I stopped short the first time I tried a 52-week project, so I’m trying again.
Living Coral (Week 1)
based on pantone’s color of the year
Hope (Week 2)
hope is the thing with feathers
Self-Love (Week 3)
with no refined edges, some water marks and some smudges, and only ever me with a little hair in the face because if I look into my own eyes for too long, I weep.
Satisfaction (Week 4)
just another word I use to describe everything in its right place. for my dad, the moment he catches a fish on fishing trips. for marcin, winning. for me, eating chocolate whilst on my period. so instead of something that could have gotten real weird, real quick, because chocolate and periods, I chose something a little more… conceptual. organized. symmetric. but all those things within the imperfections of real life. making everything all the more satisfying.
Freedom (Week 5)
I did the thing that everyone talks about of quitting the job for all the reasons it didn’t sit well. this theme was personal.
Contentment (Week 6)
the jade plant
Kurwa (Week 7)
Polish for “whore,” and now that we have career options, this is no longer a permissible one. It is time the word no longer holds a woman’s psyche hostage. Take back the word. My body my choice.
International Women's Day (Week 8)
love her but leave her wild
Planting Roots (Week 9)
52 Weeks (v1)
The summer of 2014 when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I moved home to live with my parents in Minneapolis while I figured out my next step, the next chapter of the book of Krystal. As I limboed my way through new workout programs, yoga workshops, and banquet serving, I decided I wanted to keep creating -- I wasn't ready to give up on photography yet. Rather than taking the photos, though, rather than capturing single moments of magic, I wanted to make the magic, to set the stage and manipulate a space to highlight a thoughtful theme of my life.
I wanted this project to build my personal photography portfolio, to have something to show people, something I was proud of. I wanted this project to showcase what I can do on my own as a grower of relationships, a user of Photoshop, as a creator of art.
I made it 22 weeks before I found my next step.
Week 1: Black and White self-portrait
I took this photo in front of a window, with the camera facing it. I exposed for the darks of my face, which if you know anything about how a camera works, you know what happens when you place your camera towards the light – your gut instinct is to expose for the highlights, to make them detailed. However, when you let go of that perfection, you can create something dreamy, like this, and that fact is where the facial expression comes from. I wanted me, in a raw state, for every viewer to judge and critique because that is who we are. We act as catalysts for others to feel better/worse about themselves. So take me, and judge me. Tear me to pieces. I don’t care.
I will always have the sun behind me.
Week 2: Inspired by Song Lyrics
The second week of my 52-week project just passed, and I came up with a photo I am extremely proud of, and it only took me an hour’s entirety to find inspiration. I decided on a photo representing song lyrics. So within that hour, I came up with a song, chose the message I wanted to convey, and drew out its photograph.
After randomly scrolling through my “most played” on iTunes, I decided on a musical artist that people would know in the hopes of achieving an intellectual connection with my peers because YOU are my current audience. So what is a song that I love and that most people would know? Or at least recognize.
I chose my favorite song from about two and a half years ago (hipster moment, I know: “well, I knew that song before any of you did,” except, I still like it) called Latch by an electronic band named Disclosure. My good friend and I would dance and sing along to this song while we played it during each other’s showers. It refracted the happiness we needed every day.
The specific lines from the song that stuck out to me were these:
“Now I’ve got you in my space I won’t let go of you Got you shackled in my embrace I’m latching on to you”
The word “shackled” evokes a negative connotation. (I'm sure Sam Smith didn't mean it in that way, but the word was deliberately chosen, so I have to assume there were thoughts happening on the writing side of the word choice.) Not many people associate shackles with rainbows and kittens, and that negative notion made me think that maybe love isn’t as light and free as people want it to be. Like in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, love and compassion are both heavy and light at the same time, both ultimately good things. And with that idea, having a loving relationship with someone automatically assumes reciprocation; being lovers is a two-way street. Those shackles, the tools that bind you and your lover together, both negatively and positively, must be provided from each side.
