Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Essence of a Carnation

     Mark Laubenheimer (website and Tumblr) is a Seattle based photographer with whom I've had the distinct pleasure to work with recently. To be able to adequately describe my experience working with him in one sentence would be like attempting to explain the concept of a flower to someone who has lived beneath the ground their entire life. Speaking of flowers, Mark and I talked a lot about them during our pseudo-therapeutic photo session; both believing that they can be metaphors for women in many ways. Whether it be a woman's buttoned up shirt as the vase to present her beauty, the idea that women comparing themselves to each other is as futile as a rose comparing itself to a hydrangea (in that both are stunning in separate yet alike ways,) or that our bodies can be used to represent a tightly held bulb or a full and vivacious bloom: women and flowers are both lovely, functional, complex, and pleasing to the eye. 

     Mark's philosophy is that all women are beautiful. Plain and simple. He doesn't cover his subject's potential up with makeup, styling, or distracting wardrobe...he does the opposite. Getting ready for a session with him is akin to getting ready to go to the spa- no makeup, comfortable clothes, and an underlying feeling that you are going to leave feeling more beautiful than when you arrived. The shoot itself was relaxingly delightful with regular breaks to stretch, breathe deeply, and laugh. He understands that not many people can force genuine expressions of joy so every now and then Mark will pull out one of his horrible, yet endearing, jokes to get you to giggle. Since I am a sucker for puns it worked on me every time. I can't remember any of them but I'm pretty sure one of them had to do with hippies and the punchline "far out." 

     Now that I've delved into background I'm going to talk about who I am and how this experience has affected me. Insecurity is something everyone faces regardless of gender. For me personally I've had a rough time coping with body image and self-esteem since I was young. Things got pretty dark in my head and from the ages of 15-17 I went through a really negative, destructive period. This past year of my life, living with my sister, modeling, being in a happy and loving relationship, traveling the world and introspecting constantly has fostered so much personal growth. I can confidently say now that I am beautiful. I did photo shoots when I was younger and during that time of constant self-hate I would see photos that photographers took of me and feel nauseated because I was embarrassed and ashamed by how ugly I looked. Now I look at those photos wondering why the younger me couldn't notice her bloom. I decided I won't keep looking back and wishing I had appreciated who I was in the past...I've got to appreciate who I am now. 

     Mark Laubenheimer has given me an incredible gift. I'm not one for clichés or sappiness (in fact, I tend to cringe at both) but for the sake of honesty I have to say that Mark gave me the gift of helping me to fall in love with myself again and reminding me that I need to stop trying to be a lilac if my essence is that of a carnation. I've realized that I have the spirit of an artist though I've never been able to pinpoint how to express that. I don't paint often, drawing doesn't speak to me, and I don't have the dedication to practice music or photography but perhaps in being a muse to artists I can revel vicariously in the role I play in their art. To model is to allow yourself to be a canvas for creative minds but could it be said that in being immersed in their vision I contribute to the end project as well? I suppose that's debatable, let me know what you think. 

     I leave you with a quote that inspired much of how I view my beauty and the beauty of all the women I know: 

“A rose can never be a sunflower, and a sunflower can never be a rose. 
All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s like women too. 
I want to encourage women to embrace their own uniqueness.” 
"Treasure Yourself" by Miranda Kerr

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chicago Street Snaps / Travel

     Today I'm pleased to wish everyone a happy Tuesday from the beautiful city of Chicago. I've only been here since last night and already have an incredibly confusing array of first impressions. Everyone says that New Yorkers are constantly sprinting around but if these two cities held a business-attire marathon I believe the fine pencil-skirted women and cufflink wearing men of Chicago would finish the race and have time to grab a hot dog before the New Yorkers could sip their morning coffee. However, despite their rush, all of the people I met today were kind and accommodating; stopping on their way to lunch, in the middle of a busy sidewalk, or posing for me as their bus arrived. 

