Discarded A Journal For the Creative Soul

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...but isn’t that what art is all about? We are little messengers in a world that moves too fast and filled with pain sent to show people how to see a beautiful world that still exists.
— Sue Sonnenberg

Ever since I was little I lived mostly in my head, as many creatives tend to do. I had a shoebox I kept under my bed that held things I collected as a free spirit walking the suburbs of NY. Sometimes it held baby birds I snuck home to bottle feed and other times it was scraps I found and planned to create with. I always had a love for discarded things and breathing new life into them by creating art pieces. As I grew older my ideas multiplied as I had less time to feed and nurture my creativity. I felt off balance and even a tad crazy. After discovering my camera and instant love for photography I felt a path clearing before me. My art turned into a business and in the lulls of a slow season I began to create for myself. The stories I created grew more complex and deep and I feared sharing these images with others--I worried what they would think.

Then just last year something switched in me. I decided not to care what others think. You can't please everyone but you can try at least to make yourself happy along life's journey. 2017 was the year of being "Unapologetically ME" and it was so freeing. Learning to let go of the strings of judgement made me my own puppet master. I created over a thousand personal art pieces for myself and for the good of the community that surrounds me. 

If I look to the world hoping she will show me kindness, I am most always disappointed.
If I look to myself to bring about acts of kindness than kindness follows me everywhere I go.
— unknown

Once I set myself free and started creating for myself amazing things happened for me. I touched so many lives through using my art as the gift it was. I achieved many personal goals that I set out to do..and quite simply, I was happy. Every year at this time I would create dream or vision boards to visually goal set for the upcoming year. This past year I tried something knew, "Out of the Box" as I call it. For some reason this tangible method really lit a fire within me and before I knew it I was completing things I never thought my creative brain could sit still long enough to do. Before long I created a book, a guided-journal. It was my own inner voice telling me and pushing me along the way that I share now here in the pages of this book. Self doubt, timing, irrational fears, goal setting, feeling overlooked and disconnected.. they were all part of my story but a new chapter has begun. 2018 will be forcing myself to open up more about myself. I have the hardest time putting myself out there and being in front of the camera. How can I tell others to EXIST and BE in the frame and better yet, LOVE who they see if I cannot do that myself? So cheers to a new year and a box full of new goals. What do you hope the new year brings out in you?

 -Untethered Soul

-Untethered Soul

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If you are curious for more of what's inside you can find this guided journal here:

Speaking of doing things you LOVE, check out this amazing Valentine's shoot and blog about crafting a little something special for those you love by my friend Cara Ann's! It’s all part of February’s 10-on-10 loop, highlighting gorgeous photographers around the world!

http://catcherintheryephotography.com/valentines-day-2018/

{ Family }

People always say as long as you have your health and your family you are the richest person in the world. 

Just yesterday I got a call from the school that a fire broke out and I needed to pick up my kids immediately. Dropping everything I jumped in my car and drove past the hill that I hike to clear my mind to see it engulfed in flames. People were running frantically across streets looking for loved ones as I tried to stay calm and patient and get to mine. My phone lost service and as I parked I hoped I would find my kids in the sea of bodies rushing all over. Thankfully I found them quickly and eventually we were home. It was time to pack up things to sustain us for a day or two and get out of there. 

It was then that I noticed everything I cared about filled a small 5X5 area in my doorway. My three kids, my husband, our two dogs and even grape (our beta fish). There was enough clothes to get us by, a folder of important documents, dog food, a box of pictures and hard drives. It was a great reminder of what is truly important in a home. 

Family is your home. 

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This holiday season I've been filled with the joy of getting to hang out with so many families making memories that will live on forever. We all grow older and our lives change but it's such a gift to have these pieces of their stories to hold onto and take with them. 

What I love most about family sessions is just letting them be who they are and tell their story the best way we know how, through laughter.

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What I love most about family sessions is just letting them be who they are and tell their story the best way we know how, through laughter.

