Miki | Publication in Array Photo Journal

Happy to have one of my favorite shoots ever published in Array Photo Journal! Get your copy here. (By purchasing a copy, you’re supporting Array’s ability to feature more artists in the next volume!)

Model: Miki Hamano

Hair and makeup: Amy Lawson

Graphic Designer: P L Y G R N D

In case it’s hard to read, here’s the text I wrote:

COLOR ON MY MIND

Lately, all I can think about is color. I dream about colorful worlds, where I turn every corner and find a fresh, vibrant palette. Alleys of pink. Buildings of baby blue. Geometric yellow walls. Thankfully, a world like this does exist - it's called San Francisco.

Though I have always been attracted to color, by May 2017 it had become an obsession. I had caught the color bug, and this shoot was its first documented symptom.

I drove by this beautiful two-toned pink building in Visitacion Valley - the site of the grapefruit photos -  and was instantly charmed by its feminine potential. I knew I had to do a shoot there. From there, I stalked Google Streetview, looking for complementary buildings in the area that would complete the palette: pale yelllow, baby blue, and a two-toned raspberry & mint. I plotted out a route, picked out some outfits that would pair perfectly with the destinations, and set out with Amy (the hair & makeup artist) and Miki (the model) to make creative magic.

My dream of color was coming to life. I struggled to contain myself as I saw the images being made through my viewfinder, giddy with enthusiasm for the magical palette in front of me.

I consider this shoot to be a turning point in my work. It went from being "color is an option" to "color is the only option."

What I love about using color is that the same giddiness I feel when looking at colorful photos is passed on to my audience. I think people are naturally uplifted by color, especially when it's not part of their daily lives.

If it were up to me, every sidewalk would be pink. Every corner would allow two colors to meet, like a pair of old friends running into each other. Purple meets orange. Red meets magenta. If I were an architect, I would turn cities into my own personal rainbows.

For now, though, I'll just have to keep finding ways to fulfill these colorful visions through photography.

2018 Manifesto

When I was eight, my friend Anna and I cut down mistletoe from the walnut tree in my backyard. We wrapped it in ribbon, attached small bells - basically just decked it out with various holiday-themed accoutrements. We carefully placed each mini bundle in a basket and walked all around the neighborhood with my dad, going door-to-door like traveling saleswomen. We took whatever we'd made from the 10 or so sales and donated it to a homeless shelter. When I was nine, we made potions in my bathroom. Toothpaste, glittery body spray, shampoo, hair gel, costume eye shadow – nothing was off limits. Into a little jar it went. We put the camcorder on a tripod and made long, rambling sales pitches about why our potions were the BEST – infused with a bit of nine-year-old "comedy," of course.

Around the same time, Anna and I spent weekends scavenging the sideyard at my parents' house, looking to "invent" things. We marveled at our transportation-related inventions: a steerable "wagon" of sorts made from wheeling plant dollies and a cardboard frame. A second iteration made out of an existing gardening wagon that was now a rocket, thanks to the addition of some cereal boxes and some shiny paper. I remember feeling so inspired by the fact that we'd empowered ourselves with a vehicle in which we could roll ourselves down the driveway. I told my parents I wanted to be an inventor.

When I was ten, we collected all our unwanted "little kid" toys, carefully displayed them on trays, and set them on a table next to some lemonade. We sat at the bottom of Anna's driveway, patiently waiting for cars to turn the corner – in a very un-busy neighborhood. When a rare customer dared entertain the offers that our hand-drawn signs promised, we sat poised to pitch them our unique selling proposition: while you're buying lemonade, would you like to buy a toy? I'm sure we were the only lemonade stand in town selling lemonade AND toys. Needless to say, it wasn't a very successful venture.

Throughout high school, I immersed myself in music. I musically directed a play, led a band, learned music theory, composed songs, and I even played keyboard in my middle school's production of Beauty and the Beast (and got paid for it!). While this wasn't truly entrepreneurial, I put all my creative energy into music and felt the same passion for it that I now feel for photography.

When I was twenty-one, I spent hours at the beach after class, scavenging the shores for sea glass. I had jars of sea glass segments, some common, some rare. I watched one video on wire wrapping, and off to the jewelry store I went. I calculated the cost of each necklace's store-bought materials, combined with the perceived value of the glass (based on size, color, degree of smoothness), and I was in business. I launched a sea glass jewelry store and sold my handmade necklaces at a craft fair, to people at my college, and, of course, to friends and family.

When I was twenty-three, I launched a photography app on the app store. It was intended to be a location-based platform for people to share their photos and their favorite locations, so it would be easier for photographers to find a place to shoot with specific parameters in mind. It was short-lived, because I simply didn't have the time or money to maintain the app, but I consider it my brief foray into Bay Area tech.

