2018. You weren’t quite what I would expect. Creating was at a low for me but my goodness, so much as changed inside this creative mind. I realized how much I missed learning and trying new things. How I wanted to have simple moments of lighting candles and reading books. How much I would enjoy walks in the woods with my nephew on my back, collecting mushrooms. It’s what I would call a buffering year, a year of chasing fog and dreams I had never written down. It was a lot of quiet, plenty of good memories and inner workings.
My 2018 Favorites:
My first image of 2018 was Reborn. It was created right after the new year, in the chill of January. Liz and I watched a film that was visually stunning. I was obsessed with the elaborate costumes, the entire score, and the gothic romance aesthetics. I was fully inspired and had to create something right then and there. I felt my motivation and drive come back after being quiet for most of the previous season. I used a dress that I brought for the fabric over Liz’s face (she’s a trooper because it smelled like the woods). Liz being my kindred had saved this swallowtail buttery she had found. I was really drawn to moths and butterflies this year because they are a symbol of life and death, darkness and light, hope and survival. Reborn won best in show at Waterford’s photography exhibition and exhibited in the Delaplaine Visual Arts photography exhibition.
2. Beneath the Gingko
This year I had seen a few of my friends photograph here int he Gingko Grove. I had been to the arboretum dozens of times but never knew this side existed. The entire week I was trying to organize a shoot here but the plans kept falling through again and again. It was going to be freezing and the winds were going to be strong- a clear sign that I should pick another time. Knowing myself well, I knew if I didn’t shoot that day, I would never get the chance. So I’m happy that Sam answered the call when she did. I am always so thankful for the kind of friendship and last second plans she agrees to along the way. Some of my favorite images and times are with Sam, our friendship going back as far as high school. We drove around (not exactly sure where we were going) until we saw the yellow tops of trees. Despite freezing temperatures and winds already beginning to knock the leaves down, it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. There were groups of people with cameras but when you stood there in the midst of the vibrant yellow, it was truly breathtaking. It is one of those times I will always remember this moment when I was completely moved by nature. Sam and I frolicked around for a little bit before we started to gather….a crowd. People interested in what we were doing, enamored with Sam’s long dress and hair. It was a traveling circus that at first bothered me. I’m not used to having shadows follow me around! Once in a while, someone would get in my shot or it was just awkward to have so many people watching. We ran to the end of the valley to get away from the group (once they started trying to direct Sam) and I’m glad they drove us there. Because from that back section I was able to take this, capturing the full glory of the leaves. Over time I stopped caring, we made friends with our little posy of strangers. That night the wind had knocked down every yellow leaf there was. It made me realize how many chances I had been missing just because I would put it off for another time. So I look at this image and always remember, go for it!
3. Deeply Rooted
I was up in Pennsylvania, photographing a women’s retreat when I made this image. It was during a break we had and a few of us met down by the pond. I had this killer idea that I had dreamt the night before and I was stoked to shoot. Hannah and Josie were all dressed up and ready to roll. Hannah even jumped in and not a second later, a wiry little intern came out of NOWHERE. Apparently, we weren’t allowed to be in the pond, it wasn’t safe (still a mystery) but the pond up the road was fine. After getting my angry-nice Italian pastor’s daughter face in check, we moved along. When we went to check it out the incline was so intense the bottom of my car smacked the ground, making me physically sick. I was so upset about it and the new pond was in direct sun and super ugly. I felt pretty defeated, it wasn’t going to work. But we decided to drive around on the grounds anyway, maybe to find another spot since everyone was already dressed up. While driving I was a sick, crabby crab and just was staring out into the trees. I saw this scene back by the creek, it was so odd looking I pulled us over on the dirt road. Josie was able to the giant creek bed and clung to the great root as if she was floating. Even though I still was pretty sick, I was on the other side of the bank doing a happy photographer dance. I shot this and I knew it was the one, this very image that lit up on my screen was the one. Those are rarer moments for me and I hope to print this as big as a wall sometime in my life. We showed up late to dinner, covered in mud and other forest matter but it was worth every chaotic moment.
4. The Dead of Winter
This shoot was my second wind, a breath of fresh air that I didn’t know I needed. I felt my inspiration raging while I sat on the floor of my bedroom spending most of the night glueing flowers for this shoot. I was feeling pretty bleak with all the browns and got these flowers for free from the grocery. Wanting to make something before they died, Kelsey was more than willing to come over! I felt like a new artist again, scheming and making things with my hands. Time spent building, gluing and having such a hand in what photos I was making. I forgot that part about me, the one that likes to make and create. Plus Kelsey was the MOST AMAZING soul ever who came in and made everything better. I was so excited I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to even shoot. She’s been my muse for the year and I am so thankful for her.
