Documenting my life through my own portraiture is affecting how I choose to show up in the world. How I am seen is shifting my own personal perspective and causing me to reflect more deeply on how I show up in the world.
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Imagery is powerful, even in a digital age. Imagery evokes.
How did Cat Ford-Coates become a photographer? It took 19 years, more mistakes than she can count, and the mentorship of an incredible photographer, Sue Bryce.
In portraiture, embracing the shadows is equally as important as embracing the light when you create your artwork. I'm reintroducing myself to the darker side of my work. Let me show you.
I had an epiphany this morning and boy was it a doozie. For reference, I had a client once that insisted we jam through her photo shoot. She was a doctor and had a very busy schedule. Everything had to be movin, groovin, and out the door.
Looking back on it, from that point forward I began to assume that no one really wanted to be there. They wanted their portrait session with us to be over as quickly as possible. So I began to hustle, overlook important details and settings, hurrying through one of the most important aspects of my work...the transformation.
When it hit me this morning, it was like a truck. Crash! Bang! Boom! I immediately sat down to reflect on what it is that I do as a portrait artist and why I love my work. You see, it's important to me that I love what I do and while my business is separate from me, I am part of my business so if there is a piston misfiring in the engine of Cat, the engine for the portrait business goes haywire! It was time to really appreciate my work and everything that goes into it and I thought I would share some of that with you today.
- I love getting excited with the client prior to their portrait session
- I love helping to educate the client during our consultation on our process, how to prepare, what to wear, etc.
- I love sketching out the posing maps for each client session. It helps me to solidify where we will go during the session, what we are trying to capture and convey, and keeps me on task when I get excited during the shoot and forget things ;-)
- I love shooting on my hand-painted backdrops. I paint them myself, did you know that? I do have an Oliphant on my vision board but in the meantime, I have enough of an eye with a brush to create that lovely background you will see yourself on in our portraiture.
- I love watching my clients enter our hair and makeup room. It is like a Hollywood moment here in our Asheville studio!
- I love seeing my client's transformation in hair and makeup and then seeing their faces experience it! What woman doesn't want to feel like her most beautiful self?!
- I love seeing the wardrobe selections that my clients bring for the sessions. Some really EPIC choices and style! I love it! (Gives me shopping ideas too)
- I love shooting. I love creating. I love being excited about getting THE shot! I love laughing during our session together.
- I love giving direction throughout the shoot. Most clients hate being in front of the camera because they don't feel as they know how to pose, they feel awkward. I love fine tuning each of our movements so that each client looks their absolute best and it gives them reassurance of exactly that! Confidence comes in pretty quickly when you know your photographer is a master poser.
- I love downloading everything into Lightroom for the first time. It's like Christmas. Seeing it on the back of the camera is only the beginning and doesn't even begin to do it justice.
- I love retouching the imagery. Another transformation in and of itself and women from all walks of life are my models. It is so gratifying!
- I love printing the images from our photo session together. There is nothing more lovely in my world that having physical prints of my artwork in my hands. There is nothing like it.
- I love matting the portraits too. It is a zen process for me to put the finishing touches on your portraiture.
- I love watching the client walk into the gallery and stand in awe at seeing themselves at their best.
- I love watching them carefully analyze each and every one.
- I love watching them trying to decide on which images they want to take home (it is a tough process, lemme tell ya!)
- I love it when they cry or get excited, because they are so moved at seeing themselves because it means that I DID see them, that I reflected back to them the woman they only hope someone sees, someday. Many times, it is for the first time.
- I love that I am a portrait artist.
For those of you looking for more than a turn and burn snap service, I am your photographer. I am here to give you the experience of your own, most beautiful self and reflect her back to you in portraiture you will cherish.
I was watching a video on Facebook recently, of a friend’s younger daughter. She was three years old at the taping and she and her father were having a conversation. At one point she stated “When I get bigger…” and then rambled on about what she would accomplish and do and it struck me like a bell might, out of a deep sleep.
