Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photography Website Update

I am absolutely ecstatic about my latest photography website update! Due to a submission deadline, I spent the entire day today organizing fresh, new photos, along with a few longer-standing favorites, and preparing the files for this update. While I have gotten a lot of attention for my children's photography, I am particularly proud of the photos I shot of grown-ups for this web update. Those can be viewed under the "portraits" section of my site. Of course, I still think the kids are cute, too. I would love to get some feedback on the new site, so please feel free to leave your comments!

Here's a sneak preview of a series I did with actor Libby Winters (hair and make-up by the delightful Eric Carter):

Visit for additional photos from this series, and more!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Urban Garden, Part 2 - The Sill and the Escape

Last summer, I purchased a thriving, flowering plant every time I rented a car to leave the city on a photo shoot or on a trip. I created a little garden on my fire escape, framed perfectly by the window when viewed from the inside. This year, I planted various seeds both for the fire escape and the kitchen windowsill.

What I am learning, is that I don't really know much of anything about gardening. I love plants - I am completely soothed by their energy - their un-perceivable yet incessant growth. It is a magical mystery to me how it is that they exist. I say I "plant seeds," as if I have done something other than put pellets into dirt and add water. And then life springs forth without me having to do anything else!

Some of the seedlings get a fungus (or so my online research tells me), and wilt over and die. Some of them thrive. The bulbous seed of my grandfather's garlic grows into long stems, and spreads like a wispy patch of grass. A plant I trimmed back from last fall begins new, green growth.

I have no idea what I'm doing! I put herbs on the sill - some I bought, some I sprouted from seeds my mother gave me. The mint, I bought as cut mint, put it in water until it took root, and then stuck it in a coffee can full of soil. Some things are hardy - like mint and garlic - no green thumb required. Some things I clearly don't know how to take care of, and I carefully watch each day to gauge whether they are thirsty, too moist, or getting enough light. I don't know how, but I start to be able to gauge a plant's happiness.

It's as if I can reach the very essence of life - the only perceivable commonality between myself and a plant. And, it's not something I know how to explain in English, but a direct communication between the plant's vibration and mine.

Still, there are imperfections in this - as the plant's caregiver, when I misinterpret, the plant shows symptoms of discomfort or even partially or completely dies. It is not like it would be, if the plant's roots were nestled in the earth itself, where they could reach for all the nutrients and moisture they need. These plants rely on me to be the rain, to supply the positioning to the light. I don't know what I'm doing, but I try to learn from the plants, and for the most part, I eventually do so successfully.

What I am ultimately doing, is opening myself to learn directly from nature, from life that - by our definitions - exists without "consciousness." On the level of the essence of life, my own conscious thoughts are, frankly, irrelevant. Concepts I form in my head about what a plant should need fall apart until they are just letters, making an invisible alphabet soup in the soil - not harming the plant, but not necessary nourishing it either - just falling pointlessly out of my mind, sinking in, and disappearing into the earth's infinite wisdom.

The plants know exactly what they need. I can read advice from other gardeners, trying to understand the scientific conditions necessary for thriving growth, but if I am honest with myself, and humble enough to admit it, it is a great deal simpler just to ask the plants themselves.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Optimist and Realist

The Barnes and Noble Classics edition of Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson, has an introduction of the same title, "Optimist and Realist," and it resonates with me greatly. Emerson's work is something that has inspired me over the past year, ever since I first took interest in a class offered at the Open Center, in New York. Emerson believed in the virtues of human nature, in the amazing power of unique expression of an individual, and in a morality that reflects the unstoppable human spirit.

Yesterday, I was reading an essay called, "Compensation," in the aforementioned book, and it stated how the nature of all things is to find a balance. It reminded me of the various "eras" in my business - times when I felt sure that the work I was doing was true to my heart, and thereby liberating the hearts of all who experienced it; and times when I fell into doubt about what I was doing, thereby chasing after material results, and always feeling uncertain about whether or not I'd actually garnered a victory. There is always a wholeness to my work when I am really in tune with it, in that it sustains me while I sustain it. Emerson says that everything seeks this wholeness, by nature; that everything seeks the yin to its yang. In other words, if I am out of balance when applying myself to my business, the results will demonstrate the same, and I'll eventually be influenced toward that which will create a natural balance.

Perhaps the thrashing about of the economy, particularly over the past six months, has been the symptom of a broader balancing. My sister, based in Colorado, is a customer service agent for an insurance company, and speaks with people of all professions. She told me that quite often lately, people are telling her that the strain on them economically has made them more creative - the extra time on their hands, or the desire for more income has caused them to explore ideas and talents that they had set on the back burner, and never dreamed would get to explore at the forefront at this stage of their lives. To me, that sounds a lot like a culture waking up from a mad dash for material wealth, to make sure that the path itself on which they journey is, in and of itself, enjoyable - that they needn't wait until retirement, or some distant time or bank balance in the future to begin to find joy in their days.

