O R I G I N A L
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O R I G I N A L
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Entering the turbulence I remind myself that crying, like airplanes, is safer than numbly bumping around composed as we do everyday.
I wasn’t sad, just full. Just brimming. But if I were sad I would not want a sorry for it. Sad isn’t the end of the world like apathy is. Sad is a celebration sometimes, just like angry or lonesome. Emotions are portals even if we resist them for fear of losing it.
Last night I cried, turbulent. Up and over the fear the that my crying would make me ugly, up and over a routine I could have applied that would have kept my sobbing at bay, up and over survival and momentum.
I wiped my face of snot and tears on my comforter, breathing with my eyes closed. It felt better than interrupting my cry with a reasonable way for wiping, felt good to not give a polished shit. Matthew offered of course, but I didn’t want the sweeping motion of his movement to shudder me composed, there was more there so I breathed out of my mouth, nose congested.
Eventually composure can. After crying about my grandmother abandoning my father and not knowing how to go back and about the border and dead babies and Brigham Young’s wives and my own prejudice and about motherhood stumbling and childhood fear and about my mother abandoning me and about reincarnation and pollution and tv and Eleven seeing into Billy’s heart.
It all came through me like I were a perfect, empty cup again; hollowed and holy soaked in crying, ready to brim again. To be born of my own body again, and again.
To be a photographer is to have a front row view of life. I could never pin myself to a career because I could imagine myself lost in the passion of so many of paths and so, I am a photographer.
Lost in your passion with paint brush and clay, moved by your pains in birth and death, inspired by nurses, inspired by a beekeeper’s reverence for land and pollen, awed at the bravery you cultivate to be seen.
Thank you to every single human I’ve ever seen through my lens- you are the open door of passion that let’s me peek into all the ways to live. One path becoming many.
My continued partnership with Sackerson is a source of deep pride and pleasure. From the actors and artists to the organizers and minds behind each production, I am urged to go deeper and tell evermore true and important stories, more honestly.
Sackerson's upcoming immersive show "A Brief Walt: 23 Short Plays About Walter Eyer" has just been announced today and tickets are available beginning August 23rd. A Brief Waltz is a thought-provoking and intimate experience with heart, story, and feeling pulsing at the heart-center of this worthy cultural story written by the brilliant Morag Shepherd Alex Ungerman Shawn Francis Saunders and Matthew Ivan Bennett.
From the first moment we met I loved this woman. A powerful, dynamite smart. When she and I met it was in Palm Springs at Alt Summit. I was fresh fresh into my new post-marital single life and I was gearing up to quit a job I had relied on heavily. During free time after the conference I laughed, drank champagne, and swam topless in the cover of dark night with a friend. Andrea overheard someone criticize me and she quickly cut them off in my defense. We’ve always loved each other and Andrea warmly refers to me as her “unsung sister”. I want to sing that song.
Andrea brought a treasure trove of perfectly designed clothing that each represented something of Andrea’s life, her place, her being that she wanted documented. My favorites are 1- her embroidered “working mom” sweater which she was haunted to make the night before our session and 2- her incredible shoes by The Office of Angela Scott. We had an incredible time discussing motherhood, art, spirituality, work, life, and our passions.
Why was Andrea drawn to the SEEN experience?
These words have been reoccurring and definitive throughout my 18 years of motherhood. FIRST pregnancy, FIRST child, ONLY child, LAST time viable heartbeats were heard, FIRST viable pregnancy in 12 years, LAST child, LAST c-section possible. Yet again this year these words are shaping my narrative of the FIRST year both boys were in school, LAST day Sam and Simon will be in school and then the hardest one – the ONLY year, as Sam moves on. My friend Ashley created a Mother’s Day portrait project and I felt compelled to participate and document what feels like a milestone year in motherhood for me. The whole process of seeing yourself through the eyes and lens of an artist and how it aligns, compares, and contrasts to how you see yourself is a very valuable experience and if you are lucky enough that artist will be Ashley Thalman.
We talk of Lucius, we sing of Lucius, we rejoice of Lucius that our daughters may know strong female leads living their dream with a lot to say and rock about. And harmonies, our daughters must know the power and pleasure of harmonies.