From the time I was able to conceptualize what a nine-to-five job was, I knew I didn't want one. Without knowing it, throughout my childhood I was fostering an entrepreneurial, creative spirit that I am now realizing cannot be suppressed. I have always been filled with an intense drive to create, to strive for success on my own terms. And there has never been a time in my life where I have not been brimming with creative energy. If I try to walk away from a creative project that's been plaguing my mind, I can't. In high school, I would sit in my room for twelve hours straight without even remembering to eat because I was writing a song. I find myself addicted to art, addicted to the flutter of my heart, the way it feels when I've just created something. Sometimes, it's music. Sometimes, it's writing. Lately, it has just so happened to materialize through photography.

It also just so happens that photography is a viable business idea for me.

The intense creative fulfillment I derive from photography, combined with the potential it has to be my main financial lifeline, is why I'm here, writing this post.

Starting in 2018, I will be attempting to "make it" in photography. Full-time. No other steady paycheck of my own.

It's really hard to walk away from the benefits, predictability, and all around simplicity of my current job. I don't mean that my job is simple, but that my taxes, my healthcare, my all-around finances are all part of one streamlined system that makes it easy. I guess I just like to torture myself with things that are hard.

Being my own boss will probably be ten times harder than having a boss. There's no one to deflect to, I'm personally liable, and I don't have the option of calling in sick. Sure, I may have a more flexible schedule, but my sustenance is based on me pushing my business forward and not just giving up even when the rest of my life gets difficult or busy.

That's why I need your help. Friends and family, please understand that my photography is not just a hobby anymore. I need to charge professional rates to survive in the Bay Area, where the median cost of a house is $645,000. I love helping out when I can, but please don't feel slighted or surprised when I quote you a rate that may feel high, or when I can't shoot you for free because I need to spend the time on paid projects.

Fellow photographers, and strangers around the globe, I need your help, too. All of you who watch my YouTube tutorials or buy my presets, I am so thankful for your support of my efforts to share what I've learned with the photography community. Don't sell your own work short, and be mindful of the true cost of photography. In a world where everyone is a "photographer," our industry is diluted and needs professionals to stay true to their value and reflect it in their pricing.

The good thing is: I'm ready. In 2015, after I graduated college, I felt like I was ready to launch into my own business then, but looking back I was a bit naïve and definitely not ready. I hope I don't say the same thing in 3 years! :D

I don't know if this will work out. Maybe in five years I'll find myself pining for the predictability of a 9-to-5 job. But what I do know is that I need to try. I need to follow the instincts that have been slowly manifesting since I was a child.

I'm going to try to follow my own advice that I tell myself when I face a difficult project – to "make it happen." Making my dream of being self-employed in a creative field happen. Making a lifestyle of flexibility and choice happen.

So – that's what 2018 is all about: making it happen.

I can't thank you enough for the support you've shown me so far, and now I'll need it more than ever. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the adventures that are sure to come.

[On that note, Padraic and I will be kicking off this new chapter by traveling in Europe for six months starting at the end of February. So book me for shoots in Europe! Or reach out to me if you want to collaborate! We'll post our itinerary soon. :) ]

Field Day | Darling Magazine Publication

As you may have noticed, I love symmetry. I love odd numbers that allow one central focal piece to be surrounded on either side by duplicates of itself. I love the repetition that identical objects create as they cascade into the depth of the photo. Quintuplets are hard to find. (If you know any, send them my way!) So, for this shoot, I had to get a bit creative. What you see below is one model, Ksenia Koulechova, composited into 3-5 clones of herself.

Watch the behind-the-scenes video to see how I shot and composited these images.

Hair & Makeup by Inna Mathews

Styling by Jessie Couberly

Featuring an amazing jumpsuit by local designer Only Child

Published in Darling Magazine, Issue No. 21 (scroll to the bottom to see the tearsheets!)

Special thanks to my neighbor Jeff Bierach for allowing us to put his chickens in the spotlight. :)

Darling Magazine Tearsheets:

5 Photos to Inspire You

Enjoy these 5 selects of images that have inspired me - and hopefully will inspire you!

  1. Tuija Lindström - learn more about her here.tuija lindstrom
  2. Jimmy Marble - can never say enough good stuff about his work! Check out his Instagram
  3. Osamu Yokonami - always inspiring
  4. Rose Walton - she does amazing self-portraits, and I love the moodiness of her work!
  5. Michal Pudelka

What photos have inspired you recently? Link them in the comments!

P.S. In case you're interested, I have an ebook in which I share my process for finding inspiration and materializing it for a shoot. Check it out!