     Taking street snaps in Chicago was wildly different from doing so in Seattle. To start, the downtown area I loitered in was part of the financial and retail district meaning that 88% of the people I came across were in business attire. This isn't bad, (since Chicagoans really understand the art of polished professionalism via clothing,) but it's also not my cup o' tea. The following pictures are people of The Windy City who caught my attention amongst the suits and blazers. 

     Lani was the first person who I photographed this morning. I was across the street, camera in hand, when her color scheme caught my eye. Not only is her hair a lovely shade of blue but her outfit brings together a spectrum of earth tones, creating a look steeped in semi-rebellious contradiction. Such mild greens and browns of her clothing seem almost terrain-like until you peak in closer and notice her elaborate nail art, eccentric jewelry (rings, a shiny gold watch, and two small necklaces: one of an eyeball and one of the Louis Vuitton logo, a brand I've noticed to be incredibly popular here.) She was kind enough to let me snap her photo even as her bus came around the corner.

     Colette caught my eye more with her demeanor than with her clothes, though I am a huge fan of those shoes. She had the typical East Coast businesswoman attitude of "I'm late, what do you want?" and when I asked what brand her pumps were (ahem, I wanted a pair) she told me she had no clue. Amongst the millions of outfits just like her's I was pulled in by the casual, more unpolished aspects...her messy bun and slightly untucked silk shirt, since I'm a sucker for a bit of edge. Plus, when I stepped into the street to take the shot some construction workers made fun of me which made Colette and her business pal laugh resulting in a lovely photo of them and a genuine Chicago experience pour moi. 

     This stunning leopard-wearing beauty is none other than Grace, a woman with a sweet smile and firm handshake. Little does she know, until she reads this, that I had to speed-walk a solid three blocks to catch up to her after I initially "spotted" her (get it?) because though I walk quickly for a Pacific North-Westerner I can not keep up with people here. I a huge sucker for feline prints, excluding tiger, and I pretty much adore every aspect of this outfit right down to the Peter Pan collar and sheer tights which allowed me to notice little outlined tattoos on the back of each ankle of cats. Talk about a purrfect coordination. Grace and I chatted briefly about her desire to move towards more ethical clothing and away from fast-fashion corporations like F21 which harm all sorts of people in the stride towards cheap, 'trendy' garments. I couldn't agree more with this sentiment and truly believe it is the responsibility of each fashionista to be aware of how the clothing we consume is produced. 

     A couple of the many fashion window displays here that caught my eye. The sweater on the bottom would be a perfect addition to any fall wardrobe. 

     Shots of the city. I'm head-over-heels for the architecture here and the way art seems to be littered in every corner or sidewalk.  

     Is it odd that I felt a bit homesick for Seattle when I ran into Brenda (red cardigan) and Cassie (green cardigan? I mean, maybe it's just me but these two would fit right in hanging out with their coffee at Pike Market or the thrift shops on Capitol Hill. If I see them again I might try to convert them into Seattleites, but for now I will simply admire what a breath-of-fresh air they were this morning amidst the endless sea of business people. Plus, it's impossibly cute when friends wear somewhat matching outfits yet still highlight their own individual preferences and aesthetic. 

     When I jotted down notes about this look while I was out taking photos I wrote the following, verbatim, so please excuse the language: "PATTERNS. HOLY SHIT. LOUIS VUITTON BRIEFCASE? BRADLEY COOPER IN AMERICAN HUSTLE?" This incredible dream of what menswear can become is Jason and I thank the stars that I met him when I did. It was getting to be lunch time and I was annoyed with myself that I hadn't taken any pictures of dude-clothing for my male readers. Just when I succumbed to the fact that all of the businessmen in Chicago, while gorgeous and urbane, wear such uniform-like suits BAM, out of nowhere I see Jason. He even threw me a bone and did several catalog poses for me which I thought complimented his outfit very nicely. 

