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Most photographers I know have goals.

Either professional or personal, they have that ‘thing’ or certain experience they are dying to shoot. A cover for a certain magazine. That A-list celebrity. An award-worthy image capturing a historic event or obscure landscape. Maybe even just getting the perfect image of the pinnacle moment at an emotional wedding. Whether big or small, feasible or impractical, many of us photographers have those certain ‘bucket list’ shots and experiences we hope to photograph someday.

I’ll admit, until relatively recently I hadn’t really thought much about my list. However, I know the magazine cover, celebrity, and view from the top of Everest are not on it. I don’t expect or strive to win a Pulitzer Prize for photography or be featured in National Geographic. Some of my items, such as an abandoned amusement park and a stretch of old Route 66, are completely random and trivial. Others, such as a military homecoming and birth of a baby are more meaningful and aligned to my love for documentary family photography.

A little over a week ago I was blessed with an opportunity to check off one of the more meaningful experiences on my list: photographing a family meeting their new adopted child for the first time.

I had first ‘met’ Karen a couple of years ago on an internet message board I used to frequent. I remember thinking that her young daughter, Kate, was one of the cutest babies I’d ever seen, and it was clear that Karen was a wonderful and completely smitten mother. 🙂 I started following her blog and we became Facebook friends. Even without ever meeting her in person, I learned many things about her from reading her status updates and blog. She has such a fun, warm, and inviting personality and is very transparent about her loves and passions in life.  These loves include: her faith in Jesus, her husband, daughter and family, Chick-Fil-A, Operation Christmas Child, Ferris BuellerZoo Atlanta, and Les Miserables. (obviously the first two are ranked higher than the rest, with perhaps Chick-Fil-A coming in at a close third. ). 🙂

If you’d been reading Karen’s blog since March, you would have read about a new love in her life: their soon to be adopted son Isaac. After two miscarriages, Karen and her husband Tanna began the long process of adopting a child. Tanna is Korean, so they decided to go through Bethany Christian Services to adopt a child from South Korea. From the little information I know about adoption (and what I do know is mainly from reading Karen’s detailed blog–she’s one of the most consistent bloggers I know) it can be a very long process with lots of paperwork, visits and inspections from social workers, and most of all, waiting. However, Karen and Tanna have been blessed with a rather quick process. They submitted their formal application for adoption just last June, were matched with Isaac in March, and received the call with his travel plans just over two weeks ago. Clearly God wanted Isaac to come home to his family as soon as possible. 🙂

Once I read Karen’s announcement back in March that they had been matched with Isaac, I knew I wanted to approach her with the idea of me photographing his arrival. Part of the reason was I had no idea if I’d ever have access to another similar opportunity, but more so I wanted to share and celebrate with this sweet family I feel I’d gotten to know, even though I’d never actually met them. However, I didn’t contact her as his travel date was so up in the air; she was anticipating September, and I knew there was a big possibility we might be out of town during that time. I didn’t want to approach her with the idea until I knew I could make it. Therefore, when I read her update about receiving Isaac’s travel call, and that he was arriving in less than a week, I immediately emailed her. Luckily she was more than willing to allow me to come and tag along, but warned me that I should know his flight arrival time before I said yes. Isaac’s flight from Chicago (the end of a 20 hour journey with an escort from South Korea) was scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at 11:56pm on Wednesday, essentially midnight, and that was if there were no delays. I emailed back to Karen, that since I had no children and am a complete night owl (plus how badly I wanted to shoot it), the time didn’t phase me at all. 🙂

Therefore, a few days later, armed with my camera, I found myself  standing on the porch of a near-stranger’s house in the intense Atlanta humidity at 10:30 at night, knocking timidly on their door. Not how I typically start my photography sessions. 🙂 Tanna’s mother answered the door and I was quickly greeted by Karen, who was even more warm and friendly than I expected her to be. I was then introduced to cuter-in-person Kate, Tanna, Karen’s sweet nieces Rebekah and Riley, and Karen’s brother Johnny.

There was an intense, happy, and anxious atmosphere in the house, and anyone could sense the anticipation and excitement for what was happening that night. Rebekah, Riley and Kate had spent some time earlier that day making welcome posters and signs for Isaac, and did a wonderful job incorporating the few pictures Karen and Tanna had of Isaac from the adoption agency. Once I arrived there were a few moments blowing up a couple of balloons and gathering items to take to the airport.

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Kate was wearing a very appropriate shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncle Johnny helps Kate with her shoes and then family says a quick prayer before leaving for the airport.

 

 

 

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Arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson.



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Karen and Tanna’s friends, Amy and Sam who are also in the process of adopting a child from Korea, were already waiting at the airport when we arrived.

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Karen’s friend was also there to film Isaac’s arrival.