Week 3: Yellow
Here is my take on the color yellow.
This picture is 7 pictures put together: 2 pictures for me. Since I was the one holding the remote for the camera shutter, I had to pose myself with the remote in each hand so I could use the images with the open hand. And 5 pictures for the sheets. I bought this twin flat sheet at a thrift store for $3 specifically for this photograph. It only covered so much space, so I had to position it on one side, flick it in the wind, then repeat on the other side. I then composited those “flicks” together into one big sheet of movement.
A lot of photographs were taken for this, but having my dad as a peanut gallery/watch dog/audience member, I managed to get what I needed and leave within an hour. Not to mention the entire day I waited for this perfect sunset light.
I hope you like this as much as I do.
Free is the bird without a cage.
Week 4: Bathtub
I have been wanting to take this photo for a long time. I’d say a solid few months already. It has always been in the back of my mind, but I have never had the opportunity to take it. So for this week, I chose the theme that could work for this photograph. For this image, though, I always envisioned it with a male so that I could really frame his bone structure. However, when no one wants to model for me, I have to stand in for my own photographs. And it is fine that way. I do not mind telling myself what to do and how to do it.
So having only myself, I “shook what my mama gave me,” and what she gave me was my luscious locks (actually I got my hair from my father). I love what hair looks like in water, the flow and ease it inhabits, except I do not have the tools to shoot photographs underwater, so I did what I could overhead my bathtub.
This photograph, like my recent ones, is made up of 5 different images. I had to compile pictures of my body with ones of the water without me in it so that I could use it to cover my torso and then the rest of the images were for my hair. As we all know, we cannot always have every day a perfect hair day, so lucky for me, I have the ability to use the digital world in order to put a couple “good hair days” together as if it were one.
And as for the water? I put milk from the fridge in it to not only bring the temperature of the boiling bath water down to a point where I could sit in the tub, but also, and more importantly, to achieve the milky, dreamy effect that I have been wanting for so long to try out.
I am really starting to fall in love with this photograph. I think there’s something elegant yet dark, sexy yet creepy, about it.
Week 5: Wide Frame
This first photo is the one I chose for my 52-Week project portfolio. It came unplanned. Well, not that it was a surprise that I had my camera with me, that part was planned, but the idea of the shoot itself was spontaneous. I had a friend visit from Madison for the weekend, and since I was not particularly fond of the first photo I took for this project, she suggested we shoot again. And we did. And I am glad we did. For the most part.
Coming to choose this photo was a process, a mental game that really pushed my self-determination to choose between my own photographs as to which one is “better” than the other. First, I don’t like to think like that. I don’t want to have to choose among my photographs. Each photo has its own special quirks, just like humans. Except whether people like each photo is a whole other rubber band ball of wax. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions (you have quirks). Second, I have horrible decision problems in the sense that I can’t make up my own mind when I have no gut feeling about either side of the decision.
I ultimately had to put one in my 52-Week portfolio. Like I said, each photo has its quirks, its edges and compositions, light fragments and poses that give off its own feel and emotion, and I am learning to accept that.
Week 6: Wind
I waited all week for a breezy day. You would think Minnesota with its wide fields and open spaces that wind would not be hard to find, right? Oh, how wrong. It took me the whole week without even one mildly breezy day for me to finally say to myself on Saturday, the last day I could take a photo, to just go out in the world with my camera and see what the universe will give me.
The universe gave me a hug that day because the wind lifted my hair along with it but refrained from stealing it. It wasn’t too strong, and it wasn’t too light.
During the week of waiting, though, my head overwhelmed itself with ideas for this theme. Filled the brain pool with numerous designs and intentions. I could do something with flowy fabrics, lots of hair, flowers, faces, or string. Anything and everything.
However, I decided to step back from those ambitions, lessening my addiction to Photoshop and compositional photographs, to see what kind of audience I’m really targeting with my photography. I want to take natural portraits of and for people who just want to feel pretty. And bringing it back to the basics this week is one step toward that goal.
