Behind the Scenes: A Documentary Film Shoot in Cape Cod

Under director Vanessa Vartabedian a small documentary film crew steadily unpacked cameras from the trunk of a Volkswagen. It was a chilly day in December in Wellfleet, MA and also my first time traveling to Cape Cod. After purchasing my postcard, I'm pleasantly surprised to notice a friendliness in the cashier's small talk, something I thought could only be found in my small hometown in the Midwest. While both places are seeped richly and deeply in landscape the Cape has an incredibly special golden afternoon sea light that I've never seen in the midwest or at my home in Boston. Vanessa shared that this distinguished light is her favorite part of her "second home".  I smiled and began my experience to witness the Cape through two unique lenses: Vanessa's film passion and a man named Chuck.

dakota lenox blog post boston photographer 2017 2018 documentary film filmmaker cinematography local cape cod capecod photo

Chuck, Vanessa's first interviewee, adorns a massive white beard and is an oyster-er, boat builder and lives in fantastically designed yurts. I've never been in a yurt and they are unassumingly super spacious inside. Chuck has dedicated different yurts to a sauna, kitchen, bedroom, and, the grand daddy of them all, one yurt to home his entire library and there's still space for his sewing projects inside. While we filmed in this giant ballroom of a yurt Chuck snipped away at sailing fabric and cheerfully told us the weaving of his dream to live on a boat full time someday. That'll surely come true.

Chuck also works as a DJ at a local radio station, WOMR (Provincetown, MA) and while filming in the radio studio I listened carefully to his voice on air. I was entertained as I heard him read a Christmas story from a book while sliding buttons to add dramatic sound effects to his listeners. During the interview sessions Vanessa showed her unique skill set of listening whole-heartedly to every word spoken.  She is experienced with this type of attention from her passion project "The Mosquito Story Slam", a live event where storytellers have 5-minutes to tell a true story based on a theme. Stories also seem to be Chuck's expertise; with an open heart Chuck told the film crew of loving family moments, future aspirations and shared how to honor his version of "the true meaning of life".  Hung on the front entrance of his kitchen yurt is a small, green banner with a Dalai Lama quote printed on it. Much like Chuck's charisma, these words are shared to welcome anyone who takes the time to read them.

“We are visitors on this planet. We are here for one hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. if you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true meaning of life.” - Dalai Lama

Discovering Environmental Portraiture: it already exists where you are

After I hit reply to my email thread with studio artist Tony Astone I re-read my response: "Don't worry about a thing, I'll make sure to bring my wide angle lens." He warned me about the size of the artwork (huge) and wanted to make sure it would work for our upcoming portrait session together. 

When I got to Tony's apartment in Somerville, MA, I walked in and was shocked: Lining the kitchen walls and all the hallways were 6+ feet canvasses. He wasn't lyin' about the sheer size of his art work. Luckily our photoshoot wasn’t a “copy photo session” (meaning the photographing of his paintings with even lighting, usually for portfolio reasons) but an individual lifestyle shoot to capture an environmental portrait for Tony’s recent achievement of being Somerville Arts Council Artist of the month. Before each shoot I always ask myself “what should be the backdrop of this environmental portrait?”, and within one second of walking into Tony’s kitchen I knew the paintings were the environment and perfect backdrop. So we photographed in front of them, gabbing the whole time over our shared love of American artist Cindy Sherman and my suggestions to channel his inner Dominic Chianese (The Godfather, The Sopranos). Tony easily and quickly relaxed with this suggestion, one hand on his kitchen windowsill, while his city-slicker cat, Zamboni, looked on. Zamboni is a black and white indoor-outdoor cat and is well known in the community and as friendly as his owner. But Tony has an intellectually charged deeper side in his artwork: the paintings are fantastically grotesque filled with brutal realities and metaphor. These paintings are fiery, political, sharp, honest, playful, and refreshing all in one colorful breath of a view. After our hour-long shoot together I asked myself: What makes a person dig this far into the depths of their creativity?

Tony’s latest politically charged oil painting lined an entire wall of his bedroom. In bold primary colors with comic book sensibility, I witnessed a painting of young children playing within a murderous scene in a classroom. This painting was intense - with a tension between playful and terrifying. The bold red color of the blood jumped out at me because it matched the same hue of red as the leather chair Tony sat on front of it. On a lighter note, Tony had amazing dark Italian hair with one strand that fell over his forehead, which I called “the Uncle Jesse strand” and we laughed and agreed John Stamos is a dream boat.

Tony’s sketchbook was another great element of discovery from the shoot. He opened the large black-bound book and with a tinge of vulnerability began showing me some of the most intricate sketches I’ve ever seen in a sketchbook. With tight line work and precise use of minuscule dots each drawing looked like a polished rendering. This is where his brainstorming occurs. After politely and directly telling me about the process I learned how Tony would spend months prepping each painting, sometimes laying them out in Photoshop, often changing the concept at the last minute, then spending hours (even days!) with a brush rendering them to a large scale.

Perhaps it was Tony’s schooling from Rhode Island School of Design, or the impressive amount of time he puts into his studio practice, but this work is impactful and liberating. It was an amazing photographic experience to witness an example of an artist who leaves behind no “should-haves” in his life. I highly recommend you see the paintings in person because they’ll swallow you in and spit you out covered in goopy insight.

If you’d like to see more of his work you can visit his website and read the full artist interview here. 

The shrine-capturer of Somerville, MA: On the art of noticing your neighborhood

I only started noticing the shrines of Somerville, MA after my portrait session photographing visual artist Cathy P.

I mean, I guess after moving to MA in September I did notice them. They were something different in the landscape of this place, but at that time everything was new; smells, colors, and yes, the things people displayed in their yards as I walked by.