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Once we were settled in at the arrival gate, there was nothing to do but wait until Isaac’s plane landed.

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To help pass the time, Karen read a special book they had bought for Kate a couple months ago called “Ten Days and Nine Nights” about a family who adopts a little girl from Korea and is told from the perspective of the new big sister. Karen recently did a blog post about this book and how much Kate loves it.






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After the story, more waiting…




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Since it was nearly midnight, and since Isaac was not arriving through the main (and typically more crowded) arrival gate at Hartsfield, we pretty much had this area of the airport to ourselves. I love this image because it shows the contrast between who was there: the late-shift construction workers just doing another routine night on the job, and a small family who is waiting for a moment which will change their lives forever.

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Checking the status of Isaac’s flight.

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More waiting….with suckers and a little Veggie Tales to help pass the time.


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One of the first passengers who was on the same flight as Isaac and his escort passes by and everyone begins to get ready.

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Very excited and VERY ready to meet Isaac.

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Once we knew that Isaac’s flight had landed and that passengers from that flight were exiting, the waiting started again, but more anxiously. Everyone knew that at any moment, Isaac and his escort would appear at the end of the hall.




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At last, a Korean woman carrying a baby boy appeared at the end of the hall. I love Karen’s expression at this moment and how Johnny looks over to watch his sister lay eyes on her son for the first time in person.



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At last! And Isaac’s escort is all smiles. 🙂

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As anxious and excited as they were, Karen and Tanna greet Issac and his escort with a bow, showing courtesy and respect.

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These next few moments were so precious and I was having a slightly difficult time shooting while blinking back tears watching Isaac’s family meet him for the first time.





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This image is my favorite, and gets to me every time. The joy and emotion on Karen’s face, and a life changing moment for little Isaac as his mother reaches to hold him for the first time. Pure love.



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Complete family, at last. 🙂

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Kate greets her little brother with a kiss.






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Tanna, or Ah-Pah (Korean for ‘Dad’) holds Isaac for the first time.




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Isaac did amazingly well, especially after traveling for over 20 hours. He was immediately pretty smitten with a green balloon. 🙂

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After the initial greeting, Karen, Tanna and Tanna’s mother have a conversation with Isaac’s escort.

 

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Tanna’s mother helped translate Karen’s questions to the escort, who answered back to Karen in english. From the little I heard of the conversation, this woman is a pastor in Korea and volunteers as an adoption escort. Isaac was the sixth child she’s escorted to their adoptive families.

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My favorite part was when she told Karen in broken english that she thought Karen was very beautiful and that she had been praying for their family as she traveled with Isaac.

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She requested a picture of the new family.

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After holding Isaac, whom she brought halfway across the world on a 20 hour journey, one last time, she departs.


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New big sister, or Nuna as Isaac will call her.

 


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After a few minutes longer, it was time to head home.

I honestly can’t even begin to describe how incredible it was to be present and photograph this wonderful moment in this family’s life. I was honored and humbled to be allowed to be apart of it. It was such a unique experience to walk into the airport with a family of three, and depart not even two hours later with a family of four. To witness a family dynamically change in an instant, and see all the love and joy this family and their friends have for this precious little boy.

From reading Karen’s blog for the past couple years I known they’ve gone through some tough times with multiple miscarriages and family illnesses, as well as the long adoption process. To see the end result of that process and how God laid all the plans for this moment to come together was and is simply amazing. One of my absolute favorite parts of this story is why Isaac was selected to be placed with Karen and Tanna. Karen shared on her blog that due to Tanna’s Korean heritage, she thought and hoped they might receive a referral slightly sooner than the average couple waiting to adopt. However, Isaac’s birth mother is Korean and his birth father is Caucasian and from Europe, and she specifically requested that he be placed in a similar blended family. Therefore it was equal parts Tanna and Karen’s heritage that lead them to become Isaac’s parents. It just goes to show, you never know what God will use to make His plans come together.

This is the verse that Karen shared on her blog the night they brought Isaac home:

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. –Psalm 126:3

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Welcome home Isaac! Thanks for allowing me to check something off my list. 🙂

As I mentioned in long-winded and rambly ways in this post, I, in an effort to jump-kick myself in the face (not entirely sure that is a correct phrase, but the meaning seemed right) photographically speaking, recently bought an old camera and some film.

/run-on-and-weird-sentence

A 1958-ish Minolta Autocord TLR (twin lens reflex) to be exact. Before I really got a chance to thoroughly test it out properly by running a roll of film through while taking detailed notes about exposures and then developing it to see if the camera worked correctly, I found myself on a plane to New York, camera and film in tow. The way I figured, and it’s right in line with my goals in this post, I could either wait to use my camera until I’d done the perfect test, or I could just give it a go and see what turned out.