5. The Hidden Heart
This was the day Liz and I decided to dress up and do some much needed head shots. It was the first time I shot with a 35mm (DEAD) and wandered Fields of Flowers just for the photo fun of it. I had spent plenty of time here during the Summer for other shoots and dress events but never for a shoot of my own. It is one of my favorite places to be, my secret dream is to one day have a flower garden as grand as that. If you live in the area, visit the big red barn with the sunflower painted on it. There are all kinds of flowers that you can pick but each year I am drawn to one side of the farm over the rest. They have two long hedges of white hydrangeas there that bloom in the late summer. It is a sight that seems to be pulled right out of Alice in Wonderland. The big white blooms are as big as your head and make you feel teeny tiny when you’re walking between them. We played with prisms and between flowers the whole afternoon.
New Face of 2018:
Kelsey really isn’t a ‘new’ face. You’ve seen her years and years ago in a forest shoot I did with flying pages and burning books. I have known Kelsey for ages, we go back to the good ol’ high school days where she was good friends with my sister. Then through community college where we sat in booths and studied until we died. For the past two years Kelsey has been a shadow worker of LaRue. She helps me in my image struggles, offers her opinion and eyes when I need it. I never thought to photograph her again all these years later (it was like a DUH kind of moment). It had been a while since I shot anything, still raw from my rising neck/back issues, I felt a little wary. Then I was hit with the most powerful force of inspiration, I was E-X-C-I-T-E-D. I spent two hours gluing flowers to a cape, building crowns and ideas again. Then Kelsey got here and she was the most prepared, encouraging, inspirational soul I could ever ask for. She’s got a golden heart, dipping in best buy to grab me a battery charger, been poked by skewer crowns and floated in rivers in the pouring rain. She’s a gem that I’m lucky to know and has been my muse of the year. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have created as much as I did without her. Thanks for all you’ve done/continue to do Kelsey!
Favorite Self Portrait:
She Belonged to the Sea
She belonged to the sea. The salt water healed every bruised bone and each part of her weary soul. It calls to her when she leaves it, a hum of a need that never leaves her. Beneath where sky meets water, it’s a different world- a world so different from the one she lives. When she breaks the surface, it is a rebirth, a resurrection of who she once was. She remembers everything she was created to be.
This is my favorite photo of me this year because when I see it, I feel my soul. To be back to my home state, visiting the keys with my aunt joy and her mom before she would pass, to touch the sea water again, waking up before every sunrise just filled my spirit. I remember this time so clearly while I was trying to crawl barefoot out on this rock. The water was black and calm, looking down into the dark water I could see the parrot fish scoot by. The sky changes color so fast, it happened all in a few seconds that I was there. I can still see my mom hanging over the ledge with her fishing pole, keeping an eye on me in case I fell in. This is the peaceful moment I revisit when things are getting overwhelming. I remember the feeling of the water, diving down afterward and seeing the life that had made their home around those rocks. I had tried shooting a sunset portrait the day before, upon the same rocks and in the same dress. I hadn’t noticed the ENTIRE hotel gathering up by the pool to watch me, I even had a few people offer to help me in some way that they could. That didn’t work out very well and I decided on dawn self-portraits shoots after that.
Virginia Dare Dress Co
This was the year of the dress. I became a full time team member of VDDCO and couldn’t be more thankful for that opportunity. It was new waters for me, new kinds of experiences that I didn’t know much about. Learning how to package dresses, 3 day marathon shoots, and so much more along side Rebekah. One of the most glorious human beings I think to ever live. She’s my boss in the truth of if it all- but she’s also my mentor, a dear friend and my adopted big sister. There is nothing like being apart of a dream, watching it grow, and witness the hard work it takes to get it into the world. When this company was just a thought, I remember different conversations about it. Those conversations turned into the first collection of dresses and then the second. All this wonderful everything isn’t hard for me to believe. Not when I see hearts who are fully invested in what they love, hearts that do the extra work and pour the tedious amount of hours into something like VDDCO. With all the work there is always enough time to be kind, enough time to care and love others even in the tiniest of details. This company, its founder and the team have been the biggest impact for me this year. The kind that shapes you into a better person, all while wearing beautiful dresses.
People always find it funny that I photograph events. I guess when a normal person hears ‘events’ they think of dinner parties and whatnot. I’m thankful that the events that I get to do are everything beyond normal. It really started with need, I did this kind of work when I had to. Then all of the sudden it became something I enjoyed, something I looked forward to. Verity Varee had their Taco’s & Discussions this year, surrounded by succulents, good company and the most magical Summer evening. A Daily Something hosted a lush french dinner at the stunning Ballenger Farm. Where I got to meet Liz (the most wonderful), Elvis the rooster and find a place that would truly be my dream home. That evening in the courtyard filled with flowers, lights and a table of food was one I’ll never forget. Or trips to the farmers market and waffles at Coridal with A Homemade Harvest. Photograph events have sparked a new kind of dream inside me that I hope to share with you next year!
Thank you all for a great year.
I can promise 2019 is going to be a doozy.
(Let me know what you’d like to see from me in 2019 in the comments below).