hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Sunday, December 4, 2011

happy birthday mom

dear mom,

it turns out that no matter how hard we try not to be like our parents the inevitable happens lol.  is it the age thing maybe?  i'm out of energy to fight what is naturally in me... the indelible mark you left?  sigh.  it's those long drives home (stuck in traffic) when i have nothing but me, my brain and silence to reflect over the day and the past week and i pause.  a lot.  i see so much of you in me.  SO MUCH.  it's not a bad thing.  it's just curious.  now, as a parent myself, i see what you were trying to do.  you knew where your weaknesses were and you tried to instill in me the strengths you wish you had but you also impressed on me who you really were.  actions, actions, actions.  it leaves a mark.  i picked up a little of both and more.  i know now what you were trying to do and i'm doing it too.  i'm constantly evaluating where i can improve but it's hard to stay on top of that and i fall back to the old, easier ways.  you can't always fight nature i guess.  you are buried deep in me.

gosh i really miss you.  maybe i'm romanticizing, wondering what our relationship would be if you were still here.  how would you be as a grandma?  i'm guessing doting which would be a 180 from the disciplinarian ina and grew up with.  'course nobody can resist the charms of the little kaya.  you should see how much she gets away with when she's around the family.  i've definitely turned into the disciplinarian.  hahahah!  i really would have enjoyed seeing much affection you would have showered on her unencumbered by the old responsibilities of proving yourself in your career, maintaining a social life and having nannies care for your kids 24/7.  enjoying your grandchild as every grandparent can as we the parents host the internal private battle that you did when you were raising us.

we've managed fairly well raising the little one i think ... even without you around.  this second one that we signed up for though scares me a little.  i might have thought that it was going to be difficult without you the first time, now i'm really worried.  a lot of other families obviously have managed and when push comes to shove, instincts will kick in and we just deal.  but it really would have been a relief to have you around.  selfish.  i know.  sorry.  i'm sorry for a lot of things.  not getting to know you more when i had the chance is definitely one.  young, ignorant and stupid is my only excuse.  really really miss you.  these days more than usual.

happy birthday mom.  wish i could give you a hug.

love lots.

p.s. she has your temper, your drama and your dimples.

photos by my friend steph burns

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

round two . it begins again

yep, 2 home tests and a doctor verification later... it's official.  round two has begun.  due date: june 6

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

mila | fashion . dolly couture

my friend dolly gets soooo excited when she's got new dresses for her line.  and when she calls, i get soooo excited too.  coz that means pictures!!!  check out the rest of this fun fashion shoot on the coco blog.

fashion by dolly couture

Monday, September 19, 2011

coco gallery | max + taryn . married

i LOVE weddings.  they make me smile, they make me cry, they make me swoon!  check out the images i took at max + taryn's wedding on the coco blog and see why.

Friday, September 2, 2011

life in 12

i finally did it!  i dreamt up this project a while back and procrastinated for a little while on it.  then i shot some images and still dragged my feet over the post because i struggled with the presentation and the design.  finally i can move forward!  i would like to present to you my new project...

life in TWELVE

me committing to going over once a month for twelve months.  I will document life.  I will tell a story in pictures and in words.  At the end of it all they get a book.  One that holds their story, their legacy, their proof that they were here.
grandparents, first time moms and dads, newlyweds, a high school senior, 20 year marriage veterans, an author, a celebrity, a photographer, a small business, a corporation, models, bus drivers, doctors, happy families, challenged relationships, you, whoever you are .. whatever you are.
a documentary, a story, a challenge, a personal commitment, an opportunity for expression, a time capsule, a chance to explain, a visual journal, a journey, a goal, a legacy, a release, a quest for truth, ordinary, creativity, a photographic novel, a life, your life.
before brushing your teeth, during afternoon tea, while you meditate, as you put your makeup on, while cooking, on Tuesdays, on weekends, when it’s quiet, after everyone arrives, right before the storm hits, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, any time is the right time.
at home, in the office, at the grocery store, in bed, in the car, under the sun, at the nail salon, at a restaurant, on the famous couch, in the infamous room, at your desk, in your mind, in your environment, out of your comfort zone, wherever your life happens.
to document a story for the generations to come, to share a perspective with others, because life goes by so quickly, to presere a memory, because we are our own reality shows, to mark a milestone, to give as a present to ourselves and the ones we love, because if you don’t do it no one else will.

click on the image below to go to the site and check out the two families whose lives i'm etching on the wall

