It might be winter wonder (hell) land today but it is still Fall and I will be stubborn and associate Autumn with golden colours and fun in the leaves – not with white snow up to above my knees, my car stuck in the cul-de-sac and the glacier I’m starting to build on the side of my driveway from the shoveling.
I love photographing people much more than I love photographing landscapes. Yet I’m a fervent admirer of Nature’s work. There are things that feel bigger than Life. Skies are one of my favorite. The universe is bigger than your mind can comprehend; you can look at the same moon as a child who should be sleeping 5000 miles away; I saw this summer a rainbow on a bright pink evening sky that was so beautiful I could barely suppress tears; sunset and sunrise are magical – even when I think of Maxwell’s equations (science does not kill poetry); stars, well stars still do something to me I can’t quite describe even if I stopped wanting being an astrophysicist when I was 10.
The Rockies… I’ve heard quite a few new expats from France say “We have mountains too, what’s the big deal?” and then they take the road to Jasper and say “Ok, you were right, that was breathtaking…”. It is. Most of the time when we go there, I think there’s not much point in taking a camera with me anyway. I’d rather live my life through my eyes than through a lens always. Plus to take a really good landscape (not the cheesy postcards kind), it is all about the light (when is it not?). Realistically you need to sleep in your car stuck between your tripod and your gear bag and wake up at 4am like my friend Jeff Cruz did last month… Given my life, that’s not likely to happen (plus even if I didn’t have kids etc, I love to sleep – 4am, really?…). So I usually don’t bother. But now that I have one of those tiny fuji X-series toy-on-steroids that fits in the palm of my hand (and a spare lens that fits in my jacket’s pocket), I took it with me on a small trip we took to Lake Louise last week. We did a 13km hike in the snow and ice with one enthusiastic child and one very grumpy one… The sky was totally overcast for 95% of the walk, not very good, very boring light. But I took a few photographs as we went along, handheld, just for me. I also thought of Jeff and how he creates absolutely gorgeous abstract landscapes. So I thought I’d see if I could do experiment with that in my personal style with my own sauce even if I got boring light… Feeling less constrained by what’s expected…
The photograph below is the one everyone takes of Lake Louise. The rest of the photographs range from rather “classical” landscape to something I hope feels at least a little “different” (I hope you get that from the photo above…)!
When you are asked by your friend to take multi generational family portraits at a time that has real significance in their lives, you feel honored. When the friend is an amazing photographer herself, you feel the pressure – always!…
We were done and packing up but I couldn’t resist taking a few portraits of her alone. I don’t know why, it might be weird to say, but to me she looked as beautiful an Elf from a Tolkien book or something. It was raining a bit – less than 10 minutes later it was pouring down. But we had fun – and I love those.
a bit quite mad when I first wrote this post. Please note that I am from France… I don’t know if it is the Latin blood or just a cultural thing but French people are notorious for being incessant loud complainers with very short patience fuses – think about it, the guillotine was invented so we could expedite cutting off all the heads of those that had pissed us off… Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go all crazy when I’m mad, I don’t scream at the top of my voice while dishing out insults or throwing dishes (I save that for friendly discussions about politics. Just kidding). But I have a bit of an on-off switch. I’m usually perfectly good with everything, including the very different opinion that you might have (I agree to disagree); but I can go from 0 to 100 in 2 seconds flat (yup, I’m better than a sports car in that way too!) – straight to full on pissed off mode. On the positive side, I get really quickly back to normal once I made it clear I was upset, and I don’t hold grudges. I have been told I have a “very direct mode of communication” – well, that’s a very sweet way to say it, thank you… So anyway, I was mad and to exorcise it I wrote. If I sound too abrasive, it’s probably because I was in explosive mode – so mentally tone it down a notch for me if necessary, will you?
