Wedding Polaroids at Historic Heritage Square

This beautiful bride found me through my polaroid work of a mutual Instagram friend. She knew she wanted classic, vintage film to capture her wedding. I love working with clients who feel drawn to my favored forms: polaroid, Super 8, Holga. Seeing these photographs makes me feel the actual moment in time. Though the event has passed, the artifact remains. What a beautiful thing.

Thank you Melanie and Sean for inviting me to capture your day.




Two Girls in Dresses on HP5

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Want to know a secret? I hate photography. I read the absolute minimum required to function each camera and film that I buy. I hate reviews. I hate specs. I hate numbers. I hate metering. I hate directions. I hate manuals. I am, in essence, an anti-technical photographer averse to the learning process. Which is why I am consistently drawn to point and shoots like the Polaroid SX-70, Holga 120N and Canon Sure Shot.

For me, emotion is principle. Composition is principle. Being able to press click at the decisive moment is what draws me back to photography over other mediums. Tuned into my sixth sense, I rest. This is my therapy and sauna and self-care package. Where I sleep; my bed. I applaud every person and personoid out there who thrives on the camera-as-machine model, who can perfectly calibrate their instrument to catch the wings of a hummingbird. But to inhabit that process makes my skin crawl. I have one aim alone and it’s an emotional one. To capture the Thing and keep it.


I recently heard a designer say of his work, “I like the shittiness” in regard to skipping some Photoshop smoothing process that designers know about. I thought yes! We Like Shittiness Club. This roll was horribly overexposed (I forget what I did since I never write things down nor actually learn) but that ended up lending a nice nostalgic grain to them. This roll is split between walking around the grounds of our neighborhood, candid shots at home and some seated portraiture. I am drawn to untouched nature. I am experimenting with how to document our daily lives on film (likely a few rolls of HP5 on Canon Sure Shot a month?). And I’m always inspired by a formal sitting, where the subject is a contributor. Since I haven’t shot that way in a long time, I decided to try it out again.

My sweet big girl. She was excited to do this. Afterward she “took my photo” after I had already emptied the roll. “Now close your eyes,” she instructed me like I had done to her. This girl is aptly named — Vivian, full of life. Participation is her strength. We had fun making these.

Eleanor “shh”ing Eeyore. I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite child, but at this point it’s out of my hands. I truly adore this baby/girl in an unrelenting way. Perhaps because she is still nursing. Perhaps because she may be my last baby. Perhaps because 18 months — 2 years is a golden age of blossoming of words and identity and wearing “packpacks” and sunglasses.

I shot this roll on the Canon Elan that my mom got me at a garage sale for $10. It does the job. I was experimenting to see if I’d like to leave the world of SLR forever, and I think the answer is yes. Although after scanning I often think, “shoot. I wish I had more control here.” I never wish for the process while shooting. Point then shoot is the most intuitive possible format for me; everything else feels bulky and makes me feel like a paparazzi (mamrazzi? which is worse?) while out. These are self-scanned. Woot woot!

Can we all raise our hands in hallelujah for HP5? There’s something about this film. I think it feels a lot like the photos in my dad’s photo box, especially when contrast is low. It gives me what I’m looking for: memory felt.

A with love

My First Roll of Portra 400

It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I could shine.

—Billy Collins

 

When you have golden light pouring into a window it barely matters what camera or film you're using. So I credit the sun with the magic of these. And the whispy, untamed hair of these sisters. My first roll of Portra 400, shot on aperture priority. Because the light was strong I could focus on composition with these. Wouldn't it be lovely if that were always the case? 

Art as Evidence

 Scenes from  Dad's photo box

Scenes from Dad's photo box

Sunday night. Sleep beckons and yet in the dark... a call to the page one last time. A final dump before the sleepy hormones agree to be released. So. What do you have to say for yourself, thoughts?

 

"I love being alive. The art is the evidence of that."

 

This is the quote percolating in the dark, said by Jim Carrey in the six-minute documentary I Needed Color. Tapping my shoulder like a tiny toddler hand at the side of my bed. My working definition of the artist's ambition over the years has been from Chaim Potok's novel and play My Name is Asher Lev: “Millions of people can draw. Art is whether there is a scream in you wanting to get out in a special way.”

A special scream. Lovely ain't it? But I have experienced a change since becoming a mother. Carrying and birthing two live, infinite souls. Since fighting for my marriage and losing my house and standing in front of the closed door of a relationship that will never open again. And banging on that door with the force of hell. Growing with a God who is both clearer and more obscure than when we met 10 years ago.

Art as evidence.

I am reminded of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

Evidence. Indications. Words inscribed on every raindrop. Speaking, speaking, making God known. And us down here, Jim Carrey with a paint brush and canvas also taking mind to form - his voice going out. Showing forth the evidence. Opening his hands and giving what he has.

