Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Open Your Eyes

I want to introduce you to Sebastian Miquel aka abre/tus/ojos on Flickr. I met Sebastian via Flickr, although never in person, when I first joined about three years ago and I have been mesmerized by his work ever since. Sebastian photographs LIFE. His photographs are so evocative partly because he looks beyond the surface to capture what is behind any given scene and he makes it seem effortless. He puts himself on the front line and captures his hometown, and one of my favorite places in the world, Buenos Aires, like no one else.

Copyright Sebastian Miquel

He connects with the people of his city, her streets and architecture, her ghosts and lost corners and he shares it with us. The images that he captures outside of his Buenos Aires are so profound and moving that you feel like you've been there yourself. I learned that Sebastian is a professor of philosophy in Buenos Aires and somehow it did not surprise me at all. The sensitivity in his images and how he is so open minded and seemingly free seems to explain it somehow.

Copyright Sebastian Miquel

Open your eyes and go on this journey with him...

Copyright Sebastian Miquel

All photos are Copyright Sebastian Miquel.

Copyright Sebastian Miquel

Today's Soundtrack:
Lazy Eye - Silverspun Pickups

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Spotlight Seven

I was recently interviewed for the Spotlight Seven group on Flickr. Spotlight Seven was created through the 6 Million People project, also on Flickr.

I may not have necessarily chosen the same images that the curator chose to highlight but I love the photos just the same and I am very excited to participate! Check out the links to see more!

1) A tour at your beautiful photostream reveals that you are not a dedicated portrait photographer but an all round one. At the same time you have some beautiful portraits. What I would like to ask you is what place portrait photography is taking in your photographic world.

I think that the choice of my subjects is intuitive. When I am out shooting I really feel like I want to be a part of the stories that are all around me...especially when I'm going out for a walk in New York, where I live. Portrait photography has really become the focus of my work because I love to watch and study people in their element. I find that when I'm out shooting the people on the streets are what most inspire me.

2) As an all round photographer you might feel if there is any difference for you taking land/seascape images comparing with taking street portraits? If there is such a difference can you please elaborate a bit on the subject?

I think that the biggest difference would be the amount of time I have to capture a shot. I have all the time in the world and I definitely take advantage of that when I go out to shoot landscapes or city scapes. Of course if I'm out shooting the ocean or architecture, the light changes and in the case of the ocean, the water is constantly moving and splashing but I take my time. I like to try different angles, get down on the ground, get close, stand back, everything and I change the settings on my camera constantly to try new things and change lenses too. I just don't have that kind of time when shooting street scenes where the focus of my shot is a person or a group of people. On the street things like people's movements, light and focus, are constantly changing and an image is not going to be the same from one second to the next. The lack of time is what pushes me to try to see better...if I'm not paying attention, I can lose what I thought would be the "perfect" capture. At the same time, I try not to think consciously about capturing a certain image when I'm out on the street with my camera. I think it can get stressful and this is more about having fun and pushing myself and challenging myself than capturing the "perfect" image - I'm not sure that exists.

3) Moving with a camera can be inconvenient from time to time what is it about photography for you that you are willing to suffer that inconvenience?

I don't ever consider it an inconvenience. I take my camera everywhere even though it can be heavy with certain lenses. If I'm going out and can't carry it for whatever reason, then I bring my point and shoot. I am never without a camera. I've had the unfortunate experience too many times when I see something that I love but no way to capture it. In NY, something as simple as going out in your pajamas to buy some milk across the street can be an adventure. You never know who is hanging around the deli or what you'll see right outside your building. The only time it can get to be a hassle is when I travel and I have to take an extra carry-on with all my equipment and security makes me take everything out but beyond that...to me, leaving my camera (any camera) at home is like forgetting to get dressed in the morning.

4) At the front of your set “People are People” you posted the beautiful portrait “hay milonga de amor” is there any specific reason for your choice?

I often change the front photos of my sets but I love that portrait. I chose it because it's my favorite of my street portraits. I love the image but it also reminds me of the amazing day that I had when I took it.

