I think it’s fair to say that 2014 has been something of a tumultuous year. A lot of very good things happened! And a lot of rather shitty things have happened to. Let’s touch on the bad first and get that out of the way.
There was a heavy dose of bad this year. Some of this has been discussed on the blog; three months of colds, sinus surgery, sinus surgery having dramatic and frightening complications, etc. A lot of it has not been discussed on the blog, however; this does not feel like the proper forum for a lot of the more personal matters, especially ones which involve people other than myself.
Geoff and I have to move. We are really, really, really not happy about this. I’m not going to discus the reasons for the move here, except to say that no one did anything wrong. We always paid our rent, etc. This is a heartbreaking blow; our neighbors have become like true family to us. And while we won’t live too far apart after we all move to our new homes, it will never be the same as when we all lived together on the Compound, as we called it.
When my first surgery complication began and I started bleeding profusely from my nose to the extent that I was truly concerned that I might need an ambulance, our neighbor John came rushing home to make sure I was ok until Geoff could get there. Once John and I decided an ambulance wasn’t needed, he sat on the floor with me and kept me calm and distracted.
When I found myself suddenly clutching a whole litter of baby opossums and in charge of their safety, Donna came to the rescue and helped me keep them safe. (They were eventually taken to a no-kill shelter which would rehabilitate them then release them into the wild when they were old enough.) These are not your average people. When we all found out that we’d no longer be living together, everyone cried openly.
And good heavens, it’s been so good for Calantha to be there! Having a “pack” next door which she can come and go from as she pleases helped her put on a needed five pounds, which she’s maintained the whole time we’ve been here. Basically, absolutely everyone is extremely unhappy about this for a lot of reasons, but there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
And of course I’ve been able to do a LOT of shooting there! There are SO MANY trees; it’s very easy to make the background look like a forest if you just frame around the tell-tale signs of human habitation. When you’re dealing with ME, being able to do an entire shoot without leaving your yard, or even getting out of your PJs if you want, can be an incredible boon.
This has also been an extremely tight year financially for us (which a move isn’t going to help). Again, I shouldn’t go into exact details here, but a large part of our income vanished early this year and we’ve been trying to stanch the metaphoric bleeding ever since.
Those are the biggest highlights of the bad, of the things I feel I can talk about here. It’s been a really difficult year and there have been many times when I’ve dissolved into tears over one more bad thing happening. The world has felt completely against us most of the year, no matter what we’re planning or how noble it might be, which of course feels terribly unfair. I’m holding out hope that this is all happening for a reason and that things will change soon. Some days that’s a very difficult hope to hold on to. I’ll talk a little more about this when I discuss this year’s new image.
Let’s move on to happier topics for now. Let’s talk about some of the good things that happened this last year!
I was able to promote a lot of awareness about myalgic encephalomyalitis, or ME, with images (which go in my Enchanted Sleep series), interviews, articles, videos and blog entries. During ME Awareness week, I wrote a blog entry for each day of the week and held a print giveaway for those who helped spread awareness about it. The Microbe Discovery Project asked for people to share their ME stories, so I recorded a short video for them.
I got to work with some really fantastic new models, Dan Donohue and Travis Weinand. They were both wonderful; the kind of models who make you want to come up with new concepts just for them. I’m looking forward to working with both of them again!
I was really pleased to have been included in quite a few online magazines, blogs and sites. Photo Focus named me their Photographer of the Week. Millennial Magazine gave me their Self Portrait of the Week spot.
Phlearn, one of my very favorite photography sites, included me in their Weekend Inspiration blog three times during the year, with the images Lady Death, The Shadows Lengthen and The Light Is Winning.
I was able to have brushes with both of my favorite authors, Robin McKinley and Peter S. Beagle. Robin McKinley was gracious enough to let me write two guest posts for her blog and talk about DreamWorld! In addition to the ongoing work I’ve been doing with Peter Beagle and Connor Cochran, Peter’s manager/publisher as well as my business manager, they had a special showing of The Last Unicorn in Santa Fe, NM, in a theater George RR Martin has helped restore. Since George RR Martin was going to be at the screening, Connor asked for some of my prints to hang in the theater, which led to this amazing moment caught on camera between the two beloved authors. While I have been credited as taking the photo, I was unable to be there in person although I would have LOVED to have been there!
