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Fine Art Portrait Concept

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Fine Art Portrait Concept

Coming into the fall this year, I realized I was struggling. Struggling to meet the level of service I strive to provide for my clients. Struggling to really create the imagery I KNOW that I can. A friend asked me when the last time I had shot, just to be shooting? Just to be shooting for me and I truly couldn’t answer. I had no idea.

When you first start out, you photograph anything and everything. It’s how you decide where you passion really lies within photography. Is it with weddings and events? Is it photographing infants? Is it in a photo-journalistic approach or a studio setting? Is it in covering families? Is it in shooting men or women? Is it with digital or film? Is it for fashion and editorial work? Is it with personal portraiture? Conceptual work and abstract? The list goes on and on.

For me personally, I have ALWAYS loved photographing people, women especially. Yes, I have experience with events and weddings and covering concerts and street photography but where my heart sings s portraiture. I prefer it be in my studio but it certainly hasn’t been banished only there, haha.

This year, I had been concentrating so heavily on my continuing education, my blinders were up. Plain and simple. And, by this fall, man I gotta tell ya, my fire was barely a candle flame. This happened when I studied music, too. I became so wrapped up in the theory of everything, the logistics that I had lost the love of the music itself. I had taken the art away and brought everything back down to the rules. It ruined it for me. Now, the extent of my singing belongs to belting at a karaoke night (don’t get me wrong, I will sing loud and proud for some karaoke) but the dreams of a career in music beyond teaching, left me a long time ago.

So, when my friend asked me when the last time I had photographed anything just for me it dawned on me that…I hadn’t. Plain and simple.

This is not an option. Not ever. For any artist. Heed these words, please.

As as an artist I HAVE to create, it’s in my blood. I love creating: lists, plans, concepts, flyers, goals, paintings, composites, you name it. What I get lost in sometimes is the execution. If you take away the creation part and all I’m left with is maintenance, and rules, and theories, my well runs pretty dry.

It was pretty apparent to me that I needed to start planning a shoot just for me. I had found some inspiration in a clay facial mask and found a model that could move like a ballerina and we created some beautiful images together.

I am now adding a conceptual line to our menu with 828. I will work with you and your ideas to design a vision to create some beautiful artwork. Please, let me know if you’re interested.

Model: Emma D

Photography: Cat Ford-Coates

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What is it like to meet your hero?

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What is it like to meet your hero?

What is it like to meet your hero? Let me tell ya, it is nerve wracking, it is humbling, it is empowering, and it is inspirational.

Arriving in New York, always a welcome view

Arriving in New York, always a welcome view

So many professionals attend and exhibit at trade shows and photographers are no exception. I had the joy of attending the Photo Plus expo in Manhattan this past week. I came away with in person education from leaders in photography (Sue Bryce, Lori Patrick, Jen Rozenbaum and Lindsay Adler) a new holster for my camera which, I am elated about and a personally autographed book from my virtual mentor and photography hero, Ms Sue Bryce herself.

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For those of you that follow me here, you already know that I studied virtually under Sue (via CreativeLive) for the majority of this year. I knew at the beginning of this wild year that if I were going to step up my game in my photography business, education was going to play a HUGE part in that success.

I organized each of the week’s assignments with women and daughters and men throughout Asheville over the course of 32 weeks. I sketched out each photo shoot based on the class videos and the topic for the week and was rarin to go! What I wasn’t expecting in this class was how it would affect me personally.

The great thing about Sue is that in her teaching, part of her curriculum forces you to face your own…your own YOU. Your own fears, your own abilities, short comings and strengths. It isn’t only about posing, and set mapping, and business, the real value in this learning is what you learn about yourself. Your own success starts there, and you simply cannot get there without doing the work.

Well, needless to say I evaluate my life on a fairly regular basis. I measure results. I critique my actions and learn from each situation. I’m hard-wired for it. I love it.

Have I had missteps along the way? Of course. I have never been any sort of valedictorian by any stretch of the imagination however, this course was more valuable than any education I received in two different college settings. What I AM is creative, and driven, and thoughtful, and I do my best to support those around me and those that I love and, those I don’t even know.