5) We used to say that a picture tells more than a 1000 words but, not always it is right. Is there one of your pictures where the story behind the picture has a special place at your heart? And what is the story?

One of my favorite images is a photo that I took on a beach in New York. I called it "Vivo" which means "Alive" in Spanish. I was going through a difficult time professionally and I was considering leaving my job. It was winter and my husband would take me to this beach where we'd sit and talk things out, where he helped me to relax and we'd talk about my options and goals. It was freezing out but we got out of our car and went for a walk anyway because I just needed the fresh air -- we felt mesmerized by the ocean that day. It sounds ridiculous but I felt like the water that day. The waves where coming toward the shore but the wind seemed to be blowing it in another direction. To me it felt a lot like the way life is...when you know the path that you should take is going in one direction, the easier way toward the shore, but there is something that goes beyond the surface that is making you question that easy path. Eventually I ended up leaving my job and starting a new life and every time I look at that photo, which I have framed at home, I remember how afraid of the unknown I was but also how inspired. I think about how powerful the water seemed and the way the wind was whipping my hair around. I think about my husband encouraging me and laughing at me crouched down on the wet sand to take the photo. It was like a self-portrait in many ways.

6) Looking in your stream I can see that you took pictures in different parts of the world. Are people on the street reacting differently in different countries? Can you give us some examples?

I find that there are two kinds of people: those who LOVE to have their photo taken and those who do not.

In New York you never know what you're going to get but I'm obviously always careful and respectful of people. I prefer candid shots but if the person notices me and puts their hand up or looks away or shakes their head, then I put my camera down. Many years ago, when I was still shooting primarily film, I saw this elderly woman on the street on 5th Avenue in NY. She was wearing the most colorful outfit that I've ever seen and her eyes were all made up with black eyeliner. I took her photo and she started screaming at me in the middle of 5th Avenue. I realized that she might be mentally ill and my photo was not meant to be disrespectful in any way but I wasn't about to explain this to her and it's not like I could delete the image from my camera...I just thought she was so...interesting and unique. She was small and old but she chased me across the street and I ran into the Disney Store of all places. She didn't follow me in. Years later when I look at that print I miss shooting film and I still laugh to myself about how I ran away from a woman on 5th Avenue. That's an extreme example but people in New York either don't care about you and your camera or they chase you down. I found that the same goes for cities in Europe and South America.

The only place I've traveled where I felt like it was exclusively one way - that people seemed to be indifferent about having their photo taken and that some of them actually embrace it - is in Southeast Asia. I was in Thailand and Cambodia and my experience was that the people were so relaxed and did not mind having their photo taken at all. But, basically, I think it's a person by person basis...

7) You have almost 1000 pictures on flickr and you participated in quite a few exhibitions what is your goal with your photography? How do you see yourself in about 5 years?

I mentioned that a few years ago I was having a difficult time professionally. I was a corporate lawyer in Manhattan and I was really unhappy about my lifestyle. I felt challenged by my work but I felt like that's all I had....my work. I worked very long hours, never saw my family and friends and I was exhausted. It was too much and I felt like it just was not for me. After a lot of soul searching, I left all of that behind to try my hand at photography. I still have a part-time job but I'm focusing on photography. I feel lucky to have such a supportive husband and family. I have had a few exhibits, sold and licensed some of my work, I've been commissioned for weddings and other shoots and I freelance for a travel company. I've also started my blog, www.ciaochessa.com as a companion to my website, www.monicalshulman.com. I'm not sure where I will be in five years but I'm excited about it. I just hope that I can continue doing what I'm doing, having more exhibits, meet more photographers and art lovers, gallerists, bloggers and potential clients and also be able to go out and work on my personal projects like my current on-going project "In Public" - a street photography collection.

8) What and where is the optimal place for you to take pictures?

I feel lucky to live in New York City where there are photos just waiting to be taken at any given moment.

9) Is there any picture on flickr (not yours) that you wish that you took?

