Shameless Photography needs your help.

February 3, 2010

Are you willing to donate something to the cause of body-positive, radically fun pinup photography?

Calling all those lovely garments that have spent years languishing in the closet, just dying for stardom — this is their chance to shine.

Shameless Photography wants you to become part of the new all-star, all-size Shameless pinup wardrobe!  Think of all those neglected yet fabulous garments in your wardrobe — give me your ripped seams, your broken zippers, your loose hems yearning to breathe free!

They will be lovingly restored and brought back to life. A call for all those dresses, skirts, blouses, and, yes, lingerie that never fit quite right but you had to bring home because it was so pretty.

Calling all those heels, bathing suits, stockings, and accessories that would like to become part of something larger than themselves.

By popular need/demand, I’m trying to build a wardrobe for my clients of all sizes — and I can’t do it without your help.  I’m looking for clothes and lingerie to fit and flatter everyone. Some of the items on my wish list are: vintage dresses, full skirts, pencil skirts, low-cut shirts and dresses, bustiers, corsets, shrugs, fur or faux fur, polka dots, bra and panty sets.  Vintage clothes or clothes with a retro feel are best, but I can also alter garments to make them more vintage-looking.

I have a lot of shoots coming up, so time is of the essence.  Please email me at shamelessphotography@gmail.com.  If you’re in New York, I would be happy to come to your apartment and pick up any donations, or if you are willing to bring them to an event we’re both attending, that would be amazing.  If you are farther away, I’ll pay your postage.

Thank you in advance for your help.  PLEASE FORWARD THIS WIDELY!  The more is definitely the merrier.

Shameless.

December 1, 2009

My new flyer for Shameless Photography, my pinup makeover and portraiture business:

10 ways you found me.

November 25, 2009

A sampling of recent search terms, some more curious than others:

1. i love my mother

2. skittles bra

3. glittery eyes

4. high maintenance synonym

5. come out, come out wherever

6. forced femme

7. assumptions high femmes

8. love my body

9. sugar high glitter city

10. how would plato and socrates answer

Taking the leap.

November 25, 2009

“We work to become, not to acquire.” — Elbert Hubbard

“Work and love are the cornerstones of our humanness.” — Sigmund Freud

“It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.” — Pablo Picasso

When I graduated from college five years ago, I wanted a good job. I was passionate, ambitious, and idealistic, and I was dedicated to making a difference. But how do people actually produce real and lasting change in the world?

When I accepted my first non-profit job, I was thrilled. I joined a young policy institute with a talented, devoted, and collaborative staff. The organization’s leadership was fantastic, its projects were important, and I was given many opportunities to learn and grow. I was promoted from intern to director in three years, and was handed increasingly challenging and significant projects.

So why wasn’t I happy? Before, I’d worked mind-numbing corporate or factory jobs, so discontent made sense. How could I be chafing against working for good?

Scary question. Was I just lazy? Did I lack integrity? Was I destined to disappoint and flounder, to never really contribute?

The answer I finally arrived at required a leap of faith: I needed to trust myself enough to believe that I wasn’t the problem. I simply hadn’t yet found the right work for me.

When I finally gave notice, my co-workers were bewildered. When people left my organization, they usually went on to grander things — law school, public office, leadership positions with other organizations. But I was plan-less. Without plan.

The day after I left work for good, I packed my bags and hit the road, traveling from Brooklyn to Asheville to Austin to San Francisco and back again, worrying about exhausting my savings but knowing I needed to move.

I could live anywhere, I thought. I could be anyone.

Choice is a powerful thing.

And my natural frugality was further terrorized when I made the decision to buy a camera. Not some chintzy point-and-shoot job, mind you. A real camera, a Nikon, gleaming and black and fragile and powerful. I fell passionately in love.

My way of seeing began to change almost immediately. I would think That’s a good shot, at least three times a day. Then ten. Then thirty. It was as if a frame had appeared in my view. Everywhere I looked, I could move the frame up or down, from side to side, and see things differently.

I returned to Brooklyn with a plan. Shameless Photography!  This is my mission statement:

In a culture where we’re constantly bombarded by images, messages, and standards designed to make us feel inadequate and insecure about our faces and our bodies, I aim to create a space where women can feel safe, beautiful, and empowered. Using makeup, lighting, and photography, I create images that are part fantasy, part reality — and entirely gorgeous.

To become a fantasy — and to know that you can do so whenever you want — is a powerful thing. No billboard model, no advertising agency can own the realm of fantasy — we all do.

In some small way, I hope that my photos can help women feel more empowered and more embodied — and to see our femininity as a space of play, pleasure, and possibility, rather than one of shame.

