Monthly Archives: May 2009

An Open Letter to the Fashion and Retail Worlds

I have had varying amounts of disposable income for over two decades and consider myself a seasoned shopper. I think I represent many women my age in that I am neither a die-hard bargain hunter nor do I spend extravagant amounts of money on a regular basis. Like everyone else I love a good sale but I am also willing to splurge from time to time. My wardrobe is age appropriate but still incorporates the latest trends when they work for me. I want my children to dress well and feel good about themselves yet I work hard to instill a sense of self worth beyond material possessions. Having said that, I would like to offer the following advice to aid you in better serving your consumers:

1. If you were trying to find a way to make even Angelina Jolie look bad, you succeeded with the maxi dress. Make it go away. The sooner the better.

2. Is there a reason that you can’t size women’s jeans and pants the same way you do men’s? My husband hasn’t bought himself a pair of pants in years because I can go to the mall and know exactly what size he wears regardless of brand or style. Would it be that difficult do allow me the same luxury? I don’t want to go the store, try on 4 sizes in each of 7 different styles of jeans, spend $100+ on the one pair that “fit” (and I use that term loosely) only to have to pay a tailor another $30 to hem them and take in the waist. I’m just sayin’.

3. I also don’t feel the need to be a walking billboard for your brand. I am willing to pay a little extra for an item that I love. Unfortunately for you, that does not include something with your logo or name plastered over every square inch.

4. This is just an opinion and I know some will disagree, but the skull and crossbones is not cute. Especially not on pre-teen/teenage girls. I find it creepy and disturbing.

5. I realize that you might be marketing to my middle school aged daughter, but I am the one spending the money. I do not want to walk into your dimly lit store to be overpowered by the cologne you spray on everything, try and make my way through the overcrowded display while ducking plastic palm trees only to finally make it to the register and have to shout at you because the music is blaring so loudly that you can’t hear me from 2 feet away.

6. In addition, I would like to be able to buy a gift card from your store without a picture of a half naked man (with or without a sultry looking, scantily clad woman who appears to be in heat hanging on him) to give to my nieces or my daughter’s friends. In this case, your name plastered all over the card would be a better option.

7. And while we’re at it, can we make the clothing appropriate? I don’t care to see my middle school aged daughter in a barely there bikini and I *certainly* don’t want a middle school aged boy to see her in it. A little modestly goes a long way. Two pieces are fine. Two microscopic triangles of fabric bound together by dental floss and a bottom cut so low it is illegal in some parts of the world are not.

8. Similarly, I don’t think girls that age (or any age for that matter) should be wearing shorts with 2″ inseams. It doesn’t look good and it’s not comfortable.

9. I remember middle school and high school. I know that fashion and conformity are important. I am willing to spend a little extra money on a t-shirt with your name written across it from time to time. If I spend $40 on that t-shirt, however, I expect the seams to hold together and that it keep its shape and color after several washings.

10. My daughter is not fat by any stretch of the imagination. She is, however, athletic and has muscular arms and legs. A sure fire way to to guarantee that she never wants to visit your store again is to have her try on a long sleeved shirt or sweater in a size large only to have it be too tight in the arms. Thanks for that. Like we don’t have enough self-confidence issues with girls that age.

11. Is there any way you can all get together and make your sizing consistent? I’d like to be able to walk into any store and know I wear a medium (or small or large) and not have to try on every single cotton t-shirt to see if it fits. Guess what? I’d spend more money that way.

12. Is it necessary to change the shade of blue/green/purple/pink just enough every season so that the tank top I buy this year doesn’t match the plaid shorts I bought last year? I know you think you’ll sell more but it actually discourages me from buying anything other than black, white, and khaki…and how many white tank tops does a person need?

Any help or assistance you can give in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Michelle H. Johnson Consumer

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Sneak Peek of Miss A

I had the *wonderful* opportunity to spend some time with Miss A again the other day.  I photographed her back in January and we got together this weekend since the weather has turned warmer and we could spend a little time outdoors.

The C family was so much fun and willing to humor me.  We went to an abandoned farm near their home and explored all of the cool buildings and scenery there.  She was such a trooper…she waded through tall grass, got lifted into and out of nooks and crannies and didn’t complain at all.  Not even once.  You can see here how beautiful she is on the outside but I have to tell you that she is even *more* beautiful on the inside.

Here are a couple from our session.  I am so excited to edit the rest!

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Why I Do It….

I have spent the last two years trying to hone my photography skills.  I have spent countless hours reading books & online forums, studying the work of photographers I admire, dragging my kids to fields and forests to let me practice on them, searching long and hard for crisp focus, perfect exposure, pleasing composition, beautiful lighting.   I have had days of utter joy at the results and days in which I literally cried over my failures.  In the search for technical perfection I sometimes  begin to lose sight of why I love the art of photography.  But you know what?  As soon as that happens I come across something that reminds me what it’s all about.  It happens every time.  And for that I am so thankful.

Today as I was putting away groceries I glanced at a photo that sits on my kitchen counter.  It has been there since late 2003 when we took the kids to Disney World.  It’s one of those things that has been there so long I don’t even notice it anymore, but today it caught my eye.

It was taken before I went digital, before I knew what aperture was and before I had been introduced to Photoshop.   Technically it is a mess.  It is underexposed, a little out of focus, and has crappy composition.  But it is one of my all time favorite pictures of my kids because of the memory it holds.

