I met Brandi after she messaged me on Instagram last summer. She had taken a class at Shoreline Community College with my daughter who told Brandi that I was a portrait photographer. So Brandi found my Instagram account and took the leap to message me, offering her services as a newbie makeup artist. I admired her initiative. Plus she had messaged me at the perfect time- I was searching for a makeup artist who was willing to work for trade for a river shoot I was planning (see past blog about the river shoot). Brandi is beautiful, inside and out and eight months later, I offered to do a shoot of her in the woods. She and her husband are moving soon to Nevada. Now, with these pictures, she has the evidence that she truly was a Pacific Northwest girl. 😉
I met Brooke through Facebook, after she put out an ad for a photographer to help her with a unique “Aphrodite” shoot. A complete stranger to me, Brooke had recently moved across the country. She was new to the Seattle area, knowing no one here except for her husband, and was searching for a way to embrace her new life. She chose me from among about 30 or so photographers who responded to her Facebook ad, mostly because she felt an immediate connection between the two of us, as did I.
Upon first meeting Brooke for our pre-shoot consult, I saw a lovely vibrant young woman.
I was surprised to discover that she was not always this way, and had a more difficult past that she was currently climbing out of and recovering from.
She told a story of an illness that sent her to bed sick for nearly two years of her young adult life. Not just mildly ill, but bed ridden and housebound, she tried to make sense of her mystery illness that no doctor could seem to cure or diagnose. When Western medicine failed to help her, Brooke turned to Eastern medicine and nutrition to experiment with new ways of healing her body. Nothing worked.
Brooke eventually came to understand that her illness was more than just physical, but was a sickness of the soul. She had just quit a high stress corporate job in South Carolina and at the same time came to the understanding that she had not been true to herself for years. She had to undergo the difficult process of releasing an oppressive past of a Christian fundamentalist’s upbringing, which was full of criticism and disrespect of the feminine nature. A fish out of water in her family, Brooke was steeped in rhetoric that defined how woman should behave in society- in relationships and at work.. It was a definition which conflicted with how Brooke defined herself. After undergoing this revelation, Brooke began to heal, both physically and emotionally.
With a chance to start over in Seattle, she disconnected from her family’s disapproval and now lives her life on her terms, in pursuit of an understanding of her newly awakened feminist tendencies. I see her strength of character growing, even in the few short months that we’ve formed a friendship. She is proud of her femininity and now celebrates it.
Brooke is bravely bringing to light the power and beauty of the sacred feminine that exists even within our patriarchal society.
While she shares her journey with some, she does not feel obliged to explain herself to others from her past. Instead Brooke focuses on the present and future and what it holds for her new life here in Seattle. Increasingly secure in her new path, she feels drawn towards modeling, ballet, and volunteer work helping a nonprofit that supports women’s and LGBTQ rights. While still searching for her place in the realm of the divine feminine, she is becoming more aware of her path and now defines herself as a writer, poet and spiritual seeker.
In her shoot, Brooke poses as an Aphrodite in the beautiful nature of the Pacific Northwest woods. She is at home here, healthy and thriving once again. Her journey continues to move forward as she strives to grow her definition and understanding of the sacred feminine in herself and her world.
At my in-law’s cabin in Baring, WA, I stood at the edge of the Skykomish river one evening earlier this summer, listening to the breeze flutter through the bushes and trees, and quietly watching the river stream by.
Green and luminescent, the river whispered gently on this stretch, providing me with a meditative feeling of calm; of restoration and a sense of awe that seeped into my very soul. Despite its gentle beauty, the power of this water- to stubbornly carve out its own path heedless of our human desires, to barrel over rocks and roots – was to be solemnly respected and even feared in some places. The river could be friendly and gentle then change its mind and become a turbulent and angry force to be reckoned with.
Either way, the river was here before us with an ancient spirit running persistently through these Pacific Northwestern forested lands and through the surrounding towns and cities. I felt drawn to its beauty.
The nature of the Pacific Northwest has a presence that peaks the imagination and does not suffer thoughts of the mundane. This summer I discovered that I wanted to create a story, recorded through the lens of my camera.
Some time later, while on a recent beach vacation, I contemplated this idea of a river shoot. I wanted the concept of the shoot to show a young woman taking a summer’s day to journey and enjoy the green sensual waters by herself. She climbs the rocks, explores along the river’s band and bathes in the river floating like the Goddess that she is.
As I pondered my story one day while on vacation, my Instagram notification went off. It was a message from Gregory Elgee, a guy who had previously rented out my studio and who, like me, was an alumni of the UW photography program albeit in a different year. Commenting on my last Instagram post, Gregory mentioned that he’d love to collaborate with me sometime. I responded “actually, I’m thinking of a river shoot soon…”.