And so I did.

I shot about five rolls of medium format film, which is brand new to me, on my brand-new-to-me-yet-old camera while in New York. And I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. The Autocord has no light meter, is 100% mechanical, composes in a square, has a waist-length viewer that reverses the image left to right, and has all different buttons and levers for settings, focus and the shutter. Not what I’m typically used to with my DSLR or old film SLR; but exactly what I was wanting. Using this camera forced me to s-l-o-w down and really think about what I was shooting, and enjoy the process. This was sometimes hard to do while trying to keep up with my friends who might as well be native New Yorkers with how fast they ran walked down the sidewalks. I mean, I know I can sometimes be a little pokey, but I felt like they secretly entered me in some sort of urban relay race with how fast they tried to get to the next block.

I didn’t have time to buy an external light meter before my trip, so I attempted to meter with my DSLR (or use the Sunny 16 rule when I could), which made the whole process a little cumbersome, and even more uncertain. Not every shot came out, but that’s to be expected. Turns out I also have a lovely little light leak, which can also be expected (but fixable) in old cameras.

So here are the results. I’ve done absolutely nothing to these pictures besides scanning the negatives and cropping them when I didn’t scan them so straight. As much as I wanted to tweak and ‘fix’ these I didn’t. I think that’s kind of the purpose and ideal of film, right? To shoot and get it right in camera and not have to mess with it later (and yes, I know that there was plenty of post processing in darkrooms what with the dodging and the burning and such. Not trying to make claim.) At the very least I need a ‘starting point.’ Some of these are not great photographs, but I’m showing them anyway in hopes that I’ll be able to nostalgically look back someday with a twinkle in my eye and realize how far I’ve come. That or cringe at how bad some of there were. Either way.

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In this next one you can see my light leak next to the horse’s head.

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Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Tobias Fünke was attending the afternoon service at St. Patrick’s.

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One of the great things about TLR cameras is that they are very discreet and don’t look like your standard camera. Plus the fact that you hold it at your waist to take the picture means that you can often get very natural pictures of people because they have no idea you are photographing them. For example, I was sitting about three feet from this gentleman on a park bench. He paid no attention to me as I quietly took this picture, but probably would have if I’d stuck my DSLR up to my face.

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On our last afternoon in New York we picked up some delicious cupcakes and retreated to Bryant Park to devour them like wolves daintily eat them like ladies. We sat by the bocce ball courts and watched a rousing game between some older gentleman.

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After finishing our sweet treats, my friends decided to walk over and check out the New York Public Library. I decided to hang back so I could really explore the park and attempt some street-type shooting. I’m really glad I did. I was finally able to focus completely (without feeling I was holding everyone back), observe my surroundings and attempt to get into Vivian mode. I gave myself the challenge of shooting one roll of film in the park the best I could. I must say, these are my favorite film images I photographed the entire trip and where I finally began to feel comfortable shooting with my Autocord.

The famous chess players in Bryant Park:

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It was a beautiful afternoon and the park was filled with hundreds of people out relaxing, many of them on their lunch breaks. I had to get out of my suburban mentality and remind myself that for many of these New Yorkers, the park was their ‘yard’ and outdoor space to relax.

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Walking across the lawn I saw the carousel. It initially didn’t catch my eye, but what did were glimpses of a gentleman in a cream suit and cream hat accompanied by a child in a pink outfit riding a large rabbit (I mean, why wouldn’t that catch your eye?). They kept spinning around, and I immediately tried to position myself to capture them the next time they came around. I’ve already mentioned my fondness for men’s hats on this blog, and the combination of it, the suit, child, and rabbit all spinning on a carousel just seemed to beg to be photographed. Unfortunately these two images were most affected by my camera’s light leak, and I’m sort of bummed about it. Otherwise I’m quite happy with the outcome and that I was fortunate to spot this random occurrence.

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These next two images make me happy and a little relieved with my decision to get the Autocord. Sharp lens and good clarity. Not too shabby for a 50+ year old camera. 🙂

So there it is, my great New York film experiment. As a very suave gentleman who was known to wear hats from time to time said in a very wonderful movie: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(Cliche quote I know, but I felt it kind of related and I honestly really do love that movie.)

N.Y.C.

What is it about you?

You’re big, you’re loud, you’re tough.

N.Y.C.

I go years without you,

then I can’t get enough.

-From the song N.Y.C. in the Broadway show Annie

(Even though I loved it as a kid and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the movie, I really don’t understand why this song was cut from the 1982 movie version and replaced with the Rockettes Let’s Go to the Movies song. N.Y.C. is much better and fits with the storyline. I’ve felt strongly about this (not that anyone should feel strongly about the variances of songs in the movie vs. show of Annie) ever since I was in a production of Annie my sophomore year of college and this song was one of the highlights of the play. And no, before you ask, despite my massive amounts of sometimes-red curly hair, I was not Annie. I was neither sufficiently talented for nor desired the role. Instead I held the one-line role of “Mrs. Greer” the maid, without whom Annie would not have had bubbles in her bath.)

