• It's Time To Talk About It

    I told myself I wouldn't. At first I found it almost inappropriate to write on a blog dedicated to photography, my professional life, and tid bits of personal information carefully added every so often. I cringed at the thought of creating anything because of it, whether it be another emotional self portrait depicting how I was feeling or post laying it all out there. Plus she would have hated that, all the attention on her. Instead, I photographed a more suitable, lighter portrait and drafted up a blurb mentioning a few new, "exciting" changes coming. Figuring I could push past this and deal with it somehow, because isn't that what you're supposed to do?

    Four days after my 21st birthday this year, one of my best friends committed suicide.

    Just writing that makes me want to stop typing and start crying.

    It's become harder than I thought to convince yourself that you will never see someone tomorrow when you can feel them all around you at that very moment. All you can do is shake it off and keep moving, I've been telling myself. Even as I've surrounded myself with friends and family, you get to a point where you just can't talk about it anymore.

    Until now, I didn't know what it meant to be all talked out about something but feel as if you hadn't even scratched the surface. It's exhausting to constantly ask yourself and be asked how you're doing, feeling each pair of eyes search your face for any sort of sign of falter, of a crack beneath the facade we so carefully have to keep together for society. You can be upset about something, to a point. Crying in public is frowned upon, I would know after I tried to keep my head down as I quickly walked past the strangers staring at the girl that couldn't seem to keep it together in Target that day. I don't remember much after hearing the words, "Jana took her own life last night", but I do remember moving away from the woman standing next to me, afraid she'd overhear me repeating the same words on the phone to my family and it would ruin her day. 

    I wanted to keep the death of a friend separate from my business. I didn't want to use it as an excuse in an email, it felt wrong to mention when client inquiries became follow ups and ultimately became lost opportunities. Life was moving along as it always does, as I felt I was too, when in reality all I had been doing was treading water in my own mind.

    It's been a few weeks and I still find myself a little agitated when I receive an irate text from a friend I hadn't responded to or a client asking for something else. Didn't they understand? Don't they know how I'm feeling, how every day has become a struggle and I feel as if I cannot breathe? Of course not, how would they? Even mutual friends that experienced the same trauma, everyone heals and grows differently. So I kept moving forward, thinking I had to balance keeping up with work, my personal life and mending myself while racing forward with everyone else.

    One of the things I found myself doing when I was training for Tough Mudder, a several mile long obstable course race, was I would push through any sort of pain. Whether it was physical or mental pain, I had to finish the set, do a few more seconds of burpees, run the full time I set for myself. I thought it was fine because the trained instructors teaching the workout didn't take breaks, friends that had been running for years were logging these mile times without stopping. I realized after how I'm lucky I didn't hurt myself, and if I had just taken a break for even a few seconds I would have been stronger than trying to struggle to the end with weak form. 

    I mention this because as I found myself sitting here tonight, head in hands as I became overwhelmed with just how much I had to do before I go skiing for the week starting tomorrow, that it's okay to take a break. To take time for yourself, to be selfish and even a little cranky every so often. Even though the planet won't stop for you, it will be there when you're ready. Opportunities may have expired, but maybe it's for the better as this world is so vast and the possibilities are endless. 

    The unexpected death of a friend or family is tough, real tough, even when the reason is clear. Cancer, car accident, natural disaster, you name it. Suicide can and will never be explained, not even in a letter a few sentences or a few pages long. Questions will always remain unanswered. The feeling that you weren't a good enough friend or "didn't notice the signs" doesn't fade easily, guilt sticks around a lot longer than any sort of pain I've felt before. I can't promise this will be the last time I mention Jana to you guys, I needed to take the time to admit that I'm not okay and am not sure exactly when I will be. 

    So I'll apologize right now to anyone and everyone I've brushed aside knowingly or unknowingly. I have texts left without a reply, voicemails I have yet to listen to, even a handwritten letter that should have been postmarked ages ago. What I can't and have never been able to do is apologize for how I feel. And right now I'm still hurting. I'm angry. I'm confused. Most of all, I just miss her. I miss my best friend and I need to take some time to really say goodbye. 