Oh, and I know this is a photography blog so there, a few photos I took of my girls looking mad. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments box or to tell me what pisses you off today – then we can turn this blog into a soap box and take turns
So I would like to say this. I believe that everything does NOT always happen for a reason. And I’d like to make a plea for us to stop saying that. I’ve used that sentence in the past so I know we say it to comfort people and to comfort ourselves. I know it’s said with love. Something really bad is happening and so we think “everything happens for a reason”, as if it will make it more bearable to think that in the future, we might find a justification for the madness of the present. And we believe it, we really do!! We want to believe it. Well, I’ve come to realise that it’s major self-delusion if you ask me. Well meant, best of intentions and all – but still, BS. Pardon my French. A way to help us cope; to make up for not managing to make sense of something that actually never could make sense; a way to excuse ourselves from being unable to say anything else that might be of comfort. There before us stands someone in the eye of the cyclone that their life suddenly has become: “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY???????” – everything happens for a reason… NO!!!
Before you all get mad at me and argue fiercely against this, let me say that I suspect there is an issue of Language and mistaken causality here and that you and I, in fact, probably very much agree – I will explain in a second so stick with me. But first, consider this:
“Everything happens for a reason” does not help the couple that has been trying for years to have a baby. The girl is “the problem”, she never really cared since she found out in a white room at 22 as she had decided at 16 she would adopt anyway; she hadn’t anticipated she’d marry a boy who was scared of adoption. When you shoot yourself up with hormones daily, have blood tests every other day that ruin your veins so bad you wear long sleeves T-shirts in the summer so that people don’t mistake you for a junkie, when you have to undergo medical procedures that make your husband cry because he can’t bear to watch you go through the pain over and over again, you don’t want to hear “Everything happens for a reason” – trust me. Sometimes couples get lucky and it works but their child is NOT the reason – their child is the consequence. And what about the couple that never gets that lucky? It is unfair and it makes no sense but I sure as hell can not think of a “reason” for which they are deprived of something that their heart so desired and of which they would have been so worthy.
Do you see yourself say “Everything happens for a reason” to the new parents who find out their baby is born with a condition/handicap so severe that they will never be able for instance to reach an autonomous adulthood? A friend of mine dated this guy who did. He believed “God had made those children” so that they could remind HIM to appreciate how healthy and “perfect” his own children were. WHAT??!! I don’t even really want to go into how incredibly self-centered that statement is. Now, will the parents of that child know the same joy as any other parents would, as well as a whole other range of experiences that will enrich and possibly bring even more good tot their lives next to the hardship? I have no doubt – but it’s not the reason! Again, it’s the consequence… Btw may I state on the record I am kind of glad my friend broke it off with that guy since then, because can you imagine he and I sitting at dinner some day soon having a friendly discussion about politics (see above reference)?
When I heard Oprah say about the Sandy Hook tragedy that it happened for a reason and that the reason for the death of those 20 little angels as she called them was so that there would be a dialogue about gun control, I couldn’t help but think, you’re kidding me, right? Gun control talk = Yes! But I really doubt the families suffered any less reflecting on that or agreed with her for that matter… I’m guessing “Everything happens for a reason” isn’t really going to comfort the man who just lost his wife of 40 years either. Or my friend’s neighbor who woke up two weeks ago next to her dead 30-something years old husband who passed in his sleep, with 3 young kids in the other room. Or the wonderful family I know that I just saw last Friday whose precious daughter took her own life this summer. Because nothing like that happens for a reason.
Now if you believe in a God that has your fate in its control, if you believe Destiny is pre-established before you’re even born – well, clearly you will think I’m seriously misguided and we will just have to agree to disagree. If you think we do have choice and control of our actions and lives, then I know that still quite a few people will say – but things really do happen for a reason because bad stuff often leads to something really amazing that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. And you’re right!!! But it’s the causality that is wrong here. Our brains often mistake causes and consequences, or even harder to distinguish, correlation and causality (you know the story of “the more ice creams are sold in Chicago, the more murders are committed”, right?… If you don’t, google is your friend). Let me try to give you an example here because I know that some of my closest friends will give me hell for this post if I don’t manage to get my point across properly to them.
You’re walking in the street with a brand new silk shirt. It starts raining (that’s the bad thing). Let’s look at 2 scenarios:
1) You forgot your umbrella. The sudden thunderstorm drenches your outfit in seconds and we all know silk does not like water. You look within seconds like a wet rat, you break a heel and fall trying to run for cover and feel pathetic. Suddenly this hot guy runs to your rescue, helps you out, offers his umbrella and coat. Fast forward 3 years, you’re married to your dream man. Everything happens for a reason (if it hadn’t rained and you hadn’t forgotten your umbrella, you would have never met him!!!!).