It’s only been a couple of months since I set up shop, and I’m still working to spread the word and get my fledgling business off the ground. But I can honestly say that I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I think about my work all the time, with passion and excitement and drive. I’ve never felt this way before — never has work been such an effortless, animal pleasure. I find myself staying up till 4 a.m. with only Photoshop to keep me company — and loving it.

Money will be tight, but I’m doing something I believe in, something that challenges me, feeds me, frees me. If the supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play, I think I’m beginning to do just that.

Branding self-identity.

June 11, 2009

Everything looks different if it’s pictured in print, on TV, or within the frame of a computer screen.

When I was kid, my parents’ garden was selected to be featured in Sunset magazine.  I had grown up in that garden — climbing the plum tree to reach the ripest fruit at the top, lying on my back in the moss to find shapes in the passing clouds, sprinting down the back steps to fetch my parents bell peppers or spinach or basil for dinner.  I was familiar with the beauty of the garden but also with the dirt and mud, the snails and pill bugs lurking everywhere, and the reeking compost heap in the back shed.

And so when a shiny copy of Sunset arrived in the mail and my parents showed me the images of our garden, I barely recognized it — the lotuses wide open, the California poppies without even a hint of wilt.  Every color looked more vibrant than it did in real life.  The pictures were either very close-up or taken at angles that allowed our tiny city garden to seem to extend long into the distance.  It was our garden, but bigger, brighter, and someone’s version of better.

company-identity-brandingWhen it comes to human beings, I would argue that media has an even more marked effect.  Flattering lighting, photography, and airbrushing has been brought to the level of an art.  These phantasmic images can be used to create allure and social power.

As my month-long advertising purge came to a close, I began thinking about how individuals market themselves.  Through facebook, myspace, and other social networking sites, we become our own products.  Nothing is a simple representation of fact; we decide what images and information will represent us to the world.  Check out this article on building a personal brand, and this posting on facebook-fueled self obsession.  The process is even more evident when it comes to blogs and personal websites.

Authenticity: come out, come out, wherever you are.  The modern world misses you.

Protein, pastries, and Plato.

April 28, 2009

Under the terms of my month-long advertising purge, I can no longer drink milk or eat peanuts. I have also been forced to break my longstanding Subway sandwich habit cold turkey (ba dum ching).

At this point, I’m tempted to shield my eyes every time I pass a billboard, just to preserve a few pleasures. Over the weekend I was walking in my Brooklyn neighborhood with my love when I saw a hand-painted sign announcing that there would soon be a flea market.

“Ooo, let’s go,” said my part fashion-queen, part shopaholic, all butch companion.

“I can’t go now that I’ve seen that!” I wailed, pointing to the sign.

“But that’s not advertising,” she objected. And after a few moments of further deliberation, I was sure she was right (whew! now I can continue my hunt for the perfect sailor dress under $10). What I wasn’t sure about was precisely why this wasn’t advertising. Today I referred to the trusty Oxford English Dictionary, where “advertise” is defined as:

To give public notice of, to make publicly known, or call attention to, by a published announcement in a journal, by a circular, etc., as ‘to advertise the resolutions of a meeting’; and with various elliptical constructions, as ‘to advertise goods (for sale), a child or ring (as lost),’ etc.

Highly unsatisfying. Advertising is much more than a public announcement, and journals and circulars aren’t the half of it. And the phrase “various elliptical constructions,” while humorous, does little to convey the power of slogans (not to mention images, music, etc) routinely used to sell products.

I found this somewhat more thorough definition in the Answers.com Marketing Dictionary:

[To] appeal to a mass audience through the communications media for the purpose of calling attention to a product, service, idea, or organization so as to arouse a desire to purchase or patronize, to give information or to modify the thinking about, to promote the concept of, to motivate behavior toward, or otherwise to persuade the general public to buy, approve, or support the product, service, idea, or organization.

Yes. Advertising seeks to modify our thinking and our behavior. It is not an educational announcement (like the flea market sign), because it’s aim is not merely to inform. It’s aim is to persuade, to create a new understanding, a new reality — one in which the product is irresistible.

To get a little philosophical on your proverbial asses: advertising is rhetoric.

Did anyone else love Plato’s Gorgias as much as I did? In these dialogues, Plato explores the difference between philosophers (who seek truth) and rhetoricians (who seek to persuade, irrespective of truth). Plato likens rhetoricians to pastry bakers: both produce something that is compelling to the senses but which has no real substance or value — no truth. Plato (or Socrates, the real-life character in whose voice Plato writes) felt that rhetoric was a destructive force — one which was chipping away at the foundations of democracy in Athens — and he committed himself to maintaining “purity of mind and soul.” It was Socrates’s insistence on truth that led to his eventual execution.

You read it here first, folks: no pastries = death.

On that note, I’m off to lunch, to find food I can still eat from a restaurant or grocery I can still eat from. Wish me luck!

How my mother made me love my body.