  • 2014 Year In Review: What I Learned & Who I Pissed Off

    A year prior, my heart was broken, my head was all over the place (still is, but getting better), and I didn't know where my soul had retreated to. I vowed to turn things around for 2014, to make changes in my personal and professional life in a big way. This year felt like the year, I felt good about the upcoming months. I became more honest with the people around me, I in turn, became more honest with myself. I realized a lot of shocking and painful truths I had been hiding away.

    With this pain came self-realization. Though I experienced some of the darkest days of my life this year, I also was able to push past and overcome them. Creating a weekly portrait of the over-abundance of erratic and strange emotions I had been living became a release. The rush in feeling a fog has been lifted and looking back at the last few months wondering who that person was, there are no words to describe that. Though I have taken a short break from these portraits, I plan to continue until I reach the full 52 weeks.

    Professionally, I had one of the most life-changing phone calls this year. We talked for about an hour and within that time, he single-handedly was able to see right through any exterior I built up and right into my very core. Things I had been so sure I had been nailing with my images, he pointed out the flaws in the argument I was having with myself. Photography has always been an incredibly personal journey for me, as it should be for anything you truly love doing. I found as I took a physical step back to frame up my subjects, I had also taken a mental step back from the character of a person I was trying to draw out from them. 

    Though it stung to finally recognize, I took it in stride because I knew it was something I could fix and translate over into 2015. With this, I also came up with some realizations that this year had brought in. So here it goes.

    Top 14 Realizations from 2014:

    1. I pissed off a lot of people. 

    Okay maybe not A LOT, but more than I would of liked in my book. As I grew up and out of certain parts of myself, I inadvertently crumbled friendships that were based around immaturity and negativity. Once the honesty train started, I lost a few passengers along the way. Looking back now, I do not miss the extra baggage. 

    2. I re-discovered the idea of eye-contact. 

    We live in a world where people walk around with their heads down and do not seem to know what to do when we're met with others that don't mimic our behavior. I made it a goal for this past year to personally thank each and every waitress, cashier, door-holder, taxi driver, and regular human being I came in contact with- all while looking them straight in the eye. The result? I saw a lot more of beautiful faces with expressions of surprise accompanied by a slight smile when I took the time to acknowledge their presence. 

    3. There's a (slight) routine to my otherwise frantic life.

    The daunting and elusive idea of a set schedule came early for me when a friend pointed out the error of my ways. "Cass, this is why you always feel busy but never get anything done. You answer emails at 2 am and don't get up around the same time each day. You gotta set a routine for yourself." (Thanks Bill, I owe you a beer, or two, for this mental smack on the forehead). As I attempted a variety of time management options, I found I was the most productive when created a to-do list the night before and set a timer for any certain length of time, during which I couldn't check any social media or roam around the house looking for excuses not to do something. Though it's still a work in progress, I feel a lot more organized.

    4. People are just that, people.

    We hold a lot of typically ordinary people on these weird platforms based on how in-love/jealous we are of their lives that they seem to portray via social media. It can be hard to ignore how fabulous Karen's (ficticuous person, I don't actually know a Karen) life is on Instagram when she posts her images from locations we've always dreamed of going or surrounded by an amazingly attractive group of friends. I was getting down on myself late one night when again, another good friend brought it to my attention that, "at the end of the day, that person is just one being going about their life that ultimately does not and will not affect yours in any way."  S/O to Zach for that one, though I'm pretty sure you had a more eloquent way of putting it.

    5. "Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you."

    Mark Cuban definitely knows what's up when it comes to this idea, being a billionaire and all. I found this quote later on in the year, but have heard it resonate in my head on the days I can't seem to get up with my alarm or have been avoiding drafting out follow-up emails. I'm lucky to have such a supportive family as well as group of people that would absolutely help out if something was to go terribly wrong, but as far as pushing the envelope, only I can do that. 