Anyways…

In June I went to New York! One of my best girlfriends was having a very important birthday. I won’t specifically mention which one, but its the next important one up from the one where you can order beverages of the adult sort. Unless you place great stock in the birthday where you are finally legal to rent a car by yourself, then it’s two up from that one. So four of us girls journeyed up to the Big Apple to celebrate. Since 3/4 of us had only been to the city once and 1/4 of us had never been before, we were much more touristy-New York than Sex and the City-New York, which was perfectly fine with us. We’re not really that Sex and the City anyway. I’d say we’re more Steel Magnolia’s without the big hair (minus me) and horribly over-dramatic Southern accents.

So far I’ve mentioned two random 80’s movies and related them both somehow to my hair. Great.

Since I’ve rambled on tangents long enough, I’ll pipe down and show some of my favorite pictures from the trip. There will be more coming later, since I took my new-old camera that I mentioned in this post and shot some film.

Enjoy!

American Museum of Natural History.

Flatiron Building.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Dakota. Where a terrible thing happened in 1980.

This picture is the only thing I have from this store.

Grand Central Station.

Wall Street.

Little Italy.

St. Paul’s Chapel. Probably one of my favorite places and favorite stories in New York. It is such a miracle that this church is still standing after 9/11 since it was directly across the street from the World Trade Center, but is even more miraculous that it didn’t so much as have even a broken window or cracked tombstone. Our tour guide was telling us that windows were blown out of buildings for blocks surrounding the site, but for some reason St. Paul’s remained completely untouched.

Me, to prove I was there. I’ve been trying to force myself to take more self-portraits when I go places since I’m always the one behind the camera.

View of Empire State Building from Top of the Rock.

N.Y.C.

Too busy, too crazy

Too hot, too cold

Too late, I’m sold

Again, on N.Y.C.

Self Portrait of Vivian Maier

I love photography.

I am a photographer.

These statements are not new revelations for me. As cliche and overused as it sounds, I’ve always loved photography. Always been interested, always been intrigued. I wasn’t so much a fan of high school, and probably would have graduated early if not for the sole fact that at my high school photography was only offered to seniors (who had paid their dues in the art department), spring semester, last period of the day. I remember internally scoffing at my friend Rachel, who had been in art classes with me for three and a half years, for her decision to take minimum day the last semester instead of photography. Choosing to not take photography, the thing I had literally been waiting for my entire high school career, was mind boggling to me.

So while the other seniors on minimum day happily left early that last semester, I happily sat in the art room, learning about shutter speeds, apertures, depth of field, developing film, and printing in the darkroom. My first experiences with ‘real’ photography.

And I loved it.

It reaffirmed the statement I made when I was 15 years old that I was going to be a photographer; only this time it seemed more real and with purpose since I was going off to college in the fall. I was going off to college to major in photography.

Well…

My ten year high school reunion is occurring later this year. I started to, but did not end up finishing college with a photography degree. In fact, I only took one photography class in college, and it was even more basic than my high school class. I transferred schools (3 times in 3 years), changed majors (all within the art department), got somewhat burned out on being forced to be creative in all my studio art classes, decided to take a break, and in the processing of putting my paints and pencils away, I also put away my camera (except for the occasional vacation).

Years went by. I was still ‘interested’ in photography, but was not shooting. Was not learning. I changed schools again, changed careers, got engaged, got married, bought a house, and got a cat. Sometime after the cat, I began to feel the itch again. I wanted to shoot; wanted to photograph. I still had my SLR camera I bought before my high school class, but really had my eye on the new DSLRs that were finally becoming affordable to the masses. So I begged and pleaded and researched and saved and finally bought one.

And once again, I was in love with photography. Plus, this time things were easier because I could actually see what I was doing right away. Ahh, the beauty of digital. Instant gratification! I began to shoot more and more. Pictures of the house, pictures of the cat, pictures on vacation. Only I discovered that instead of having shoe boxes of negatives and prints like I did during my film days, I had files and files on my computer. And I needed to edit them, because that’s what you did with digital pictures. So I bought Photoshop and tried to recall the knowledge I’d learned in my graphic design classes many years earlier. With editing there were so many options. So many things to do and try. Yay! I wanted to learn and try all of them; because I could, and it was fun. I found photography message boards and forums and awed over the work of the ‘professionals’ and secretly wished I was among their ranks.