2) You thought of bringing your umbrella. You silk shirt is safe. Two years later you go out to a dinner party and sit next to your friend’s cousin who just moved to town. He’s really funny. Fast forward 3 years, you’re married to your dream man. Everything happens for a reason (if it hadn’t rained and you hadn’t thought of bringing your umbrella you would have never met him!!!! – cause you would have met the other guy…).
There is always something good that will follow any (bad) situation in life. Meeting the hot guy isn’t the reason that it started to rain. It didn’t start to rain for a reason. Meeting the hot guy is the consequence of it starting to rain and you having your umbrella with you or not.
Maybe we’re just slightly off the mark here, maybe what we all mean to say is something like ”something good can follow something bad”, better yet “there’s a lesson to be learned from everything” – now, I’m much more down with that. I do believe you can learn something from (almost?) any experience in life, even and maybe particularly so from the painful ones; even if it sometimes takes a huge amount of time; even if sometimes you think, HEY, I could have learned that in a much less painful way, thank you very much. I’m sorry if it feels like I’m being picky with words – but language makes a big difference to how people perceive what you’re trying to say to them. It can be incredibly painful to hear certain things despite the best of intentions.
There were moments I didn’t really know what to say last Friday. Kind of, but I tripped on my own words, on my own thoughts… I wish I could have been more eloquent. Maybe this above expresses better what I had in my head. Maybe. Not so sure. There are times where you just know no regular conversation, no small talk, no cliche nor deep carefully though-out philosophical statements will do. What do you say to the mother who lost her child a few months ago? “How are you doing?” ?… I did (I know), immediately followed up by “Wow, well, that was probably the dumbest question ever, sorry”. She said “Yes it kind of is”… But she also said “That’s ok, we could use some laughter”. Sometimes there is nothing easy to say so we are out of our comfort zone or we don’t dare; we are afraid of trying; we give up. We say nothing. You know what, I might be wrong, but I still think we should try – failure is better than absence. If nothing easy comes to mind, how about any of these to say you’re just unsure of how to be, if you mean it of course: I can’t possibly know how much pain you are in. I’m in pain too. I’m here for you when you need me. I’m here for you whichever way you need me. I don’t know what to say but I don’t want you to think it’s because I don’t really care. I don’t know what to say, I feel so uncomfortable but I do care. I don’t know what to say. I love you. Or maybe you don’t say anything, you just show that you are there. To me, that kind of honesty is more meaningful than anything, it’s more meaningful than “everything happens for a reason”.
“Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY???????” – I don’t know.
I am writing this very late at night (huh, wait, it’s early morning officially) and drafting a blog post about a couple you are just starting to get to know, well it can be funny sometimes. What do I say so that it is meaningful and you understand how much I love those two already and why, even though I’ve just met them for the first time a few months ago. I could tell you she’s a nurse and he counsels Youths with serious addictions. That would probably already say something about their caring compassionate nature. I could tell you that they started dating when they were 15 & 16. 10 years later and they’re engaged. I find it amazing that you can find someone you love at such a young age and manage to grow together – I mean, one changes a LOT between the ages of 16 and 26, right? So how wonderful is it that they went in the same “direction”?! I could tell you they’re having a summer wedding at Spruce Meadows, you’ll probably guess they have great taste! I could tell you Madison has an Italian mom – that could explain why she’s so enthusiastic and demonstrative (I wonder if we talk a lot with our hands, without realising it, she Italian and I French, that could be interesting…) I could tell you he lived in the Netherlands while I was there as well, in the same city, at the same time, except he was in middle school and I was out of university but ok, that wouldn’t tell you much I guess, but I liked talking about Holland with him nevertheless
I could tell you that Madison asked to see the full slideshow 3 times during the viewing tonight (on top of going through them all several times to select the photographs for their engagement album) and that every time she had teary eyes, while Jared was just beaming with the biggest of smiles – but that would just tell ME how truly lucky I am to do what I do. How many people get to make others happy (just for a bit but still…) on a daily occurence?! I am so incredibly fortunate – and particularly grateful that those two have chosen to trust me to photograph their wedding.
I could tell you all of that, but I’d much rather show you photographs!
