May 26, 2014

Feeling Human

When you create art, you must reflect on it. Thinking about what it is to be an artist occupies a lot of time. My teachers along the way have made it clear that as an artist you have to be willing to share your humanity. To not be afraid to reveal yourself in some way. If you are to reveal something true about yourself you need to know who you are and your weaknesses- your humanity. Every year on May 26th I feel my humanity, my loss, my sacrifice, my pain. It may seem sappy- get over it- move on. This is the day I lost my mother to breast cancer four years ago. Each year this day rolls around I remember the pain of losing her. It makes me human, it makes me feel weak. It makes me understand loss. It makes me feel human. I share her poems on this day because in them she is not afraid to show her humanness though her observations of simple moments. Her poetry not only reveals something new about her every time I read them, but they make me look more carefully at the life around me. Each thing gurgling up a new truth. Sharing her poetry lets me keep her alive and show others what a beautiful mind she had.  I am not posting a photo for this entry as the poem conjured up it's own image.

Animal Uncertainty
Spotted at the edge of a clearing, the doe
freezes and in that moment of hesitation,
carelessly exposes a brown flank
with all the insouciance of a woman undressing.

She lifts a delicate hoof and then
reurns it to the snow with all the grace
of someone who was born to run. Once, long ago,
I watched and elephant near Madison Square Garden

being coaxed up onto a ramp. He carefully
placed his giant foot down, then stepped slowly back,
remembering, perhaps, a former collapse.
The elephant knows his great weight in the world,

how the earth opens up, sometimes without warning.
So much of our lives, we spend paralyzed
by indecision, or excessive ambition.
On good days, we go forward...

And sometimes, that elephant's look comes back,
that great moving mountain of animal sorrows
in moonlight in Manhattan. And that memory of that
midnight scene, that exquisite moment of

an elephant remembering.

  © June Beisch Here is a link to a video of her last reading- only 3 months before she passed away.
June Beisch Reading

May 20, 2014

Blogger Baker Cookbook Shoot for Shauna Sever

I wanted to share a post that one of my blogger clients just wrote. We just wrapped a cookbook shoot for her latest book which was heaps of fun. I am still dreaming of the delicious things we photographed. Included are some behind the scene photos I took during the project.
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Hi hi! I'm writing today for no other reason than I've been missing you guys and this space and wanted to keep you updated on everything that's been going on in the Piece of Cake kitchen and beyond, lest you think I've been trapped under something heavy. Of course there's the business of that behemoth called cookbook number three, which, if you've been following on Twitter or Facebook, you've heard about plenty already. Sometimes I share actual details specific to the book, other times I just reveal personal neuroses:
— Shauna Sever (@shaunasever) March 14, 2014 In any case, I am officially in the homestretch of creating this third title, all baking and sweet treat making with natural, unrefined, and lower-refined sugars. No white sugar, no corn syrup. Basically a complete 180 from my first book, which ran completely on the white stuff. But for me, baking is about playing with all kinds of ingredients and every type of sugar, and it turns out that stepping away from the usual suspects can make all kinds of delicious things happen.
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April 1, 2014

Crowd Funding a Book and the Power of Social Media- Essences of Wine by Alder Yarrow Gets Over Funded Through Kickstarter

For the past year I have been collaborating on a project with popular wine blogger Alder Yarrow. His writing, the subject matter and his formidable following online made the project very appealing. It proved to be an extremely gratifying subject to photograph over the course of a year. Working for a relatively new medium (the blog) was interesting as well. It's potential for exposure is enormous, and yet because blogs generally are authored by one person and therefore reflect one person's voice, they tend to allow for creativity and exploration.

The culmination of the project has taken book form. With that said, a Kickstarter campaign was launched and Essences of Wine is now over-funded. The beauty of crowd sourcing is that as an artist, writer, film maker, dancer, inventor, educator or whatever, you are not limited to the traditional avenues of getting your work out there- you have an opportunity to follow your creative instincts and see if there is an audience for it. This is important for all creatives and I am grateful that things like Kickstarter and Blurb Books have opened up the possibilities for both the creators and the audiences.

March 4, 2014

Photo Studio Experience - A Client's Experience of My Studio

I wanted to share a post from my Rep, Heather Elder's blog: Notes from a Rep's Journal. She put together a nice perspective from one of my clients who took some lovely photos while attending one of our shoots at my studio.


Travis Kramer is the Creative Director at Blacktop Creative.  He is a wonderful client and has become a great friend to Leigh Beisch, her studio and our office.  On a recent shoot, he took out his phone and captured some nice moments and interesting perspectives at Leigh’s studio.  Leigh has always said how important it is to her for clients to feel at home in the space, and obviously Travis does.
What one word would you use to describe Leigh’s Studio?
 Where is your most favorite spot in the studio?
The back Garden. Great for lunch, conference calls, or just a change of scenery.
What do you think client’s most like about the space?
Shooting at Leigh’s is the “anti-studio” experience. It’s not stressful. It’s not cold and expansive. It’s a very professional experience but with a homelike environment. It’s charming, intimate and thoughtful.
What’s the best afternoon treat the studio provides?
The Latte’s. They should consider opening a coffee shop next door.
What is your favorite season to shoot at Leigh’s studio?
Fall, when the leaves in the garden change and the apples come off the tree.
Thank you Travis.

February 5, 2014

Infused Liqueurs Cookbook Out Now!