Cathy and her husband Michael greeted me at the door on a Friday night. We had scheduled a solo portrait session for her new feature for the Somerville Arts Council. Because the nature of her work is primarily outdoors, I decided the two of us should go for a photo-walk and embrace some natural sunlight as it was setting. We left her home and began the journey.

Within the first five minutes of our walk Cathy let out a soft shriek and exclaimed,

“THIS! Wow. I’ve never seen this one!”

I looked to see what she was talking about, and it was a shrine. Behind a white picket fence tucked up next to the front of a neighbor’s house was a Religious shrine featuring the biblical Mary. Cathy already had her camera out, an iPhone, ready and hot in her hands. She took the posture and began to photograph. This was her artwork.

Excitement filled her, she had missed this one! She’s been mapping and photographing shrines for years now, using her iPhone to capture and Tumblr to display. She’s played with creating maps, and mentioned the possibility of leading Shrine tours in the future. I embraced the creative interruption during the photoshoot, documenting her as she worked.

All gardening is landscape painting
— Alexander Pope.

We then headed to her urban garden. It didn’t surprise me that she is an avid gardener, having a knack for noticing things and that knack usually ties into gardening. I enjoy plants as well, listening to them and understanding which needs require attention. As we walked she plucked a bouquet for me which I tenderly referred to as “burrito bouquet” because she wrapped it in tinfoil, resembling a delicious fast-food burrito.

Her art reminds us of the human connection to noticing the small things in our environment. As the internet plows through our visual capacities we need to remember the most important places are usually right in front of us. Cathy found that and is inspiring all of us. What is quietly begging for your attention? Go out and find it!

It was a lovely experience and you should check out more of her interview here, as she is the Somerville Art Council’s artist of the month for July.

You can view the entire project here: http://bathtubmarysofsomerville.tumblr.com, follow the adventures on Facebook here and watch a short documentary here.  

Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been plowed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use…time spent there is not work time, yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space — for wilderness and public space — must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.
— Rebecca Solnit

Take Good Pictures in Bad Lighting (flash-free on the iPhone)

Shooting in low light can be a scary, scary thing. Most of us prefer nice sunny days, our viewing screens filled with as much natural light as possible. But there are times when this simply isn't the reality. There's no windows. It's 10pm at night. You're at a concert and have to work quickly to make the shots as hot as possible. Yes, these situations can be tricky but here is some advice so you can focus on your subject vs the lighting hurdles.

Grab your phone because it’s time to try these tips!

1. Adjust your exposure in Camera Mode

Tap the iPhone camera screen on the dark areas to boost up your exposure of the image. It’ll brighten things up! Like a DSLR camera adjusting its settings, the more light will be exposed to the sensor, allowing you the most light into your camera as possible.

2. Add more lighting

How many photographers does it take to move a light bulb? ONE AND IT'S YOU. Grab a lamp nearby and light like you had a studio of lamps! No one will see that library-style desk lamp that you're awkwardly holding three inches away from your subject, just out of frame. Get weird! You can always send me some behind the scenes photos of your wildest lighting, I'd love to see how creative you can get!

3. Shoot somewhere brighter

If you are shooting indoors with low light and it's during the daytime, take the subject outside or pull some of those still life's to a picnic table outdoors. Move somewhere where there is more light. If you are in the center of a dark room during day time try your setups next to a window and let light flood over your subject all pretty-like.

4. Smooth with a filter

I use the VSCOcam app and love their editing features. You can adjust your “clarity” if the image looks a bit too grainy. Also, feel free to sharpen things or change to black and white in VSCOcam. Black and white photography has a long lineage of being grainy and offering wonderful contrast for low-lit situations.

5. If it can wait, then wait

What is this, a candlelit dinner date? No, it's a photograph! Can it wait until morning or tomorrow afternoon for you to shoot the perfect iPhone image? If it can, go ahead and wait. Your audience will be here when you’re ready. 

6. Embrace it

The truth is, I LOVE the drama of low light. If you only have one source of light at your disposal, try some new things! Photograph at a striking angle. Change your position. Try the photo with different subjects in the light and out of the light. Explore silhouettes. Now is your chance to be expressive! Shoot within your comfort zone but don't be afraid of challenging yourself with low light. I dare ya.

 [Special thanks to The Kevin Hayden Band for allowing Dakota Lenox Photography to shoot their group shots and behind the scenes of their show.]

Local Feature: Creative Influences of Musician, Robert Noyes

Robert Noyes is a local musician of Somerville, MA with a knack for sweet vibes and awesome sounds. I reached out to photograph him for the Somerville Arts Council because he is the Artist of the Month for June!

Robert Noyes of Somerville, MA

Robert Noyes of Somerville, MA

When I emailed Robert to arrange the photo shoot, he surprised me with the fact that we’d be shooting in his main space of inspiration - his home. I LOVED this immediately, excited to get a glimpse of the influences that fuel his work. Upon arriving, I noticed Robert’s extensive record collection that rivals some of the best I’ve seen. With Laurel Aitken’s reggae/funk/soul vinyl record “Sweet Rocking Mama / Reggae Serenade” (1975) hanging prominently in the living room, I knew this guy had impeccable musical taste along with talent.

In true cat lady fashion, one of the best parts was meeting his silky black kitty, Onyx. This old gentleman was kind to me and gets to live the ultimate life - listening to the sounds of Robert’s guitar everyday. Lucky dude *and* he photographs so darn well!!

Robert strummed his favorite guitar as I began to photograph, slowly drifting into a blissful state. He effortlessly created a beautiful acoustic ballad on the spot. I knew he practices for hours, honing on his natural abilities with the instrument, and this was dream-like.

While It was amazing to witness, it was evident this particular photo shoot would be less “directing” on my part (I didn't want to interrupt his flow) and more observational photographing. So I mentally switched gears, something that is often tricky for photographers. While he stayed in the zone, I allowed myself to drift and pay close attention to the details of his home studio; I loved the pile of handmade art on his music stand, the beautiful and delicate eggshell artwork in his kitchen that his girlfriend made, and enjoyed photographing closeups of his guitar as his fingers glazed through each note.  Special thanks to Robert for the free short concert, I will forever be impressed by your musical talents!

