It's been a terribly rainy December. I love a rainy day as much as the next girl but damn, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, fo' real.

Photo number three is actually two photos sandwiched together in the darkroom.

For about two years now, I've been taking various classes on and off at a college here in the city--mostly just for fun. Though I've been pursuing photography for much longer, I never thought of taking a photography class until last fall. It was probably a result of my own arrogance, honestly.

A good friend of mine once said, "What kind of tea would I or anyone else pour for you if your cup is full?" He was referring to something else but it applies to any situation in which one is to learn. I started that photography class with the attitude that there wasn't much for me to learn, I just wanted to be in a dark room again. That attitude got in my way all of the time. Sure, I did well in the class, that wasn't the issue. The issue was my inability to explore new realms of creativity.

The second semester of photography focused on more experimental methods and surrealism, my weaknesses. I really struggled with these concepts throughout the semester but when I would allow myself to let go of my perceived photographic knowledge, true experimentation could happen.

I realize this photo isn't groundbreaking or even particularly creative, but it's a small example of the work I was able to accomplish that semester through methods I had never been exposed to before. As my home studio gets closer and closer to completion, I'm looking forward to expanding on this new knowledge within the new year.


Cleaning house/hand-washing in the bathtub.


If you've looked at half the photos from this year, you already know that these guys have played a rather large part in it.

I met The Giving Tree Band almost exactly a year ago, with the idea that I'd probably shoot one performance and that would be the extent of my involvement with them. Seems the universe had a different plan. During our first interaction, I immediately got along with all of them so well that they invited me out to shoot photographs of them in the recording studio the following month.

Then, just like that, I was spending most weekends at their home and studio; shooting practices, recording sessions, and the intimate, often comical (occasionally tense) moments between housemates. When touring season began, I accompanied them as well, covering shows and life on the road all across the country. What started as a brief photo session has turned into my pet project--a year spent documenting the life of a band; of seven men, who lead an unconventional life in so many ways, working relentlessly, and never compromising their vision.

It's crazy how life can throw something at you faster than the blink of an eye that changes everything. I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with these boys, not only for a year's worth of inspiration but for the change they have cultivated within me. Being a witness to the work ethic behind the band has changed the way that I work; my entire creative process and thinking as an artist has been influenced by the creative activity I've been surrounded with. And that's all on a professional level. Personally, I am so grateful to have these wonderful new friends that never cease in their encouragement and kindness, it's a rare thing to have friends like that.

Anyway, that is why I chose this shot as the second on my twelve most significant for 2011. It's an interesting shot for me because it was taken the first time I was out at Crooked Creek, in January of this year; you can see in the photographs from that night how shy and timid I was feeling at the time. In this photograph in particular, I'm truly just an outsider peeking over shoulders into something amazing. It didn't take long for me to warm up to these guys though: tight quarters promote quick bonding.

[The entire Giving Tree Band project will be debuting on my website soon!]

Twelve Shots

(What has kept me away this month--Christmas prep/art/baking)

December has been a bit slow for me, photographically speaking. I'm in the midst of having my website redone, which requires a ton of [re]organization on my part as well as rescanning an entire month worth of negatives that I somehow accidentally deleted from both my computer and external hard-drive (THANK GOD for hard copies). I'm also working on a stop-motion video that will hopefully premiere shortly after the new year, all coinciding with the normal December activities of Christmas preparation and barricading myself in my apartment to avoid the Chicago cold. I hate leaving my blog idle though, which brings us to this post. Ansel Adams was once quoted (or so says the internet), as saying, "twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop."

Folks, the crop this year has been bountiful.

Over the next two weeks or so, I will be periodically posting the twelve shots I consider to be my most significant this year and why.

We'll start here:

This rather goofy self-portrait with my brother and three cousins is significant to me for two very different reasons. The first being that it was on the first roll of film that I developed in my home studio/darkroom. Everything prior to this had been developed at Chicago's Truman College or taken into a lab to be done by somebody else. I'm a rather reckless artist and gauge the temperature of the water and chemicals by touch, so I wasn't sure anything would show up at all or be usable if it did. You better believe that I was dancing and jumping for joy around my apartment when I pulled these negatives from the developing canister and saw that there were images on them.

Personally, this photo is significant because it was taken on Christmas Eve of last year (but not developed until 2011, which is why I'm including it). And this Christmas Eve was particularly significant because it was the first after the passing of my Aunt Sheryl earlier that year. Aunt Sheryl always hosted Christmas Eve at her home and had it down to an art. She even hosted while undergoing chemo treatments and facing unfathomable fatigue. So it was a somber occasion, to not be in her home, to be missing her warmth, to not even see her face this holiday. That day, for one reason or another, I asked my cousins--her children and my brother to go play in the snow with me that afternoon. They all scoffed at me, but with a little convincing, we were soon knee-deep in the snow. And we felt like little kids again. I asked to take a self-portrait of us all running on top of the neighbor's hay bales, because it is one of my favorite childhood memories: my brother and I would carefully climb over the barbed wire fence dividing our yard from his field and run on top of the plastic-covered hay bales that would be come slippery with the snow. We could never make it to the end without falling off the side into a snow drift. So three of my cousins, my brother, and I climbed over the barbed wire fence and very ungracefully (and with much assistance from my Marine cousin, Jim), climbed up and ran across the hay bales. More cousins eventually showed up and the activities escalated to sledding, though we couldn't find any sleds in the garage, so the six of us piled onto an old door and went down the hill over and over (I realize this plays like a scenario from Stephan Bloom's now notorious opinion piece, but alas, it was a damn good time). It was the most fun we had in ages and my mother has told me frequently that watching us was the best part of her Christmas. That moment brought a little light into a day that was rather dark for us all, so even if it just looks like a silly snapshot to you, to me, it means more than almost any other photograph I've taken.

Just a little news...

I've been working with Crooked Creek Studios on a project showcasing their space and equipment. Their website is now featuring many of the photos I took; please swing by and check them out! :)