Matt has been singing Little Drummer Boy with Vivian every night, and because we are broken, failures of a man and wife with little to give we tear up every single time. 

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, 
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, 
On my drum? 

No gift to bring, so he brings his art, his word, his song. The thing that flows from his being. Should I tell you how hard I am crying as I write these words? I guess this is the thought that wanted to get out before going to bed (and I have to borrow from Rumi to even get it out):

God is working everywhere his massive resurrection, and the art is the evidence of that.

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God is working everywhere his massive Resurrection:

How can we pretend to act on our own?

In the hand of Love I am like a cat in a sack;

Sometimes love hoists me into the air,

Sometimes Love flings me to the ground.

Love swings me round and round his head;

I have no peace in this world or any other.

The Lovers of God have failed in a furious river;

They have surrendered themselves to Love’s commands.

Like mill wheels they turn, day and night, day and night,

Constantly turning and turning, and crying out. 

— Rumi

Simple & Meaningful Photo Gift in Three Steps

The idea for these simple & meaningful photo gifts began when I saw the way @amandajanejones used family photos at her Thanksgiving table this year. I printed a few for that purpose, but then a few turned into several, and what started as table settings became collections for both grandparents and the three aunts as a way to thank them for their huge love this year. I enjoyed watching their faces as they unwrapped the string and discovered the contents within — their beloved babies, my kids.

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My process here used both Photoshop and a paper trimmer, but a straightforward method is printing through Artifact Uprising instead, who offers both a standard border and the 3x25.4x25 size. The reason I opted for typical photo paper here was because my local Walmart just installed Fujifilm instant print kiosks whose quality is surprisingly stellar! I wanted these photos to have a specific look (some are 35mm, some digital) reminiscent of the tones found in my Dad's photo box. I thought family members could hang some at work, some on the fridge, put some in frames or like Grammy said: carry them around with her wherever she goes. 

Simple & meaningful photo gift in three steps:

Step 1. Print photos in monochrome with white border

Step 2. Stuff into string enclosure envelope with a note

Step 3. Date stamp front + gift 

These envelopes are made by American Crafts and can be purchased on Amazon, Hobby Lobby or similar stores.

I got my date stamp from Amazon and really, if you don't have one -- now is the time. It's just a thrill everyone needs in their life: date-stamping envelopes, letters, photographs, the kids' art, etc.! If you decide to make a gift like this, I would love to see! Shoot me an e-mail or DM. Check out the video below to see the photos I used.

Happy memory-making, picture-taking and photograph-making, my friends.

Anastasia

 

 

Dad's Photo Box

As a girl I discovered these photographs in a box. Because I was born when my dad was 45, he had lived an entire life before my sister and I came along. Dad on a cruise, Dad at a wedding, Dad in front of the White House. Dancing! Playing the guitar! Pointing a gun! Standing in front of house number 18. Holding them in my hands, I had access to the thing I had always wanted: his story. It was at that point that two things became inseparably wed in my psyche: the tactile, papery sensation of a photograph and the thrill of knowing another. 

He was born in 1940's Greece in a village that culturally operated more like 1840 according to my mom. My Dad is not macho per se but rather is full of machismo: excessive masculine pride. The male connection is the only legitimate connection. When I asked him a few years ago whether he would ever get married again he said, "Woman? Pain ass!" Pretty much sums it up.

His connection to my sister and I is strong and deep but non-verbal. He knows the concrete details of our lives (where we work, how much we make) and has faithfully, generously thrown money in our direction for our entire lives. He yell-demands that we take his entire plate if we ask for a bite of what he's eating and will. not. back. down. He came to my soccer games as a girl and stood with hands behind his back. We used to sit on his couch (my parents divorced when I was 2) and watch Greek soccer and Maury. He would take us to Sports World, an indoor arcade and fall asleep behind reading the Greek newspaper. We would wake him up by going on either side of his ears, counting to 3 and yelling, "DADDY!!!" and laugh until we cried. 

My attempts to know his history are always, without doubt, waved away in signature form: an angry face but a gentle heart. When my husband sits with him in the front seat, he gets stories about escapades in Australia, military formation, his first job. I am allowed to listen but asking questions of my own is a dead end. Sometimes I can catch him in a mood, usually when I lay out the photographs. He'll pick one up and point at it and with a twinkle in his eye say something like, "These ones! This was a good dog!" like I deeply disagree and he's convincing me. 

As a girl he took polaroids of Mia and I, usually standing in front of his car and always at a diner. I loved that camera and have been entranced with the instant medium since. But the attention! A picture of us, his girls! It made me feel cherished. I would hold my hands nervously and eak out a small smile while my sister would beam and dance and stick out her tongue and act like a monkey until I smiled a real smile. And he would pull the trigger. 