I can be a little brash at times, haha. However, it is never meant maliciously, I’m kind of “a bull in a china shop” at life.

This past week was a dream come true for me. I got to photograph and learn in new settings from leaders in this industry, enjoy my favorite city for an entire week, I was invited to attend a very exclusive party and enjoy it with the company of a friend and people I had only ever dreamed of enjoying a cocktail with, fan girl a bit, and to top it off, I was able to thank and hug the woman who has championed women’s portraiture through two recessions, educated countless photographers through their own challenges personally and professionally (they do go hand in hand after all) and shows zero signs of slowing down any time soon.

Thank you for such a fabulous experience!! I hope you all enjoy my snap shots. They don’t even begin to do this trip any justice at all. Thank you to all of my new-found connections and the kindness I was shown from so many people. Thank you to my friend Lauren, for being the perfect confidante for the week. Thank you to all of the amazing hosts for the wonderful classes and experiences throughout this amazing week. And, thank you New York. You will always be my first love.

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How I felt about my own before and after

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How I felt about my own before and after

One of my gifts, as a photographer and a human is that I am able to see everything beautiful in you and everything that you maybe, aren’t super happy about, too. So, how did I feel about my own before and after?

When I first entered photography professionally, I was immediately drawn to modern portraiture. As a college student (a hundred or so years ago), I loved the edgy, black and white aesthetic. it was the 90’s. Everything was edgy, then, haha! As my photography grew and I was able to hone my skills, contemporary glamour was easily where my heart burst with joy. There is something so simple, yet so magnificent about stripping away everything you don’t like or hate about yourself and lighting everything that is beautiful. Defining that in a magazine style portrait that just, well, it sings.

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a rampage in purchasing new pieces for our studio wardrobe. Beautiful satin and lace dresses for anyone to wear during their photo shoot here in Asheville. Elegant pieces to go that extra mile in ensuring you feel beautiful for your photo shoot. You might come in thinking, “Oh I just need new head shots” or “I’m more of a casual girl” but, having that extra piece of drop dead gorgeous never hurts anyone.

So, what better time than to test the waters myself? So, I donned one of the new pieces and called a photographer friend over, hung my black velvet backdrop and put on a face and stepped in front of her lens.

“What are you doing, Cat? Why on earth do you NEED a portrait? You just had a full on beauty session a year and a half ago with another photographer. Do you really need another one? Do you even really DESERVE another one? God, this looks horrible on you. Your makeup looks awful and you haven’t touched up your hair color and you could use to lose more than just a few pounds. You’re almost 40. There’s no way these will be even remotely resemble the you, you remember…”

Pause.

“OK deep breaths, Cat.”

All the voices, I acknowledged their existence. Always in the voice of the 12-year-old me. She was constantly berated so, I can’t really blame her for being scared. It’s her job to protect me from suffering that kind of attack…oh wait…

Be careful how you speak to yourself. You are listening after all.

I took my “Before” picture in my kitchen, after a single cup of coffee in front of a window. No makeup, I don’t think I’d even brushed my hair. A real “before”, to say the least. Yup, that’s me in the morning. How did I feel about the before? Seeing the truth sometimes can be jolting. I got to see all of my flaws in the cold light of day, and then I was going to put it out there for all the interwebs to see. Haha! The dark circles under my eyes, the scowl lines in between my eyebrows from spending 20+ years in the Florida sun, my growing chin (what’s THAT about anyway, jeez) and the list goes on. The point is, that is my face. That is what I look like. In a normal day, I might throw on a little moisturizer and some eye makeup. I might even go so far as lipstick if I’m feelin sassy. I’m a pretty good lookin gal, curves and all. A little face can go a long way.

In editing the footage we shot that day, we were very careful to only go as far as we would for any client. I am very meticulous about retouching. As much as I wanted to wave my magic photo shop wand to get rid of everything I see, it was very important that I remain my beautiful self and, not some idealized version of myself. My portraiture is based on highlighting everything beautiful about my client and if I went the “extra mile” on my own portraits, it would have defeated the purpose.

Having the strength to step in front of a camera can be challenging. You’re faced with all of your flaws and “I’m not good enough”, right then. You ARE good enough. everything about you is perfect. You are valued.

