Friday, August 29, 2008

Beach Reading

I'm thankful for the time we'll have to relax while we're here in Miami Beach. Of course our flight was delayed but I'm happy to report that we got here safe and sound and Palomita was very well behaved on her first plane ride.

I have a lot of reading material for the beach. This morning I was reading
American Photo magazine, one of my favorite photography magazines. There was a very interesting article about photography workshops. Well, it's interesting to me because obviously I love photography (duh), but, also because I've been thinking about taking a workshop or a class for a while now.

It's not news that over the past few years photography has seen an astonishing number of technological advancements. American Photo reports that there has also been a major rise in the number of workshops offering guidance to devoted enthusiasts. The sophistication (and often complexity) of modern photography has created a thirst for knowledge of the digital arts, from shooting to post-production and printing. Incidentally, for film lovers, the magazine also reports that there are also plenty of workshops dedicated to those photographers who are enthralled by "antiquated" processes and technologies, including film (I miss film). But the demand for technical training doesn't fully explain why workshops have become so popular and plentiful. Many also offer the chance for travel and others can be a source for valuable career mentoring. I love to travel and am really seeking mentorship in this business. When I was a practicing attorney I had so many mentors, many of whom my husband and I are friends with now. And, I feel confident that I could still call my former mentors if I even needed advice in the legal profession. But, the same is not true for me with respect to my fledgling photography career.

So, in an effort to hone my skills, practice the art and technique and of course, be mentored and learn from the best, I've been thinking about signing up for a workshop. I'm also thinking about taking a class at one of the many great schools in New York City but I'm focused on the workshop right now. I often see the Santa Fe workshops advertised in Pop Photo and other magazines and this one in particular caught my eye in American Photo - Mentor Closeup: David Alan Harvey.

I've admired Mentor Closeup: David Alan Harvey for a while since I know his work with Magnum (I especially admire all the work he does for emerging photographers). He gives a workshop in Brooklyn and I'm thinking that I might apply to see if my application for the workshop is accepted (although I think I might be away again during the time of his next workshop). I need to be pushed beyond my comfort zone and it sounds like people with many different backgrounds are invited to participate in the workshop. I've been following his blog, Road Trips, for a while and I highly recommend it. My only disclaimer is that you might lose the next two hours (or more) of your life navigating around that page and all the amazing photographs.

On a side note, here's a photo that my cousin took of Palomita and me sleeping yesterday. My sister, Paloma's mama, is watching us in the corner. This baby is just like me in that she can pass out in the middle of a room full of people, the TV on, everyone talking, etc. Apparently she woke up half way through our nap and in my sleep I started rocking her until she fell asleep again. I love how she sleeps with her little arms up. My sister says that when she was in her belly she did the "starfish" - arms up, legs out. In 20 years I'll still look at this photo and it will make me laugh. I love this kid so much.

Chez, Palomita and Pao

Today's soundtrack (I LOVE Reggaton although I don't always admit it)...

Pobre Diabla - Don Omar

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Day Before a Trip

The day before a trip can never be simple for me. Something always happens. We are getting ready for a trip to Miami with my family. We go every year for my mom's birthday. Beyond worrying about a major tropical storm that is apparently headed our way (and that I am praying, not just for my trip because I'm not completely self-centered, that it will veer off into the sea and not hit Louisiana), this morning the refrigerator broke. It seemed to not be cooling a few days ago and this morning the milk was bad. Of course I went food shopping yesterday to pick up a few things that we needed before we went away for the long weekend. They couldn't fix it until later in the week (huh?!) and we're not back for a bit so we now have a refrigerator from a vacant apartment in the hallway of our apartment that they will take away once they fix ours. This is because they couldn't get our huge fridge out of my apartment (they even took the doors off) so I have no clue what will happen if they can't fix it and they have to take it out somehow.

Tonight I'm having dinner at Artisanal with a dear friend and then going home to finish packing. I cannot even begin to explain how happy I am to be taking this trip. Everyone will be there including Palomita!

I'll be posting as often as I can while I'm gone. I hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend (I cannot believe that this is the official end of summer!)

I leave you with this for today...

Celia Cruz - La Vida es un Carnaval

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Monday, August 25, 2008

What Would Proust Do (or, Say)?

Since July 1993, the back page of Vanity Fair has been devoted to the Proust Questionnaire, in which a noteworthy person answers a series of personal questions. The questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust (1871–1922), the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. James Lipton, the host of the Bravo television show Inside the Actor's Studio, asks his celebrity guests a similar series of questions. I love both Vanity Fair and the almost silly and affected snobbery of James Lipton - he's like a caricature of himself and I watch the show usually for the talented actors but also for their interaction with Mr. Lipton who is so deeply aware of himself that it's pure entertainment to observe.