Errin and I have attended every Lucius show in Utah and this year we decided to go all out and dress our tinies Lucius-style-alike for their first Lucius concert together. Impromptu photoshoot was eminent. It was so rad to witness the littles dig in on the dressing up process. Errin and I went to check on her chickens and farm life and when we came back the girls had smothered their cheeks in gold dust.
Oh yes, and did I tell you that Errin and I twinned too?
Children's Portraits are offered 4 times a year at studio locations in Provo, Salt Lake, and Ogden. Your child(ren) and I will work together to create beautiful, classic portraits that are enduring in style and capture the fast-fading, celebration-worthy things you love most about your child.
At Home Children’s Portraits capture not only the brilliance of your child's individuality but also their relationship to the home you have created for them. Their room, their toys, their backyard, their car, the tub and table littered with signs of their little life. 45-90 minute session, in and out. Happy kids, happy parents.
In Studio Children’s Portraits document the curiosity, light play, skepticism, apprehension, bravery, magic, delight of childhood. Your child(ren) and I will work together to create beautiful, classic portraits (both individual portraits and sibling groups) that are enduring in style and represent the fast-fading, celebration-worthy things you love most about your child. 20 minutes per child= happy kids, happy parents.
In-Home Children’s Portraits are $175 for the first child and $25 for each additional sibling.
In Studio Children’s Portraits are $100 for the first child and $60 for each additional sibling.
Fine art archival investments of $300 or more include all high-resolution images (30+ images per child) to archive and print as you wish whereas all print and album purchases, regardless of the investment, include the web-ready low-resolution images for sharing on the web.
All children’s portrait clients will complete a brief survey before our session. This allows me to get to know your child’s likes and dislikes, allergies, and other considerations allowing me to provide a unique, thoughtful, playful experience.
IN STUDIO -August 10 & November 2nd (10 sessions available each day)
IN HOME - August 11th & November 3rd (3 sessions available each day)
IN STUDIO - August 7th & November 1st (10 sessions available each day)
IN HOME- August 8th & November 1st (3 sessions available each day)
IN STUDIO- July 31st ( 2 sessions available- SOLD OUT)
IN HOME- July 31st & November 3rd (3 sessions available each day)
A few months ago Maiya Buck rented Ultraviolet Studios for one of her amazingly executed, fine tune detailed gatherings which she markets and plans under the name The Photoshoot Collective. Bringing together artists, photographers, stylists, and hair and makeup professionals and amateurs under a single, focused theme Maiya provides an exploratory environment. After seeing the results of her Plants + Color shoot at Ultraviolet I had to sneak in a session before she moves away to LA.
Snakes was hosted at Miesh Studios in SLC and was supported by Scales and Tails who brought the beautiful snakes. Thank you to the modelswho held themselves in confidence and forgave my jumpy distance and for the snake handlers for empowering me with more knowledge about these creatures. I’ll be sharing more on my stories today.
I shared the center photo on Instagram last week with some thoughts on fear and art:
As much as photography is a work that provides pure, edge-softening pleasure, it is also a crucible that has brought me into the fire of facing my many fears. I fear crowds, I fear not belonging, I fear that love isn’t real, I held fear that I would never have the life I yearned for, I’ve faced my fear of death, I fear not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do, I fear being a fraud. I could go on and on. I’ve stepped to the front line of these experiences over and over, afraid every time.
Fear is a portal, a personally curated invitation into a deeper place of being. Finding silence behind my camera when I’m deafened by my own heartbeat is why I do what I do. I’m scared almost every time I lift my camera. But I’ve learned to swallow it. As the years go by it becomes more and more obvious that holding these fears might cause me to be strange or act as such, and I care less and less about how it looks because I know I have to do it in order to get to the other side of fear where that silence, that focus, that reverence that helps me show and say what I’m trying to say, awaits.
don’t don’t lose faith, I know it can be so hard somedays
go, hide your face but when you’re ready
come back to your place- here right by me
take all the time you need
and when you feel you can’t be found
caught up in the mess around
when the walls are crashing down
I’ll be your solid ground
when you think you lost the light
stuck in a starless night
lift your eyes and watch the sky- I’ll be your satellite.
it’s true, I promise you,
mo one knows what they’re supposed to do
we just run up these walls
and we climb just to fall
and we hope its enough to be thought of
and when you feel you can’t be found
caught up in the mess around
when the walls are crashing down
I’ll be your solid ground
when you think you lost the light
stuck in a starless night
lift your eyes and watch the sky
I’ll be your satellite.