I have heard it said that talent is irrepressible; at the intersection of interest and ability is the thing you can't not do. I can't stop making photographs because of my interest in what they represent: identity, persona, family, place, time, style, nostalgia, memories made and intentionally remembered. The personal story. And because of my history with the photographs below. The feeling I got to know something about him, to see his joy, to be allowed in the narrative just a little bit. 

We Dream in Film

I shot these polaroids of my dear friends and their five children tonight. Holding them in my hands I realize something:

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Our minds see in film.

Shoot after shoot, digital feels more like an advertisement. A commercial for the life we want to be living, meant to convince and persuade. The tones and grain of film are a language our hearts already know: a poetry that hits in the gut. 

Have you seen photographs of Giverny, Monet's garden? Beautiful, but not more impressive than every stunning garden on earth. But Monet's garden painted. A glory greater than the garden itself, electric in it's depth. A veil that conceals and reveals.

Are our fantasies in film too? Our hopes and dreams and childhoods? Going with this metaphor, what of the subjective is seen in digital form? Our reflection in the mirror? The face of a tormentor as the words escaped their mouths? What we wish our bodies looked like? The searing detail of digital.

Photographing the family narrative has sometimes made me feel uncomfortable. I don't want to add to the violating onslaught of imagery in this world. Perfection and it's powerful chatter. Instead my desire is to add words to another conversation. Making images unto ends like these: self-reflection, praise, pause, humility, gratitude, wonder, covenant love.

Film, let's run away together and never come back. I'm ready.

(Last shot taken by Guinevere, the second-born of this family and my photo assistant for the evening)

 

From Mind to Form: Making Memories Tangible

This year we took our first vacation as a family of four to California. An overall success! Despite a few serious hiccups. I find travel with kids to be like everything with kids: infinitely harder and infinitely better. Can you relate? I grew up going to the beaches of New Jersey, so giving my girls some memories in the sand each year is a definite goal. Faithful Matt lugged my backpack around... five cameras and a bunch of silvery, wonderful polaroid packs later... I happily present the results. I purchased this box at the gift shop of The Huntington, which is one of my easy travel traditions. Buy box, put trip stuff in box. It keeps the spirit of memory-keeping on my heart as we travel and inspires me to keep creating even if inconvenient.

Thoughts on Form

My creative process usually begins with a discontent with form. Something about the medium I'm using doesn't allow the voice of The Thing to emerge. I felt this way about painting with acrylic until I discovered oils. Messy! Movable! Thick dollops of black, mistake-proof. Freedom. 

With photography I became disenchanted with digital a few years deep into a business that I hated. Is this a service merely? Am I being hired to achieve a result or tell a story? That was almost ten years ago. Now-a-days I joyfully admit to being center-wave in this tide of creatives returning to antiquated mediums. The physicality and irreversability of instant film was a breakthrough. YES. 

My paper prints allow me to use the best about digital - the ability to take a bajillion photos during a shoot - and keep the romance of film. I like to insist on this designation of myself: photograph maker. Meaning my aim for all images is that their eventual end would be in print. As a writer I likewise favor the physical - taking field notes and reporting back vs. creating fictional worlds.

My desire with Instagram-as-microblog is to document that process - the process of physical art-making. Sharing perfected (nothing wrong with perfect, you know I love you, perfect, you're my friend) IMAGES of humans without story feels exploitive for me. Another beeeeautiful family or couple or wedding. Eye roll. I realize this is revelatory of my general cynicism and creative superiority but there it is. Images feel like commercials to me; selling the same old lie I fall for every single day when I scroll Instagram and feel inferior. The lie that says when I have ______ like this person, I will be whole. I feel conflicted about contributing fodder to this aptly-named "feed", even if they're good. 

So! One solution? Story + embodiment. The paper trail of our lives that explains our values and choices. The shaping forces. The trauma, the legitimate triumphs, the things-still-in-progress that should be more established but just aren't yet. Not that physical photographs tell this story always, but in a way distinct from digital I feel they testify to it's presence. That we are time-bound human lives in process. And that is the master I seek to serve creatively: all hail process. 

I've been thinking about ways to share my photos that are not an infinite scroll of digital images. How to incorporate polaroids? How to show the texture of these living rectangular memories? I've landed on stop motion for prints and I think it suits it well. Enjoy!

Super 8: the medium of memory
 

It all started one Thanksgiving when my mom popped in a VHS tape saying, "I got these old home movies from my Dad!" Her father had digitized their super 8 home movies from the 60s. Watching it, I could see the thread of intention and love that connected their family before the waves of brokenness came in... before the divorce, the Vietnam war, the unspoken trauma that characterized their later years. Working in the medium of the family story my intention is to specifically not idealize relationships ie. make commercials for perfect happiness.