I'm having some writer's block today so I thought this would be fun. Here are my answers...

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being surrounded by the people I love.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Dying without first meeting my children.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience and the occasional lack of self-esteem.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Intolerance, ignorance and arrogance.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
My mother.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel. And, the borderline absurd collection of handbags and shoes obtained on my travels (including the daily travels outside my apartment in New York City).

7. What is your current state of mind?
Sheer happiness.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience...ha! See Question Number 3.

9. On what occasion do you lie?
When I don't want to make someone feel bad - but only if it's little and white.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
It depends on the day but usually when I'm having some extra frizz.

11. Which living person do you most despise?
Despise is a very strong word but I'd have to say anyone who hurts a child.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Honesty, intelligence and tenderness.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Honesty, intelligence, tenderness and strength and courage to be whatever she want to be. Confidence and the ability to embrace her flaws.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"I will try" and "I will do it" and "that's amazing!"

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband.

16. When and where were you happiest?
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?
To play the guitar or the piano.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My impatience and occasional inability to take things one day at a time (specific instance of impatience?).

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I think I have several but I still have a lot of time. So far, it's having had the strength to follow my heart and do what I love.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Ideally, I'd like to come back as myself. I wouldn't tell my young self what ends up happening (so far) but I'd tell myself not to worry so much about it and not be so hard on myself. Otherwise, I'd love to come back as my Italian great grandmother. She lived a life with some adversity but it was a full, rich, adventuress life - she took risks, some calculated, some not, but she was fulfilled and loved deeply.

21. Where would you most like to live?
Manhattan - Exactly where I live right now with the ability to travel the world.

22. What is your most treasured possession?
Assuming this is about material possessions - My wedding rings and our home away from home. Also, this photograph that I have of my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my aunt and me when I was about three years old. I love it. I keep saying that I want to buy a better frame for it but I like the old one it's in right now.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To feel unloved and alone.

24. What is your favorite occupation?

25. What is your most marked characteristic?
The ability to laugh at myself and an insatiable curiosity.

26. What do you most value in your friends?
Raw honesty and the ability to make each other laugh.

27. Who are your favorite writers?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Maureen Dowd, Isabel Allende, Carrie Bradshaw (ha!).

28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Hmmm...I don't really have any specific hero. I love characters who are flawed but grow beyond it.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I'm still hoping to know who that person is.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?
My family of immigrants.

31. What are your favorite names?
I haven't met them yet so I don't know their names.

32. What is it that you most dislike?
Other than the traits that I deplore in others and in myself, I dislike any NYC subway platform in August, layovers when traveling, cheap shoes, anchovies and olives.

33. What is your greatest regret?
I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention (at least not here!)...

34. How would you like to die?
Surrounded by the people I love and at peace.

35. What is your motto?
Will it!

Today's soundtrack:

Samba Tranquille - Thievery Corporation

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Than One Way

I'm quite indecisive these days. I've been playing with my new actions and also trying out some new techniques on CS3. Beyond just choosing between color and black and white, I've been spending some time playing with tones, exposure, layers and color balance. I haven't posted the original but here are three ways to process one image.

Today's soundtrack...I'm feeling nostalgic today...we chose this song for a montage in our wedding video. I love it.
More Than This - Roxy Music

The New Yorkers

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday Night at the Met

Last night we went to the Met to see the Jeff Koons exhibit.

Wait, let's be honest, last night we went to the Met to have drinks on the roof and incidentally, there was a very cool Koons exhibit up there. We rarely go uptown, at least that far uptown, so it was fun to do something a little different. I haven't been to the Met since last year. Living and working in New York it is sometimes easy to forget all of the wonderful spots there are to visit here. I had the terrible habit of spending all of my free time in my own neighborhood, and, with the exception of hanging out in the east and west village, staying within a 15 block radius of where I live. In the last six months or so I have made it a point to venture beyond my lovely neighborhood and go to the many other beautiful locations in this city (including those north of 23rd Street).

So, get thee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit the permanent collection and also the temporary ones (Superheros and Koons to name two) before summer is over...afterward you can reward yourself and rest your feet on the terrace with a nice cold Stella Artois or a glass of bubbly.

Also, please take a look at my JPG Magazine photo submission for the Faith Theme and please vote!

