A Party in the South of France: Part One

12/28/14

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One of the highlights of this past year was getting the opportunity to spend three days in the south of France documenting life around a beautiful fig orchard.  I was invited to fly out by my clients Amber + Alexis, who hired me to shoot their wedding in Los Angeles the summer before.  Alexis is from France, and since most of his extended family couldn’t make the LA ceremony they decided to host a party on his grandfather’s 100 year old property, where the family gathers together every summer.  The first couple of days centered around lots of cooking, swimming, drinking, eating, and chatting in a circle.  I really appreciated this opportunity to immerse myself in their environment and daily routines, something I may not have ever otherwise experienced as a traveler on my own.   The country home was quintessentially French — filled with charming touches, the smell of warm baguettes, and ordinary chaos of a home taken over by four generations for the week.  What I really loved about this experienced was that there were no parameters for these photos.  I had total creative freedom to just simply document whatever I saw, with the goal to create a little time capsule of memories from the summer shared by this close knit French family.

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A Party in the South of France: Part Two

12/28/14

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The last day spent in France was all about the party.  It was a low-key affair, marked by a ceremony in the village church and food, drinks, and dancing back at the orchard.  Alex’s family also owns a home in Solliès-Pont — a little village that might otherwise be very typical, except for being known as “the fig capital of the world.”  I took them around town for portraits, incorporating the architecture of Alex’s childhood and the rich colors often found in the Cote D’Azur.  One of the more special parts of the night was when all of the cousins surprised the couple by singing a song (to the tune of “place des grands hommes”) about the nostalgia of growing up together, and how despite the distance of Alex being in America with his love, Amber, they are always able to reunite and celebrate at Solliès-Pont.

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The Kite festival

12/17/14

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The Washington State International Kite Festival was a happy little discovery I made while traveling in the Pacific Northwest this summer.  The concept is simple: people who love kites get together once a year and enjoy a colorful weekend on the beach.  I was so enchanted by everyone I met that day — each one of them beaming with giant smiles and positivity.  I think it may become an annual thing for me, too.

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West Texas

7/1/14

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Back in April, my good friend Sera and I embarked on a six-day road trip from Los Angeles to Marfa, Texas (you can see her blog post here!).  We had both wanted to visit Marfa for while, having heard nothing but great things from basically everyone we know.  We had high expectations and Marfa did not disappoint.  With those high expectations, however, brought their own challenges, as Marfa is a heavily photographed town (what with it being a trendy, on-the-rise travel destination and home to a huge, well respected artist community).  Within minutes of arriving on their sleepy main street, I instantly felt pressured to create original imagery beyond what my photographic predecessors had done before me.

I feel as though I can’t avoid getting personal here: in truth, the pressure I put on myself was a tough experience for me on this trip.  As a visual storyteller focused on the American West, I wasn’t able to tap into the pulse of Marfa and struggled to find a story.  I didn’t feel like it was my story to tell for a lot of reasons, but before I knew what they were I had resigned myself to the idea that I was a creative failure for not being able to produce in what is one of the most photogenic towns in the American West.  This, in turn, sent me into a huge emotional spiral which brought out my inner critic full force.  An artist’s inner critic can either be a destructive or productive tool, depending on what it says to you.  Every now and then I feel like I’m walking a fine line between both.  During this road trip I found myself in the darkest extreme of self-loathing and destructiveness, constantly calling into question my artistic integrity and worth.  My minute-by-minute thoughts went something like this: what kind of photographer am I? am I original enough? am I really the storyteller I pride myself on?  will I ever develop a body of work that my peers admire and respect? am I actually ANY good at all…  in short: not a great place to be.

I ultimately decided to drop the idea of telling a story and go back to basics.  I spent most of my time using a polaroid land camera and fuji instax and created simply to create.  Sera, being possibly one of my biggest fans and dearest friends, knew how hard I was being on myself and acted as a constant support system — cheering me on and offering sage advice when I needed it.  At one point I had lost the image at the top of this post, and she spent an entire rainy afternoon helping me tear my car and hotel room apart trying to find it.  I was devastated over losing a simple polaroid because I felt like it represented a creative epiphany I had moments after taking it.  After very stubbornly coming to terms that it was gone, I found it again today randomly while scanning the other polaroids for this blog post.  Funny, how those things work out.

Now that I’ve had some time to digest and understand what I was feeling on our Marfa trip (and after reading this amazing article) I’ve come to realize that even my lowest, most terrifying moments were necessary for me to work through.  In a way it’s difficult to look at these images because it brings back vivid memories of how crappy I felt when I took them, but on the other hand I’m also proud of these simple frames that pushed and challenged me in ways that ultimately put me on a path to create my best work yet.

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Australia

5/7/14

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Four years ago, I started my international birthday tradition with my dad when we traveled to the south island of New Zealand on my 25th birthday.  At the time I had done very little international travel, so this new tradition guaranteed I could see the world by picking a new country to visit on April 1st.  It’s one of my favorite things I have to look forward to every year, and this year was possibly my favorite yet!  Australia has been one of the best surprises of all my travels so far, in part thanks to my friends Ngaio and Julian, who invited me out in the first place.  It seems silly since to say this since I live in California, but I really do feel like I crossed an ocean in order fall in love with the ocean.

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