A few months ago my studio neighbors, Aveda Salon A.&.Co Salon hosted their first Earth Day event which was both successful and well supported. Clients, employees, friends, and community members donated services and gifts, as well as purchase raffle tickets with proceeds donated to Ogden Nature Center. Raffle drawings included a headshot session with yours truly and Sami, an A.&Co contractor won!
Sami is a master hairstylist who specializes is highly detailed work highlighting her clients’s natural beauty. She has a warm, friendly disposition with sharp skill in her art and tells the story of her craft beautifully. Beauty and art and wellness seeps from her soul. She is multi-talented, feels deeply connected to nature, and the soul of our earth. I loved spending time with her and I cannot wait to work together again.
The way summer came so gently makes these 100 temps welcome.
I got to walk around Ogden with Audrey Christensen today and it was so nice. She is so fully colorful and kind and strong.
I wonder if I’m dong right by my kids.
I love my friends. My children love Gygi’s children and this week they had a bicycle, Riverwoods adventure together- without parents.
I have clean carpet and that feels important and I love the way the room looks with all the furniture moved out.
We drink Stump water now and the intention of doing it this way makes me so happy.
Brian Eno’s “For All Mankind” album is streaming on NPR and it’s lovely.
Watching Matthew’s Backdrop Workshop attendees learn yesterday. We play but I wish I were a painter. Maybe I am, yet.
This little musical prodigy makes me believe in messages that come encoded in children to save the world. Her talent and power had my jaw on the ground last night. Watch HERE.
Shawna is here helping Jody move and it’s so fun to be together. I became a little attached to Jody’s old house and the kids and I felt sad telling that place good bye.
I am gearing up for a weekend of shooting women for Sundance Seen and I feel so grateful.
I got to check bees with McKay before sunrise on Wednesday. I feel so much reverence for bees, honey, wax, the land. My work is so good, I love doing it.
I am meeting Keira Shae Schultz at Rawtopia tonight to show her the portraits I took of her last month.
Matthew made me a great salad last night while I worked late and that’s a gift. I love people serving me food, it’s a deep love language.
Is this nostalgic or what? Her voice.
Haily welcomed me to her studio last month to see her, to witness her work and her workspace. My aim was to record her now. To document that ideas are visiting her, emerging with her. Her Springville studio sits in the middle of her home; light and linear, clean and peppered with books, plants, color, and soften gold in baggies. Leaf sticking to her paintings in deliberate highlights making portraits of women into icons, including Haily. At one point she in editing I noticed that a few fine flecks of the metal were stuck to her forehead.
We laughed and talked and had reverence for one another. Oh do you know Zina? Kirk? Third Space? Yeah. Good company.
As our session ended Haily asked me to choose a tube of her oil paint, to “help” her with something. In that spontaneous, connected swell I felt like I had won the lottery. Her painting “wasn’t working” and she wanted to “see” what I could/would do. My lack of skill warned me to hurry out but Haily was in charge- so I listened. She told me all about the blue I chose. There was something about packaging and history and something about impressionism- I wish I had recorded what she said because it was educated and poetic but I was deaf with fear excitement. I dipped my brush against the palate and then into the medium and I painted. Is that what call it?
Did I tell Haily that I had always wanted to paint? To be a painter? No, why would I? The oil paints reminded me of smoothing barely solid butter between my fingers as a child and I let Haily’s invitation and the visceral comforts of pleasurable texture guide. I am so glad Haily invited me because the way the oily azure color went on and on in a wild line across her warm painting (see the before on the bottom row middle of the gallery below) is something I needed. To just see. To make something warm, blue against reverence for the warm and in honor of it.
Artists. Making art together. One tidy and talkative and the other covered in soft shiny metals of alchemic emergence. Thank you Haily.
This morning I woke at 9. I slept well, the kids are gone, and the light was blocked perfectly, and for once, in a long while, I woke without the anxiety of the lists that lay endlessly before me thinking instead about the thoughts and questions I want to share.
I want to write about the whiplash guilt and glory of single motherhood, about dividing my life between the gift of too-many passions, about companionship and friendship and how for me, art is god. Art is god in all the ways I cannot explain the unknown and about how I wouldn’t ever want to come to the bottom of what it means and how I delight in trying.