Then my friend got pregnant and had a baby. I took newborn pictures, and that was fun. The baby continued to grow and I took more pictures. Another friend got pregnant and I took her baby’s pictures. They loved them; I loved taking them and I first started to think ‘hey, maybe I could do this.’ I was still learning and trying to refine my style, while still reading the photography forums and stalking other photographer’s blogs. I felt inadequate in my skills, gear and knowledge, and didn’t want to peruse anything official until I felt comfortable with myself.

Therefore I continued to read and learn, and I slowly began to upgrade. I got a new camera body and a used lens (note: I got the best I could afford outright. I don’t believe in the whole going into debt thing.), and a fancy new laptop made by a company in California. I upgrade editing software and got a calibrator. I was shooting for more friends, and even a couple non-friends that had been referred to me. I was simplifying my shooting and editing processes, and getting the feel for what running a business is like. Fall comes and I’m actually pretty busy. It’s fun, but a little difficult to handle with a regular full time job. There is a lot of editing and emailing and Christmas card designing and ordering. Oh, did I mention a lot of editing?

Very quickly, my ‘photography’ and me being a photographer had morphed from shooting into hours sitting behind the computer. I’d read it a hundred times on the forums, that a photography business is about 10% shooting, and 90% other stuff. While I didn’t mind the other stuff, I missed the shooting. The hands-on process. I still shot for myself, but still, those pictures had to be edited, which meant hours behind the computer. And just to expand, I strive for very clean and classic processing. I don’t do crazy effects or over-saturated colors or textures or lots of retouching. My dream is to get it correct in camera, but even if I do I still have to upload, convert and resize images, which takes time at the laptop. Eventually I got so fed up with the process and felt so far behind that I stopped shooting for awhile.

Why?

I missed the tactile feeling I used to have with photography. Where it was a slow and methodical process; almost a mysterious challenge. Digital photography is wonderful, but it can have the tendency to make you lazy. I know for myself it’s easy to overshoot (since you have unlimited exposures), and maybe not worry so much about settings because you know you’ll be tweaking things during post-processing anyway. It made me sad and frustrated. Here I was, a ‘photographer,’ not shooting and getting indifferent about my craft. I was too involved, too interested, and too obsessed to just be a hobbyist. I knew I wanted and needed to do something and challenge myself, but wasn’t sure quite what.

And then I came across the story of Vivian Maier.

You can read full articles about her here, here and the official blog here, but I’ll give the quick run down of the story. Vivian Maier was born in 1926 and moved to New York from France when she was a child. She later worked as a nanny in Chicago, where she took thousands and thousands of photographs with her Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex camera during the 1950s and 1960s. Her work would be classified as street photography and depicts everyday people and everyday life in downtown Chicago. She shot well over 40,000 images, but never showed them to anyone. Also, for whatever reason, she kept 1,000 rolls of film she shot undeveloped. Nobody knew her name, her work, or her story until 2008 when a man named John Maloof bought a box of unknown, unlabeled negatives and undeveloped film at an auction house in Chicago. There were being liquidated from a storage unit for reason of delinquent payments. Maloof was working on a book about Chicago and hoped to be able to find a couple usable images of a particular Chicago neighborhood.

He didn’t find the pictures he was looking for, but instead found an entire body of work by a gifted artist nobody had ever heard about. Her images are authentic and artistic, and show glimpses of everyday city life.

Although I love pretty much all of her work that I’ve seen, these next images are some of my favorites.

Sigh. Am I the only person who really, really wishes business men still wore hats?

This one is quite possibly my favorite. The old fashioned steering wheel,  the pocket watch chain, the hat lazily resting on the gear shift. The formality of his three-piece pinstripe suit mixed with the complete casualness of napping in a car. I’m not sure why, but I love it. A lot.

The story and photography of Vivian Maier affected and inspired me in many ways. First of all, the whole dynamic of the story itself fascinates me. The idea of finding and discovering something that was previously undiscovered and unknown is a secret (well not so secret now) dream of mine. When we first moved into our 1920’s house I fantasized about find that mysterious trunk in the attic filled with treasures and keepsakes of the original owners. Unfortunately we didn’t have that kind of luck. Instead we found a bunch of rusty plumbing we had to replace, but that’s a different story.

The second reason I love Vivian Maier (and yes, I do feel like I’m writing a high school five paragraph essay) is that I find her work beautiful. It’s interesting yet incredibly simple and almost unassuming. Rather than glancing at random images of people living in a city, I stop to wonder who those people are, what were they doing that day, what was their life like? I love the classic and timeless qualities of her photographs. Yes, the clothing may look dated (still hoping those hats come back in style), but the situations and people and environments are the same. Vivian’s work makes me pause and study it and think. Not all photography does. In all honesty, with as much photography as I look at on a daily basis, very little does.