There are so many inspiring and evocative images on Flickr. In fact, joining Flickr is what really pushed me to do this professionally. I had never really shared my images before joining this amazing place after a friend suggested it. It's nearly impossible to pick one photo but if I absolutely had to then it would be a portrait taken of a homeless New Yorker by LJ. I absolutely love his work.

Copyright LJ: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16536699@N07/

I think that if a still image can give you the goosebumps...that's just a priceless feeling. The portraits he has taken in New York, Las Vegas and Italy are so moving. I find myself studying them...he has a very real connection with his subjects. I feel like I push myself to be that bold but I have (very) long way to go to get there.

10) Is there any photograph on flickr that influenced you in one way or another?

It really is impossible to pick just one but in general I'm constantly inspired by the images of LJ, Keren Fedida, Benjamin Goss, Sebastian Miquel (abre/tus/ojos), tetheredto, Rai Robledo (raiworld), Miss Aniela, Olivia Bee,
Brett Walker,
Federico Erra, Rui Palha and Jaime Goodridge (Dockmaster)...so many.

Check out all of the images that were chosen here...


Mama Bear

Le PĂȘcheur

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Dreaming...

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. Tomorrow we have the first birthday party of my good friends' twinnies. Those two are something else. Then on Sunday, I'm hoping it stays dry long enough in New York to possibly go to the beach or to my mom and dad's to lounge by the pool.

If we get rained out and don't make it to either, I'll be daydreaming indoors, reading
Breaking Dawn (since you now know about my obsession with these books) and dreaming about these images.

She Hit Pause

These photographs are taken by Matt Schwartz of the She Hit Pause studios. Matt is based out of Brooklyn and he creates this imagery using a
polaroid camera and transferring the images to paper. Aren't they absolutely dreamy? I bought this one at the Union Square Holiday Market back in December...

She Hit Pause

All of his work is wonderful and he has a bunch of new collections from a recent trip to Central and South America. Check them out.

She Hit Pause

What are you doing this weekend?
I hope something fabulous.

She Hit Pause


Today's Soundtrack:
In honor of Michael Jackson's death...

When we were little we thought he sang "let's dance! let's shout! shake your body and doodoo browwwwwnn..." We didn't get it but we thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Michael Jackson - Let's Dance Let's Shout (Shake your Body Down to the Grouuunnnddd)

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Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

I'm so sad about Michael Jackson.

My best memory of loving his music was when my sister and I would dance in our basement to Thriller. We had the record and we played it until we wore it out on our Fisher Price record player. We listened to that record over and over and over and over.We were scared of the song and we loved it all at the same time. Sometimes our parents would let us watch the video even though we hid our eyes for most of it.

Today's Soundtrack:
Michael Jackson - Thriller

The embedding has been disabled on most of his most popular videos on You Tube...but you can go watch them there.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009


"The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random among the profusion of the earth and the galaxies, but that in this prison we can fashion images sufficiently powerful to deny our nothingness." - Andre Malraux

you pick the place and I'll choose the time

I found this quote here. Pay a vist...you will love that place.

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I was recently interviewed for a feature (details to follow as soon as it's published) and one of the questions that was asked was: "We often say that a picture tells more than a 1000 words but, this is not always the case. Is there one of your pictures where the story behind the picture has a special place at your heart? And what is the story?"

Immediately I thought of this image "Vivo" - "Alive" in Spanish.


This was my answer:

One of my favorite images is a photo that I took on a beach in New York. I called it "Vivo" which means "Alive" in Spanish. I was going through a difficult time professionally and I was considering leaving my job. It was winter and my husband would take me to this beach where we'd sit and talk things out, where he helped me to relax and we'd talk about my options and goals. It was freezing out but we got out of our car and went for a walk anyway because I just needed the fresh air -- we felt mesmerized by the ocean that day. It sounds ridiculous but I felt like the water that day. The waves where coming toward the shore but the wind seemed to be blowing it in another direction. To me it felt a lot like the way life is...when you know the path that you should take is going in one direction, the easier way toward the shore, but there is something that goes beyond the surface that is making you question that easy path. Eventually I ended up leaving my job and starting a new life and every time I look at that photo, which I have framed at home, I remember how afraid of the unknown I was but also how inspired. I think about how powerful the water seemed and the way the wind was whipping my hair around. I think about my husband encouraging me and laughing at me crouched down on the wet sand to take the photo. It was like a self-portrait in many ways.


