Info

Posts tagged photography

by Tiffani Michele

Do you remember when you were 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and maybe even 8; and you played dress up, imaginary games, and acted with stuffed animals? Do you remember wanting to be 18 different things when you ‘grew up’, depending on your mood and/or what you learned about in school that particular day? Remember when you were just you, undefined by what you did/how much you earned/who your friends were/what other people thought of you? Remember being unselfconscious and able to make funny faces and do random shit as the mood struck?

Yeah, I don’t remember being like that either. But I know everyone has those moments in childhood mostly because I look at my own kids doing and being just like that, and I have pictures of me in various dress up clothes totally acting the part.

I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I know what I became: a student, then a wife, then an employee at various jobs I didn’t care about, then a mom, then a volunteer at assorted church/community positions. I became fulfilled in some of those roles and bored in others, but defined myself by all of them.

Now I’m in a no man’s land…not a wife. Not a churchgoer. Not a student. Not even a volunteer for anything anymore.

Where does that leave me?! Do I become something different when I’m not anything that I thought I was?

Do you? Have you ever reinvented yourself? Changed up your life in big and little ways? Decided to become something no one (including you) ever thought you’d be?

If you want to, you can easily shake up your life by doing one simple thing: just do the opposite of what you’d usually do. If you’d usually say yes to something, say no. Vice versa…say yes to other things if you’d usually say no. (Within reason, obviously!) It’s a bit like falling down the rabbit hole and experiencing vertigo on the cellular level.

I’m not who I thought I was. At first this was terrifying and paralyzing. A crisis in identity. And then, without the old constraints, I started becoming something more. Independent. Photographer. Traveler. Drinker. Dancer. Hooper. Writer. Entrepreneur. Lover. Hater. Saint. Sinner. I had a weird shift in awareness, understanding that my definition of myself is the only thing that defines who I am. If I get rid of the definition, then I don’t get rid of the “I”…I simply am “me.” And even better than that, I found that if I shift my definition of myself it likewise shifts how I perceive my place in the world.

Who am I? I’m nothing, and I’m everything.

And just who do you think you are?

What do I want to be today? It’s the same question, actually, that I probably asked myself when I was 3. And I probably answered it pretty simply then and in the same way I answer it now: “Whatever makes me blissfully happy.”

The bad news is that without a set definition of yourself, you’ll always be on the lookout for who you really are. Always searching. Always exploring. Always delving. The good news is that without a set definition of yourself, you’ll always be surprised at what you’ll find. Never a dull moment. Never a right or wrong way. And every moment can be shifted from being a way that isn’t working into being a way that does work.

And that’s how losing my identity has turned out to be the best thing for learning all about who *I* really am.

Advertisements

by Tiffani “Oh, look, a llama!” Michele

Because everyone knows I get paid for some of my photos, whenever I go away on vacation (like, to Peru!) people expect that I will return with National Geographic quality photographs of my trip. Here’s why that will never happen:

1) It takes a lot of work to capture the feeling of place! Usually done in the hours right before/after sunset and right before/after sunrise. These are known as the golden/blue hours of the day. Everything is awash in soft filtered yellow or amplified by a gorgeous blue after-sunset sky. But as a tourist, you know what I call these times? Happy hour and “sleeping off a hangover” hour. Drinking and photography rarely mix well, kids. Put down the camera and pick up the beer glass!

2) It takes work and time to scout the location to find the best angles to take the photos. Good lord, if I were trying to get good quality shots of Macchu Pichu I would probably get there and just watch the location change in the light for a few days in advance before deciding where to go and what time of day to get the perfect photos. But when I’m on vacation, the only things I’m scouting for are good gelato places and possible napping spots.

3) As a photographer it’s also important to have your camera at the ready and your eyes ready to spot anything worth noticing. But as an idle vacationer, it’s more important to have a nice cocktail at the ready and a good book to read.

Therefore, when National Geographic pays me to take pictures in exotic locations, I will come back with badass photos. Which would make it not vacation at all. So instead I’ll stick to my vacation modus operandi…eat well, drink often, and explore much!

I do take pictures while on vacation though. But it’s more about having an obsessive vision than it is about a sale-able image. And trust me, photographers are some of the most obsessive people around town. Some become obsessed with sun flare, others with reflections in windows, or old people on bikes. Sometimes you show up to a foreign place and become obsessed with things within the culture.

If you were to look at my pictures of Peru, you’d see a lot of pigeons, llamas, alpacas, dogs, and policemen. Not a lot of grand sweeping landscapes or even photos of the most memorable spots in the country. Nope.

Pigeons were everywhere in Lima, and for some reason I took pictures of them. Lots and lots of pictures. Like, more pictures of pigeons than anything else in the beautiful city. I can’t explain it, it just happened!