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It's a strange and amazing feeling to know that these memories created together will be a part of their homes, hanging on their walls. The walls they hang on may change but the memories are kept safe, forever.

What is family?

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When I tell you there is something special about this family, I mean it truly. Nina met Doc after being blown up in Iraq with my husband. She was hobbling by on crutches from a freak (meaning lame;) accident when he called out to her to tell her she was using her crutches wrong. Doc was in a state of rehab for his many injuries and the two bonded over real, but messy life. She joked that now he had to take her to a baseball game for picking on her and the rest is history. This family, is a part of my family you see. There's a bond that the military creates in people. The type of family you never want to be a part of but are so grateful to be on life's journey with. We've been to one too many funerals to be this young. Too many flags folded and too many long sleepless nights. This bond as painful as it is also pushes us to see the beauty in the tiny moments we get to hold onto. Nina and Doc have suffered grave losses but laughter is the first thing that rings through my brain when thinking of them. From losing body parts to angel babies we see what truly matters and treasure moments like tiny gifts, second chances. Aubrielle, my God-daughter, was due on the same date as Nina's angel baby. The moment she was born I was sitting in the sand taking a photo of the sun setting over the water but the moon was in full view as it passed and sunk into the deep waters. The sky, the water, the moon and the sun all present in the exact moment she was being born. Why do I tell you this? Because life shows us great and painful challenges but without them we forget to focus on the things that truly matter. 

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So naturally when Nina asked me to take Adam Timothy's (Adam after Adam Zanutto and Adam VanAlstyne RIP, and Timothy after Timothy Melia RIP, all brave men who gave everything for our country) newborn photos I wanted them to be amazing. I wanted to do something unlike any other. But then I was humbled again remembering what really mattered to them most, snuggles and lazy Sundays... their puppy Juliet... simply being together. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes "The little things, the little moments, they aren't little."

ABOUT FACE | The Anti-Selfie Project

If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”
— Unknown

"Selfies" seem to be everywhere lately, in cars, grocery stores and even in public restrooms. Something about the concept of posing with duck lips for the "like" race on social media platforms really bugs me. In a society that places so much importance on outward appearances and snippets of the perfect life, I felt a sense of "realness" fading fast. Conversations with eye-contact and depth are quickly being replaced with memes and text messages. 

Initially, I wanted to open the assignment with words of "aged-to-perfection" wisdom about the internet and how it has altered how we perceive others and even ourselves but then I remembered why I chose this age group. Middle school is a rough age. Often times they are caught in the middle quite literally, far from babies and yet not close to adulthood either. I feel these kids are far more brilliant than we give credit for. This age group in society goes largely ignored, so why wouldn't they look to social media for acceptance and validation? So instead, I asked them what they thought the positive and negative aspects of social media were and how they felt it played a role in how they were judged. 

POSITIVE: You can connect with like-minded people, learn and share ideas, stay in contact with family and friends that you don't get to see everyday, alleviate boredom, and maybe if you are having a bad day you can see other people out having good days and cheer up.

NEGATIVE: Another platform for bullying, comparing your life to snippets of others, always "on" and accessible, those with bad intentions can have access to you.

STEP ONE: I started out asking them to write something that others wouldn't know about them just by looking at them. I had the kids tape them to each other's backs and took a photo of them from behind to hold the attention on the words those chose to use to define themselves. This was the most difficult part of the experiment. Lots of chatter and tapping of feet and pencils filled the room as they struggled to come up with something nice. 

STEP TWO: I then asked them to turn and face the camera and think of some things people have said about them online or in real life that judged them unfairly. They were asked to show an expression that would reflect how they felt while hearing these things. I did this in a effort to show how it would feel if they were to say these hurtful things to someone's face. Could they?

STEP THREE: Then I asked them to return to the classroom and write down some of those things that people said poorly about them. This part of the assignment came easily to them and they were quick to fill up their pages. 

The words that they etched out on the paper were alarming. This diverse group of amazing kids yet none of them suffered to come up with words used against them. I was horrified to see so many had "Kill Yourself" on their sheets. The mood in the room shifted, they became very attentive and more willing to share their stories of hurt. 