In my experience film testifies to this: despite the darkness of life there is light undeniable. There is love and connection. They did visit the Grand Canyon as a young family of six, the girls in bob-haircuts and the boys in shorter than short shorts. They had Christmases and they were good. There were presents hard-won and unwrapped with joy. There was a kiss between my mother's parents, at that time high school sweethearts who were trying. I find that inspiring.

So when we decided to take our trip I knew I wanted to revisit the medium I had come to associate with family memories. Super 8 film. Film in general hits me in the gut every single time and I typically observe the same reaction in others. It's permanence, tangibility, nostalgia all allow it to capture the visceral nature of memory. It looks like how we feel when we remember: sun-drenched and hazy; clips instead of long, hard days. Joy.

I am please to now offer super 8 films with my family archival packages and look forward to building up my portfolio and sharing in the furtherance of this charming, romantic medium that speaks so deeply to me.

Polaroids: Reflections

I took two polaroid cameras with us, the Instax Mini and Instax Wide. I'm in the process of purchasing an SX-70 and wasn't going to lug the land camera around in addition to the excessively heavy metal-body super 8. I favor the mini absolutely, in color quality, ease-of-use and because you have the only necessary function (in my opinion, but I'm right) on a point-and-shoot: flash control. I love these babies for what they give me: they capture the loveliness of the scene. But I long for the control a 600SE or 195 land camera would give me. Alas, funds. In time! 

Photo Notes: The Original Caption

One of my favorite things about old photographs is the notes on the back: Mary, age 4. Jack at the lake. Santa Monica, 1974. My mom the optimist and general happy-person used to include lots of exclamations and proclamations which I see emerging when I took up the mantle with these. Vivian, lover of strawberry ice cream cones! Whenever I find a note or photo from my Oma who is now passed, seeing her 40's-style cursive with it's sharp peaks brings me back to her in a way that nothing else can. Hopefully these prints will be the same for my girls one day.

Duplexity: Creativity and Mothering

Duplexity: (of a machine) having two identical working units, operating together or independently, in a single framework or assembly.

I feel this in myself. Though the units are identical, they produce different ends. Both require my whole being: mind, heart and hands. Creativity and mothering. Perceiving: a quiet and receptive act. Nurturing: a communicative process in the form of output. I fought laziness and idealism this trip when I wanted the creative process and mothering to co-exist peacefully and in complete obedience, thankyouverymuch. They don't. They can't. There is no philosophical tension whatsoever, but practical. I am one woman with one lens with which to focus. As much as I would like to shoot wide open (photo lingo) and zoom fully into the subjects that interest me, in this season of mothering wee ones I am forced to pan out and keep it all in sharp detail. Exhausting, new and therefore uncomfortable, but worth the discomfort in both arenas. Often I feel I am doing both areas in mediocre-ly by not devoting myself whole-heartedly to either. But my conviction that doing so would annihilate me keeps me from diving all in to the exclusion of the other. 

And so this is me right now: a mother cutting grapes in two while rationally explaining why we can't sing Jingle Bells at the top of our longs over and over and over in June; also while unconsciously and irresistibly writing in mind about covenant and essence and place and other things that call me to them like a whispering adulterer. Does this sound grim? It's not yet settled. Take heart, dear soul. Process, right?

 

details

Digital images taken on 5D Mark II and printed by Artifact Uprising on 5 x 3.5 paper
Polaroids on Instax Wide and Instax Mini film
Super 8 shot on a Canon 518 with Pro 08-13 film, processed and digitized by Pro8mm
Super 8 song: We Will Say in That Day (Isaiah 12) by Wendell Kimbrough
Paper prints song: Sewee Sewee by Mountain Man

 

Love in Paper Prints

Heirloom paper prints, date-stamped of Madalyn and Daniel's special day. It's my hope that their prints somehow contain the depth of that day, and when they open their wooden photo box they are transported back like a locket, like hand-written note, like the smell of your lover left on clothes. Home. Happily ever after, you two. 

Family Photos in Physical Form

Families + prints. A good match. 

During this shoot I pulled into the bay and saw Danny and Malakai throwing rocks into the water. I had been there the day before envisioning them on this coast. If the rocks would be too jagged for his little feet; if the clouds from scarce Phoenix rain would stay. We talked, we walked, we examined rocks and Malakai said "eew," as he picked up a piece of fishing line. Jessica and I talked about babies and birth and long mothering days, our kids being five months apart. I got to create photographs for this family of three and it was an honor being a part of their story.