On my 27th birthday, surrounded by the most amazing friends, I blew out my candles and made my wish. Clarity. I wanted to see things as they are. It was my golden birthday and I joked that I wasn’t celebrating it for just one day. It was going to be my golden year. I spent the year working harder than I ever have. Long hours, painfully long commutes, and little or sometimes no pay. Investing time and in money into building a portfolio that I could be proud of even though I knew that my agency wouldn’t add every image to their version of my portfolio. I worked with Dane Tashima, an amazing photographer and person, as often I possibly could. I pushed myself to my limits, not because I wanted to make images that my agency wanted or that clients want to see, but because Dane’s photographs capture authentic beauty. Perfectly imperfect. And nothing makes me happier than creating and sharing whats really beautiful to me. I don’t see beauty in perfection. I see it in authenticity. Nothing in life is perfect, sometimes shit gets real.
Working in an industry where achieving perfection seems to be the main goal has been exhausting. I started modeling thinking it would be fun – I still love to play dress up (I’m pretty sure I still see things through the eyes of a 5 year old). And I do have fun modeling but I didn’t anticipate how hard it is to feel judged, categorized and told what you need to be every day of your life. Eventually I learned that while I absolutely am being judged and compared and told I’m not right for this job or that job and what I need to change, it says nothing about who i am. Being a model doesn’t make me beautiful or happy. Its being a part of the creative process that I enjoy. Collaborating, sharing ideas, seeing people successfully communicate their own mental image to a team of creative people and then to execute that idea, is what I love – whether I’m the person in front of the camera (which is pretty rare now) or one of the people creating the image. And sharing my excitement and love with everyone is what really makes me beautiful.
I just finished prop styling for a shoot that was more of a struggle than I have ever seen. I feel like I’ve been through hell. I’m tired. I’m sunburned and bitten by bugs. I cried. But I did it all with complete enjoyment. I was given creative freedom. The client told me what they pictured, and I got to bring what was just an idea in someones head to life. Day one fell apart instantly. When one member of a team tries to take on the responsibility of an entire team, nothing gets done well. Fighting nature, fighting the collaboration process, fighting everything that just is, and not allowing each person to bring what they have to offer to any project is destructive. And the stress that one person creates for themselves is contagious. It spreads to everyone, especially to the tiny models who are supposed to be having fun and being kids (i understand all too well how hard it is to look natural in front of a camera when you’re wearing a hideous outfit thats full of pins and clamps and someone is barking directions and then complaining that you don’t look comfortable in the bizarre pose they just directed you into). I stood by as each prop that I provided was pulled from the shots with no explanation. I always have a reason behind the artistic choices that I make. And not personal reasons, but a reason why I thought what I was adding would benefit not only that one picture but also how it would create a cohesive collection of images that tell a story. I really think about the big picture in my work and now in my life too. The artist in me was heartbroken. I felt the frustration of everyone and while I felt like one person’s need to control everything (I mean everything. Including the wind, the light, the kids, and the creative direction) was completely counter productive, I knew that it had nothing to do with me or my creative vision.
I’ve come to realize that some people are really looking for a reason to dislike me (which is fine- I wasn’t feeling so great about myself either, external scrutiny and judgement leads to internal judgment, which is way more harsh) and I thought it meant that I was doing something wrong. Some people see that I’m nice and that I find joy and beauty in what I do and they make judgements. They assume that because they’re placing judgment on me I’m doing the same in return, but I’m not. They see me for what they think I am and assume that those are the reasons that make me happy. “Must be nice to be you” is something people say to me- not in a nice way… and while it is nice to be me it at times, it has nothing to do with whatever reason they assume. Its because I see people for who they are. Just people. We all struggle, we all hurt, we all feel like we’ve failed at something and people who assume that if I’m happy in that one moment, its because of the way that I look or because of what I’ve accomplished are not seeing me, the human. I see the good in everyone. Even in the woman who’s trying and trying to hurt my feelings by shutting down my creative input-trying so hard to get a reaction that would justify her actions. It sucked. It sucked really bad, but I know that she is a good person who’s just not seeing the big picture and is acting out of her own fears. I truly respect all people, even if they’re not being respectful in return.
There are very few truly good actors in the world and everybody knows that. We can all identify “bad acting” so clearly in movies and we can all see it in each other too. Theres no need to pretend to be anything. There is no need to strive for perfection or complete control in any situation. I really think we all just want to see whats real.
That brings me to Martha. I love Martha, not because Martha seems to want everything to be perfect, but because she appreciates creating and sharing beautiful things. I picture her entertaining her friends at a perfectly set table, in the perfectly appropriate outfit for the occasion-with her prison ankle bracelet showing (I really hope she matched her hand bag to that thing). When Martha says she bathes her cats every week, I picture her coughing up hairballs – because seriously, she has a lot of cats and cats are pretty good at cleaning themselves. (I’m not sure anyone really needs to be bathing cats that frequently…but hell, if it really makes her happy, thats fantastic).
We all know that we have to fail in order to learn from out mistakes and its those failures that can be the best part of attempting Martha-level perfection. Frantically waving a flaming oven mitt around the kitchen while guests are completely oblivious is memorable and hilarious (after the flames are extinguished). Being surprised by a two inch tall angel food cake made by someone you love because they know its your favorite is better than the most perfect angle food cake ever.
So, I return to blogging to share the beauty that I see in what is real. Its still going to be part of my job to try to create the illusion of perfection but I plan to continue to do it without fighting what just is, the natural way of things. And also the joy that comes from some of the most miserable failures.
To start, after all of the stress and frustration of this last shoot, I went home knowing that when I was finally left to do my job and set a scene that I planned and created, the reward was seeing four little girls react with absolute joy. The five year old in me knows how to have fun and play. Sometimes grownups forget about having fun.