I asked them why they thought I chose them for this social experiment. I wanted them to reflect on how difficult is was to come up with ONE thing that they were proud of yet they filled up a sheet full of awful words in under 5 minutes. I wanted them, for a moment not only focus on, but also believe the words they chose to use to define themselves. Looking around the room at so many amazing kids yet not one escaped the judgements of bullying. I wanted them to make sure they didn't give anyone else a reason to write down on their list of cruel words and mostly I didn't want them to believe these things. 

"You are not defined by how others see you, you are only defined by what is within you."

What a sad day it would be should these kids believe that these words define who they really are... 

"They way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice" -Peggy O'Mara

Bustamante Family

Life is full of high and low tides. Sometimes we need to take a step back and see the journey we've made and see how beautiful our love truly is. I love sessions like this where you can just let free, run through the water, press sandy feet into the ground only to be run over again by seagulls and waves. Like moments, fleeting and drifting away to be washed clean again, to start over fresh and all that is left is the ringing of laughter and salty tangles caught in our hair. Memories. One day we will look back at these images and be brought back to what it felt like that day when the rush of minutes on the clock stopped for a second and we paused to remember to soak it all in, the magic of chaos and family and really living in the tiny moments that made up the last 10 years of your story.

10 years looks so good on you Katie and Chris. Cheers to many many more memories. Happy Anniversary. xo Sue

MAD (Make a Difference) using Art

Recently I became a part of MAD. MAD is an organization that unites artists for change. Art has many forms and is a way to tell a story when you have no words, no strength, possibly no hope. 

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Roots to Willows Photography is partnering with a non-profit MAD (make a Difference through Art) and this years theme is child sexual abuse. This image is based on the art created by the victim covering a mannequin with ripped up pieces of the bible in an attempt at covering herself with words of protection. This symbolizes her strength in using her voice to set herself free and now being so strong to help others free themselves too. Too many stay silent.

I wanted the image to reflect the strength of her voice and the powerful way it set her free. When I arrived to shoot the session Renee was having a rough time and found a model to portray her instead. After all, it is a painful process no matter how necessary. As we started wrapping the model in newspaper I caught sight of a tattoo of doves flying on her chest. It was the exact tattoo I had wanted for so many years. Renee oddly enough had the same tattoo. It was just the sign I needed that that was exactly where I was meant to be at that moment. After the shoot a flock of white doves followed alongside of my truck the whole way home and when I pulled up the images and looked closer I saw this…

The paper we had her rip off and throw to the wind looked like doves flying away. Straight out of camera! I looked up the meaning of the doves and found "Peace, Love, Purity". Purity… wow just WOW! 

Part of Renee's therapeutic process was ripping words out of the bible, burning the edges and covering the body of mannequins in an effort to protect and keep it safe. At first she was worried people may criticize her for doing this to the Bible but the process was warmly received and so she began her journey with putting her art and in a way her body out there in its new way of being received. The last image of the 3 image set "Burning" was created to symbolize the last part of her process. Oddly enough I remembered hearing that often times children who have been sexually abused set fires. Intrigued I asked Renee why she burnt the edges. Her response was that it was a rebellious act that gave her a sense of power. 

The night I finished this image was the night of the super/blood moon. The blood moon is said to be a part of a prophecy that something very special is about to take place. I looked up the ancient meaning of burning and to my surprise it spoke of cleansing and renewal. Fire symbolized the heart of the people. I must agree. All signs point to Keep Me Safe changing lives. I've had people FEEL something from looking at these images. Who knew that mannequins in a field could bring so many lost souls to a point of realization that it was time for them to speak up and free themselves.  

They tried to bury us, they did not know we were seeds.