Do you have photos that make you feel this way? Photos that just take you some place special and that speak 1000 words even if only to you?

Today's Soundtrack:

Gustavo Cerati - Bocanada
This is one of my all-time favorite songs by my favorite musical artist, Gustavo Cerati.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Under Water

David Doubilet

I recently came across the work of David Doubilet, a Contributing Photographer for National Geographic Magazine. It sounds like he has a pretty incredible job. Aren't these images magical? I especially love his black and white work...it's so unusual and evocative.

David Doubilet

David Doubilet

David Doubilet

David Doubilet

Photos vis Please Sir via David Doubilet.

David Doubilet

Today's Soundtrack:
Switchfoot - Dare You To Move

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Think About Her Still

Until three years ago, I shot exclusively film. I have boxes of photographs and negatives. I traveled to Cuba in February 2001. My mother is Cuban and up until the time of our trip she had never returned since she escaped with her family - my grandparents, three aunts and uncle. I've recently been looking back in my albums and started scanning some of the images. When I see photos like this it makes me miss film so much. I should start that up again. One of these days...

I wonder where this little girl is now. I loved how she seemed to be in her own world. She wasn't looking at anything in particular. I thought it was she was so sweet with her little belly sticking out and that inquisitive look on her face. Then I thought that perhaps her clothes are like that because she had nothing else to wear so her parents gave her was they could even if it was too small. Either way, I think about her still. I like the way the woman with the red pants seems to be looking at her in a worried and thoughtful way and the other woman seems stressed pinching the bridge of her nose like she has a headache. Meanwhile the child is just being a child staring off daydreaming...I wonder about what.

This was my interpretation at least. There are always so many...

Today's Soundtrack:
Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Calling All Vampire Lovers

I took absolutely no photos this weekend. As you are well aware, if you follow this blog, that's very unusual for me. For one, it was raining buckets in New York all weekend. And secondly, I was inside reading the
Twilight saga like a lunatic fiend. Don't judge me...I'm only human! ;-)

When the movie came out last year I had absolutely no idea what all the hype was about. I thought Robert Pattinson was devastatingly handsome (ie. hot hot hot) like every other girl in the world with a pulse but that was about it..."he was Cedric in Harry Potter, right?" I thought. On television and in the gossip rags they would show all these people (ie. girls) screaming and looking like they were about to pass out from excitement and I had absolutely no clue what Twilight was...


A few months ago (yes, months), after seeing Twilight on the plane back from our trip to Italy I decided to buy the book. It just sat on my nightstand while I read all the other books there. It collected dust. Then my sister read it and insisted that I just get to it...I ignored her. Then a friend who is obsessed with the books was going on and on about the series so much that I finally gave in and started reading the damn book. It's less than a week later and I'm already half way through the third book. Clearly I'm a little slow on the uptake since every one else in the world has known this...These books are addicting! It's not just that the words just go through your mind and are simple to read (for a 32 year old anyway)--I think the story is so appealing because no matter what age you are, if you've ever been in love, especially for the very first time, you can relate to this book and the two tortured main characters who not only have to deal with teenage love (a drama in and of itself) but they aren't even both human. Of course it isn't meant to be Proust so it's not like you're reading anything particularly profound but the story of star-crossed lovers is so honest and evocative that you can't help but enjoy it.

It's still raining here...actually, not right this second but it did this morning and it's supposed to this afternoon and it's reminding me of what Forks, Washington where it apparently is always gray and wet must be like. I'm looking out at the Empire State Building right now and not the beautiful, deep green and magical forest, but I do feel like I'm there in that story when I'm reading it.

It's SO good...so get to it. Just be prepared to have no life like this loser (ie. moi) for a few weeks while you sit with your eyes transfixed on the page.

Happy Monday...

Twilight Trailer:

New Moon Trailer...out in November...woot!:

Visit the Twilight Amazon Store here. (obsessed much?)