    6. People will pay for your work.

    It can be easy, especially when you're just starting out, to come across those individuals that want everything for cheap and don't really appreciate you as person, let alone as a wonderfully talented artist. I've started to say no to projects or people I find attempting this, in the end it just isn't worth the time. And since I have turned down these "opportunities", I've been able to spend more time reaching for ones that are worth it. Twice this year, I have had people tell me they've cried when they saw their images and countless that were blown away by the effort I put into crafting the idea they initially had in their head. Those people make it worth the gripe and struggle that comes with the job. 

    7. Who you surround yourself with speaks volumes about your character as well as personal happiness. 

    If you're constantly around people that have nothing nice to say, it can be easy to mimic their behavior. Same with those who have no motivation or desire to reach further. It can be stifling and downright depressing because you won't notice how you've changed until you're in the presence of happy, driven individuals. Surround yourself with positive people that won't drag you down with them. 

    8. Reading inspires, fills your heart with joy, and can destroy you all in one chapter. 

    Because everyone should experience the pain of losing your favorite character at 3 in the morning at least once. Also, no uncertainty about your life and everything in it is greater than the moments after you close a book for the final time

    9. Dating is scary & weird, but that's okay. 

    I put off trying to connect with another person for a while and when I finally did allow myself to enter back into the world of dating, I found it to be absolutely terrifying. To have another person that you're interested in see you boppin' along (okay, jamming the HELL out) to one of your favorite bands live, witnessing the extra goodness from a chili dog slide between your fingers (I don't do cute when I eat, ever), or saying everything way too fast and it coming out as one big jumble they can only respond with a, "..What?" is awful and embarassing and completely OKAY. Refer to #4, we're all human and you know they know you saw them trip over their own feet out of the corner of your eye. 

    10. While dating is cool, spending time alone is even cooler. 

    I set a personal record for the amount of solo lunches, single-person $5 movies on Tuesdays, dinners alone consisting of cheese platters with red wine at resturaunt surrounded by couples, and grabbing a beer by myself at the bar (just to have some kid spit in it, but that's a story for another day entirely) after a particularly stressful day of shooting a wedding. You learn a lot about yourself in those times and walk away happy you did it in the first place. Because really, who would of seen half the movies with me I went to by myself and loved them just as much?

    11. Pay attention to what you're saying, because other people do. 

    More than ever this year I've been told by people, far and wide, what I have said has impacted their lives. I stand by the idea that even if the truth hurts someone, I still think it's right to say because of how they may learn from it in the long-run. I try not to say things that are untrue in the heat of the moment because I personally know how damaging a few wrong words from the right mouth can be. 

    12. Say yes to the out-of-the-blue invite, make the drive up (even if it turns onto a dirt road with no street lights), and walk right in. 

    You may just find an incredible array of people, a pet peacock, and that one person that now knows you  possibly better than you know yourself. Although I was nervous as hell and wondering if what I was doing was insane, I don't regret this rare moment of spontaneity. Even though the road did say "No Facilities Ahead."

    13. It can be easy to make up excuses when you're afraid. 

    It can be hard to "get up and go" when we set our minds to doing the opposite, giving ourselves a million excuses as to why we shouldn't. We are so afraid of that one, little "NO" to the point where every step to achieve what we aspire to seems to become a mountain we must climb. My advice? Just go for it, make the phone call, stop them before they get on the elevator, and hit send on that email you've been checking & re-checking all morning. 

    14. Some of the best realizations come from small, quiet moments of reflecting inwards. 

    This year, I found my voice once more, remembered how to "just say no" and embraced opportunities for the unknown with a firm yes. I became honest, really honest. Wore my heart on my sleeve more times than I can count. Most importantly, I took time to appreciate standing in the sunshine while figuring out how to dance when the rain came. 

    Here's to 2015 being bigger and better than the last. Hopefully you're all surrounded by people you love, making resolutions that will ultimately change your life for the better, and remembering to love yourself the entire way. 