Thursday, August 11, 2011

coco | taryn + max engaged

i was just a fly on the wall.  these two were adorable, totally into each other and in their own world.  see the rest of the post and the pictures on theCOCOblog.

wonderin 'bout coco and the curator titles? Coco Gallery is me and three friends under one brand.  the goal: elevate our photog to art status (not that photog isn't art btw but you know what i mean -- we're waaay beyond snapshots). anyway.... coco has a home and it's perfect! we're housed in a contemporary art gallery with other media artists, all of them amazing neighbors!

we call ourselves CURATORS OF LIFE since our photography is a depiction of life in our art form.

milaPhotography and this blog are still the home for my personal work.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

coco | turtle rock family

i love me some fun family pictures.  kids running around just being themselves.  parents that are totally chill.  it's the BESTEST.  take a look at the rest of the photos on theCOCOblog and i'm sure you'll agree.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

coco | regina's bump session

just posted up a new bump session!  check out the coco blog to see the rest.

Friday, July 22, 2011

mila | permission to be stupid ... granted

at nineteen i decided i knew what i was doing and nobody could really tell me what to do.  i thought i was the shizat and my parents were just too old skool.  at twenty-one i looked back and thought ... "wow, i was dumb.  i knew nothing THEN!  i know what i'm doing NOW though".  i must have hit that evaluation semi-annually until i was 27.  i'm a little slow sometimes.  at twenty seven i knew i was growing up coz by then i thought ... "i really AM dumb and slow!  i STILL don't know what i'm doing!"

twenty seven was a good revelation year but despite the knowledge of how short on life experience i was, i was still afraid to LOOK dumb.  i tried to pull off "intelligent" and "competent" constantly (which btw can be way exhausting) but for the most part i was walking around caring a lot about how people perceived me.

twenty nine was a vicious year.  i think it is for a lot of girls.  something about leaving your twenties and crossing into the point-of-no-return-thirties was enough to make me miserable for a year literally up until the night before my birthday.  any kind of meaningful evaluation might have been put on hold that year and replaced by the age obsession.  the silly thing is that i woke up on the day of my 30th bday feeling no different coz technically i was thirty long before then (29 and 6 months rounds up to 30 right?).  in fact, it was just a number and just another day and nobody would believe me when i said i was thirty anyway.  since then my age has been a badge of honor and my self eval process started again.

thirty-two and i realized i'll NEVER know what i'm doing and every day is an experiment and i should just have fun with it.  and then just a few weeks ago i thought, there are old ladies out there whose clothes are stuck in a generation long gone, women who will stop anyone to ask for directions to the exit out of a parking lot they've been circling for half an hour and grannies who are still writing checks at the grocery store.  all these women have either stopped caring about people's perceptions, never cared or just decided that they are fine the way they are and are happy about it.  whatever it is, i wanted in on that.

they say that men hit their midlife crisis between the ages of 40 and 50; a period when they realize where they are, the passing of youth and the oncoming aging process.  different people react differently to this awakening.  could it be that since women don't generally age as gracefully as men do that our midlife crisis is between 30 and 40?  maybe it's just me... but have i just hit that?  coz a few weeks ago i was ok with not knowing everything and didn't care who knew.  in fact, it's a relief to be able to look silly, ask questions without a care and get answers!  i'm not entirely prepared to have my fashion dated and frozen yet though but i'm gosh darn i'm getting there!

here's some photos from my new project SELF-INFLICTED.  me, working on getting better and teaching myself to know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

mila | my wedding details

it was the second time for both of us.  we have a baby to think of.  we have bills to pay.  this was not the year for extravagant parties or major expenses.  we had every reason to postpone getting married but i was more than ready to become michelle ford.  i'd already practiced the signature a few times (since 2 years ago).  we had talked about it but hadn't lifted a finger and then all of a sudden we just wanted to get married so we planned it (in 3 months).

how were we going to keep it real, on the DL, super simple and inexpensive? we tried our best to not tell anyone.  we would have opted to pull two strangers from the street to bear witness for us at the courthouse but our siblings matter to us a lot so we told one from each side.  we picked a date (our 6 year anniversary) and we talked about a nice dinner with our invited siblings (dinner for 4 and a half ... including kaya) and we were ok with that for a while.  then... i wanted to look special, after all it's an auspicious occasion!  then i just couldn't let go of the pictures.  i HAD TO HAVE pictures.  of course i had to have pictures!  kaya needs it.  i need it.  my grandchildren need it.  how else do we share our story?!?!  where's the proof??  we only have one wedding picture from my grandparent's own wedding and that left us wanting more.  christmas came and the family brought up the topic of us getting married.  CRAP!  i suck at lying and omission.  so the plan spilled out and we were met with scowls.  of course they were coming to the wedding!  ok so now the dinner list was 14 1/2.  i still hadn't told any of my friends.