     If you know me then you know I have a strange affinity for pigeons and it's very intriguing to me to observe differences in these birds in various cities. Chicagoan pigeons are much like the people- classy but hurried. Some are scruffy but most are quite debonair, clean, and willing to pose for the camera. That's all I've got for you today so I leave you with two gorgeous things I spied at a street market earlier: brain-like flowers and cheerful cookies. Until next time, I'm off to go eat deep dish pizza like the cliché demands. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seattle Street Snaps

     I'm going to be changing the normal pace of this blog and trying out some experimental posts in the next couple of weeks so please bear with me. One of those such experiments is implementing more posts into that highlight the style of people other than myself. I'm lucky enough not only to live in the most gorgeous city on earth but to have the opportunity to travel all over the country (and world, for that matter) so I figured this would be a great way to document fashionable people everywhere. Moving to Seattle has impacted me a lot and the sheer number of hip looking people on the streets is shocking so I feel some responsibility to share them with you. Without further ado, here are six stylish Seattleites who took the time to stop and chat with me this morning:

     Meet Gabby, she was the first person I saw today that made me stop and think "wow, this look is on point." I envy her ability to be pulling off such a quintessentially fall look (à la trench coat and pants) while the ridiculous sun keeps insisting on summer. She was very kind and mentioned that she originally considered a career in fashion but pursued other more financially-secure interests so that even if she couldn't work with clothes she could at least buy the ones she likes. Touché Gabby, but I still think a personal style blog should be in your future... 

     This is Krishane, an adorably retro, pin-curl wearing fashionista I stumbled upon near the mall. Her dress is 40's vintage and when I asked where she likes to shop she told me "Lucky Vintage in the U-District, Red Light in both the U-District and Capitol Hill, and online shopping" for her older, more elusive finds. I have the highest respect for anyone with the patience to master pin-curls and keep vintage fashion alive and thriving. 

     I walked past Sofia once thinking I had lost the chance to snap her photo but was lucky enough to run into her again (and then a third time when I was on my way home.) She is the lovely owner of Salon Alchemy (her website is here) and I'm almost hesitant to tell you that I had a bit of an American Psycho moment when she handed me her business card (it's heavy and probably a centimeter thick with gorgeous font...) In any case, I loved her style and overall air of sophistication and hope I run into her again. 

      I should start off by clarifying that I'm not big into menswear, nor do I know much about it, but something I can say definitively is that Shawn had on some killer shoes. On top of that, the purples and maroons of his outfit complimented each other effortlessly and he radiated coolness. He was also kind enough to get out of the line he was in for lunch to let me take his photo so for that I say thank you, good sir, the people appreciate it. 

     What I like about Ruth-Anne's look is that it sort of personifies the kind of casual confidence that I expected to find more of in downtown Seattle. The layers, frayed denim, geometrically printed top, and slouchy bag all worked together with her lively hair to paint a picture of urban youth that seems much harder to find these days. Ruth-Anne makes me wish I had been a Seattle fashion blogger in the 90's, sigh. 

     This is the last stylish person I shot today who, coincidentally, is also named Sofia. She was like a gorgeous, chic, business-casual butterfly that floated past me before I had the chance to chase her down. Luckily I stumbled upon her again as she was sitting outside of Starbucks. If I had to describe her I would say "unpretentiously lovely" and mysterious as all the greatest women are. I'd been asking everybody all day where they shopped just in case I wanted to put it here and when I asked her it went like this: 

Me: "So, where do you like to shop?"
Her: "Goodwill."
Me: "I love that answer...all day I've been hearing Nordstroms." 
Her: "Who can afford Nordstroms?" 

     That's the thrifty Seattle perspective I've been craving all day so lucky me that I met Sofia. She is a good reminder that true style isn't about brands or wealth, it's about a physical, visual manifestation of personality and self and she clearly has an A+ sense of style. 


     Bonus round: This is my favorite piece of street art that I've seen in Seattle and I must've found it pasted all over Capitol Hill in at least 10 different places by now. For those of you not familiar with Pokémon, this is Bulbasaur with a tastefully large and humanlike set of nose and lips. Whenever I see it I feel a strange sense of euphoria and the more I see it the more I love is the strategy behind being a well-known street artist if I'm correct. 

     I've been doing photo shoots galore these days so soon I'll do a post on those but for now happy Thursday you fashionable creatures.