  • Beauty Test- Bobbi

    A few weeks ago, Bobbi and I spent a few hours experimenting in the studio, taking it from one end of the spectrum to the next. As Jose Perez worked his magic on makeup, I eagerly threw my Profoto Octabank on for the first time in the studio and not on me (it's been previously used for this and this self portrait shoot). Check out some of the results below.

    Of course I had to shoot a 1920's inspired look with this haircut and face, this girl's got the most perfect side profile I've ever seen.

    As we started to wrap up the last look,  Jose suggested we do something a little more messy. I then saw that his messy was a lot different than mine. In the end, I'm thrilled with this look the most and am especially proud of myself for squashing my inner-control freak just enough. Never doubted you for a second Jose, I swear

    So the final look turned into the second-to-final look as we wiped off the smudged eyeliner and moody expressions in favor of something a little more soft and a lot more clean-looking. While this took some time, I found myself digging for another A-clamp as I began the final setup only to see a tattered white box (yes, I keep all my original packaging) box neatly tucked away. After completely burning out on lighting everything with my Profoto silver beauty dish in the beginning, I felt it was time to give ol' faithful a break for awhile. Until now. 

    Oh, how I've missed that catchlight. 

    Until next time, 


  • Digital SLR Photography Magazine Publication

    Earlier this year, I was approached by UK's Digital SLR Photography Magazine to do a few features that would explain, step by step, some of my lighting concepts. After a few months of conceptualizing, shooting and reshooting, last month's article featured one of my favorite styles to photograph in. They referred to the set up as Painterly Portraits, so that's what I'm going with.

    To think, it all started when they spotted this image of the lovely Katie Brill when we just messed around in the studio after a last-minute cancellation.

    Naturally I was stoked to be able to re-create this look for an editorial, so I immediately accepted and got right to work. Casting played a huge part in this, I wanted someone with features that would embrace this sort of painted, subtle yet dramatic look. The lighting was simple, I turned my modeling lights up and my PocketWizards off and got to work with my trusted Profoto beauty dish. The highlights on her face were becoming too intense with just a bare silver beauty dish, so I added a diffusion sock over the top. 

    (I know you all love the hand-drawn skill of this diagram, I tried real hard.)

    The rest of my set-up (for those of you that can't read the tiny type in the tearsheet) can take a look at my diagram above for the general idea behind it. I used my Profoto lights because I simply didn't have any other source of controllable light that I preferred, but one can easily achieve a similar effect with Home Depot bucket lights to be honest (shoutout to Greg Heisler for showing us the Home Depot way at Hallmark!)

    None of this could of been done though without my killer team with Melissa Aprile as our lovely model, Jose Perez on makeup and Leonor Dosanjos creating such a soft & romantic hairstyle that translated perfectly into what I wanted/needed for this shoot.

    Until next time, 


  • Week 20 - Modern Day Medusa - Extras & Behind the Scenes

    Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays (for reasons that are quite obvious, CANDY). I was bummed this year because I came down with a nasty cold and was rendered to shuffling around my house feeling all achy. Halloween was no exception, the universe really just did not want me to have any fun. So I decided to use all that free time to work on an idea that I'd been holding onto for awhile. 


    Check out which one was the final for my 52 Week Project over on Facebook!

    I decided to take a modern spin on it, I also didn't have enough snakes as my local craft store really let me down in that department. What?? You're not stocked to the brim with plastic snakes on Halloween?? Ridiculous. I also got real hyped on the glitter hairspray I found (throwback anyone?) and was disappointed to see it didn't translate as well in my images (I promise it's not just some serious dandruff.)

    One of my favorite stories in Greek Mythology as a child (for whatever reason), it always frightened me to no end. And of course growing up, whenever I got a bit (well okay, more than a bit) cranky, my dad would always exclaim from some corner of the house, "DON'T LOOK AT HER EYES." Thanks Dad. 

    The story also always made me sad, this poor chick was just looking for someone to love which ended up being the wrong person, so she gets punished and turned into this awful creature. Everyone forgets that she didn't start out as as bad. 

    Hope everyone had a great Halloween and got some serious candy (that I'd be more than happy to take off your hands, you know, if you need.)