You can find more of his music and get in contact with him here:  robnoyes.bandcamp.com & https://www.facebook.com/robmnoyes/

To read the full interview with Somerville Arts Council please visit: http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org/artistmonth/2016

Boston Business Feature: styled photo shoot with Central Square Florist

For the last two months, I’ve been texting back and forth with Jackie of Central Square Florist in Cambridge, MA, designing a styled photo shoot. We initially met at a coffee shop with the idea to have this photo shoot and agreed on the theme of “casual outing”. From there we extended the collaboration to model/style & fashion blogger Victoria Hathaway and talented makeup artist Sydney Tess. The shoot would be in the beautiful setting of local business Cafe Luna and the surrounding Central Square community.

There were a lot of voices and styles that needed to come together for the shoot to be successful and working with Jackie to achieve our perfect vision had to be calculated. Our biggest challenge was giving each variable the attention it deserved.

Flowers by Central Square Florist

Flowers by Central Square Florist

The photo shoot happily fell on a Thursday night, one of the first warm days of spring. Jackie and I walked from her storefront to Cafe Luna holding boxes of succulents, a colorful arrangement, and a bouquet that was bursting to life with orange and purple hues. We chatted on the way to Cafe Luna, our first stop of the evening. As we peeked through the giant garage-sized windows, we saw the shop slowly simmering in the aftermath of a busy day. We walked through the doors, noticing the golden yellow walls and the table settings with white paper placemats and crayons available for coloring.

The staff was smiling and offered us beautifully plated dishes and the perfect cup of joe, complete with a rosette swirl on top. We began shooting still lifes of the glorious flowers and the magical looking plates, with Jackie working as an art director for different positioning. She is incredibly decisive and I adored working with her because of this.

Victoria’s makeup was minimal and gorgeous, the beautiful artwork of expert Sydney. She carried a huge travel bag filled with outfit options, still warm from their car ride from Rhode Island. I reacted quickly and instinctively to her outfit options, and Jackie stepped in to have the final say on which outfits would work best with her flowers’ color palettes.

After 30 minutes of photographing shots of Victoria sipping on a cup of perfectly prepared cappuccino (everyone enjoyed several during the shoot - not a problem in my opinion!) we began to wander outdoors.

One of my favorite spots was Modica Way, a public walkway in Central Square connecting City Parking Lot 5 to Massachusetts Avenue. Modica Way is completely covered in artist’s graffiti, an absolute must-see for anyone in Cambridge. Victoria and I share a love of street art, so this environment totally fit our styles. Victoria wore an all black jumper and held a single gorgeous sunflower, an excellent suggestion from Jackie.

With any on-location urban shoot, there is the challenge of dealing with passersby and looky-loos. But Victoria displayed an admirable confidence as we got lost in the alleys. She allowed me to “do my thing”, sporadically and playfully halting her mid-walk to snap a photograph or asking her to shake her hair wildly. Even though the street bustled with activity, Victoria was comfortable and didn’t hesitate when I asked her to chomp down on the sunflower stem with her teeth. We floated our way through the city streets and the results are saucy. Thanks to everyone who made this styled shoot so fantastic!

The team:

Flowers/Plants: @centralsquareflorist | www.centralsquareflorist.com

Model: @veehathaway | www.thestylegurudotnet.wordpress.com

Makeup Artist :@sydneytess_sydneytess@gmail.com

Interior Location: @cafelunacentral | www.cafeluna-centralsq.com

Outdoor Location: Modica Way (#modicaway)

All photography: @dakotalenoxphoto

 

Local Feature: Inspiration From Master Tinker-er, Jeffrey Warren

Jeffrey Warren, co-founder of Public Lab

Jeffrey Warren, co-founder of Public Lab

Artist Jeffrey Warren and I had only corresponded on email and had never met prior to his portrait photo shoot in Somerville, MA. I wasn't sure what to expect; I didn't know his age, projects, style, etc. But immediately upon meeting his warm smile, talkative and robust personality, and wired brain, I knew he'd be exciting to work with. I mean, he does share an office space with children all day, and their playfulness was rubbing off on him.

Jeffrey Warren is a co-founder of Public Lab, an open community and non-profit investigating environmental concerns. Jeffrey was recently featured as the Somerville Arts Council Artist of the Month, and we spent a Wednesday afternoon shooting some primo portraits.

I arrived with my camera backpack ready for action. We met at his office building, weaving our way through the toy-filled corridors of Parts & Crafts, a member-supported family makerspace and community workshop in Somerville. As we passed a small spinning kid, Jeffrey shared a nice "what's up?" and a high five. Jeffrey turned to me laughing, and told stories of the kiddo's pressing their luck while balancing on chairs in the facility. He's begun to take count of the risk-taker's failures on a white board in his office.

Somerville's Artist of the Month, April 2016

Somerville's Artist of the Month, April 2016

Jeffrey's office was filled with boxes and papers, reflective of the numerous ideas that flow through his head. I began to photograph while he enthusiastically showed me various small mechanisms he'd built, including a "Papercraft Spectrometer" for Public Lab. His face lit up with rainbow light as he tested his most recent project, "Spectagram Records", a project combining CDs and vinyl records (too friggin' cool, see below!). I'm known for my spontaneous shooting style so after he mentioned his new purple commuter bicycle, I had to get some pictures. We wandered around outside and, on the beautiful streets of Somerville, shot portraits next to his trusty 2-wheeled, metal steed. When the shoot was wrapping up, we walked back through the halls and I noticed some incredible skylights above beaming in.

"We have to shoot here," I exclaimed. "You'll look like a rad villain!"