Manifestation. I know, a popular word these days. As a kid and young adult I was a fabulous manifester. Anything I wanted, whether on a whim or a big decision, simply appeared into my life. It just did, it was a thing. Then, as an adult things shifted. I suffered. Was broke. It seemed endless. For years I chalked it up to being “part of life”.
You know what? It WAS part of life because I expected it to be. Not because it was. It was because I created that suffrage. How might it be different if I expected it to be great? Be everything and more?
What if (hang with me now), what if we stepped into our adult selves knowing that we would live amazing, abundant, healthy, and incredibly adventurous lives simply because we knew they would be so?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay our dues. No matter what we choose for our profession, or partner, or any of it – it still must be mastered. Mastering anything takes time. But, what if instead of worrying, and trying to force our version of perfection into every single minute we simply kept moving forward, kept taking the action necessary every single day to create that life for ourselves. What if we knew with absolute certainty that “When I get bigger” everything would be okay? That it would be everything we dreamed and more.
Let’s take that leap shall we? Everyday. Let’s choose to know at our core that when we get bigger everything will be just perfect.
Thank you, Charli. You’re a genius.
Someone recently noted that I am fortunate. For a moment I had to take a breath. “Me? Fortunate? What? I’ve hustled my you-know-what-off for everything I have! How could they ever think that?!…Oh wait…”
Yes. So fortunate.
Gah! I love what I do. I am so blessed. It is my JOB to create beautiful portraits for wonderful people. I work primarily out of my studio here in Asheville and occasionally even have the opportunity to travel all over the world for education and opportunity. What a freaking life, right?
It is true. At 18 I knew I wanted to BE a photographer but had no idea how. At 30 I was so busy running a bar, I only had a point and shoot that had a flash function I thought was fun and artsy that I loved using when we were out and about. I even had a name for it, “drunk flash”. It was great. Streaming lights in all the photos, highlights so blown everyone looked amazing.
I turn 40 next week. Man, 40. Most people you speak with cringe at remembering their 40th birthday. Frankly, I’m lovin it. Why? Because I am fortunate. I somehow was slung from hustling booze day in and day out, barely considering a future to building a business. A real business. A business where I photograph women from all walks of life, their families, them solo, whatever their hearts desire and create amazing artwork. I attend networking meetings every week, I run advertising, I write for local magazines about business and empowerment, I eat, live, and breathe my business to attract as many women into my studio as I know how to do and then some. I am in a constant state of evolution and upleveling my skillset AND my business to be better every day.
And then I take a breath.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you whomever you are for reminding me that I am so fortunate. So fortunate to learn, to have the capacity to grow, to help others grow their own businesses, and to do what I love.
To my birthday I look to my “order to the Universe” and it is as follows:
- To be photographed by Sue Bryce
- To enjoy champagne infused gummy bears
- To laugh every day
- To be healthy
- To strive every day to be better than the day before
- To pay ahead on my mortgage each month
- To grow my savings for retirement
- To travel to Barcelona in September and London in January
- To remind others that they too can be better than they were the day before, simply by making the choice to be.
Thank you for reminding me that all of this is possible.
I got dumped this week. Someone I considered a very dear friend did not care for how I perceived that she had offended me and in no uncertain terms decided that we were no longer friends.
Wow. Full on slug to the gut.
“Ok, so what’s the deal, Cat? Why are you posting about this?”
Because it absolutely relates to WHY I do what I do. My grievances were centered around the fact that I wasn’t being “seen” by someone close to me; in work situations, and in personal. That my presence and understanding were being discounted for no understandable reason and it pissed me off.
And then I heard this voice this morning: “It only hurts if there is truth to it, Cat.”
I do what I do because I spent much of my life in the shadow of my own self-hate. I’ve worked through a lot of that over the past year or so, and most of it within the last six months. How could I possibly offer anyone the opportunity to BE SEEN through my own photography if I refused to see and value my own self? And then my friend decided that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore and that seven-year old little girl inside of me thought “Of course! Why would anyone want to be your friend anyway, Cat? You’re pushy, you’re bold, you’re dumb, you’re…” And then the seventeen year old version of me immediately started looking around for cigarettes because she knew the seven-year old girl was right on the money.