(and yes, they are incredibly good looking in black & white as well so I’m posting a lot of those instead of colour… Don’t ask me why… They just do)
And if you want to see more, here’s a slideshow!
This week-end is Canadian Thanksgiving and everyone eats turkey with their families. Being French/British/Dutch-ish with no family in the country we don’t celebrate though we sure appreciate the long week-end – and it’s real quiet on mountain trails then… I do like the idea of “thanks giving” a lot though. I have a lot to be thankful for – and even when life throws a sucker punch or two, I like to think I still manage to stay optimistic and grateful overall (all the while catching my breath and possibly swearing like a drunk sailor for a bit). I’m thankful for my family, of course, here and back home and I hope I tell them often enough. I’m thankful for a lot of “circumstances” and “opportunities” and “things” I have but you know, I’m most thankful for the people in my life – and maybe because this year I particularly appreciated and called on friends, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the meaningful friendships that have influenced my life to date. And so in pretty much random order, knowing that some of you are in there more than once (great friends bring good to your life in more than one way!), here is my gratitude list.
Thank you to the friend I can tell anything and everything to. Thanks for being there for me and for always being supportive yet having the courage to call me on my BS on the (few? ahum…) occasions it’s needed, for having my best interest at heart without being blind. Thanks for holding me accountable. And thank you for never judging me nor the skeletons in my emotional closet – and trusting me in the same way with yours.
Thank you to my most creative nutty nut friend who is my occasional partner in crime, in Art and Life. There’s no-one in the world that I would rather bounce crazy ideas with – you’re simply the best. I love every journey I take with you.
Thanks to all my friends from University. For making me finally feel like this is where I was meant to be, where I totally belonged. For making me the kind of person that says being a student is for sure one of the best times of your life (I used to think only old people said that, oh wait, that’s me now!). When else do you get to be with your friends all day, learn exciting new things every week, be with your friends again at night and have not many worries – nor any responsibilities, other than maybe the university teaching assistant job you have to take as a 3rd year student to pay for your monthly rent (real fun job btw – I loved it, plus it entitled me to a desk in an office in the basement – hey I’m a simple girl and that was luxury…)?
Thank you to the to the friend I spoke with this summer sur les quais. If anything, that 6 hours long conversation and our chats since then have taught me that the universe has a real funny way of reconnecting people at specific times of their lives.
Thanks to the SGS friends who followed me every day around 3pm for our “Coca-cola light break” (even if we never saw that hunky guy from the commercial in the atrium- though clearly I would have been the only to care…) for the Friday evenings at the Halve-Maan, where you always did me the favor of treating me as one of the guys, the record you kept of my subtle mistakes in English at the time which for whatever mysterious reason always seemed to have really inappropriate adult rated connotations, the poker evenings where we laughed so much you’d all be in hysterics watching me get rid of my resulting hick-ups (don’t even deny it – it worked EVERY TIME even if it did look ridiculous…), sometimes talking about ducks (42.5cm!) which earned me a plastic yellow one for my birthday that still is somewhere in my bathroom – thanks for the memories; those were truly some of the funniest years of my life. And when I left and crossed over to the Dark Side (let me see if I can still upset you: geophysics, geology, it’s all the same, right?? Hey, geologists can’t map their way out of a paper bag either!…), thanks to the few new friends I made in AGI – you guys did a great job taking over and those were some pretty big shoes to fill…
Thanks to the friends who across the years have unknowingly helped me change my life. You, whom I met for a week at the faculty of Psychology in Oxford, second week of September ’98, those last 2 hours of intense conversation in the car on the way to the airport made such a profound impact on me, I changed on the inside that day. Or maybe I finally simply aligned the outside to the inside. In any case I got home that evening and 30 minutes later my life was drastically different. I don’t actually remember your name but I’m forever grateful. And You who told me, while battling those tagliatelle you were cooking, or at the restaurant before that obscure artsy French movie we were the only ones to want to see, or walking back from the Opera together, how you were going to go for your dream regardless of everyone else’s expectations and regardless of the risks – and of the fear… I got your postcard (I love when people remember I love getting postcards!). It took me a few more years than you to walk away. You don’t know it but you showed me there was a way; actually you showed me there was more than one way. I googled you the other day, you really did well – I’m impressed – but not surprised. And You whom I talked with this summer. Part of our conversation made me feel like someone shook around my snow globe or something, my god, how a handful of questions can make a big difference – good questions that needed to be asked and need to be answered!! I wasn’t sure at the time whether I should kiss you or curse you; now I know something has been set in motion. I’m working on making some stuff better, which you already know, but I also am considering two other ideas I doubt you would guess could have come out of our conversation. I have no clue if and how any of it is going to turn out but I will let you know all about it when I do!