The whole photo shoot took about an hour, and Jeffrey was extremely comfortable to be around and photograph. Also, did I mention his shoes paired with orange socks?! Dude's got style. I'm thankful to have met Jeffrey and observe his curiosity and bright, youthful attitude that effortlessly compliments his casual personality and impressive crafter/builder artistry. Jeffrey Warren is the artist to follow so keep an eye on this fella'!

To read more about Jeffrey Warren, visit the full interview here: http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org/artistmonth/warren

Learning From A Photography Workshop

This California workshop was originally an excuse to flee from a cold Boston winter.

There were seven of us, in the middle of Carmel, CA, sitting in a circle on a plush white leather couch of an airBnB house. When the afternoon sunlight sliced in, the whole place reminded me of a 70’s Hollywood film set. We’re a group of photographers, a group of strangers, here for "Theory the Workshop." We came here to learn about vital photo skills: technical development, working with models for styled shoots, marketing and editing hurdles, but most importantly, to uncover some truths about our work.

The back porch of the workshop grounds

The back porch of the workshop grounds

The instructors for this course were Abi, of Abi Q Photography (Oakland, CA) and Brooke, owner of BlushbyB Photography (Salt Lake City, UT). Their portfolio work is primarily wedding photography, but looking deeper, their portrait work exceeds any commercial level and enters a realm of art. To me, Brooke’s work reads like a music staff, and we found out at the workshop that music inspires so much of her deeply emotional work. Abi is passionate about social justice, opening up discussion in her Instagram with the important changes she would like to see in the world.

I found the workshop by first admiring their work online and questioning why it seemed more honest and raw than other photographers I was following. Their work has a wisdom and I wanted some of 'dat.  

I swirled my first glass of red wine, lounging on the white shaggy rug of this retro home. I sometimes overcompensate for social discomfort by physically going overboard (I.E. rolling around on the floor). Abi opened with her ice breaker question, something we should be asking ourselves as photographers more than anything else. It's difficult to answer and continued to be for the remainder of the workshop.  

"Why are you here?"

Big Sur & Bixby Bridge

Big Sur & Bixby Bridge

In my sixth year in business with photography, I was facing some obstacles around this time. The largest was the not-so-fun but entirely true concept of "the dead season". It was cold outside and the winter was rolling on. No one, including myself (who's a complete ham for the camera) are thinking about portraits. Our skin is dry and barely sun-kissed, there's no excitement for updated wardrobes or really the need to leave the house at all. Like most of my clients, I'd rather be In my living room, burritoed under fleece blankets watching Netflix. But being self employed, I push myself to find things that keep me on top of business during this time: new marketing tips, potential spring deals, updating my website, and YES a warm weather workshop.

There was a hot tub outside on the porch at the house. I stared longingly at it as I rolled around on the rug. I'm a soaker-by-nature gal and even this small pleasure would be my rejuvenation: being outside with the West Coast sun on my forehead. But before basking in this perfect situation, like all things, you had to earn that luxury.

Abi and Brooke dove into the work unapologetically, displaying a whirlwind of slideshows, technical settings, brain-buzzing Q&A's, and taking us to different locations to shadow them on shoots. We got the chance to photograph each other, but the catch was Abi and Brooke would be breathing down our necks. They critiqued our direction and peered over our digital camera screens to offer composition tips and what they would have done differently. Both instructors were inviting but pushy, a perfect blend of professional boot-camp coach and a friend who cares about your success.

It was rigorous. My brain started to go into overdrive, for fear that too much information was coming at me.

It took patience and creative openness to continue the stamina of this workshop to the end. I'm a note taker, so I scribbled as much as possible, hoping that all the information would stick. My favorite part was the one-on-one critique session that took place on a balcony overlooking some majestic mountains. Oh boo, life is horrible. Abi and Brooke gave their impressions of my Instagram feed (which is so fun, please DM me if you want your own read!). They noticed little things about my subconscious photo making decisions that flooded me with joy: like my obsession with color, and that it's acceptable to have oddball photo projects, just hashtag it with #myweirdbrain.

After returning home it took me a week or two to process any of it. But once I did, my intuition took control and I found myself re-ignited and utilizing so much of what was learned at "Theory the Workshop."

Keywords when shooting with models? Got it. Editing tips for Lightroom? Yay, they're still there! Pushing composition and working with difficult lighting situations? Honey, please. It's second nature now. It's like the lessons were instilled in my brain, ready to come out when I needed to use them.

No one is born with technical perfection and the foresight to know what exactly your voice is. The road to finding our own voice is difficult, but there is plenty we can do to learn and nourish our creativity. Dare to ask the questions. Find your tribe and go to them. It will always lead you somewhere breathtaking.


FOLLOW THESE PHOTOGRAPHERS:

Thanks to all the team members of the Theory the Workshop!

Thanks to all the team members of the Theory the Workshop!

Here is a list of my fellow workshoppers' Instagram accounts. Follow them because they are brave and amazing stuff swirls in their artwork:

Kate Thompson  : @bettyclicker

Shyla : @5hyla

Carly Romeo : @Twospoonsphoto

Courtney Garn : @courtneyg_photo

Brooke (instructor) : @braillegold

Abi Q (instructor) : @heyabiq & @abiqphoto

J.Tyler (me!) : @dakotalenoxphoto

 

THE TEAM:

Workshop : @theorytheworkshop

April (Friggin' amazing workshop food chef) : @absentkitchen

Alyssa (model) : @alyssmichelle

Jerilyndee (hair & makeup) : @jerilyndee_beauty 

Chantel Lauren (dress design) : @chantellaurendesigns

Wanna know what happened the day after the workshop ended? 