Now, I am flipping the lamp light on as the spring twilight dwindles, and thinking of how my own optimism is grounded in realism. I would never suggest that anyone simply find a happy thought and slap it on to their stream of consciousness - I would only gently suggest that what is catching their attention now has a seed in it, something deeper and containing answers, and that only things they truly believe can be triggers to their happiness. Try a thought on for size. If it doesn't feel good, it's either not optimistic, or not real. To use positive thinking to really shift our attention to what is working in our lives, we can't pretend we are happy about a loss of income or a reduced retirement fund balance. But we can see the greater good: a nation - and maybe even a world - that is waking up, and seeing the value in having time to decide how to spend one's lifetime.

In Emerson's "Self-Reliance" (a favorite essay of President Barack Obama), he describes that if an individual were able to keep the unaffected spirit of a child, independent of what anyone else wanted of him, his or her strength and power would be fuller, and, in non-conforming, he or she would abide more truly to his or her unique nature. Perhaps now, people who once thought more of comparing cars and bank balances, are beginning to choose for themselves what is important, rather than concerning themselves over what their neighbors might think, and in the process, learning boldness that allows them to step into a power that is uniquely theirs.

My business connector, Robin Coley, said to me last week, "This is a time when people's values are changing." Those words hit my ear like something I wasn't letting myself feel, that I knew inside. Values are changing. We get to decide now. We get to decide what we are here to do, how we would like to spend our time, what is the right amount of money, and the right amount of work to do in week. This is a time when we will see what we have merely glimpsed at other times - that we build our own realities.

(Photos were shot by yours truly, on an iPhone, in Central Park.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

About My Work - in the Third Person

I was recently asked to define the benefits of working with Sarah Sloboda - an idea I loved - because to date, I am unsure as to whether I have truly written anything that captures the essence of my mentality when I am photographing something, or otherwise creating something. Here is the description I wrote:
Sarah Sloboda has developed a trust in the subtle connections made by the subconscious mind, and knows that art occurs spontaneously, when continuously offered the forum of an open mind, a conscious heart, and a reliable means of expression through a medium. Sarah's life practice is a dedication to creating the fertile ground from which art can spontaneously spring, and so inspiration is always within reach.

As a photographer, and in the other mediums in which she dabbles, such as ceramics, writing, and design, her method is simple: to assess fully the essence of what exists in front of her, drinking in its nuances, and drawing from what already is; she then puts her attention fully and lovingly on the beauty present and allows it to get organically captured in the work.

Sarah defines beauty both as visual attractiveness/symmetry/the composition of lines and form, and also as love/spirit/individuality/the essence of what gives us life. Knowing that we can find beauty all around us, her work requires that she enter a somewhat meditative state where she can focus solely on the beauty. Through that focus, beauty is what is captured when she is at the helm of her craft.

Her work is delineated by her deep trust in the subconscious mind - in other words, instincts or non-linear trains of thought that often arrive at a solution instantaneously. In her technique of honoring the subconscious, success is measured by how fully the ego and conscious mind have stepped out of the way, and often by how effortlessly all the elements in the moment of creation have aligned. Therefore she knows, even as the work is being created, when it will be a success, simply by the way a moment feels.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Photography and Optimism

Through recent years, photography's technical developments have made leaps and bounds in ways that shocked and surprised photographers of old. Perhaps the digital age has amplified the technical elements of photography, or perhaps it simply is an art form that is more technical in nature than say, painting.

However, as a photographer and an optimist, I find that the true nature of any medium is found in the artist's ability to get past the medium itself. That is, the technical details of camera work should not show themselves as evident in a photographer's work. If a musician has really mastered a song, you don't hear him struggling to hit the notes. Similarly, for a photograph to really sing, the emotion of it needs to play larger than any technical detail.

As an optimist, I am always looking for happy emotions. I work with my camera the way a musician masters an instrument, because when I am shooting, I want to be able to completely step into the moment, and not be distracted by fussing with technical details.

During this economy, a lot of people have asked me, "How's the optimism going?" And I say, "It's going great!" Because I am always looking for happy moments, they are easy to find. A pause in a person's thoughts often give way to a contemplative smile. Asking someone to speak about their dog or their beloved always creates a grin or even a giggle. While much of the mainstream media is obsessed with making and showing images of fear and despair, I keep myself focused on the beauty in our daily lives.

I photograph weddings because I believe that the love that draws two people close enough together to want to entwine their lives is more powerful than the stories we read in the media about crises and fear. I believe that capturing evidence of people's lives working beautifully, and showing the world these images, is how to perpetuate a better feeling of the world we live in. How much beauty surrounds you? If I showed up at your house today, what would you want to show me? What would you want to be savored about your life?

Many of my clients don't actually have to answer these questions out loud. Since I am looking for the beauty in them, and in their lives, it is easy for me to intuit the answers to these questions. My entire craft is dedicated to the bolstering of people's feelings about how wonderful their life really is. I want people to look at my work and think, "She sees it, too. She knows the beautiful secret of how wonderful my life is."

Please feel free to view my wedding work at

You may also download a copy of my wedding photography brochure, including artist's statement and press clipping, by clicking here: Sloboda Weddings Brochure.