My last fascination with the story of Vivian Maier is the whole mystery behind it all. Why didn’t she show and display her work? Why did she keep it and herself hidden? She obviously loved photography; I don’t know many people who shoot and hold onto over 40,000 images who don’t. What were her motives and vision for her art? Was she content being unknown and just shooting for herself? All of these questions will remain unanswered, as sadly Vivian died in April 2009, before John Maloof had a chance to meet her. The main thing I can’t wrap my brain around is why she shot so many rolls of film, literally hundreds and hundreds of rolls and never even bothered to get them developed. To see if her exposures and her compositions turned out. To see if the focus was sharp or the light what she wanted. I easily can get so fixed on the end result of my photography, and to have that reflex while shooting to instantly look at the back of the camera. To be validated that yes, I am at the correct exposure, yes, the light is good, or no, this isn’t working, try something else. All these things are a part of photography in the digital age, and are not bad things. But Vivian didn’t have the luxury to instantly see her images on the back of her camera. She even took it a step further and never even bothered to develop them sometimes. Some have said it might have been a financial decision; that she couldn’t afford to get her film developed. Maybe that was partially the case, but in that situation I think many would just stop buying new rolls. They would save and get the exposed film developed before starting on a new one. Or at least that’s probably what I would have done. But she didn’t. She shot and shot and then shot some more, hundreds of times over. That mindset and practice, as bizarre as it may seem, had a lot more substance and gumption than my current methodology and way of thinking.

Vivian Maier inspired and taught me that the end result of photography isn’t necessarily the most important. Yes, logically it kind of is what with it being a visual medium and all, but when it comes down to it, in order to be a photographer, you have to photograph. You have to actively shoot pictures. Even if nobody sees the images; maybe even if you don’t ever see the images yourself. If you’re not shooting, you’re not a photographer. You might be a photography enthusiast, critic or fan, but all those are passive. I was being passive. Vivian Maier’s tenacity inspired me to, in the words of one of my favorite current photographers and mentors, GOYA or ‘get off your ass’ and shoot.

Thanks Vivian.

So what did I do?

I did the only logical thing possible. I researched and bought a Vivian-style old school twin lens reflex camera and some 120 film from eBay.  🙂   The Rolleiflex’s were a little a lot out of my price range, so I happily bought a Minolta Autocord, who some say is a hidden jewel among the TLR world. Why the new camera you ask? Why didn’t I just pick up my DSLR and shoot? Well remember how I said I missed the slow, mysterious and methodical process photography used to have for me? Well here it was. In a small, boxy, all-metal, totally manual and meter-less camera from 1958 that I had never even touched before owning. And film? What’s that? I haven’t shot film in literally years and never medium format. I was challenged. I was inspired. And it was time to shoot.

And so I did.

And all was right with the world.

(Well not really, but it seemed like a fitting place to end the longest blog post I’ve possibly ever written. Stay tuned to see results. If by chance anyone has actually stuck with it and read this entire post, kindly leave your name and address in the comments and I’ll send you some cookies or a lovely card or a gold star in the mail as a thank you. 🙂 )

Well, new to me at least.

I’m pretty sure that very few people saw the blog that was here before this one, and I’m pretty sure even less people saw my really old blog I had before then. But, that’s OK. Along the way both of those blogs somehow became abandoned. It wasn’t something I intended to do, it just kind of happened. Similarly to how all the plants I recently bought and spent time potting and carefully arranging eventually died because I forgot to water them. I didn’t mean to kill them, but it turns out plants kind of need water during 90+ temperatures. Well, maybe not cacti. Maybe I should stick to cacti.

Anyways, I didn’t meant to abandon my blog(s). As it turns out, I kind of enjoy having a blog. I’m not really sure why. I know nobody except those random people who arrive here via Google while searching for things other than my blog read it. But, that’s OK too. I don’t claim to be a good or interesting writer. I don’t claim to be the best or most interesting photographer. But, I enjoy the blogging process just the same. It’s a way for me to clear my muddled head and wrap my thoughts, experiences and photographs into some sort of cohesive  package. Not a package with fancy paper, perfectly folded and taped corners and silky ribbon; rather a package wrapped in crumpled, reused  paper your mother insisted you keep, with a slightly smushed bow you found and happily stuck on the top, only because you were thrilled to actually find a bow amidst the cluttered closet. Not the neatest and prettiest package, but still, a package.

I know one of the reasons for my blog abandonment, and it’s one of the things I am going to try my hardest to overcome with this fresh start. I saw a girl once describe herself as this on her blog and knew that it pretty much fit me to a T (where oh where does that phrase come from?) as well. What was it you ask?

A Procrastinating Perfectionist.