Outdoor Photo Shoot in Big Sur

The day after my experience at "Theory the Workshop" in Carmel, CA, my roommate Courtney of Courtney G Photography and I were still reeling off all the inspiration flowing from our shutter-fingers. We took a photo excursion road trip through Big Sur. Here is some of that story:

Read about the full Workshop experience here

Make-up Tips For Your Professional Portrait : Contouring Secrets For The Camera

I get a lot of questions regarding what type of makeup to apply for photo shoots. Personally, I'm a fan of whatever natural face your were born with. But sometimes my clients want more answers...

So I’m giving in! For you!

I’ve studied makeup for many years and would like to provide a step-by-step guide to contour makeup to effortlessly become flawless in your next photo shoot. Follow these steps and your hashtag #iwokeuplikethis will never be more accurate!

 

Step 1.

Take a “Before” photo. Admire your natural skin tone, because it’s about to rapidly and delightfully change through the miracle of foundation and face paint!

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

 

Step 2.

To create a superior you find a foundation tone that matches your natural color. To create a brand new person choose a color that's bold! Some experts say "skin match" for foundation but contouring is about full transformation. Cover the entire face including lips and eyebrows because you can fill them into any shape you’d like in later steps. This is the perfect time to include any warrior lines you’d like to explore with white face paint, this is highlighting.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 3.

Start to find the shadows and highlights of the face using your deepest brown and white face paint or powder from your contour kit. Explore different lighting sources for added creativity and allow yourself to freely explore diagonals and shadows!

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 4.

Blend blend blend! Notice the beauty of your eyebrow-less, cheekbony, matte face! Is that a new chin?! Yes! You’ve created it from your deepest desires. I’m so proud of you.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 5.

The next step is vital. Add on your new eyebrows and fill in your lips and cheeks with a hot shade of lipstick and blush.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 6.

Without a hair stylist for your photo shoot? No problem! Add a wig and change your clothes to become someone you’ve always wanted to be! Shoot all your hottie-shots and have fun while doing it.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Step 7. [Bonus step!]

I usually don’t share this secret, but because you’re such a loyal fan and this is the hottest beauty industry tell-all article I’ll reveal it... To remove your contouring makeup apply nature’s best exfoliant: chocolate syrup. It’ll rid you of dark circles temporarily with it’s deep opaque coverage and leave you glowing for days afterwards.

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

From the series “Beauty is Forever Eternal”, 2016

Thank you for reading and remember there’s nothing more beautiful than your natural face for photo shoots. Relieve yourself of the pressure and simply be you. Happy April!

 

I Did A Boudoir Shoot So You Don't Have To : How modeling helped me understand all your feels.

Here I was. Half naked in the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA, getting coaxed into sticking a hotel sliding closet door between my buttcheeks, thinking to myself that I should have had more wine before leaving my house. All I hear is: "“Eyes towards the camera, part your lips slightly, ohh yeah. That’s goooood.”

This whole thing is a covert operation. I self-tasked myself to book a boudoir photo shoot, costume up for the event in “negligees”, and put myself through an entire boudoir experience with a quantity-over-quality boudoir Boston photography company.  

That’s right, the photographer becomes the photograph-ee.

I didn't purchase any final photograph files so my partner, Ty, interpreted my boudoir images for you as post-it doodles. (All rights reserved to the artist)

I didn't purchase any final photograph files so my partner, Ty, interpreted my boudoir images for you as post-it doodles. (All rights reserved to the artist)

Before you hate my sneakiness please know I did it out of love! Often, when I suggest boudoir photography to someone I get weird looks anywhere from a distorted face of disgust or a quick dismissal of the idea because “that’s not for me”. So, instead of trying to sell the experience from a photographers stand point (I get to stay cozy, warm and clothed during your boudoir shoots) I wanted to fully understand what my clients are going though. Plus, it may end up being a little fun.

Before the shoot the boudoir company emailed a PDF document highlighting all their “add-on services”, which I found out means retouching EVERYTHING, including many items I wasn't concerned about until reading their list: Cellulite - $45, acne - $25, hair flyaways - $30, scars - $50. The company introduced me to their services by listing a potential slew of “faults” making me insecure about NOT being insecure about these things. Let’s not forget about hair and makeup, which the company recommended “Wear extra makeup for the camera”. I’ve heard this before, and no. Just no. If you're into that type of thing and want to get your makeup done, awesome. Hell, I’ve helped my clients have fun with makeup during shoots because I’ve been a makeup artist for years and I respect it as an art form. But it should never conceal, just reveal. Don’t ask me to pack it on.

All of these things conflict with my personal beliefs. In my practice if you fully understand your lighting, retouching should be nothing or extremely limited. Don't ever set up anyone for failure or flaws.


At 7pm I walked in from the dark winter night to the hotel lobby carrying a plastic Market Basket bag of wadded lingerie. I didn’t go shopping for anything new, despite the boudoir’s spokesperson assuring me that “all women love the preparation part of their photoshoots”. Nah, I'll pass. My hair was clean, exactly the goal I was aiming for. I’ve got a busy schedule and a red poof of curls on my head doing what they want. This was me-ish: trying the bare minimum on the surface while maintaining my gusto-filled personality on the inside.

The Hotel Marlowe has a beautiful lobby with gold walls and jewel-toned accents.  I clenched my plastic grocery bag as I over-relaxingly strolled by the front desk to the elevators wondering if anyone could see my wads of lace, quietly judging me as I passed. I texted my photographer and she answered, “Room 502, I’ll meet you at the room door.”

After ringing the bell to room 502 my photographer answered the door smiling. She was a blonde woman a bit shorter than me and wore a comfy sweater dress with knee high boots over teal tights. She invited me into the room and jokingly apologized for the bags under her eyes saying that it’s been a long day.

“How many clients have you had today?” I asked.

“Eight." She Huffed, "and you're the last one for the night!” 

