New England in the Fall

I lived in the desert for a long time, five years in the high desert of New Mexico and nine years in the coastal desert of Southern California. Words can't really describe the strange cravings that I would have every September and October. Not for any food, but an intense, primal craving for weather.  A change of things.  How fortunate I am to now live in a place where the fall is so rich with color, so varied, so crisp.  Fall isn't just something you witness here, it engulfs you, you breathe it, drink it, absorb it.  Here, some fall photos from one of my favorite families, shot here in Portland.

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Newness

When I began studying photography I had no ambitions for ever turning it into something I would make a living from.  It was a hobby and I liked it that way.  My hopes with photography were a very personal exploration, sometimes ritualistic, and always more about the process rather than the product, which is basically the opposite of most photographers. Then, after a few years, people started asking me to take pictures for them at different events and I kept turning them down.  I couldn't very well show up to a paying photography gig with a toy camera and expired film that would take a few weeks to get back from processing. I told my photography teacher at the time that I kept turning down work and he said "Christ, Kerry, never say no! Borrow a camera or rent a camera, but do you know how many people are trying really hard to get work as photographers? Say yes!"  I knew he was right, I was holding myself back, feeling like I wasn't good enough, not ready, a fraud. Despite my fears I started saying yes, embracing how uncomfortable I felt, I have been following photography down the rabbit hole ever since.  

I got a job as a hospital newborn photographer when I moved to Maine last year.  It is a wonderful job working for a really great company and I am so thankful that I get to do this work.  The only thing that could be seen as a professional drawback is that due to privacy laws it is rare that people other than the families I photograph get to see my work. At this point I have photographed over 300 families and while those families can share the photos, I cannot due to HIPAA. So, when I had my own baby I had the opportunity to take my own hospital photos that I can share with you. 

Meet my son, Atlas Leviathan Constantino.  Born August 11th, 2017 at 4:59 PM.  Here is a selection from our own hospital photo shoot.  There are so many more moments to capture with my beautiful children, but here are some of those sweet moments from the first few days. Enjoy!

Spring!

As I look hopefully towards spring, after my first winter in many, many years, I am so eager to share what I have been working on this past few months.  One of the most challenging subjects that I continue to attempt to shoot are dancers.  Movement can be thrilling, frustrating, rewarding, and addicting all at once.  While shooting in a controlled studio setting, or even a bright outdoor shoot can yield incredible results, it isn't the way that dancers always want to be captured.  So, you shoot in performance, which can add a whole world of layers and challenges to the process. Lighting, audience members, unpredictability, these are all elements that live performance can bring to the table.  Recently, I was asked to come and document a performance at a local dance studio and venue here in South Portland, Studio 408. It was such an awesome showing of thoughtful performance, by performers that are crafting not only performances in the traditional sense, but experiences for the audience to participate in as well.  The evening left me feeling full in all the best ways.  Here are a few of my favorite and most successful shots of the evening.

As I move further into spring, and grow to know my dance community more and more here, I hope to continue shooting and featuring local performers in my photography. It is so rewarding, I just love it!

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Dance in the new year and updated teaching schedule.

The past seven months has been a whirlwind.  Leaving our home of nearly a decade, traveling across the country to parts unknown.  Exploring our new city, new jobs, new people, places, foods, arts, everything.  Over the years I have found myself in the same conversation with different people.  They tell me how they ended up where they are, I listen, they tell me that they had a moment where everything came together and "they just knew they were where they were supposed to be."  Again, I would listen, I had never felt that way.  Until now.  I'm not sure what the difference is, if it is the difference of location, or the difference of my perspective, but for the first time, the things I aspire to do, the things, that inspire and nourish my heart and mind, and the things that keep our family afloat have lined up.  This year I will be teaching at Studio 408 in South Portland, Maine, and possibly more around New England.  My teaching schedule is as follows:

Tuesday Nights 7:15-8:30pm at Studio 408 located at 408  Broadway in South Portland, Maine.  Begins January 17.

Let's ring in the new year with lots of dance!

 

Generosity and the Imperfection of Antiquated Mediums.

Fall may be my favorite season.  There is something so refreshing to me about letting things go, clearing them, and readying yourself for a new year.  This year, as the fall colors began to make their appearance, I had the opportunity to learn a technique that I've been dreaming about for years.  

I first became interested in photography because of film.  Film intrigued me.  The literal freezing of a moment of time, what one of my college professors used to refer to as a "visual absence."  For practical purposes, my work that I do now is all digital, but I still shoot film often, and if I am given an opportunity to shoot film, I take it, because there is just something about those chemicals, that silver, the tangible realness of film that I can't divorce.  I love it too much.  When I began learning about film and different processes, I was introduced to the work of Sally Mann.  I scoured the internet and the library searching for information about her and found a documentary, broken into parts, on Youtube.  I was fascinated with how she worked, transforming her suburban into a mobile darkroom, preparing glass plates, and pouring the collodion just so, all out in the field, so she could get her shots on her large format camera.  I decided years ago that I would learn this, try it at least once, and if it was too hard, or I hated it I never had to do it again, but a part of me knew that wouldn't be the case.

I was fortunate enough to have some help getting to a collodion workshop this last September. I had initially began fundraising because I had been accepted into another workshop entirely, but it was too expensive, and even with the generous gifts of my donors, there was just no way it was going to happen. I found out that not too far from my home, I would have the chance to study, gaining hands on experience in collodion process.  