Having the strength to step in front of a camera can be challenging. You’re faced with all of your flaws and “I’m not good enough”, right then. You ARE good enough. everything about you is perfect. You are valued.

So, what do I see staring back at me?

  • a woman who loves her work
  • the courage to let all of the voices have their say, and then move forward to embrace this moment
  • a woman with doubts and fears, just like everyone else
  • a woman who is loved
  • a woman who has worked tirelessly to build her business
  • a beautiful portrait, now part of my legacy

I put this image out on social media yesterday. Clicking the “post” button definitely took a minute…or two but, here’s the thing, if I can’t share my very own before and after, how on earth could I ever expect you to come into my studio, let alone experience your very own transformation with us?

Our service, our process is not one of turn and burn, wham bam thank you ma’am. I want you to be able to envision yourself having your portraits made with us. I want for you to see that my purpose here is not to just photo shop everything away, it’s to showcase everything wonderful about you, right now. It’s to help you see past all of the little things you hate seeing in the mirror: all of the shoulda, woulda, coulda, all of the when I lose 15 pounds, all of the when I get to the salon or the gym, all of the maybe one days, all of the “I’m not good enough”. You ARE good enough. You DO deserve beautiful portraits. Your family and loved ones deserve beautiful portraits OF YOU.

They are your keepsakes. They are your heirlooms.

In the words of Sue Bryce, “You are beautiful. I want to capture you for All time.”

I would love to photograph you.

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I got the news on Saturday evening {A personal post}

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I got the news on Saturday evening {A personal post}

I got the news on Saturday evening. Andy was a childhood friend with my friend, Mary. He came to Asheville to connect with her on his cross-country journey. What a light this man had! Wow…I met him in our restaurant on a karaoke Sunday. He was lively and shooting stills and video of the day. What a great day it was, too. He then stayed on for a few months. He, of course spoke about his “Embrace Your Awesome” and videoed us brewing sake and danced and played. We were following our passion and it thrilled him. Around Andy, you always felt as though he had a magic that was out of reach for so many of us. What I’ve learned since then though, is that you attract what you are. What you see in people is simply a reflection of yourself.

I was never close with Andy but, somehow his passing has had a major impact. When I heard about his passing on Saturday, complete and utter shock. I can’t stop crying. Is that crazy? When I open my facebook, my newsfeed is riddled with so much love for this man and it begins again, the tears come. On his personal page, you could scroll for days with all of the images and stories he created with people. There have been groups created in memorial and for sharing and celebrating his life in grief. Even a worldwide dance party was shared last night in his honor.

He really, really would have loved that.

One of the things I loved most, was that he loved to document, everything. EVERYTHING. As a photographer and videographer he understood completely how impactful imagery is. When someone is gone, you pour through photos to remember that moment with clarity and depth…and love. This was the image that he stated “If ever were there a picture to memorialize me, I want it to be this one.”

Photo courtesy of John Shim. John, thank you for capturing such a perfect moment.

Photo courtesy of John Shim. John, thank you for capturing such a perfect moment.

Andy, dear sir, I don’t know that you ever truly knew what kind of legacy you have created through this terrific web of people you have connected. It is astounding to me the outpouring of love so many are sharing. You never did get to compile and share all of your imagery and cinematography as you’d planned. I can only imagine how fantastic a story it truly would have been upon completion. In fact, if anyone in his family is interested in putting this documentary together, I am more than happy to help in any way. Please, feel free to reach out to me directly (Cat@Studio-828.com) to discuss the details. That legacy, his dream deserves to be shared.

I know that I am sharing this on my professional blog. Perhaps I should create a personal, I don’t know. I needed to write. To get this out of my system and into the ether, as it were. I can only imagine how those closest to him are feeling. I knew him only a few short months and I am heartbroken for his passing.

My hope is that everything he brought to every. single. person Andy ever met was that, that love that he spread like wildfire illuminates the sky. Every day he made the world a better place and we are all richer people for having known him. Burn bright my friend.

“There are no happy endings because nothing ever ends.” – Peter S Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Now, I have to go and put together my “Notes to Self”. You probably should, too.

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