I hope you all find the beauty in something so simple.
Listen to the wind, and you will feel a hug from the universe with every breeze.
Week 7: Levitation
Or as my phone autocorrect says “levivatation.”
Yes, I know that’s not even a word. Talk to my phone.
This picture is another composite. I actually had about 5 minutes of time where it was not raining the last day I had available to take this week’s photograph. So I rushed to the spot I wanted to take the photo I had in mind, and it started raining. Great. Now what do I do? I pout. Also talk to my mother. She witnessed my 2-year-old tantrum in the driveway.
But then I had a change of heart after I let my frustration out, and I decided to do it right there, in the driveway. I took a stool from the basement and lay my body across it while my mom held the rope that wrapped around my waist. I used a photo in which my body looked the least amount of awkward and a photo for the arm in front and a photo for the arm in back and a photo for my hair. I composited all those together but had no background image to place my person against. So I went out with my father looking for a road that looked like a road without suburban graham cracker houses in the way of the peace I wanted the landscape to enforce. (I'm so lucky to have familial support.)
This backdrop was the second picture I took, and I liked it so much I only took a few more just to make sure that second one was the one I wanted. And it was.
Trust your rope.
Week 8: last-minute self-portrait
and still untitled.
I had quite the week traveling across the world so it took me up to Friday to decide on a theme, and even then I was changed my mind constantly trying to try to pick something easy and simple and quick.
Sunday came around, and I didn't have a photo. So as much as I hated the pressure of turning in an assignment late (without school anymore, this is how I treat this project), I had to come up with something.
Here is my something. I took it within ten minutes. Because that’s what I did.
What should I call it?
Week 9: Rain
To be honest, I do not really know where the idea and inspiration came from for this photograph.
But a beautiful friend of mine from high school offered to model for me, so this is what we came up with.
Week 10: Silhouette
This photo actually started out with the idea that I could use Christmas lights to wrap my body in and somehow create a silhouette with that; however, after a few clicks of the shutter and out-of-focus images, I became frustrated, and quickly. So I bundled up the stringed lights and accidentally clicked the remote in the process, and the photograph came out with a delicate silhouette. Running with the idea, I taped the bundled lights to the wall and snapped away. This photo is what came of it.
There is darkness to silhouettes, yet at the same time you need light in order to notice one.
Give light, and darkness will disappear of itself.
Week 11: Summer
Summer, to me, means outdoors, sunshine, bike rides to Dairy Queen, and baseball; however, the last week of summer I had packed my bags for Rome. Having been to Rome before, I knew that the idea I had in mind for open fields with wildflowers and sunshine of a picture wasn’t going to happen, so I had to think on the fly with what Rome has to offer in terms of greenery. On the top of one of my favorite hills in a neighborhood next to mine, I found the perfect line of summer brush. I looked at the vegetation and said, “There.” After a few tests shots, I had the perfect pose in mind that would represent summer.
Careless. Light. Liberated.
If it could be like this always - always summer, always effervescent and free.
Week 12: Tomorrow
The theme for this week was “tomorrow” a la a friend of mine whom without hesitation replied with suggestions to upcoming themes when I was struggling.
I wrote down a whole bunch of themes on paper and put them in an unused gym bag and picked on out.
“Tomorrow” seems like a daunting idea. Something only somebody with conceptual artistic talents could find inspirational. And it was difficult at first, ain’t gon’ lie, but after I gave myself a day to really think through what tomorrow means to me, I came up with this.
The theme is something no one will ever grasp. It’s a concept that only lies within our thoughts; we will never have direct contact with it, and that point is exactly what I wanted to capture. The only moment in time that we can touch and feel and think about is right now, this present moment. So while everyone constantly thinks of the future, their plans, their goals, their to-do lists, all we can really change is right now. We will always have right now.