Today's soundtrack
Radiohead - Optimistic


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

We went to go see Rent the other night. I've never seen it before and I really wanted to before the last show on Broadway next month. I found it interesting to listen to the story of a New York City of long ago. The East Village is very different today than it was when Jonathon Larson and Billy Aronson first collaborated to write this rock opera. The story takes place in an old building and vacant lot on East 11th and Avenue B and the place, much like most of New York City, is very different today than it was at the time that the play came out. Still, the story, although somewhat dated, is so moving and powerful. I found myself wondering what it must have been like during that time when AIDS was a disease that few people spoke about and I wonder what New York, and specifically the lower east side, was like during that time of bohemia, squatters and starving artists. Today it seems that even the "bohemians" are wearing Marc Jacobs and having dinner at Freemans (a delish restaurant by the way).

We walked through Times Square for a while after the play. It was such a beautiful summer night and even though the scene is a bit intense with all the lights, noise and tourists, you can't help but be taken in by the energy and spirit of Times Square - another part of New York that has been through a sea of change since the period of time in which Rent took place.

Here are some photos of Times Square.

Today's soundtrack

Cat Power - New York
I love this fact, I love the entire album and her work in general. I'm not lost on the irony of the song, melancholy in her voice and the nostalgia that it invokes coupled with these images of a thoroughly modern and new millennium Times Square.





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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Professateur or Amafessional

I have a terrible habit of starting blog posts and then saving them with the intention of going back to them. But, then I forget and end up posting something new. This is what happened with the post below which I started a few weeks ago and found it today when I went to edit another post. It is still timely and relevant but of course it would have been better to post it before now. Oh you go, with some updates.

What is the difference between a professional and an amateur photographer? For some very strange (and annoying) reason, I can't find a definition on the IRS website but it doesn't seem that even that would be the end-all be-all definition.

Everyone online seems to have different opinions as to what a
professional photographer or an amateur photographer is or isn't. Based on all these definitions and opinions, I have no idea which definition I fall under even though I consider myself to be a professional. I participate in art fairs, have exhibits, sell my work as stock, buy a lot of equipment, spend a lot of time working on my photography, marketing, self-promotion, etc. Mostly I'm spending money right now rather than really making any but this is normal when you're just starting a business. What does this all mean? I'm not a tax professional but I am certainly keeping records of all of my expenses and all of my income so that I can make the best decision at the end of the year (which is what most of these websites seem to suggest).

Last month Microsoft had a Pro Photography Summit to discuss this issue, among others. The Pro Photography Summit is aimed at discussing some of the more pressing issues facing shooters today. Among them, this question of what makes a professional photographer.

Miss Aniela, one of my favorite flickr photographers, gave a presentation about her work, how Flickr helped her in her almost accidental pursuit of professional photography and the emergence of digital photography as a new medium. I haven't had the same following on Flickr as Miss Aniela but my experience is somewhat similar to hers. I started on Flickr at a friend's suggestion. I had been shooting photos for years and had never really shared them before until Flickr. I've become much bolder in my street photography and even in some of my self-portraits. When I decided to leave my big law job I was realistic and knew that I wouldn't be able to focus on photography solely which is why I'm working in real estate with my family. The doors that have opened to me because of Flickr though have given me tremendous opportunities and have also made me less fearful to try new things. I didn't think it would go anywhere. It was not very deep for me at all, actually. Flickr was just a place to share some fun images of my trips. Now I use Flickr, my website and this blog to promote my work. It's so much easier now to share work because of the advancement of digital photography. I have a trunk full of negatives and albums full of film prints. At some point I'll have to get a scanner and share them but Flickr and all these other sites allows me to get them out of the camera and into the world faster.

Ken Rockwell
has the following analysis on his website:

Because photography isn't a profession, different people and organizations define a "professional" photographer very differently.

Anyone can call themselves a professional photographer, and charge you for it.

Let's define who's who.

Full-Time Career Pro

A Full-Time Career Professional Photographer is a person who has been a full-time photographer for his entire career.

He works all day, every day, ever since he graduated college.

These guys buy whatever gear they need, since the cost of gear is trivial compared to how much they use it. If something saves them 5 minutes a day or has a clearer viewfinder to peer through 12 hours a day, it doesn't matter if it costs $8,000. For these guys, even very little things, like AF sensors that don't clutter the viewfinder, are very important.

Full-Time Photographer

A full-time pro works the same as the Full-Time Career Professional Photographer, but failed at some other career and fell back on his hobby to try to make money.

If he hasn't been doing it very long, he may still worry about gear costs since he's not sure how long it will be until he'll get another real job. These worries come from back when he had a real job, and his boss tried to get cheap with the tools. The Career Pro doesn't worry: if a new tool saves him more time over its life than the cost of ownership, it's a no-brainer to buy it.

Professional Photographer

A professional photographer is a photographer who earns 100% of his income from photography. This is the definition required for entrance into the secret Nikon and Canon factory support organizations.