Interview with Ground Roots Productions and MAD:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgAIdMHRxaU&feature=youtu.be

https://www.facebook.com/Keep-Me-Safe-BE-AWARE-834661933307278/

https://www.facebook.com/MAD-Studio-Public-Art-Gallery-161156007244251/


Paper dress {Fashion by Taiya}

Taiya hand made this dress out of paper scraps and duct tape for our session bringing so much awesome into one session!!! Taiya is creative, fun AND gorgeous. We did all of this to create one creative image as a photo composite (shown at the bottom;) 

I stumbled across "Job Something" online one day after seeing that Eric's barn burnt down and he was starting over from scratch creating. Eric makes art out of reclaimed wood, paint, magazines, paper scraps… pretty much anything! It really caught eye since he created a whole series of trees (i'm obsessed with trees) and he was quick to make me a Willow Tree using quotes and other recycled products. My goal was to photoshop Taiya into his art wearing a dress made of paper to complete the look. For Taiya I needed to use a more vibrant tree to reflect her personality.

 Framed Art by Eric of Job Something "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again…" Job 14:7

Framed Art by Eric of Job Something "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again…" Job 14:7

 Photo Composite

Photo Composite

Be sure to check Job Something on Facebook or https://www.etsy.com/shop/JobSomething. 

Bohemian inspired friendship photo shoot — Roots to Willows

When Halie's mom mentioned a Bohemian themed photo session I was so excited (they are my favorite). Right away I knew we had to use dreamcatchers. My kids and I had attempted to make our own the day before. I was pretty impressed at how they turned out (that is until I saw Kim's that she made for Halie and her friends). Since they were moving out of state before starting high school in Texas I thought it may be fun to add some childhood memories to the strands. 

The Dream Catcher's themselves were simple to make and each unique to itself.

What we used to make them:

*Crochet hoop (or if you are feeling fancy willow branches)

*doily (optional)

*Suede Lacing 

*yarn/string/lace/trimming/wire (should be 10x's the length of the hoop)

*Feathers/beads/buttons/gemstones/leaves (anything that is meaningful to you)

*Tabs to write on or wide lace to write on with sharpie for personalization

The more meaningful the better

Feathers: A hanging feather is a symbol of air and is said that the stirring of a dream catcher's feather means that a dream has passed through the circle. Owl feather: symbolizes wisdom. Eagle feather: courage. But really what you will most likely use will be faux feathers (since endangered bird feather use is illegal) or some that you find in the wild.

Gemstones: are used to represent the four directions: north, south, east, west. 

Dreamcatchers originated with the Ojibwe people, who wove these webs from willow hoops and sinew. The hoop represents the travel of the giizis, the sun, through the sky. At night, the hole in the center only lets bawedjige, good dreams, pass. Bawedjigewin, bad dreams, are trapped in the web, and dispelled at the first light of morning.

(Thank you Wikepedia;) 

Assembly: I simply wrapped yarn around the circular base then crossed over the circle and wrapped around twice and bounced around the frame until I created a pattern. Wrapping twice is important or it will sag and slide (and your kids will get frustrated and want to give up;) Here you can add gemstones/beads or loop a doily into the center. The options are endless! Once your pattern is complete tie a knot, trim the excess, and tie your lace, string, etc to the bottom of the hoop. We then slipped on the tags with hand-written notes onto the suede lacing. Write memories, favorite quotes, wishes, song lyrics, etc. We added a celebratory photo session complete with tossing them in the air as a symbol of carrying on to new places, and new memories only for them to land as a reminder we are always grounded to our roots and fond memories. 

"For long you live and high you fly.
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry.
And all you touch and all you see.
Is all your life will ever be"

-Pink Floyd-Dark side of the moon

Some other favorites from this Bohemian styled shoot. 

Jewelry handmade by Diana of Capstone Couture. Diana creates jewelry, soaps, candles, handmade clothing, you name it all with the "of the earth" Bohemian spirit in mind and crafted with care. She creates with items found free in nature, or growing in her own garden here in southern, CA. All her scents are natural. Each item is made with care and intent on its purpose. She uses gemstones, oils, and items of healing nature in everything she creates. We were so excited to use her jewelry that fit so perfectly with this shoot!

www.capstonecouture.com     @capstonecouture