Thank you to the two photographer friends that I can talk with about business in total utter honesty. We appreciate and build on one another without ever feeling like we are competitors (even if on paper we are) and without ever stabbing each other in the back (except for that one time where I got to hug a storm trooper and we actually do have photographic evidence of one of you “pretending” to stab me – maybe we need to talk about that another day…)
Thank you to the friend I have dinner with every 2 or 3 months or so – and not just for allowing me to make fun of you for being unable to read the menu! 15 years ago we used to go for regular walks at lunch time in Rijswijk - now we’re in Calgary together again and it’s cool to see how we both are different but still managed to change in similar ways. Plus we can drive the waitresses crazy with how slow we are – hey, we’re not there for the food but for each other’s company!
Thanks to the 5 girls that redefined friendship for me back in the Netherlands. It had been about a decade and a half that I pretty much only had guy friends to just half a handful of great exceptions – girls can be SOOO complicated… – and you changed that. You introduced me to multiple girl-friendships; I didn’t know it could run that deep that easily (plus girls night was hilarious). Thanks to you I also didn’t put my camera down one day. You’re part of the reasons I’m here today.
Thanks to the friends I see at school drop-off or pick-up every day who remind me that we all have lives that are both enriched AND messed up by our kids
Thank you to the friend who comes with me to most weddings as my second shooter and gets bossed around and has to do weird stuff like lift that diffuser above her head even when it’s so windy I’m afraid she might take off – thanks for putting up with me when I am the employer/slave driver holding the camera – and thanks ever so much more for still being my friend after I put it down. Actually, thanks to all my second shooters for putting up with me (don’t tell me it’s because I pay you!).
Thank you to my clients – you are the best. I don’t know how you do it but I always feel like I’m just hanging out with friends when I’m with you. You’re really awesome!
Thanks to the friends that were on my birthing class in Den Haag for going through the whole “I hope I manage to keep her alive” thing together once our babies were born. Now you’re all over the world, New York, New Castle, New Zealand, Indonesia – but it still is really funny to see us all post on facebook at the same time about our kids birthdays… as we all managed to keep them alive and this month they are all turning 10!
Thanks to the friends who share memories of Keulen & silly Christmas hats, streetlights at 4am on the Suezkade, Guinness and Cider at the Firkin, wooden statuettes and drinking pants… It’s real good to have stories you’d be too embarrassed to share with most people!…
Thank you to the friend I was on the phone with when I heard my dad had cancer. You had just lost your mom the month before to the disease. You offered to say a prayer for me and for him, even though you knew it’s not my thing, really. But what you then said that day was unlike anything I had ever heard before and it was an absolute gift and it will stay with me forever. And thank you for last week.
Thanks to the friend who has lunch with me once in a while and talks to me about her love of fractals, Art, neuro-economics, literature, game theory, Love… I love our talks, even if sometimes my brain feels like it might explode – cause that’s the fun part!
Thank you to the friend that showed me how Bosch and PVC could be combined in the most beautiful wonderful way.
Thank you to the friend whom I told about my new big scary “project” for January, for not telling me “Say what?? You’re going to do WHAT????” as I thought one might (and some will) but for saying instead “I think you can do it – I can totally see you being great at that. If this is what you want – do what makes you happy”. Meanwhile I still think I might be insane… But it wouldn’t be the first time that I follow my crazy ideas and bite more than I can chew – walking the tight rope in life does keep it interesting and at least I know you got my back.
Thanks to the friend who helped me little by little transition from student life into adulthood. You weren’t always as chirpy as I was about life but since you were about the age I am today I can see your points better now . You helped me grow up. Oh, and you made me go “topless in Oman” when I visited you in Muscat a few years later, that was very cool too (and for others that read that, maybe I should specify it means taking your Z3 for a spin with the soft top down…)!