I am so glad I attended this workshop.  Maine Media workshop is a gem, and I hope to attend more workshops there in the future.  My teacher, Brenton Hamilton, and his assistant Harrison, were exceptional.  I have to just take a moment to talk about them, because it is rare to find a teachers that are so generous.  They must have been just exhausted after this workshop because for two full days, 9-5, they made every students' vision, ideas, and inspiration happen.  This isn't just a matter of helping us take a picture, it is a matter of staging a shot, placing the camera, preparing the plates, exposing the shot, and developing it. I watched Harrison move a huge 8x10 wet plate camera and its enormous tripod across campus several times. They gave us individual attention, they gave us as much or as little information as we wanted, they didn't flinch at even the most repetitive series of questions. They endured extended periods of time in a darkroom, with some serious chemicals, (ether, anyone?) and they did all of this without any hesitation.  I'll say it again, it is RARE to find teachers that are so generous.  It was inspiring.  

Collodion process is finicky and difficult, you must coat and prepare your plate precisely or you will ruin it, you need to expose your plate within just a few minutes, or the collodion will dry, or again, it is a waste.  It is incredibly EASY to destroy your work.  It was far more stressful than I had initially thought.  You have to really and I mean really let go of the reigns in this process. Part of the beauty of these exposures is that they have an incredible spectral range, there are literally more grays to be seen.  Even really amazing digital cameras just don't get quite the same effect. The trade off is that there are imperfections in all of them, specks of dust and tiny spots.  On one of my favorite exposures, despite my best efforts, some of the collodion must have coated the plate wrong, leading to some spots I didn't intend.   I was lucky enough to be able to make four exposures.  I really love them.  

It made me realize that the artists whose work I have admired who use collodion process are far more amazing and skilled than I had initially realized.  I plan to keep learning as much as I can about this process, and hopefully I'll get the chance to do more of it.

Here are the images I created that weekend.  I hope you love them as much as I do.

Across the US

It took us years to work up the courage to finally move away from Southern California.  I felt like such a cliche', the person I had grown up resenting, the "Californian" that flees to another state and ends up ruining their new home, driving up the cost of living, paying too much for rent, or a mortgage.  I grew up in Montana, a place that prides itself on being the last best place, the only place left that hasn't been ruined by developers, until it was, and now it is just like everywhere else.  Growing up it wasn't strange to see old Ford truck with a bumper sticker reading "Welcome to Montana, now go home" or "keep Missoula weird"  on it.  

This is the story I grew up with; a place is good, has everything its residents need, people are happy.  Then, like locusts, Californians come in and destroy it.  You could say that I felt conflicted as a Californian.  I was.  In fact I always held deep inside of my heart, a tiny sparkling gem, a reminder, that I wasn't "one of them."

The people I befriended in San Diego are so dear to me, but I was always guarded, held people at arms' length.  I knew that someday, I would be leaving them. Now, people are really only a mouse click away and I keep all my long lost friends in my pocket and can look at their highlight reel any time, day or night, but still. That is so strange, when I think about it, I'm old enough to remember the world before 9/11, cell phones, and facebook and I'm okay with that.

Before we finally made the decision to really leave, we searched desperately for a better living situation in San Diego.  When I tell people how much rent we paid to live in our tiny studio apartment, they usually shake their heads, it's embarrassing.  We would hear about people we knew moving and would try to get on their landlord's waiting list, we contacted rental companies, we tried everything we could think of.  We were stuck, everything we found was either too expensive, or wouldn't take our dogs, or was just too far away.  I would post our search on Facebook, hoping someone may have a lead, but no.  At one point, an acquaintance (who I am convinced just really never liked me that much and was gunning for me to leave) sent me a link to some really affordable rental listings, of course, they were in El Centro, which if you have any access to a map is over two hours east of San Diego. El Centro?  Its a real shit-hole that literally smells like death and decay.  That was it, the straw that broke the camel's back.  We stopped looking to stay and started planning to leave.

A few months later we left.  It was hard; emotionally, the actual act of packing everything after living in a place for so long, the driving for a week with two dogs and a baby, the uncertainty of starting over, everything was hard. Some days, it still is.

I miss San Diego a little, I was never in love with it so I don't feel really sad that I left it.  Really, I miss my friends there.

On our way from one far corner of the United States to the other, we took a lot of pictures.

So here they are, some are not really my best photography work, but they are a record of this huge leap that we took as a family.  

 

Fiesta Island on one of our last days in San Diego.

Fiesta Island on one of our last days in San Diego.

Kneeko and Zelda at the Grand Canyon

Kneeko and Zelda at the Grand Canyon

Pretty Darned Grand

Pretty Darned Grand

New Mexican Truck Stop Ponies

New Mexican Truck Stop Ponies

Somewhere In Texas.  

Somewhere In Texas.

 

Zelda and her Grampa in Eureka Springs  

Zelda and her Grampa in Eureka Springs

 

All of my pictures of Niagara Falls were terrible.  My only defense is that I could not stop screaming.  I have seriously never been somewhere quite as thrilling.  

All of my pictures of Niagara Falls were terrible.  My only defense is that I could not stop screaming.  I have seriously never been somewhere quite as thrilling.  

Portland Maine, our new home, at Sunset.

Portland Maine, our new home, at Sunset.

Lastly, a goodbye, to one of our oldest friends.  My husband's dog Beezle had to be put down a few weeks ago.  She was beautiful, she made everyone happy, and she loved us beyond the limits that human love could ever extend and our brains can comprehend.  After years of apartment and city living, I had one dream for my dogs, and that was to give them a big yard to run in before they died.  So, even though it wasn't very long, Beez got to have a home with a yard, and see where we ended up.  We miss her.

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Beez is one of the only dogs I know that has been to both the West and East Coast.  

Beez is one of the only dogs I know that has been to both the West and East Coast.  

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