i wanted pictures.  how was i going to get pictures without hurting feelings and grow our invite list by another mile?  all my friends were photographers.  who do i pick?  any of them?  none of them?  this was such a conundrum.  i lost sleep for a while.  then i had a light bulb.  katie neal started this journey with me.  if not for her i wouldn't have met everyone else.  i love her and i love her work.  she was on a film kick on top of everything and so was i!  that was that.  i had picked my photographer.  now the budget.  to keep it low and simple i opted for a quick first look at the courthouse, ceremony shots, a fun couple shoot in downtown santa ana and that was it.  for the "reception" katie and her second (harmony) were instructed to leave the cameras in their bags and join us for dinner.

the morning of the wedding i tweeted my plans to get married.  the reactions made me smile.  it ranged from elation to shock to furrowed brows at not being invited.  i was pretty quiet all day, resisting the itch to respond and holding off till the end.  nothing was going to interrupt my fun.   i knew that in the end they would all understand what we did and why.

16.5 people were told and 16.5 people came.  it was all very manageable, low key and affordable, exactly what we wanted.  the photos took up half the budget and it was intentional.   i bought my dress from a shop in fashion island the night before.  my hair and makeup were done by amazing artists and friends.  the shoes were meant to be mine for this day coz i found them on sale in vegas during wppi the month before.  kaya's dress i found on amazon.  curtis already had his suit.  my dear friend sussanna of french buckets made my bouquet and she made curtis a boutonniere but i gave it to kaya instead since i made him one myself.  my head piece i ordered from be something new and dinner was at our favorite indian restaurant clay oven.  i figured out my priorities and appropriated the budget accordingly.  i've seen way too many weddings to not know what's important.  today i look back with no regrets.  in fact, i'm very very happy about how we did it.  who says that a court house wedding can't be just as gorgeous as a year long planned wedding with all the bells and whistles?

Flowers by Sussanna of French Buckets http://www.frenchbuckets.com/
Hairpiece by Jill Prettyman http://www.besomethingnew.com/
Makeup by Kimberly Bragalone http://kimberlybragalone.com/
Hair style by Jen Alvarez of AG lounge http://aglounge.com/
Photography by Katie Neal  www.katienealphoto.com

p.s. i guess a few people agree with my method since it's been blogged in a few places including style me pretty!

Monday, June 6, 2011

peggy + chris . engaged

they met in high school.  he was in band.  she was in color guard.  it was a picture perfect match made at universal studios.  here they are ... eight years later and ready to tie the knot.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

mila | kaya updates

we've had sleep disruptions presumably caused by teething.  she has 3.5.5 now.  as in 3 whole ones and 2 halves coming through.  my life was busy when she started crawling and now it's insane with her walking.  the little bugger insists on assisted walking btw; assisted by ME and only if we aren't in densely populated places like aquarium of the pacific.  something about crowds makes her feel strongly independent god help us.  god help ME.  watching her fight through a crowd and stand in a dangerously wet tub during bath time is giving me ulcers.  my lack of alone time and my razor burned legs (from shaving in a cold draft exposed bathroom since she insists on being within line of site at ALL times) and her attachment 24/7 makes me feel trapped and cabin fever is not an unusual issue at home. i really miss having the bathroom to myself.  she's figured out that tantrums break me down and whining can be effective when mommy is trying to work.  her one or (if i'm lucky, two) short naps a day don't buy me enough work time so i stay up late to catch up on my to do list.  by friday i'm frazzled, exhausted and ready to pull my hair out.  thank god for curtis.  he's so awesome, he'll do whatever it takes to calm her, including crawling into her crib with her and laying there till she falls asleep.  he's our referee and my personal savior (kaya would say the same).  he gladly takes over parental duties, tames the monster's tantrums and calms my frayed nerves.    and still... when she's sleeping, i can't help but give her kisses.  when she smiles at me (or gives me the naughty grin she's recently acquired) i melt.  and when she cries i feel guilty.  people tell me that she's such a good baby.  wow.  i guess life really only gives you what you can handle.  lord knows i couldn't handle a crazier baby.

p.s. we're still trying to have baby number 2.  i know.. CRAZY

the beginning of the end... right here.