A few weeks ago I woke early and headed south to be with women. Women with bees, women in canyons, women with paint and medium splashed on their sacred apron as the sound of my lens banged the glass pane between us. Women in the grass, holy and seen, women nude and dazzled and free in a hot tub with twinkle light and me sobbing at my friends table because sometimes it’s too much, the beauty and losses of life. The moving and rebuilding and goodbye grief sobs that come a year late and how that grief has subsided and now it all feels right again.
I want to remind myself and leave bread crumbs for all of us to remember that the ways we love, and are loved, is the balm that makes all the beauty and brutality of life holy and how the yearning to share it is a call well worth the war that comes with it.
Last week I shared my thoughts about Preparing Mind & Body for Seen Today, with the help of some recent client reviews, and some context of my experience as a professional who has been on both sides the camera I want to share what Seen feels and looks like. I’m so grateful that a client candidly asked, “What is the session like? Like, I don’t really know how to pose and I get really nervous in front of the camera.” To answer this question adequately, it is important to share and show how what collaborative portraiture means and is while giving previews into what Seen feels and looks like.
s u p p o r t
Communication matters. You are making an investment that is, at its heart, vulnerable and a little heart-quickening despite its empowering experience and outcomes. To be seen in a world that dictates unrealistic, broadly prescribed standards for beauty and value, requires individualized support that considers the singularity of you.
Beginning with the booking and payment process, through to my communication and direction during the session, I promise my support, respect and connection by way of communication and consent. You are not a “subject” for me (or any other artist) to cast idea(l)s upon, but a living, breathing, human worthy of celebration and the honest documentation of you, as you.
If you have questions I haven’t answered or insights I should consider, please ask. Every time you ask me a question my vision and consideration of my clients, both present and future, broadens as do my services allowing me to create with increasing intention.
Posing, Interaction & “What do I do with my hands?”
I believe that the best images are made when a photographer dissolves the imposing camera’s presence by connecting with their subject. By asking questions and working to know a bit more about you, by earning your trust and creating a space of safety and reverence for who and what you are. My camera is an extension of my eye, a reflective tool to record your presence. It will take a minute to get comfortable and enter the space we are making together, but we will get there.
When we begin we will talk and share and slowly as comfort comes, I will interrupt our conversation to take a portrait. If we need quiet, we will both ask. If we need a different angle, I will move. With consent I will make adjustments to your hair or earring or shirt.
In my 10 years experience, I have become quite good at discerning “natural”. With direct and pointed directive, I will provide postural, posing, and breathing prompts to help you feel at ease. My goal while we are working together is to create an environment of safety, to witness you at ease, and to document it. My client Keira shared this review which embodies my approach to posing and direction within the context of collaborative portraiture,
“Ms. Thalman is well-versed in neutral and respectful language and full consent on any adjusting, touching, or poses. I have appreciated her attention to details like asking for input in the creative process, respecting body autonomy, and sharing images as the art/property that they are.” - Keira
No two clients are the same but I love what Keira (again) and Errin shared about how they felt after their session:
“(I felt)…a little drained because I’d shared so much of myself.”- Keira
“I felt empowered, and like I had done a lot of work. Creating these images was a collaborative process, and it felt good knowing that I was part of making something beautiful.”- Errin
Seen can bring up a myriad of feelings and thoughts, inspirations and concerns both before, during, and after the session. I have been on both sides of the camera, and I feel it important to show up as a subject regularly to remember the excitement, worry, insecurity, and joy that comes from being documented.
Editing, Photoshop, & Post-Processing
If you show up with a scratch, bruise, or zit have no fear, I use Photoshop. I use it to remove dust on my lens, and I use it to carefully edit out that one stray hair in your line of sight in the portrait that reflects you best and of course I will zap the zit but I do not use it to manipulate the human form. I will not obstruct you, edit your features, erase, or smooth you. I will not “take off 10 lbs” or remove “chins”. I have never learned how and I do not employ my editing team for such work.
So what else? I’m happy to answer any questions you have about my process in the comments below.
I first met Mette Harrison in Colorado City. I held a camera and Mette carried plants, lumber, and tools around the gardens we were rebuilding in Short Creek for our annual Fern Foundation service project. I was drawn in by her magnetic, truthful strength. My admiration for strong women comes immediate.