I looked around the room, two softbox lights were set up in the divided suite - one in the living room area and the other in the bedroom area. The rooms were divided by a sliding door. My thoughts started racing. How many buttcheeks have been on this door today? Or this chair? Or the bed? The answer was at least sixteen buttcheeks. Did she sanitize after each client? I wish I was doing this at my home where I know where everyone’s buttcheeks have been… Yeesh.

How many buttcheeks have been on this door today? Or this chair? Or the bed? (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

How many buttcheeks have been on this door today? Or this chair? Or the bed? (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

The photographer showed me to the bathroom and directed me to change into my first outfit out of the four allowed. I shut the door and thought about how weird it’s going to be when I stagger out uncomfortably in heels and underwear. For my own boudoir clients, we start with clothes on because my clients are participants the whole time: we work collaboratively from the beginning. I believe it’s about the journey and the comfortable stimulation happening during the process, not “TAKE IT OFF” right away. 

Stepping out of the bathroom covering myself and shivering in front of this stranger the awkward session began instantly. Other than the small talk about how tired the photographer is we didn't say much to each other. I’m standing in my skivvies and wasn’t asked anything about myself. Not what the session objective was, not what I think is sexy, or what my partner thinks is sexy about me, or how I preferred to be called “Jackie” instead of “Jaclyn”. There was no music and the silence made me start to yawn and drift away...

I started thinking about my own boudoir shoots. As a photographer, I need to know the person intimately to give them any truth with their portrait. For example, to begin sometimes I'll ask about their favorite celebrity and how we can channel them together. Then we'll talk about their feelings and most sexy attribute (mine is my clavicle), perhaps what their partner thinks is their sexiest attribute and how to portray it tastefully. I always strive to offer people my coined phrase, “familiar sexy”: the look only you or your partner truly sees and celebrates in you. Personally, my favorite trait on anyone is their laugh. I like loud laughs and relaxing grins because they trump uncomfortable “sex kitten” expressions (whatever those are) any day. 

“stick your booty out, Jaclyn”. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

“stick your booty out, Jaclyn”. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

The whole shoot lasted an hour. A cold, music-less, connection-less hour. The photographer kept telling me “to open my lips.”  She recommended textbook poses like “point your toes”, and said the words “now let’s do a closeup of your boobs” (I KNOW!), and despite my complete discomfort on so many levels, “stick your booty out, Jaclyn”. I didn't know who’s gaze this was for but it certainly wasn’t for mine or my partner’s.

I couldn't stop yawning. She never fully bothered to understand my comfort level of my body and missed the opportunity to treat the photographs with thoughtful and creative respect. Posing needs to happen strategically and artistically, everything is for the individual and out of love. Boudoir shoots are a complete luxury and this felt like a desperate bootcamp. The distance between me and my boudoir photographer left me feeling embarrassed and frustrated I had spent an hour without a voice in a vulnerable position. 

A week later, the photos were ready to view. Before my viewing session the spokesperson once again presented a price sheet with every retouching option, annoyingly priming me for insecurity. As my partner and I looked at the photographs I quickly realized this was not me. This was an open-lipped awkward woman photographed while being completely uncomfortable. The lighting was harsh and blasted. The poses didn't fit my body. I looked bored as I followed *her* idea of "sex kitten". This wasn’t my sexy.


The poses didn't fit my body. I looked bored as I followed *her* idea of "sex kitten". This wasn’t my sexy. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

The poses didn't fit my body. I looked bored as I followed *her* idea of "sex kitten". This wasn’t my sexy. (All rights reserved to the doodle artist)

I have to face the facts that this company's business philosophy is quantity over quality and not everyone shoots this way, but there are more out there with this model. If you’ve had a rough past boudoir experience like mine without ever processing why something felt “off”, it’s most likely because raunchiness and disconnection has been created and you do not need to be shot in this way. Different photographers have different takes on boudoir.


Don't be discouraged from reading all this because I’m proud of you for having an interest in boudoir photography! DO IT!  Your curiosity in being photographed means you want to find a new side to yourself, possibly changing and metamorphosing, embracing your sexuality, and improving your ability to project yourself in the world. We are all allowed to be sexy, funny and attractive. What do we find attractive in ourselves? What does it mean to truly “feel natural”? Why are familiar moments in the present so damn sexy? To be in the moment is a gift in front of the camera. Your next steps are to find a photographer you trust, that makes you laugh, has the gift of putting you at ease, and whose imagery you love enough to take you on this journey. Talk with them before hand. See if they are listening to you because your sexuality and confidence is sacred. At the end of the day, YOU have to love the artwork and love HOW you want to be seen.

VIEW THE FULL IMAGE GALLERY


Back to Business: Working at the LoveSick Wedding Expo in South Boston

The words “Wedding Expo” send a shudder down my spine. I’m planning my own wedding this upcoming fall and as an indecisive libra, I have zero interest in attending an expo. In my mind, expos mean getting a mess of options and “must-needs”, most of which are not part of my initial plan, or budget. Also, most these events remind me of my worst fear: how “serious” my big day is. Truth is, I want to feel like a kid about my wedding day, because it’s not only a day of beautiful declaration of love, but also a big damn party.

Despite my fears, my business partner, Anna Spaller, of Dakota Lenox Photography's sister company, Wild Eye Photobooth convinced me to sign up to be a vendor at LoveSick wedding expo in Boston's Southie this past weekend. “It’ll be perfect!” she exclaimed showing me the website of the so-called “alternative wedding expo: LoveSick”. The next thing I knew we were spending the week building a prize wheel from scratch, printing off all our marketing materials, and praying that this expo was as exciting as the LoveSick website made it seem. We had high hopes that people would understand Wild Eye’s new photobooth concept: real humans behind the camera giving you a professional studio photoshoot in the midst of a party.

Wild Eye's Studio Setup with real photogs taking your glam-shot!

Wild Eye's Studio Setup with real photogs taking your glam-shot!