And that is an idea I’ve always struggled with until lately. You grow up going to school. You finish high school so you can go to college. You go to college so you can get a job right after, or so you can go to more college. Everyone seems to have their life in order, or at least, that’s what Facebook tells me, so how do I live? Do I live 7 hours behind someone I love? Or do I live in the face of upset packing a suitcase of my things for a chance to find a job where love is?
I chose the second option because all we have is right now. At least I’m trying. Dreams can change, and that’s not a bad thing.
Week 13: Protection
Thanks to the same friend who suggested the twelfth week’s theme of “tomorrow,” I got the theme for week thirteen, “protection.”
With a recent trip to the hospital, I wanted to showcase how protection can mean one thing and its opposite simultaneously. What I mean by that is, say for example, you find shelter in your home when a tornado comes rolling around the neighborhood, or even the same with a thunderstorm. At the same time, however, that house not only protects you from the outside world, but it protects the outside world from you. Granted there isn’t much harm a person can inflict upon a tornado, but I live next to a penitentiary here in Rome, and that building, that same form of shelter for them keeps others, like me and you, protected from those hooligans. It’s a bit of a convoluted example, I know, but if you can understand that then you’ll understand my photograph.
Just like a physical building, your outer skin, your exoskeleton, protects you from certain bacteria in the air, on the ground, etc., but simultaneously, and out of absolutely nowhere, as soon as your body is infected with disease, nothing from the outside can change it. Unless there’s a way in.
Protection, to me, means both the definition of and its opposite.
A little deep for a Tuesday, but RWEmerson gets me:
“The best lightning rod for your own protection is your spine.”
Week 14: Society
I have recently had a few inquiries pertaining to my actions in Photoshop. As it takes me an entire day to edit one compositional photograph, I decided to satisfy those inquiries with a step by step process as you can fill in the blanks with the specific steps I took to achieve this portrait.
1) This was the base photograph because I liked my hair and my face and the position my body was in.
2) To that, I added some extra hair from other photographs to accentuate the drama and I also fixed my shoulder to make it look like I wasn’t holding a remote.
3-5) Once my body was the way I like it, I added two pictures of flicked scarves to the picture. Rotated them, liquified them, just to get them exactly the way I wanted.
6) And after the scarves came the honey. Santa’s little helper dropped honey by the spoonfuls onto a plate (in a place of good light and a white background to keep it clean and easier to manipulate in Photoshop).
7) That honey then went into my hair.
8) And after some color correction and “Krystal Flare,” the conceptual photograph was complete!
As for the concept itself, all I’m going to explain is that with the theme ‘society,’ I wanted to achieve the message of objectification. It’s the little things, the terms of endearment, like “Hey, honey, I’m home” that can emphasize objectification among everyone and anyone.
Week 15: Close Up
Love, Light, and Shadow to open up
Week 16: Serenity
Creating double exposures through a computer software intimidates me to the highest degree because they are easy to screw up. It is so easy to make the image look ridiculous and completely overdone. Before this picture, the only double exposures you’d see me doing are in-cameras with my 35mm. However, double exposed portraits create a peaceful duality of a person’s soul, and I didn’t want to avoid that conversation when we decided on last week’s theme of “serenity.”
It only took a few shots to get the expression that I was after (photo on the left). I cropped out the window on either side of me and I brushed out the background so all that was left was me on a white backdrop. I then overlayed the image with a photo I took recently of roses at the Queen’s rose garden in Regent’s Park in London (photo on the right). After a few minor color and light adjustments in Photoshop, the image really came together. I love the tones that materialized and the way my face is still the focus and heart of it all.
Rose is my middle name; it’s my mother’s name also. And a calmness comes over me when I surround myself with nature and flowers. That, to me, is serenity.
Go in the direction of where your peace is coming from.
Week 17: Growth
Another composite in the bag; I love this photograph. People call it the “wedding one.” And I suppose it may look that way. Except, my ‘dress’ is a white shirt tucked into a white bed sheet. And his 'tux’ is his black winter jacket. So not quite wedding material, but I can understand the nickname.