I am always excited when one of the cookbooks I work on gets published. Looking through the freshly printed pages is like looking through a yearbook-bringing back the memories of each shot. Since Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits by Andrew Schloss is a book for the "home mixologist" we wanted to be approachable and inspirational with the photography. That allowed for playfulness with color, presentation, ingredients and packaging. Bringing the idea of gifting into the shots added another dimension to the project. I like to take that idea and treat it in an elegant way, supporting rather than downplaying the recipe. With all the array of interesting bottles and jars out there we had some great choices to support this without getting too cluttered or too craftsie. In the end it was a project that was enjoyable to do and to give as a gift itself. And no- we didn't sit around drinking the liquers all day during the shoot- as tempting as it was!

December 24, 2013


I wanted to share my Christmas card on the blog since I love- love what Peggy did with the design. It really captures the adventure we had on our global project that relocated the studio to Hong Kong for almost four weeks this year. Because that was such a remarkable trip, I decided that is how I should sign off the year- with greetings from Hong Kong. We found that city to be full of life, moving very quickly and yet there was a peacefulness and grace too. Exotic and yet familiar. We had many adventures, challenges and successes. I credit an amazing team and clients for working through the challenges and achieving those successes. Enough said.                                    

Happy Holidays!   Leigh

November 21, 2013

Rethinking Photography

I wanted to share an article that I just read about photography. I find that thinking about photography as a medium is as important as looking at photography and the act of taking pictures itself. After all photography is a tool to create, not just merely capture the world directly as it is, in the most realistic fashion, it is a mode of expression. It is a way for us to get our passions, our thoughts our secrets across as one human reaching out to another. Even if it is a photograph of a hamburger or a child starving somewhere, or a landscape shot- the photograph is not just about the subject, it is about the person taking the photograph and the vision behind it.  How do we express that with the medium we use.  How do we use it's limitations as some see it - to unlock the humanity behind the lens?

Article from "The Challenge of Photography" Magazine

Photography does not lend itself to defamiliarization easily, thus making it the unlikeliest of all art forms. As it happens, the challenge plays out on both sides of the process, for photographers and viewers. What happened to be in front of a camera lens can be found depicted in the resulting photograph. However, given the process itself and its myriad of choices, the photograph is little more than a manipulated two-dimensional representation of what previously existed in four dimensions (three spatial, one – often forgotten – time).
A photograph thus is not necessarily a document or fact, and it’s certainly not “the truth” (whatever that term might mean). It is a truth, one truth out of many others, a personal truth: The photographer’s. To assume that this truth then automatically translates into a larger truth is foolish. It might, or it might not.
In photography circles and beyond, photographs are said to be lying. This, however, only reveals a general lack of understanding that is common even amongst many of photography’s practitioners, let alone those who merely engage with it as disinterested viewers. Photographs do not lie any more or less than paintings do, or ballet performances, or these words. As I already noted, they present a truth, whatever that truth might be.
By construction, photography defamiliarizes, at least to some extent: we do not see the world as it appears to us in photographs. For a start, photography lacks the element of time. A photographs is a frozen moment. It is a short moment cut out from the endless arrow of time, forever moving forward. For us, time never stands still, so encountering frozen time in a photograph can make us come to strange conclusions: We still treat someone’s depiction in a portrait, for example, as if we were in the presence of that person, when in reality, that frozen moment is just one out of countless other ones. A happy person, portrayed in just the right (or wrong) moment might thus appear not to be happy at all (or vice versa).
When we see a painted portrait of a person, we take it as the likeness of someone, and we admire the skills of the painter. When we see a photographic portrait of a person, we take it as that person, usually completely ignoring the hands of the maker.
The problem we are dealing with has been made considerably worse by various critics and writers who have used photography’s inherent properties as means for an indictment (most famously Susan Sontag). Since those texts are widely used in the process of photography education, many of the medium’s practitioners leave school with what can only be described as misguided ideas of their own medium. I can think of no other art form that in the process of educating its next generations puts such major impediments in their ways.
For its viewers, the situation is hardly any better. Serious discussions of what the medium does and how, and how the use of photographs factors into what ultimately creates their meaning, are almost entirely absent from the same media that use photography on a daily basis. The best one can hope for (yes, I am being facetious here) are discussions of supposed manipulation in news photographs that typically center on essentially Ill-defined (and undefinable) criteria for what is allowed and what is not.
One need not expect any layperson to dive deeper into any of these discussions. Seen from outside the narrow defines of the world of photography, those discussions usually resemble theological arguments about church dogma. Perhaps not inevitably, distrust of the media has sharply grown.
As a result, a medium that is approaching its 200th birthday is as badly understood as ever by both its makers and viewers, the frequent noises about whatever academic/intellectual fad is being followed at any given time notwithstanding (at the time of this writing, it’s still postmodernism). Add to that the digital revolution, and the situation isn’t pretty.
The irony here is that photography is more widely used than ever. It is much more easily accessible than ever, in much, much larger numbers (those who note that such claims have been made before are correct, yet they miss the point entirely).
As it turns out, laypersons usually have a much better understanding of photography than critics or theorists. Whenever I talk to people who are not part of the world of photography, many of the concerns that appear to give theorists or photographers endless nightmares simply don’t appear to exist. Too many photographs? Who says so? Can there be a thing such as too many photographs, and why would that even be a problem?
None of the non-photo-world people I have talked to over the past years has ever even entertained the idea that their photographs on Instagram, say, would be comparable to photographs produced by professionals. People know the difference between apples and oranges very well. Yet in the world of photography, we seem stuck worrying about how since they’re both round and fruits, they must be the same, right?
So we need to go back and give that medium a good, hard look again. What does it actually do?  Not what we think it does, not what we want it to do. Instead: What does it do? And how does it do that? We need to think about that process of defamiliarization.
Instead of whining about the limitations of the medium, we need to start appreciating those very limitations. It is right here that the promises lie. Right here. And the promises are plentiful, much more plentiful than the limitations.
We take photographs out of this world we live in, and the moment we have done that they become something else entirely.