Before the doors opened on the day-of the event, I was expecting a lot of couples at this expo. I channeled characters from popular romantic comedies; perhaps an overly excited wedding-crazed partner, dragging behind them a reluctant fiancee, whose feet you could hear dragging throughout the entire affair. I was dreading they’d roll their eyes at getting their photo taken together.

11am hit and the doors of the Arts For Humanity building opened to a flock of folks. Anna straightened her orange polka dotted blouse, I downed a Red Bull, and we high-fived as we put on our “game faces”.

Before the storm: Our Wild Eye Photobooth table at LoveSick expo 2016

Before the storm: Our Wild Eye Photobooth table at LoveSick expo 2016

LoveSick Expo blew my expectations away. The crowd was a fairly even split of couples and groups of friends, all giggly and enthusiastic about being there, and mercifully enthusiastic about having their photo taken. Everyone seemed genuinely jazzed to rifle through our prop box and lunge in front of the camera wearing feather boas and fez hats. Each playful pose suggestion we gave - “You’re a tiger!” or “How about a kiss on the cheek?!”- was followed by giggles and squished friends, families and couples hugging each other close. The booth filled up and we were flattered to have such enthusiastic guests rocking out in front of the camera. West Coast beauty and LoveSick partner, Offbeat Bride had a "Kissy face" that blew us away, while LoveSick's head honchos were simply saucy and stunning. 

The afternoon entertainment of LoveSick was filled with delicious stimulation, including juicy all-male burlesque dancers, Sirlesque, and a dancing rope angel sent from above, Aerialist Molly BaechtoldI’ve never seen either of these services before in my life, but myself and the crowd laughed and stared in awe at the performances. I’m usually pretty snobby about my music playlists, but the exciting rockabilly-looking band Jan Marie and the Mean Reds had their sound and style on point. My feet hurt from dancing in my Doc Martens the entire day. 

(top row to bottom row) The day was filled with entertainment by astounding aerialist Molly Baechtold, the saucy Sirlesque performers, and live music by Jan Marie and the Mean Reds. (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

(top row to bottom row) The day was filled with entertainment by astounding aerialist Molly Baechtold, the saucy Sirlesque performers, and live music by Jan Marie and the Mean Reds. (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

The rad women of Apotheca Flower Shoppe posed in our booth and I could not stop staring at their flower crowns: they reminded me of Vermeer’s famous painting “Girl With the Pearl Earring” meets the sass and class of an earthy goddess. Our next door booth neighbors, Minter and Richter, a unique jewelry company in Boston, had such a lasting impression with brightly colored titanium rings that my fiance spent hours on their website the night after the expo. Sign me up for a cobalt ring, please!

AMAZING flower crowns by Apotheca Flower Shoppe (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

AMAZING flower crowns by Apotheca Flower Shoppe (Photo from Wild Eye Photobooth)

Wild Eye is built on the human pleasures of good music and dance moves, being healthily overstimulated and living on laughs. LoveExpo gave us a place to be ourselves with other fun-loving attendees. A wedding can be a big, serious ordeal, but we can't forget about our youthfulness, lust for life, and the most important part, hosting a party that has the artisan touch that will make your day creatively yours.

Thank you to all guests, vendors, and staff who made LoveSick wedding expo 2016 such a blast! 

Thank you to all guests, vendors, and staff who made LoveSick wedding expo 2016 such a blast! 

You can see all Wild Eye's #LoveSick Photobooth photos taken here: http://wildeyephotobooth.pixieset.com/guestlogin/lovesickexpo/

Follow Wild Eye on Facebook for updates and to participate in their photobooth contests and join Wild Eye on Instagram for weekly motivation and fun!

Nayda The Painter

"Can we push our hangout back to 1pm?" I texted. I’m usually late; I recently moved to Boston and constantly rely on Google Maps. Of course it would be fine. Nayda would have to re-heat the black rice dish she made for us to eat for lunch, the one she scrambled over to find the perfect Puerto Rican recipe that was vegetarian for my needy ways. But it would be fine.

Hopping out of Ty's red Ford Transit van, my camera bag hanging heavy on my shoulder, I looked around at Nayda’s neighborhood block: a cozy tree-lined street with the pale New England colored houses. It was my first time in East Arlington, MA, and to this day I proclaim "if I'm going to raise my non-existent children anywhere in Massachusetts, it'd be here."

Nayda gave me a giant hug as I stepped into her home, smelling the homemade veggie dish from the foyer: black rice and black bean salad laced with tomatoes, peppers, and green onions. I was drawn to the kitchen, which was painted pale yellow with splashes of red and had the functioning format of those who use their kitchen often and smartly. This was the first time I’ve had a formal hangout with Nayda and I listened to her story while sipping on my to-go coffee cup. She told me of her move to Boston 6 years ago, how she's only experienced three difficult Boston winters, how her husband is a chef and they met in dance class, and the details of when her family spent a month in Italy. I recently rifled through her pics on Facebook (cuz I do that) and sure enough saw a delightful series of Italy snapshots of her husband, their 3-year-old big-eyed son Lucas and Nayda’s smile under her dark curly hair. The photos had the backdrop of family city bike rides and in front of her exhibition of small paintings in Venezia, Italia.

I put the first bite in my mouth. Sweet and savory. She smiled and must have known I was drifting away from her stories due to the delicious taste of cilantro and lime, salt and pepper. She began to explain Puerto Rican food and the different salts and spices she used… I drifted again. Shit, I hope I don't cry. I cry with exceptional food. My psychologist friend, Breanne, recently told me this behavior was my way of taking notice of the small things. “It's okay,” she assured me, “The world is full of beautiful moments."

“Welcome to the studio!” Nayda beamed after our lunch was over, guiding me through sheer curtains to her four-seasons room. We landed in a wooden-paneled, newly carpeted, place of relaxation. She quickly lined up a series of small oil paintings on her painting station- an easel of stacked cardboard boxes fixed to the artist’s height.