Thanks to all the friends I made in crazy hippie Asheville, NC, 8 months ago, who have made me feel like part of a community or something like that. We all shared the same yearning of being more authentic as artists and that made our bond special. A special thought for two of you who at 1am in a hotel corridor introduced me to Sally Mann, Joyce Tenneson, Sarah Moon… as other examples of women photographers that loved photographing women and femininity – at the time I feared I was being assimilated by the current industry’s “collective”, and you showed me that resistance wasn’t futile!
Thanks to my FB friends, especially the ones that sometimes message me or tell me to wear a sumo suit or want to wrap me in a bubble when I hurt myself (again) or who offer to virtually eat nutella with a spoon to make me feel better by association when my website got hijacked, who share with me their Swiss meringue recipe, who recommend Dunbar, Deacon & Miller or who share something meaningful of their lives… I’m a people person and I love face to face, or voice to voice interaction best, but facebook friends can be real friends too!
Thanks to the girlfriend that always knows the right text message to send me at exactly the right time, including that one bizarre occurrence where “Btw, just wanted you to know, I noticed today, you’ve got a fantastic ass” actually didn’t feel out of place!!! You Weirdo! I love you too
Thank you to the handful of friends whose shoulder I have cried on over the years and thank you to the friends who have trusted me enough to cry on mine.
And so how do I end this? I noticed lately how I love to use quotes which worries me a little – cause it’s like, can’t I think of something smart to say myself?! There is an over-affluence of disposable sayings on social media nowadays for sure. On the other hand a lot of smart people have said very clever things in the past and it saves me reinventing the wheel As I wrote this whole post and I thought of all those friends whose paths I’ve crossed I thought recurrently of two people. The first one is my grand-ma because when she talks of someone really special to her heart, like my daughters, she refers to them as her “petits rayons de soleil” – and so I want to simply say thank you to you who are my little rays of sunshine. And I also thought of Christopher McCandless. “Into the wild” is one of my favorite movies/real stories because I have such reverence for that young guy (and the landscapes are awesome). He was braver than I will ever be. He asked all the right questions and he actually dared to look for real answers- and he looked for them in pretty darn good places. And at the end of his journey, he writes this
“HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” (Christopher McCandless/Alexander Supertramp)
And that, my friend, I believe is rather often true.
Having children is the ultimate challenge in one’s life I think (I don’t mean the delivery part though that can be quite something). Everybody tells you how much you’re going to love your babies but no-one can prepare you for how much you are going to love them indeed. And at the same time, kids can drive you absolutely insane. And usually the birth of a sibling is the perfect time for the older child (especially if he’s only just 2.5) to maybe try to see how great you truly are at practicing patience
I can’t think of a better Mum to take on that challenge though. You might remember her from their maternity shoot here, in which case you will already know all the wonderful things I have to say about her. Cash is one lucky little boy… And yes that’s quite a cool name but what do you expect when your older brother is named Jett? Surely not “Simon” I’d say.
Here are a few photographs I’d love to share of this little one and his family.
There are always a few things that will stand out for each wedding I’ve ever photographed. I have seen Shauna and Andrew from time to time since the wedding, had lunch, chatted on facebook etc. and next week I hope to see baby Jaxon for the first time! So maybe I have a bit of a bias when I fondly remember their wedding day cause I like them so much
First of all, when a bride picks the tune of Jaws as her processional music, she automatically becomes one of the coolest people EVER. When her groom cries during the slideshow at dinner, you gotta love him too (those damned allergies again!). They had such a beautiful day, I remember how happy their daughter Mackenzie was, how joyful and tearful both Moms were, the fun time getting ready where everyone was dancing, how Andrew had practiced his lift for the first dance (I don’t remember however if it was meant to be like Dirty Dancing or if it was in relation to his Schwarzie-mania), how Andrew and his twin looked so little like each other I’m now even wondering if they were indeed twins or I’m just confused, how his sister was crying of happiness, how their friends were such a happy bunch, Shauna’s dad speech about how as a Dad you sometimes run to your wife and ask “WTH happened to our kid, did she fall on her head?” (or something like that), how hot is was (man it was hot)… In short, such an incredibly joyous happy wonderful day.
Here we go