A day or two later, another Instagram notification came through- a young makeup artist named Brandi Anne Troth had messaged me. She wrote that she knew my daughter from a college class they shared and that she followed my work on Instagram with interest. If I ever had need of a makeup artist, she said, she’d love to collaborate with me on a shoot. The timing was too serendipitous and I admired Brandi for boldly reaching out to me, so I asked her to join us on the shoot.
Next, I contacted Adrianne Keogh, our potential model. A beautiful and talented young woman, I’d done previous shoots of her plus have known her and her mother since Adrienne was an infant. She had the perfect look for this project. She replied “yes” with enthusiasm.
Finally, my daughter, Sarah joined us. She’s my rock, my adviser and the person with whom I often brainstorm and try out shoot ideas. She would act as my assistant on the river.
As if by magic, the river shoot team had materialized.
So, early on a hazy Wednesday morning, we meet up at my studio for shoot prep., hair, makeup and wardrobe decisions. We head on up Highway 2, which follows the Skykomish river closely. We hit the road with two cars, all excitement and chatter. Our first stop was in Sultan, at a park under a bridge. Here is the sign we found:Our model Adrienne pipes up from the back seat “um…no way”, we all laugh and move along to discover another, safer, river location.
Back on highway 2, I spot a sign- “River Access”. There! We do a u-turn and drive into the parking lot to check it out. Walking through the trees, we see that the river here was slow moving and nearly empty of people– perfect for our shoot! Adrienne starts to get comfortable with her natural surroundings.
There was even a view of an active train trestle from our location on the river, adding a bit of interest to the images. Trains rumble on by as we play in the water below.At first, I have Adrienne move gently into the river, touching the water and turning here and there. She slowly introduces herself to the river’s waters.Then we help Adrienne submerge and float in the cool water. The water feels good on this hot day as I wade in to get closer to my subject.Behind the scenes, Brandi helps adjust Adrienne in the water, applies more makeup during a break from shooting, and Sarah holds my reflector up to help bounce the soft light while I took pictures.
Meanwhile, Gregory had scurried ahead, over the rocks, scouting out the area for more locations to shoot. He comes back with good news of an old train trestle that had an “epic” look. We all climb over the river rocks and boulders precariously to see what he meant. It was indeed a majestic scene.
Once there, I take more pictures as Adrienne gracefully makes her way over the rocks and thru the shallow river to be near the structure.
The location now exhausted, we return to Highway 2 and follow it up to my in-law’s sweet little cabin set directly upon the river in Baring. We reach the cabin at the time when the light sings- the Golden hour preceding sunset. Working quickly, we use the natural surroundings to emphasize Adrienne’s beauty, then head down to the river to capture the light there.
Adrienne lingers near near the cabin, then walks down to the river’s edge in her journey, exploring her surrounding for a bit as the light falls perfectly upon her.
We change her outfit again at the cabin and she once again descends the stairs to the river as a Goddess, glowing in a long white dress.
The river has many years ago formed a calm little round pool, with rock cairns on either side. We place Adrienne in this perfect pool, where she reclines gracefully.
Satisfied with our time shooting on the river, the beauty of the smokey wildfire stricken day comes to a close with a feeling of the tired excitement of accomplishment. It was a good day and we all traveled back to my studio, talking and reliving the shoot during the ride home.
This is the story of a young beauty, of vulnerability, of a delicate, yet strong soul. Her name is Sarah and she’s my 20 year old daughter.
Behind the scenes, Sarah holds many roles. Among other things, she’s a daughter, a sister, a friend, a talented college student of voice and piano, a teacher, a model, and a most trusty photo assistant to myself and others. I often ask her “what will I do when you move away and can no longer be my number one assistant?” She replies, “I’ll make the time to help you out”.
She’s of such value to me, both in my work and in my heart. Wise beyond her years, she offers an empathetic ear to many, myself included.
Like many her age, she’s suffered from anxiety over the years, vulnerable to today’s challenging societal elements. This anxiety has only served to further strengthen her as she’s worked hard to accept those feelings and work through them on a daily basis.
While still journeying through such feelings, she’s come to a point of understanding with her very soul that this is part of what makes her who she is now.
She’s obviously been blessed with a physical beauty (good genes? Haha)
and an inner beauty that goes deep.
The woods that she stands among in these pictures match her very nature: calm, quiet and stoic at first glance, with lots going on underneath the soil and in the busy-ness in the undergrowth. I continue to watch her journey through the ups and downs that life brings, and am ever grateful for her role in our lives, for the love she brings to our hearts.