Yup, that’s me. Sounds almost like an oxymoron doesn’t it? I thought so too at first, but then when I really sat and thought about it, it made perfect sense. I’ve always been a procrastinator. Always waited till the last minute on school projects, packing for a trip, or getting the house ready for a party. I always claim (and I do think it is true to some extent) that I work best under pressure and some of my best work and inspiration comes at 3am the night before something needs to be finished. However, a lot of times I put off doing things because I want to do them perfectly, or not at all. Cleaning the house for example. The husband and I argue about this all the time. He’d be perfectly happy with things tidy and picked up, but not necessarily clean. I’m OK with things being a little messy, if when it comes time to clean, it gets CLEAN (like multiple-vacuum-attachments-wiping-the-baseboards clean). I can’t stand to put effort into ‘cleaning’ a room if I know there are still cobwebs in the corners or crumbs on the floor.

So, a similar thing happened to my old blog. I had thoughts, events, and photography sessions I wanted to blog, but got behind and didn’t want to write about them unless I was able to spend crazy amounts of time and do them thoroughly and perfectly. So, I didn’t do them at all. Then I felt like I couldn’t just pick back up without doing the cliche ‘I know I haven’t blogged in a long time’ post while trying to summarize and play catch-up. Makes sense, right?

Well, that needs to change. You might have noticed but the title of this blog is SAVOR a slice of LIFE. Now, my goal is not for that to just be a gimmick and clever little name to be paired with my photography business Pumpkin Pie Photography (slices of pie, slices of life, lifestyle photography, it all works, right?). Rather, I want that to be a goal and mission statement for me. To not just experience life and go about it, but to SAVOR it. Take it in. Stop and notice and relish in it. Be grateful and observant. Like eating a rich, decadent, chocolate dessert at the end of a gourmet meal. You don’t scarf it down quickly; you let every bite linger in your mouth, holding onto it as long as possible. You savor and cherish it.

At least I do with my chocolate desserts.

Lately I feel like I haven’t been savoring life so much. I have ideas and goals and make plans and do research, which are all very fine and lovely things, but I don’t so much get out and do them. Or, as I mentioned above, unless I think I can do them perfectly (which is pretty much impossible), I don’t do them at all.

So here I am making a declaration on my blog to myself and the random people who straggle in via Google, that I want to stop trying to be so much of a procrastinating perfectionist, and more of a ‘even if its not perfect I’ll give it a go’ type of person.

And savor every minute of it.

(Or, at least try to.)  🙂

I made a slideshow of some pictures I took last month and I’m trying to figure out how to post a slideshow on my blog so lets see if this works….

Seriously.  In our house I really think our coffee maker has a conspiracy against me. 

Stephen and I love coffee.  I think I love it more.  When we got married three years ago we decided to register for a really nice coffee maker since its pretty much the only time in your live that you get to specifically tell people exactly what you want and nobody thinks you are weird asking for random expensive gifts (like a $100+ coffee maker).  We got the fancy coffee machine that you can program to automatically turn on, that grinds the beans right before it brews the coffee, keeps it warm for hours, etc.  It has served us well.

Except, it seems to prefer Stephen.  During the work week, Stephen almost always acts as the coffee maker.  He sometimes sets it the night before, and sometimes makes it in the morning before work.  I enjoy it because when I get up and start getting ready there is a fresh pot of coffee goodness waiting for me.  It typically is the best part of waking up, even if its not Folgers in our cups. 

However, there have been a few times when I have tried to assume coffee making duty, and more times than not, something goes wrong.  Now, I consider myself a pretty smart girl.  I know my way around the kitchen.  I frequently use small appliances in my cooking.  Therefore, there should be absolutely no reason why I should not be able to handle the coffee maker.   

Even though its slightly fancy, its not complicated.  I know what to do.  I’ve watched Stephen do it many times.  I frequently unload and clean the coffeemaker so I know what goes where.  I painstakingly follow all the steps, double checking myself.  Water?  Check.  Correct number of scoops of beans in grinder thingy?  Check.  Filter?  Check.  Carafe in place?  Check.  However, somewhere between me pushing the ‘on’ button and the time it should take to brew a delicious cup of Pumpkin Spice or Verona, something inevitably goes wrong.

The first time it happened, I’ll admit I forgot to put the filter in.  That resulted in a mess of chunky dark coffee and Stephen being slightly frustrated.  However, I’m much like Anne Shirley and I never make the same mistake twice, and therefore I’m now overtly aware and careful to make sure the filter is in place before I attempt the coffee making process. 

The second time the filter holder popped open during the grinding.  Therefore the freshly ground coffee was flung around all over the counter and inside the coffee maker causing a mess and Stephen to think there is something wrong with me. 

The third and fourth times I’m not sure what happened, but it was enough for me to really think it these weren’t just fluke occurrences and/or our coffee maker had something against me. 