Today's Soundtrack:

Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
This song is on the soundtrack which incidentally is amazing. Stephanie Meyer says she was really influenced by this band in writing her books. I guess they aptly call themselves "Muse"...But, the entire soundtrack is pretty fangtastic (get it?! ha!...again...loser).


And, by the way, I am equally as obsessed with True Blood on HBO but I think I've talked about my latest loves way too much for one day...so that will have to wait for another post. Even Mr. S loves it...and he thinks I'm possessed with the way I've been ranting and raving about the Twilight books over the last few days.

Happy Monday...

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Helen Levitt 1913-2009, A Memorial Tribute" Exhibition

The Laurence Miller Gallery is having a Memorial Tribute Exhibit in honor of Helen Levitt. Levitt's work has inspired so many photographers and the show closes in just 6 days...


Here's some information regarding the exhibition, which closes on June 26th. If you're in New York City, this is not to be missed.


Laurence Miller Gallery will present a memorial tribute to Helen Levitt from May 9 – June 26, 2009. Helen Levitt passed away in her Greenwich Village home on March 29, at the age of 95. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, a show of her work entitled Passages, which Helen had approved, was already in the works, and her death caused a momentary pause in how to proceed. It was decided that Helen would not have wanted her passing to intrude upon best laid plans. Hence, guided by her spirit, we celebrate her legacy with this exhibition, her twelfth at Laurence Miller Gallery.

HELEN LEVITT: A Memorial Tribute will present a series of passages, in both color and black-and-white, from her extraordinary 70-year career. Featured will be her pictures of animals, which were among her earliest as well as last pictures taken; a little-known series of portraits taken on the subway using Walker Evans’ camera; children’s street drawings; elderly folks in conversation; and children at play, the photographs for which she is most well-known. Helen Levitt’s classic and rarely seen silent film, In the Street, from 1944, will be shown as well.

One of the tribute’s highlights will be a selection of never-before-exhibited “first proofs.” These early documents of her working methods are often unique. Some are vintage, others were printed as late as the 1970’s, but all were printed by Helen in her bathroom that doubled as the darkroom. Often they are variants of iconic images, and often they are sequences of several shots taken at the same time. They all reveal the photographer’s “dance” as she observes boys climbing up a tree, a large family gathering on the front stoop, two men seated beside a curious cat, or four boys peering into a pool hall. In combination with the film In the Street, the early sequences reinforce her reputation as a cinematographer, and are genuine and valuable records of the working methods of a canny and poetic photographer.


By the way, I learned about this exhibit, and a million others, at NY Art Beat. If you haven't signed up yet then get to it!

Enjoy your weekend...

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Your Own Image

Happy Friday! This post was originally published over at Le Blahg a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to share it here too in case you missed it over there. It's the second of a two-part series on taking self-portraits. I shared Part One here last week and this second part is a how-to of sorts..you can also find it over at Le Blahg too! I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! Are you doing anything fun?

Today's Soundtrack:
1979 - Smashing Pumpkins (I heart this song and this video...brings back a lot of memories...)


Hello, Blahgereenos! I'm Monica, aka Chessa!, from Ciao, Chessa!! I am so honored and excited that Miss B asked me to write not one but two guest posts on Le Blahg.

I May Have Been Dreaming

Like I mentioned in my first post, I am a street and travel photographer based out of New York City and while the focus of my work is lifestyle imagery and portraiture, occasionally, I turn the camera on myself. I am genuinely interested in learning about other people and I think that a simple gesture, hint of smile or smirk or a look in the eye can reveal volumes about a person. So, sometimes I turn my lens on myself to try to learn more about the people I've captured on the street. In the meantime, I find that I'm learning a lot about myself and I'm inventing my own new characters with each image.

.Camuflaje Eficaz.