Amateur Photographer

People who earn less than 50% of their income from photography are amateurs.

People who shoot weddings every single weekend while holding down another job aren't professional photographers. People who sell prints at art fairs, but still have real jobs, are still amateurs.

Different people and organizations will argue over what income percentage defines professional. I won't get into that here, but these numbers vary wildly.

These weekend amateurs are all about the cash, and will shoot great pictures, but use the cheapest gear they can. That's OK, and the way to run a part-time business. Rich amateurs will buy any gear they want.

On a side note, check out this blog post by Thomas Hawk, another favorite blogger and Flickr friend, regarding his recent unfortunate experience at the San Francisco MOMA. The Museum recently changed their policy regarding indoor photography - supposedly they now allow it after a strict policy against it. People are now permitted to take photos inside yet he was harassed by a director and forcibly ejected from the museum. Hawk frequently blogs about the difficulty of being a street photographer and the rules regarding what you are and are not permitted to photograph and when. While I have had issues with people, security guards, cops, etc. telling me where I can't photograph, I've never experienced anything like what Hawk encountered at the SF MOMA. Of course, I recognize that as a woman I am not likely to be man-handled like that but his treatment by the SF MOMA staff is unforgivable.

Add to your Listening List:

Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

And, finally, since it's been ages since I've posted a photo of my niece, here she is. I used a new action set that I bought from another Flickr friend and professional child photographer, Sesame Ellis.

I Have Chocolate Fingers

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Motivation! Please?!

I don't like Mondays. For me they usually begin by dragging myself out of bed a few minutes after my husband leaves for work (actually this happens on most mornings). He gets me ready for the day with his usual good morning mood - this is an obligation that he will have for the rest of his life since he married a night owl. It also helped that it is a beautiful day in New York City today.

I like to turn on the Today show and sit at the computer and read my usual sites and online newspapers while I enjoy my coffee. The order is usually: gmail,
Flickr, Photoshelter and Shoot! The Blog,
New York Times, Facebook, MSNBC. Aside from the usual emails I get every day from the New York Times, American Airlines, Photoshelter, and the usual family, friends and work-related emails, today I received two emails from Photo District News regarding two separate photo contests. One is a contest for travel photography with a deadline of this week and the other is a portrait contest.

Trying to work for yourself can be very difficult. Beyond making your own schedule, trying not be completely sidetracked and end up procrastinating all day, becoming motivated, etc. can all be very complicated. I exaggerate, of course, since most people who know me will tell you that I am a very focused person, but, in the middle of a gorgeous August day...becoming and staying focused indoors at your computer is hard....very. I should be looking for properties right now rather than typing this blog post, in fact!

Even on a day like today though, with respect to photography, aside from a day of outdoor street shooting, nothing gets me more motivated than the possibility of submitting my work to a photo contest or two or three or four. In my view, it is extremely important to be
diligent in submitting work to photo contests. The costs can certainly add up but the
exposure gained through submitting work to contests is huge - especially if you win! Of course there are skeptics, but whatever, in this business, like in many things in life, you have to have thick skin to survive.

Today's Listening List of my all-time favorites.

Brilliant Disguise - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Here are a few photos that I've been contemplating for the
PDN portrait contest.

En Una Rueda

A Place of Worship

esta mujer

Es la Hora

An Eye For Jazz Fest

.Camuflaje Eficaz.

hay milonga de amor

Life on a River

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Through a Looking Glass

...I Like Not Knowing...

I started the blog at a friend's suggestion. I was very reluctant at first and when I started this blog I was unsure about where it was going to go, what I wanted it to be, what I would write about and how I would write about it, how often I would, I basically closed my eyes and jumped right into the pool.

This week I was reading the archives of a favorite blogger and on the one year anniversary of her blog she reflected on her original intentions when she first started blogging and how the site evolved over the course of one year. I very much relate to what she was saying because it has been a mere six months since I've started this and I already notice the changes in the site and the difference between what I thought I would do and what I've been doing. Beyond just "taking pictures" because I like it, it has become much more of a reflection of where I'm going, where I came from, what has led me to this place and the inspiration that helps me do all of it.

So, as part of this reflection, I've decided to change the name of my blog. It will always be "Ciao, Chessa!" because that is who I am (and perhaps a post on this sometime in the future is in order) but I'm changing the simple "I Like to Take
Pictures" subtitle. This place is much more than that to me and I am really confident that it will mean even more to me and that it will grow as I get to my one year anniversary and beyond.

So, welcome to "My Looking Glass" - same place, different title.

In the spirit of feeling inspired, I'm thankful to another blogger who has inspired me to add a soundtrack to each post. I think that this is perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

Tristeza - Astrud Gilberto

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