winners. This is my all-time favorite portrait I have yet to taken of anyone. Note** Windy days turn out to be THE BEST.
Image #8 it titled: The Laundromat
Image #9 is titled: The Subway
Both of these photos are some of my early street photography going back and forth to NY a lot and indicative to me of what I was trying to achieve with my black and white film. People living their lives, caught in moments of unawareness or uncaring of a camera.
Image #10: PAID. This is my third photography series called: Working Jill with Portlander, Beth Dodge (Instagram: @bethdodge ) modeling. This series ended up being acknowledged and shown worldwide. It was an Honorable Mention in the Open section of the 10th Annual Pollux Awards/Gala Awards in London and then later also shown in Women Seen by Women show in Barcelona. It was also published online in Dodho Magazine. What a ride. This was exhilarating to conceive of, and design wardrobe and lighting for a conceptual art series. Then later to have it be so successful and showing issues still important today is a total thrill as an artist.
Image #11: Eco Vibe Fashion Shoot. Shortly after finishing the Working Jill series (previous photo) I decided I wanted to jump into fashion. How to you get great wardrobe for your photos? You partner with great designers or boutiques! I approached Eco Vibe on NW 23rd and they agreed to let me highlight some of their clothing in a fashion shoot. This is local model Lauren Rice in their pieces AND I got it published online in NIF Magazine.
Image #12: Looking For (Part of You As Angel series)
Image #13: Rapprochement (Part of You As Angel series) This series was my second solo show in NYC at Soho Photo Gallery and also got featured on Japan Camera Hunter's website, as well as published in BLUR Magazine, Honorable Mention in PX3 (a Parisian annual photography competition) and highlighted online on some art blogs as well as in Dodho Magazine. This series features local model: Mandy Braun (Instagram: @mandybraun ). It is the story of learning to love yourself - a messy and extremely worthwhile process.
Image #14: No 6 (Part of Body Image series) This was an entire year after Working Jill and You as Angel and this time the concept was developed by Beth Dodge (Instagram: @bethdodge ). This was our second time working together and this is my most awarded series to date. It got Honorable Mention in the ND Awards, the International Photography Awards, and in the 10th Annual Women Seen BY Women Awards, as well as mentioned, personally, by Benjamin Von Wong, a very well-known photographer who was hosting his own contest! It gained a lot of visibility for me and Beth and later was also featured in a French tv show on Museum TV called: Instant Decisif where they interviewed me as an up & coming American photographer and I got to tell the story behind this very photo!
Image #15: Silhouette. This image was also explained and featured in the french tv show: Instant Decisif. It features local model: Elizabeth Watson (Instagram: @ishtar_unveiled ) who has become a good friend and a photographer in her own right. I was experimenting with different lighting set ups on this shoot and this beaming, mysterious silhouette portrait emerged.
Image #16: Beaten (Part of Violent Stories series) This was an astonishing series for me to complete. It told a visionary story of domestic violence, and even healing. It was the first series I collaborated with a make up artist: Autumn Sanders (Instagram: @autumnsanders_hmu ). The model is from Seattle: Zoey Jane Marie (Instagram: @zoeyjanemarie ). This series also won an Honorable Mention in the 11th Annual Pollux awards in Fine Art Series as well as being shown just outside of Marseilles, France in the Family of No Man exhibit, and the 11th Annual Julia Margaret Cameron Awards as an Honorable Mention in Fine Art.
Image #17: Security Blankets (one of a series) This is local model: Yazmin (Instagram: @yazgogo )who designed the concept as well. This is about the struggle young women go through to feel safe in society. And this series also won Finalist in the 11th Annual Pollux Awards.
Image #18: MEN: Mental Stigma This image features John William Amlund (Instagram: @johnawilliam ) in a long Mental Health series (also including: @ishtar_unveiled ) I did on hoping to educate and abolish the societal stigma attached all too often with mental health. This series also won Honorable Mention in the 11th Annual Pollux awards -AND- this photo was tweeted by the digital director of Men's Health Magazine during their own Men's Mental Health campaign.
Image #19: Everything Gold Plated in Self-Portrait Series called Oh America!
Image #20: Who Is Us? in Self-Portrait Series called Oh America!
This is a self-portrait series that just won Honorable Mention in the 12th Julia Margaret Cameron Awards in London and was art-advised by Tony Kirman. He suggested I put together my work of self-portraits into a series. I told him I was thinking of centering it around something reflective of the US and he suggested the title as well.
Image #21: This is one of my more recent series called "70's Glam" and it was a fun series put together with Mandy Braun (Instagram: @mandybraun) & Elizabeth Watson (@ishtar_unveiled )trying to encapsulate an outdated view of femininity, but also a certain reverence for it.
Image #22: Spread Love. This is another series with local model & friend Mandy Braun (@mandybraun). She had the idea to go topless down Burnside and I could not help but put this plan into action with her. What a delightful experience with a delightful soul!
Image #23: The Slants This photo was featured in The Mercury telling of a recent performance by Portland band The Slants who let me do press photos for them - and this was the beginning of a dream. To shoot musicians for album and promotion art.
Image #24: Jacked Up. (Instagram: @jackeduppdxband ) This is the local Portland punk band; true artists that are wildly talented and inspire. I was honored and excited to shoot promotional photos for Krista and Vic. Look them up & check them out!
Image #25: This was a photo shoot of local friend & musician Sweet Sam Kisling (Instagram: @sweetsamkisling ) who sings incredibly soulfully and plays guitar as a blues man. He is soon to release his first EP and can often be found playing blues on Saturday mornings at the local restaurant Tapalaya in NE Portland.
Image #26: Alexa Wiley (Instagram: @alexawileymusic ) of Alexa Wiley and The Wilderness. Again, this is another recent shoot including promotional photos for local musicians and I am happy to also call her my friend. She is a true poet, talented beyond measure and inspiring in many ways. She can often be seen performing locally.
Image #27: Antonioni ( Instagram: @antonioni_band ) this was a photo shoot in Seattle of a quickly rising and astonishingly talented Seattle alternative/punk band. The lead singer Sarah has a voice front like that of the Cranberries. They were an incredibly cool group to shoot with and this photo was my favorite of many from a recent promotional photo shoot.
Image #28: Mrs. Henry (Instagram: @mrshenryrocks ) - This is a band from San Diego, CA. They were in town performing and I convinced them to carve out some time to take some promotional shots between gigs. It was the fastest shoot I have yet done, with some success. Still living the dream...this is another promotional photo of the band.
Image #29: Women are More Than Delicate Flowers (3 of 3) This is local MUAH and model Megan Thompson (Instagram: @mildorwildmuah ), whose spirit easily inspires around her. This is a recent shoot I am hopeful to eventually submit as a make up editorial for publishing. (Still in progress.)
Image #30: Women are More Than Delicate Flowers (1 of 3) Ditto. Megan Thompson MUAH & Model (Instagram: @mildorwildmuah ).
Through these 30 images you can see the beginning and fleshing out of my emerging photography career. I hope only to live long enough to really get so good... TO BLOW MY OWN HAIR BACK.
Let's keep creating!
Once in awhile, well, BAM!