My dear friend and frequent model Katie Johnson started a video series interviewing some of the wonderful photographers she works with called Artist Profile. Katie was kind enough to start the series interviewing me; you can see the video below! The series has been really interesting to watch grow and I’m very honored to be a part of it!
Many of you will have heard me talk about how intensely I love Sundance’s original show Rectify. If you’re new to the party, I LOVE IT. Go watch it right now. Both seasons are streaming on Netflix! For those who have seen it, I gathered my courage, reminded myself that it’s just a show and that these are actors, not the actual characters, and asked Jayson Warner Smith (Wendell on the show) if I could interview him for the blog. He is actually a lovely and not at all icky, creepy person and kindly sad yes to my interview request!
One of my images was featured on Etsy‘s front page which made me squeal like a little girl. Luckily I got a screen capture of it before it changed to another treasury!
After I released Where Earth Meets The Sky, it was requested that I make a video showing how I’d created the image. Happy to oblige, I made the following video:
Through the kind help of my friend Handy Andy Pandy, I learned how to make animated gifs showing the whole editing process of an image, which I’ve had a lot of fun doing! I don’t do it for every image just for time reasons, but I think it’s fun to do when I can. Speaking of Andy, he included me in his recommended artist list both for his part of the Blog Hop, and also on the article he wrote for FStop Lounge titled 3 Photographers You Should Follow. I blushed and couldn’t have been prouder!
I wrote an article for In My Bag titled 5 Reasons Why Creative Self Portraiture Will Help You Become An Epic Photographer. Brooke Shaden was the guest judge that month and felt my article was good enough that she created a third place spot just so my article could be crowned third! Talk about feeling good!
I’ll try and wrap up this year’s big interviews and features… there was the one Lens People did, a lovely and in-depth interview with Ezra Magazine, and another feature from Dodho Magazine. The wonderful publication Photography Monthly included one of my self portraits in their October issue from this year.
The esteemed Photographer’s Forum chose one of my images, Where Earth Meets The Sky, modeled by Katie Johnson, as a finalist in their 2014 Best of Photography Contest.
Perhaps one of the best online feature I’ve had so far came this year when BoingBoing ran a feature on my “dreamy, trippy, fantasy photography” after seeing it come up in their Flickr stream!
But I think the feature I’m most proud of came from winning a contest from Good Light! Magazine, hosted by Viewbug. The contests’ theme was “People and Water.” My image “A Drop of Blood” was chosen as the winning photo, which of course was just thrilling! But the prizes were really meaningful to me; first, a feature on View Bug’s blog about how I captured the image. Next was a really lovely article in Good Light!’s magazine about why the image was chosen:
And then my very favorite part was watching the short video where you can actually hear from the contest’s judge himself (and hear it in his lovely accent!) about why the winning images were chosen. It was truly thrilling and embarrassing to hear someone say such nice things about my photograph! Although I will gently note that the title came first and the image was built around it, not the other way around, but I can certainly see how it could confuse people!
Now, in less photography-related news, Geoff and I got to see the Breaking Bad House. We also celebrated out 3-year anniversary of being married, which Geoff worked hard to made special despite me being deep in the hell of every-three-week-colds.
At the advice from Patti Penn, my Reiki teacher, and Geoff, I started making an important mental shift. I realized that I was looking at my future with ME as written in stone; that it was a pre-determined fate for me to always be sick with it to some degree. Sure, you hear about some people who go into remission, and even more rarely, are cured, but it was too painful to hope for that. I tried to not expect that I would always get progressively worse, even though that seemed to be the direction everything was heading in, regardless of whatever diet or lifestyle changes I made. It was less scary to expect that I’d always be dealing with it to some degree; opening myself up to the idea that I might get better some day was making myself vulnerable to extreme disappointment.