I chose this composite to envelope my meaning of growth because of a poem by one of my favorite poets, John Donne, titled “Love’s Growth,” specifically, the very last line.
Donne uses the opposition of winter and spring as a metaphor to explain the growth of love. The winter acting as the bad times, and the spring standing in for the good. The last line of the poem says, “No winter shall abate the spring’s increase.” In other words, none of the bad things that can happen in a lover’s relationship mean as much, or are as powerful, as the good that comes from other things. Spring, the good, will always bring more life to love than what winter, the bad, can take away.
And in my photograph, instead of winter and spring, because Italy’s winter basically doesn’t exist, I used black and white. Shadows and highlights. Dark and light. Light always wins.
Week 18: Bottom
I read a lot. And I read a lot of poetry. It’s not something many souls find rewarding, but it soothes me. Every time I read it, or I write it, or I sing it, a part of my essence peels back like paint as if someone is trying to look inside me.
My love for it started in school. Middle school, high school. Both required me to take English courses that required me to read different centuries’ poetry. However, my truest affinity to it, the class that stuck with me the most, and now the reason I have an English degree, is because of my sophomore year’s English Literature course at my university taught by my most-hated and most-loved professor to date. On the syllabus was a book of poems by Denise Duhamel, and in that book one of her poems titled “The Bottom” resonated in me.
And I figured it would be a perfect rendition of a connotation of the week’s theme.
I stopped drinking when I realized I was fighting for the vodka at the bottom of the hill more than I was fighting against the terrible things that could have happened to me inside the cab of that rusty Chevy.
Go read the rest. You won’t regret it!
Week 19: Fabric
Gossip is just news running ahead of itself in a red satin dress.
Week 20: Judgment
No matter who you are, where you come from, what vision of reality you hold, someone will always judge you. You can be a person in a magazine, a rockstar, a professor, a mother, or a lover. It is our jobs as humans to let that judgment flow through us, not to send out anything in return but love. So many of us have little faith in ourselves and insecurities, so many of us give up on our dreams because of what someone might say. Choose self-love over self-judgment, and others will follow.
Self-love over self-judgment
Week 21: Foundation
Week 22: Departure
How fitting for the week I decided to quit...
It took me way too long to figure out what I wanted to portray in the theme of “departure.” There are so many cool ideas I had in mind; however, I had neither ambition with which to accomplish them nor location/props/outfits to properly execute them. All the ideas I had involve the trees and the woods and merely the nature around me at home, except at home, it’s the dead of winter. It’s cold and snowy and as much as that can be beautiful, I live in the suburbs of it all. I don’t live a drive away from mountains. I don’t live minutes from frozen lakes. So it took me about a week to fully understand that if I wanted to actually do this theme in a photograph, I had to come up with a different approach.
Here it is. Not the physical act of departing, leaving, taking off on a journey, but the mental state of departing from reality.
“Unless you leave a person both physically and mentally, you will always be with that person; there is no real departure.”
In my senior year of college, I took an English course that surrounded the works of Virginia Woolf. The professor assigned each student a project to work on throughout the semester and hand in as the "final" at the end of the course.
Mrs. Friedman gave us a few different options of ideas for the project, all of which were creative, none of which I was interested in, so I asked her if I could take some photos instead.
Of course, Mrs. Friedman wanted something more than just a couple of photographs, and of course, my intention was not just a couple of photographs. I wanted to create an image for each novel, and each image inspired by and based on a particular quotation that summarized an overarching theme within each piece.
These images are the result of the project.
Between the Acts
Dispersed are we; who have come together. But...let us retain whatever made that harmony. Unity - Dispersity
A Room of One's Own
"Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size..."
"A crudely colored photograph -- For you have a library... How far do they encourage us to think that if we help the daughters to become professional women we shall discourage war?"
"Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us."
“Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.”
To the Lighthouse
“Not as oneself did one find rest ever… but as a wedge of darkness. Losing personality, one lost the fret, the hurry, the stir; and there rose to her lips always some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace, this rest, this eternity…”