April 23, 2009

My mother’s mother was anorexic.  As my mom grew, her body became a site for my grandma’s own disgust and self-hatred.

My mom could never eat little enough or wear girdles tight enough to please her.  My grandma’s stinging criticisms and insults diminished my mom’s ability to enjoy food.  Made her worry more, enjoy her body less.

My mom pledged to break the cycle with her own daughter.  Though she dieted constantly and continued to revile her own body, my mother told me I was beautiful throughout my childhood.  And not just that I was beabodyutiful now, at a certain moment, at a particular size and shape — but that I had always been, and would always be, beautiful.

I didn’t believe it, of course.  Our culture scrutinizes women’s bodies, and I scrutinized my own.  I hated my thighs.  I hated the shape of my hips.  I hated my small breasts.

I became transfixed by the images of women I found in magazines.  I wanted to unlock the secrets of their beauty.  At one point, I literally measured the dimensions of these models — both their bodies and their faces.  After careful calculation, I concluded I wasn’t beautiful — no matter what my mother told me.

Over the years, I have slowly, slowly become comfortable with myself. Being femme and performing femininity has allowed me to see my body a site of creativity and social commentary; sex has played a complicated but ultimately essential role in establishing my body as my home.  And my sense of my own worth and my own beauty has increasingly come to rest on my internal values rather than on external sources of validation.

Ultimately, this is what my mother taught me: bodies are beautiful because they are human.  Because everyone scars differently.  Because there are twenty-six bones in a foot.  Because you sing using muscle.  Because of the mystery of an itch, and the relief of scratching it.  Because round and flat and light and dark and large and small can all be gorgeous.  Because they’re even more gorgeous if you use your hands. Because contractions are shapeshifters that bring pain, laughter, and ecstasy.

Because we live here.  Because we love here.

Thank you, mom, for this gift you have given me.  I take care of my body, tend to it as carefully as you do your garden.  I give it air, good food, water, touch, light.  You once carried my body in your own body, gave me life.  It is with joy that I am in your debt.

On Skittles and consumer consciousness.

April 20, 2009

It was the day after tax day and I was in need of a good sugar high.  I was just about to tear into a package of the new “Crazy Core” Skittles when I remembered: Taste the rainbow.

My experiment this month — to not purchase anything I’ve ever seen advertised — is proving to be rather galling.  A large proportion of the products I routinely buy — everything from toothpaste to facial cleanser to toilet paper — I have seen advertised.  Seriously, try to find a single brand of deodorant you haven’t seen promoted, pushed, and propagandized!

In resisting the siren song of Victoria’s Secret sales (30% off any item — why now?!), I debated whether my experiment covered only the specific items I’d seen advertised (i.e. the Perfect One™ bra) or the entire brand.  Ultimately, though, I knew that every advertisement creates an image of both the particular product and the company as a whole, so I decided that if want to do this thing right, I will to have to avoid the whole shebang (or shebrand).  Sadly, this eliminates many of my clothing shopping options — perhaps I should look into some creative alternatives such as the one shown here?

skittles-prom3

An experiment.

April 15, 2009
Dentyne does its part to fuck with the minds of Millenials.

Dentyne, doing its part to fuck with the minds of Millennials.

I was sitting on the subway this morning, once again trying to ignore the advertisements for beer (you’ll be sexy if you drink this), candy (you’ll have more fun if you eat this), and gum (you’ll be less lonely if you chew this), when I decided my project for the month:

I will attempt to not purchase anything I have ever seen advertised.

One tricky part will be trying to remember what I’ve seen advertisements for and what I haven’t.  After all, Advertising is everywhere.  Ads on television.  Ads on the radio.  Ads flooding your mailbox.  Ads in magazines and journals and newspapers.  Ads on billboards above roads and factories and empty fields.  Ads painted onto the sides of skyscrapers.  Ads dancing and blinking and popping up and invading every corner of the internet.

But even if I don’t succeed at the task, I think the process will help me gain awareness of what I purchase and what goes into each decision.  I don’t really believe that pure freedom exists in consumer societies, but I do think that we can create room for awareness and defiance.  That is the goal of my little experiment.

Multiple choice.

February 27, 2009

What has highfemme been up to for the last however-many weeks?  Was it:

a) Falling from anti-consumerist grace.

b) Baking 5 dozen cookies, pastries, and cupcakes.

c) Doing femme organizing work to bring together countless brilliant and queertastic ladies for fun, creativity, and stereotype-busting.

d) Falling even more deeply in love with her handsome butch.

Bet you can guess.  Yeah, it’s all of the above.  And then some.  Commentary, in brief: a) ah, those pesky recession sales and irresistible knee-high boots; b) with homemade cream cheese frosting, no less;  c) femmes rock;  d) I am so fucking lucky to have her in my life; and e) all I want for my birthday is more sleep.

xoxo

me


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