Today I'll be giving a brief how-to for taking self-portraits. Self-portraits are difficult for many reasons...not least of all because you can’t see yourself to know how you look until after you shoot the photograph.
Setup can be more time consuming because if you're like me, you're running back and forth setting timers. And, in my view, the most important part, focus is difficult because again you can’t see where that focus point is resting. But don't fret, self-portraits can be fun. And I'll just start off by saying that once I get an idea in my head for an image I want to take, I often shoot 50 images just to get one I actually feel good about.

The Waking Night

The Digital Photography School (a great resource for anyone interested in photography - people who shoot film are welcome too! I LOVE shooting film) puts it clearly: Shooting self portraits can be invaluable because you learn how to direct people for better portraits. What? I mean, that as you walk yourself through a portrait (of yourself) you gain insight in how to explain to people how to pose (you learn how to pose). The best way to direct people is to show them what you want and if you can do it for a self portrait, you can show your subject how to pose for you.

.Inquisitive girl.

she has something to tell you

So here are some tips from me to you:

1. Use your imagination!

People often ask me how I come up with the concepts for my images. All I can say is that my ideas come from an intuitive place. Sometimes I've had a dream and then I try to translate it into a photograph. Other times I get inspiration from other artists and translate them as my own. I look at magazines like W and Vogue and Nylon and suddenly I'm inspired. Or, I turn to works of art to find my inspiration.

The point is that once you have your "idea" or "concept" use it as your opportunity to try things that you would never otherwise do with clients or other models. Look at it as a chance to test out different styles, angles, lighting options and poses. You have all the time in the world when you are shooting selfs and if you're anything like me (ie. is ADD and OCD a bad combo?) then you'll need all the time you can get. Fear not, you're not on the clock...this is your chance to learn and try new things.

2. Equipment.

I strongly believe that you don't need anything fancy to capture beautiful images. I have incredible equipment that enhances my street work and portraiture but it's not necessary all the time. A lot of people talk about fancy lenses and cameras and while I definitely have equipment-envy, I don't think that it's necessarily required for the images we're talking about here. I use the camera that I use for all my work, but any machine will do. The point is to have a steady surface so I strongly recommend using a tripod. If a tripod is not practical for you, then any hard and steady surface will do. Sometimes when I travel I don't have the space to carry my tripod so a table will have to do. If you have a heavy lens, then you can use a book or some magazines to steady your lens.

3. Focus.

Yes, focus on the task at hand but what I mean is to set your focus properly. When there's no one in the photo but you, it can be difficult to set the focus properly because you're often not in the view (unless you're using a remote) when you're setting the focus. As I said, I shoot many images before I find one that works and often times this has less to do with the look on my face (ie. too sexy, too serious, not ready,...or, my favorite "not quite right") than with the focus. What good is any image if the timing is not right? Other than to keep trying until you get it "right" (which I do more often than not) I suggest using a marker. I usually take an object and put it in the place where I will stand in order to set the focus before hitting the shutter. It works!

For these images of me on the bed, I used my bag. I set it up, focused on the bag and then hit the shutter. So when I made my way to the bed, I pushed the bag away and took it's place. It works! As you can see from these samples, without using the bag as a marker, I had incorrectly set the focus on the curtain which created a shallow depth of field. All I can say is that this is merely practice. I suggest playing with the settings in your camera and shooting in manual focus so that you can set an image up exactly as you want it.


Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman

Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman
BOO! This one is terrible in my view...process of elimination.

Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman

4. Have fun!

Just enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, the only critic is you.

Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman

I hope this post has helped, Blagherinas...

If you have any questions whatsoever, please email me or visit me at
Ciao, Chessa!

In the meantime, look for inspiration at the Female Self-Portrait Artists' Support Group on Flickr. I love that place! And, incidentally, I am published in the second volume of self-portraits by the group. The book isn't available yet because we are in the process of organizing a special charity donation where all proceeds of the book will go to a group benefiting women. But visit my blog to learn more about how to purchase it...
Ciao, Chessa!

In Her Own Image - The Book - It's Here!

Also, check out SOME my favorite artists in this group...all of the women in this group are fun and fearless and tremendously talented. If you don't find ideas and inspiration here, I don't know where you will... :)

Bronwen Hyde
Elle Moss
Miss Aniela

I just want to be myself

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