I squinted my eyes to allow myself to swirl in the detail of her artwork. I was familiar with her small-style of painting, with panels the size of an iPhone, each one consisting of a superbly rendered oil-painted woman’s portrait. "#Latina: Reclaiming the Latina Tag” is Nayda’s investigation of Latina stereotypes in online media, particularly Instagram. She’s obsessed with portraits and believes we connect with other first through the face and that’s why "the painted portrait still has the power to move us”.

She showed me the teeniest little brushes she uses and they reminded me of floss. Holding each one gently I admired their delicate size. She let out a laugh and I looked up fast enough to catch her modeling her bi-focal glasses that she uses to focus on detail while painting. She flashed a cheesy smile and crossed her eyes, then quickly removed them and threatened me if I photographed her while wearing them.  

Despite her explaining to me how excitedly nervous she was about her latest Artists Residency at MASSMOCA she is self aware and continues to discover herself and her cultural identity through her art. It was a dream, I thought, this four seasons room, the bright afternoon sun slicing through the windows, these warm walls, what a space of pure zen and creati-

"MOOOOOMMMMMMMM!"

In ran Lucas. He darted into Nayda’s thigh burying his head deep into her denim jeans. I had walked past him when I first arrived, as he quietly watched a YouTube episode on trucks while his hands were wrist-deep in red bowl filled with kid munchies. He had looked up while I walked past him to the kitchen and glared. His expression was like a tiny Sean Penn; "what are you doing on my turf..."

"Quiero galletas...” he whimpered into his mom’s waist while avoiding eye contact with me, his left hand holding a small truck and layered in sticky. Cookies may have been what he was requesting but in reality he wanted his momma's attention. I shuffled around the studio while they talked cookies and zeroed in on all the children’s art materials: glue, markers, dried clay projects and orange ottomans that were kid-sized. Nayda, now half-cuddling with Lucas, noticed my gaze and told me how she hosts weekly art classes in this warm studio for the neighborhood kids, giving fellow mothers a well deserved breather.

“It’s an internal thing,”, she quipped while snuffing Lucas’s plastic truck out of her face, “I have this maternal instinct with children, I know I have to give myself to my child and it’s equally important to be happy in my space and create. It's finding the balancing act- who can watch him so I can get away. How to be involved in my community with other moms to socialize in my community. Talking as much as I can. The world, karma, God, whatever you believe in, sends people and things into our present and I try to do the best with what’s in my reach.”

We made our way outside, Lucas leading us to a playground in Magnolia Park, Arlington on his big wheeler making “vrooming” noises. He could have a future in trucking, I thought. Nayda shut the metal gate entrance behind us and I looked up towards the afternoon sun and the playground spread: a scattering of kid sized bulldozers, big wheelers, shovels and pails. It was as if an outdoor toy convention had happened. I’ve never seen this before.

"Whose are all these?" 

"They are community’s. The toys are all donated and free to be played with by whomever."

Lucas let loose in the park, sliding and swinging with his mother, laughing from one moment and gazing like the miniature man he was the next. I snapped photographs quietly, smiling and being casual- careful not to interrupt this mother and son’s playtime or dictate any actions that weren’t natural. That’s important with family photo shoots, you have to let the life happen. The sliding. The swinging. There is nothing like the dynamic of energies between a parent and their lil' cub during play time.

Suddenly I realized this wasn't a special trip to the park because a camera was involved, this was part of Nayda’s daily routine. Every day she balances her art career with her family's needs, which include rolling around in the grass of this friendly local park. 

I asked Nayda how she does it. All of it - painting, mothering, pushing her creative self. She took a long breath in and assertively offered her advice: “I love my child and husband and there’s no magical solution- there’s just an attitude of how much you want it. As long as I have a goal set ahead that I have time for myself I can look towards that. I give every Monday to myself, and with that, I’m like ‘okay I can do this’.”

This is what self awareness and creativity is like for Nayda, allowing herself to be grounded for her family and perhaps this is what we all need: Mondays, daily hugs, salt and pepper, and the ability to be open and drive to continue on.


Katie The Candlemaker

I met Katie, owner and maker of Soy Much Brighter candles in Somerville, on purpose. I went to The Black Market (art / record / flea / artisan market) in Harvard Square this past September. While browsing all the tables at the market (most were awesomely punk) I was drawn to one table: it was filled with perfectly brown packaged soy candles with a young man working the counter (which I later found out was Katie's boyfriend/partner in crime, Tyler). Being addicted to all things smelly, I floated over and ravaged the spectacular-font-swirled candles, shoving each one non-elegantly in my face. That's when I met my still current favorite scent of Katie's candles, "Fancy Face". It reminds me of my grandmother's warm powder room as she got ready for bed when I was a little girl.

"I'll take them all!" I joked. "No, but seriously, did you brew all these?" Tyler laughed and told me that his partner Katie did. I immediately knew that not only did this woman have great taste in packaging and product, but that I had to meet her. 

Upon returning home from the market, I promptly smelled my unlit candle, lit the candle, smelled the candle some more, then emailed Katie how much "Fancy Face" rocks my world and scheduled a coffee-and-a-photoshoot date. A week later, we met in Davis Square, enjoyed some Diesel Cafe black tea, and Katie showed me her candles on sale at the fantastic gift shop, Davis Squared. Meeting her was wonderful; she had such a light and warmness to her that it's no wonder she's an amazing candle maker.

Jessie & Andy

Midwest Elopement at it's finest. She's a barber and he's a nurse and their love is fun-filled and beautiful. Featuring Rushmor Records of Milwaukee, WI & a shout out to their favorite band, Run The Jewels.

Rubin and Nile

Mini-shoot with filmmaker Rubin Whitmore III and his daughter, Nile. Matching Adidas and Lotsa love between these two! Can you tell she's a goof and a half?!