Wait. Breathe. No.
I was upset because I wasn’t being seen by someone I held in friendship but, whatever the issue is simply a reflection, isn’t it? Was I not “seeing” her? I certainly was quick to blame her and only take responsibility for the martyred reasons…Ahhh, yeah, I might break up with me too.
I really work to “see” the people in front of me, really see them. It is how I develop connection with my clients, with my family, and with my friends. It also requires that in order to see them, first I have to see myself. I have to care for myself. I have to look in the mirror and ask my conscience if she is proud to be a part of me today. Today, tomorrow, and the next day.
My portraiture would be nothing without that conscience or that connection. That means that I have to own my own choices. It means I have to look every person in the eye and see them, the real them and if I can’t do that, then I’m off. Off by a long shot.
Everyone makes new years resolutions, right? I was never one of “those” people. I kind of thought they were dumb. What makes January 1st any more a reasonable time to make changes in your life over any other day? Then it kind of dawned on me; we are all trying to be better. Maybe we forget from time to time and get caught up in our daily lives but, I think overall each of us, in some way wants to be better. It’s kind of like the advice others give you when you want to correct your posture. Have you heard this? When you walk through a doorway, use the doorway as the reminder to stand up nice and straight. The doorway is kind of like January 1st. No matter what is happening in your life, remember at the very least, on January 1st to set intentions to be better.
My intention this year is to be the best version of myself, to live up to my potential.
That is what this image is for me, a reminder of the best version of me. A very dear friend photographed me in January and I have decided that this shot is going to stand as my reminder that I am to make choices every day that help me to be better than I was yesterday.
To make better choices personally, in my business, financially, in relationships, and the list goes on. I’ve always had the excuse “Well, I didn’t really try for it anyway…” Well, this year, anything I set my sights on I am going after. No excuses. I refuse to take any part of my life for granted any longer. Not one minute and neither should you.
Call your mom. Enjoy the sunshine. Be passionate. It doesn’t matter about what, just that you are and about something. Further your education. Travel. Get outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be across the globe (though, if it can be, it absolutely should be!), it can even be 20 minutes away. Hug someone. Hug a stranger, hug a friend. Learn something new. Take a walk. Take a nap. Live in this moment, this one right here.
The close of another year and, just wow.
I have to pinch myself sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, this year was tough. At times, I wasn’t sure how, if, or when I’d come out the other side but occasionally, you have trouble seeing the forest through the trees. Looking back on 2015, holy cow!
What. A. Year.
- Completed a 28 week continuing education mastery program
- Shuttered another business
- Upgraded my camera equipment (an ongoing process it seems haha!)
- Made new friends
- Wished others well in their lives
- Traveled to NYC
- Attended my first professional photographer’s tradeshow & met the leading glamour photographer in the world, Sue Bryce
- Attended a party at Lindsay Adler’s studio and enjoyed the company of she, Sue Bryce, Caitlin Timmins, Nikki Closser, Emily London, Joanna Zimlewski, Lori Patrick, Lara Jade, Felix Kunze, and Dave Doeppel to name a few (kind of a rockstar party. I was the girl in the corner picking my jaw up off the floor and communicating the high-folutin vocabulary such as “duh”)
- Photographed 127 people in 2015
- Was published in a local women’s magazine for both my imagery AND my writing (it’s cool. I pat myself on the back, too.)
One of the greatest parts about my work is that I am able to celebrate the wonderful, and inspiring people who I have the privilege of photographing. I get to meet these amazing women, leading such incredible lives with their families and loved ones and just, even for a moment, show them how incredible and beautiful they are! These women are professionals, artists, home-makers, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and the one thing they all have in common? They are all, each and every one of them, givers. They give of themselves in every way.
Thank you, universe. Thank you for this life. This one, right here! This life where I am so lucky, and so blessed to be able to live a life that I love, creating art with such an amazing community. I am an artist, a mentor, a student, a wife and loving every moment. Cheers, 2016. Welcome.
Here is to another great year. A year I welcome with open arms. A year full of goals, planning, fulfillment, introductions, exodus, learning, abundance, security, and freedom.