Over the years I have gotten to know Mette better through her writing and other small interactions mostly in the web. Mette carries the blessing and burden of a richly poetic voice that sings her blunt tellings into the soul center. Her latest work includes an experiment in poetry and her podcast that provides a deep examination of her Mormon upbringing ( Check our Mette’s Mormon Sabbatical podcast HERE).
Mette is currently working on a book about her stillborn daughter Mercy and the wounds of losing a child. It would be impossible to sum Mette up neither by calling her a loving and supportive mother, an accomplished artist and teacher, a connected friend, artist, or triathlete, these are parts of a fantastically expansive whole.
Mette has always had friends and family take her professional headshots. So kind, very supportive, and “good enough”. We find that good enough is good enough until it isn’t. When Mette showed up for an author signing for her novel, The Bishop’s Wife, she wasn’t recognized as herself and its not hard to see why- the woman in the photo looks nothing like Mette. That’s a problem- without the context of authentic, honest portraits, we just learn to hate what photography does to us. Made-over, air-brushed images may serve something but what? The truth? Sure, if the standard of that truth means societal prescriptions regarding portraiture that aim to eclipse and edit the truth of self.
Last week Mette, and the By Common Consent Press family, visited Ultraviolet Studios for a book signing and reading. Before we took our seats Mette told me that before our portrait session she was certain that she hated portrait sessions but that I helped turn that on its head by letting her be her. I asked Mette if she, always and ever the writer, would share her thoughts with me in writing so that I could share them here. Within moments, she sent me this-
I used to think I hated photos of myself. I have a terrible habit of hiding from my FIL’s constant photos of the big family. I’m short, so I tuck behind someone else and you only see an elbow or my chin. I stare at photos of myself and always think—that isn’t me. It’s even more true when I look at almost all of the professional photos I’ve had done. There’s a profound disconnect between the image that’s captured on film and who I feel like I am inside. Sometimes it happens when I look in the mirror, as well. But then Ashley did these series of photos of me and almost every one felt “right” in some way. They captured different expressions, different sides of me. I sent a set of them to my FIL, and his response was (of course—I should have guessed this), “I like the ones where you’re smiling.”
I deliberately told Ashley when we started that I wanted a professional author photo with me not smiling because I often see women authors with unsmiling photos and think how strong they look—I wanted to be brave enough to try to do that. I’ve titled the photo I’m currently using as my publicity author photo the “Don’t Fuck With Me” shot because I feel so strong in it. I feel like this is the me I wanted to show to the world and needed someone who understood to help me capture it. It’s not that I look angry. But I look fierce. I look strong. I look like the athlete that I am, with the strong arms that help me swim and beat lots of tough guys in a race. I look like someone people don’t say “Smile more” to.
When I look at the other photos I’ve had taken, some of which people told me to my face “That doesn’t look like you” because I was wearing heavy makeup and dressed in a way I never do in real life, I realize what the problem is. Those photographers were often trying to get me to look “good,” or “beautiful” and they were using a standard of female beauty that has never fit me well. When they tell me to bring makeup to put on between shots, I have to explain I don’t wear makeup and don’t want to wear it for a shoot, which I think sounds strange to them. Why don’t I want to have a photo that makes me look better than I would in real life? Because that’s not me. I don’t want to look like a model. I don’t want my boobs to look bigger. I don’t buy bras like that. Surprise! I want to look like who I really am. I want a photo that matches my soul.
A dear old friend of mine from grad school spent a long time perusing each of the photos Ashley had sent me. She chose the same one that Ashley had picked as her favorite and she kept saying, “You look beautiful in this.” I didn’t think I looked “beautiful” at all. I looked sad and contemplative. I looked broken. It was hard to see beauty in that, but maybe what my friend meant, and what Ashley was able to capture was realness, the authentic me that other photographers were always trying to “photoshop out.” I still remember Ashley saying if I wanted, she could erase a red blemish on my nose. I laughed when she suggested that because the red blemish on my nose was the least of my worries about the photos that came about as a result of that shoot. I wasn’t worried about people seeing that tiny flaw. I was worried about people seeing ALL of the flaws that those photos showed. I was supremely naked in those shots, which is really what I keep telling people about writing. If you’re not naked, you haven’t worked down to the truth yet. Ashley’s photos are art because they are truth.
Thank you Mette for sharing your thoughts about you and photos. For allowing me the pleasure of photographing such a strong, determined, soulful woman. Let’s do it again.