This morning it happened again.  We’ve been doing major work on our house and my dad was coming over to help.  He’s partial to good coffee, and I wanted to make sure we had some waiting for him.  Stephen had to go to work and said he wasn’t going to make it.  I was a little hesitant, but determined to make it work.  I was slow and deliberate about setting everything up, double and triple checking.  I cautiously hit the ‘on’ button and heard the grinder turn on.  I stood there for a while to make sure the filter holder didn’t pop open like previous times.  The grinder stopped, and the percolating started.  I sighed, thinking I was in the clear.  I heard someone drive up and walked no more than five paces into the dining room to look out the window.  I came back no more than ten seconds later to a steaming, sizzling mess.  The filter holder I was so carefully watching had popped open, there was coffee grounds all over the counter, the carafe and the coffee maker. 

I stared in disbelief.  How could this happen when I did everything right?!  Stephen came upstairs a few seconds later and also couldn’t understand it.  In the past he thinks I’ve been exaggerating when I’ve said I’m unable to properly use the coffee maker, but this time I think he believed me.  I started cleaning everything out and setting it up again, this time having Stephen supervise.  After he double checked everything and it was up to his standards, I timidly pushed ‘on.’  This time it worked, but I think its due to the fact that the coffee maker’s preferred barista was supervising. 

I’m not sure what to think.  I’ve never before thought that an appliance could have something against me, but this has happened too many times for it to be a coincidence.  All I can say is I’m grateful for the espresso maker we received for Christmas.  I’ve used it at least five times with no problems.  

Maybe I’ll just switch to lattes. 

I can not believe that Christmas is one week from today!  How did this happen?  By my estimation it should really only be around the first week of November.  I hate how when you get older, time moves faster.  How many hours did I spend as a kid waiting for Christmas and wishing it would hurry up?  I remember the time it took to go from Thanksgiving to Christmas seemed like months and months.  Now it seems like days. 

I feel like Thanksgiving was last week, and that explains why our yard is still covered with leaves and our house isn’t decorated for Christmas.  (Well, we pulled out our pre-lit tree and plugged it in, but other than that its naked.) 

This makes me sad.  I LOVE Christmas, and I love decorating for Christmas, but we just haven’t made the time for it this year.  First of all I’ve been super busy trying to finish up school (just waiting on a few final grades, woo hoo!!).  Secondly, we’re still kind of unpacking and arranging the house.  Our house isn’t really decorated, so it kind of doesn’t make sense to pull out more decorations (do you put your nativity scene on top of the pile of unpacked boxes?)  As much as this bothers me, I keep telling myself we’ll do better next year, and we’ll be able to hit the after Christmas sales and stock up on decorations for next year.  (I’ve already told Stephen my Christmas goal is much like my chandelier goal–one in every room).  I think I’ll be more successful with the trees. 

Someday, hopefully next year, we’ll be in better shape.  We’ll have the house clean and all the leaves raked up before Thanksgiving so that weekend we can transform our house into our own magical Christmas wonderland, inside and out.  There will be trees and snowflakes and lights and mistletoe, oh it will be glorious.  Buddy the Elf himself will be proud.   

Maybe we’ll even have enough time to do something this.  We still haven’t met a lot of our neighbors and I’m sure this is a good way to break the ice.  

We could go traditional:

 

Or a new take on a traditional song; (my sister and I always used to laugh at this version.  First of all, isn’t Barbara Streisand Jewish?)

 

Or we could do a childhood favorite (and my current cell phone ring):

 

Or perhaps a new favorite:

 

Or we could just rock out (this one is my favorite):

 

No matter which direction we choose to celebrate, I’m sure it will be great.  Despite our lack of holiday finery in our house this year, I’m still very excited for Christmas and New Years and spending time relaxing with family and friends. 

And here’s one more video to help you not forget the true meaning of Christmas (and because its my absolute favorite and warms my heart every single time I see it):

 

Merry Christmas! 🙂

I’m still alive, but still struggling to finish up school. I’m SO ready to be finished, but it seems like the more work I do, I still have the same amount to finish. Kind of like when you were a kid and you were forced to eat your vegetables but no matter how many bites of peas you begrudgingly shoved into your mouth the pile on your plate stayed the same (or even appeared to get larger).

That’s where I’m at now. But don’t worry, I’m not going to let the peas win.

These just about explain how I’m currently feeling.

And one more in honor of Thanksgiving. 

But I can’t think about that right now.  I’m trying to finish all my school work (and therefore college in general), clean the house for family to come over, call plumbers and structural engineers to come look at our house, catch up on stuff at work, edit a bunch of pictures, think about what type of desserts I’m making for Thanksgiving on top of it I’ve been sick the past couple of days.  I’m not even letting myself think about decorating for Christmas yet. 

Let’s hear it for Mondays!  🙂

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