We took a day to drive to the Daytona area to visit my grandparents and it was Noah’s first trip to the ocean.  Kayla is my risk taker.  She is fearless.  Noah, on the other hand, is much more cautious.  He wants to know exactly what to expect and doesn’t like to try new things.  Kayla convinced Noah to wade into the ocean and taught him how he could let the waves knock him over.  It took some coaxing on her part but she eventually convinced him.    He trusted her so completely that she even got  him to raise his arms to add to the thrill.  The pure, unadulterated joy warmed my heart.  They would raise their arms and wait excitedly for the next wave to roll in.  I can still hear their laughter.  They didn’t know I had my camera on them but I am so glad I did.  Whenever I look at this picture I can literally feel the breeze from the cool day, smell the ocean, and hear their laughter.  I remember the moment.

And that’s why I do it.  I do it to remember an instant like that. I do it because through all the imperfection in that photograph I see only a perfect moment  in time.   I do it because today a picture that has sat on my counter for years caught my eye and brought me back to that day.  I do it because as I picked up the frame and stared at the picture it wasn’t the technical imperfection that I saw.   As I viewed it through tear filled eyes I saw a moment in time I will never get back but that is now eternally mine.  I do it to capture the moments that matter.

In fifty years I doubt my grandchildren will look at a photograph I took of their mother or father and say “the eyes are soft and the skin tone is a little blue”.  And I am willing to bet that their favorite pictures won’t be the ones where I dressed my kids up and made them tilt their heads just so.  I bet that their favorite pictures of their parents will be one very much like this: ones where they get a glimpse of who their parents were as children.

Today I made a promise to myself that in the pursuit of technical perfection I will not lose sight of the fact that the reason I do it is to capture life as it really is, crappy lighting and all.

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A Note from Noah on the Bathroom Door

Need I say more?

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Words to Live By

I have been collecting quotes and sayings for a while now in the hopes that some day I will pair each quote with a photograph that I have taken and put them together in a little book for my coffee table.  Today on The View Michael J Fox was discussing how he handles having Parkinson’s Disease.  As soon as the words came out of his mouth I *knew* I would add it to my collection.

“I didn’t have a choice about whether or not I had Parkinson’s.  That was a non-choice.  But surrounding that non-choice are infinite choices about how I will react to it.”

Those few words speak volumes as to who he is and how he lives his life.

I have to agree that attitude is everything.  I will freely admit that I employed the victim mentality for many years.  I believed that awful things happened to me and I was at the mercy of the universe.  As I have matured I have realized that things happen to *everyone*.  We all have our trials and tribulations.  We all experience things in life that are unfair, unjust, and that just plain suck.  And I think it’s OK to acknowledge that sometimes it really isn’t fair.  But the key is to not dwell in that place for long.   Don’t let those events define your life.  We have all made mistakes and have regrets.  We have all been hurt and have hurt others.  But in order to be happy and enjoy our time on earth we need to fix what we can fix and let the rest go.   We need to find the good in everything, even if it means digging to the core of our soul and examining what role we might have played.  We need to be able to forgive the unforgivable.  We need to accept that some things are out of our control but one thing that is always ours is the choice in how we will view it and how we will weave it into the fabric of our life. 

Sometimes joy is a decision & not an emotion.

Here are the quotes I have gathered so far.  I would love it if you would share a quote that has inspired you in the comments!

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.

George Elliot:  It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

Felix Gonzales-Torres: Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art.

Dawna Markova: I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury; and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.
William Henry Channing

This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good.”
Unknown

If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.
David Carradine

Souza : For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This persective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.

Anna Quindlen: ..but the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three on them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. (Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11).

Theodore Roosevelt:  Do what you can,  with what you have,  where you are.

Lao Tzu : Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

George Santayana:  To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

Melodie Beattie : Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Jer29:11  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Marilyn Thomsen : And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…

And a couple of thoughts I have on the subject:

Michelle Johnson:  It is so much easier to accept who you are rather than to try and be who you are  not.

Michelle Johnson:  You will never be anything to anyone until you are something to yourself.

And because this is a photography blog I figured I had better include a photo.  I took up crocheting & knitting again a couple of weeks ago and have been buying yarn left and right.

Have I mentioned that I have a wee bit of an addictive personality?  I am loving yarn right now.  Can’t get enough of it.

Don’t forget to leave your favorite inspirational quote in the comments!

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Baby M

I got to photograph the beautiful Miss M today.  It took a little work to get her to sleep for us and she didn’t much like it when we tried to move her around so we tried to get some variety with fancy headwear. 🙂  Here is a little sneak peek for Mom–I can’t wait to edit the rest!

I also got to hang out with L while M was having a snack.  L loves Spiderman, cars, and his best friend is his big brother E.  He was also my assistant while we worked on some shots of M and Mom.  He has the cutest smile when he wrinkles up his nose.  Another piece of my heart was taken today….

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Baby R

I had the pleasure of meeting Baby R and his family today.  As soon as I saw his sweet face I fell in love with him.   I have to tell you, though, that his big brother B stole a little piece of my heart.   He is one of the most kind hearted, sweet kids I have ever met.  Shortly after I arrived he asked if I wanted to go for a walk with him after I was done taking pictures.  How could that not melt your heart?   I want to think the V family for allowing me into their home and their lives.  Here is a little sneak peek of Baby R.

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