But I slowly started realizing that if I expected to always be sick, it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I would always be sick. So as frightening as it might be, I had to start letting the idea of being healthy enter my life. And it was very scary, very difficult. Knowing you’re going to be fucked for the rest of your life is something you can adjust to, prepare for and learn to accept. Having the possibility of healing destroyed the mental plans I’d been preparing myself for, and while it would be a very, very good thing to find myself well, the risk of shattering disappointment was so great, I didn’t want to even entertain the idea.
But I needed to embrace that idea, as terrifying as it might be. Geoff and Patti both brought up the same idea to me, completely independent from each other and without knowing what I’d been thinking through. It seemed like a very clear sign. So I’m taking a deep breath and plunging into the frightening unknown. The unknown where I could get better some day. And if I don’t get better, it certainly will be heartbreaking. But if I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable in this way, then I definitely will not ever get better.
This is one of my big plans for 2015. Every day, instead of dwelling on what I couldn’t or didn’t do, focus on what I did do. Even if 99.9% of me feels like complete shit, focus on that .01% where I felt good. Instead of being frustrated, angry and disappointed with the limitations of my body and mentally say nasty, demoralizing to it, I’ll praise it for the good it did. I’ll tell it that I know it’s working so hard, that it’s trying its best and that I appreciate all the effort it goes to. It will take time to make this mental shift, but it’s worth making it. And I will practice grace with myself, both in what my mental dialogue is and with however long it takes me to heal. I believe this is the only way I have any hope of getting completely better some day… and no matter how painful that hope can be sometimes, I will commit to it.
I’ve got a lot I’ll be working on through 2015. I have big plans for my Glass Walls series, which explores animal rights, along with continuing to build DreamWorld. A couple burners are being kept busy with Peter Beagle/Conlan-related plans. And I’ve got numerous projects at various points of completion which I’ll be sharing with you when I can 🙂
I’ve scattered some of my favorite images taken over the past year throughout this post (many of which you can find in my 2015 calendar, on sale here!), but I wanted to leave you with something to inspire you in your own photo creations! So, in no particular order, here are some of the photographers I recommend you start following right now, if you haven’t already! There may be some nudity, so just keep that in mind.
And lastly, though she is not a photographer, I highly recommend following Katie Johnson, one of the models I work with most frequently. She writes blogs for several site which cover a variety of subjects and angles. If you’re interested in modeling or pole dancing to gain confidence, you’ll find her a kindred spirit. If you’re a photographer, many of her articles are directed at you and will help you improve your photographer/model relationships. Plus, she’s just the loveliest person and one I am happy to have in my life and call a friend 🙂
So… this new image. As I’ve said, it’s really been a pretty rough year, all around. I watched a movie with my mom recently, on a day she came to visit me after my surgery and make sure I actually laid down all day (something I have trouble doing).
Winter’s Tale ended up being very much a “Sarah movie” as Geoff calls them. Critics weren’t overly taken with it, and I can see their arguments, but at the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the movie. It’s hard to make mythic, hopeful movies which are sweet without being cloying or heavy-handed, and I felt that Winter’s Tale balanced itself well. It’s also very beautiful visually and several of the themes inspired new creations of my own.
One of the movie’s main points is that “everything happens for a reason” (even the bad things). This has been such an incredibly trying year; right now I can’t imagine good reasons for the numerous bad things which have hounded Geoff and me this year. This image is sort of a peace-offering in a way. A symbol to the universe to say I don’t know what the purpose of these things could have been, but I’m going to trust that there is a reason. And not just any reason, but a good one. One I will look back on later and smile, thinking of all the heartache and knowing it had been worth it.
This is the attitude I want to start 2015 off with. A humble admission that I don’t have all the answers, and never will, but that I am continuing my direction of my life in the hope that tremendous good will be found along this path. At the moment it feels a bit like a blind faith, but I have decided this is the mindset I need to start off 2015. I am taking my leap; I hope the universe catches me.
Thank goodness Byron was around to lend me his opinion while I edited Katie 🙂
What are you holding onto for 2015? What plans are you making? What hopes do you have? I’d love to hear them!