Llama, oh llama. (And alternately, alpaca, oh alpaca. Which looks like a llama with a bad hair day.) You are gawky, ill formed, and crazy looking. You are graceless and a little spastic. You have large expressive eyes and long long eyelashes. You have bewitched me with your direct gaze and your long ass giraffe neck on a furry mule shaped body. If I am ever feeling cranky, I just look at the pictures of you and all is right in the world.

I seem to recall an animated movie that came out in the 80’s, called “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. My younger brother and sisters watched it on VHS all the freaking time. I was a surly junior or senior by then, so I never watched it with them. I remember it was about a pack of dogs trying to survive in NYC (?? maybe?). Peru reminds me of this. There are so many free range dogs, it’s like the world is a kennel and we’re just renting space. I became obsessed with the dogs I saw. What were their stories? Who was in their pack? Were they happy? They looked pretty content. In fact, I like to think that my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP little lady) magically transported there and is still prancing around with lots of other dog friends.

Finally, I have lots and lots of police photos. They were so…present…everywhere. Guns, riot shields, stern looks. It freaked me out. Everything was calm and cool, so I guess they were strictly preventative. I also found them highly photogenic.

What do you love to take pictures of? Like, obsessive love. As in, you can’t pass by a window reflection without stopping to take the shot?

by Tiffani “Endless Summer” Michele

Dear internet,

My kids went to Alaska with their Dad on their summer vacation. While they were gone, I went on mine: Peru for two weeks. I met some new people. I drank some new drinks. I saw lots of new things. I guess it was OK.

The End.

And by that, what I mean to say is:

Dear Internet,

I went to PERU for two fucking weeks!!!!!!! 14 days of magic!!!!!! 14 days of pure bliss. 14 days of immersion in a language I don’t speak and a culture I don’t understand. It was like a dream come true, only better, because in a dream come true it always ends up being too real. But this, it was like a dream come true if you were dreaming of a dream come true. 14 days of listening, watching, learning, (sometimes) crying, laughing, dancing, eating, hooping, drinking, picture taking, and just being.

I realized a lot about myself, which is always the best part of any good voyage.

I realized that my heart beats in time to the sound of a city buzzing with activity. In order: Arequipa, Lima, and Cusco.

I realized that normal activity to one person could be a completely foreign and interesting activity to someone else. I loved watching Peruvians go about their daily lives, and I formed a deep respect for their hard working, baby wearing, brightly clothed, smiling ways. I didn’t meet a Peruvian I didn’t like. Not to say they aren’t out there, but I had the good fortune to run with some pretty awesome people and watch the quiet rhythms of daily routines.

I learned that not everyone has the same uptight high levels of safety that I’ve been brought up with. For instance, refrigeration? Apparently not as necessary as I thought (as long as you don’t mind going without milk and ice).

“I’d like a pork sandwich please!” “OK, let me pull back this blanket and scoop some meat from the bone!”

Most badass schoolbus ever? This truck in the Andes. It’s safe. It has a rollbar!

I learned that while there may be no more new frontier for mankind on this earth in general, there is plenty of new territory for me to explore. And sometimes in doing the exploring, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, humility, and awesome.

I give you Machu Picchu–the reason for my trip and the absolute highlight.

I realized that I could never ever actually capture the sense of place that I felt there in a picture, but it didn’t keep me from trying. I ate things I never thought I’d eat (alpaca) and had drinks that completed me (pisco sour). I fell to the depths of loneliness, as one does when one is traveling alone, and then popped back out the other side into the arms of the traveling community…in which you are truly alone only if you want to be.

I soaked in lots of affirmation and love, because one thing that latin american men are not shy of is expressing lots of strong feelings that I’m unaccustomed to hearing. Of course, I didn’t buy into it. Obviously not, seeing as I base my self worth on my own identity and not on what other people say about me *cough* I’m trying *cough* but the fervor and tone is hard to ignore. After watching me hoop around to music out of my headphones, an entire group of Brazilian men in the hostel I was staying at pledged their undying love. Which is ridiculous, you can’t love someone after watching them for 5 minutes. But they believed it. And they defended their love so vigorously I let go of my American skepticism and agreed that yes, they could carry on with all that undying and unrequited love business.

But my heart? It belonged to the llamas y alpacas. More than the fiery passion of latin american men, these creatures stirred in me an inner confidence. They are so completely themselves…awkwardness and silliness and all…I couldn’t stop watching them. They trip along rocks. Careen down paths. Wander willy nilly up and down. They chew funny. Make priceless expressions of awkwardness. Who among us is more silly and awkward than me? And who is more regretful of this than I am? No one but me. But watching these animals (that I’d never seen up close in person) owning their shit was really empowering. If I can love them for their strangeness, then perhaps someone can love me for mine. In fact, maybe that someone can be me. I’m thinking that if you love llama, you’d love me by extension.

I fell in love with Peru. I fell in love with new tastes, sounds, sensations. I fell in love with life.

And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.

How has your summer been? Did you travel anywhere? Do anything new? See anything with fresh eyes? Do tell!