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

Friday, April 27, 2012

pondering over motherhood and naming the 2nd baby

the whole time i was pregnant with kaya i was worried about how i would juggle motherhood into an already busy life.  i worried about it so much that i'm pretty sure it was the catalyst to my post partum depression (that lasted 3 months after kaya was born).  really i should have looked at my track record.  in most fast paced careers it's a sink or swim situation and historically in everything i've undertaken i'm a swimmer ... a pretty damned good one in fact.  and if there ever was a sink or swim situation it's motherhood.  SERIOUSLY.  just watch the tv show 16 and pregnant and you'll figure that out lol.  so this time around i'm really not as worried about it.  what has been swirling in my head of late, what with mother's day coming up, is how well i've been coping actually.  

there's this rumor going around that you lose brain cells when you become a mom.  pretty sure it's not a myth.  i lost brain cells and abilities like you won't believe but recently i've noticed that i seem to have gotten my bearings back and i really feel myself again.  i've looked around at my home, my child, my work and i gotta say... i've done a pretty bangin job with multi-tasking around here.  with mother's day approaching fast i now realize what i've taken for granted all these years with my own mothers and even within my own home until now.  mother's day, although touted to be the best hallmark card invention ever, is a very necessary day!  nothing would rock my world right now more than the simple acknowledgement from my husband and my daughter that i've done a good job around here.  sure i get hugs, kisses, i love you's and sweet smiles daily and multiple times a day but yes... i think a well deserved pat (accompanied by a tender "gesture") letting me know that they recognize what i do around here and that it's beyond appreciated -- well that would be AWESOME.  playing mom, wife, cook, psychiatrist, organizer, home maintainer (since i was smart enough to know my limits and hire a housekeeper), best friend, taxi, employee, employer and a whole bunch of other roles simultaneously, seamlessly and with no complaint is NO FRIGGIN JOKE.  sink or swim friends and again, if this were a resume, i swim well.  that's the bottom line.

so anyway, the second baby is due SOON.  thank god.  oh sure i'm worried about the adjustment period but it's not all consuming anymore.  what did consume us for a few weeks there was what to name her.  after trying out two names for weeks we finally settled on one.  

kaya, curtis and i are looking forward to meeting ...

dia milan ford

my two most favorite photos of curtis and kaya taken w my phone

Friday, April 6, 2012

are you sure you want to become a photographer?

it's been soooooo long since i've posted on here.  life and a new photography company (COCO gallery) have taken over and eaten up all my time.  but this morning, a thread on facebook really got me going and although i responded to the thread by getting on my soapbox and ranting, i wanted to put my complete thought out into the world in my own forum.

the thread started as someone voicing their frustration about not getting any gigs as a second shooter for weddings which i totally understand but i think things should be said to clarify how much work and dedication this career demands for ALL the players on the field from starter to career photographer.

in the film days you had to BEG to be an apprentice at a studio to get a gig as a second.  six to ten years ago getting gigs as a 2nd when you offered yourself up for free was a lot easier.  the digital revolution and a smaller competitive market had a lot to do with that.  these days getting a gig as a second is TOUGH.  here's my thoughts on this....

getting wedding photography jobs in general is HARD.  in socal especially we are competing with the people that teach other photographers nationally and internationally AND we're competing with a very large pool of photographers in general!  the area is full of talented, affordable people, famous names and startups that charge next to nothing.  getting ahead is a beast of a job so when we DO get a gig we treat it with respect and utmost care.  we bring along the people that are trust worthy, skilled and a good reflection of ourselves because this is a game of referral systems.  everything we (myself and the people with me) say or do will make or break us.  finding the right people for the job is NOT to be taken lightly.  in our company we even go as far as dry runs and training for the people we bring along.  the seconds, thirds, assistants, interns or what have you are people that we trust, value and know. they may have been friends from our past, people we've met along the way and some that we interviewed and hired.

i've been at this for over four years and that's not much to some of the amazing photogs out there that have done this their whole lives but it's a lot for me and i've learned much along the way.  i came from an entirely different work environment and every time i did a career shift i knew that i HAD to push myself out of my comfort zone and this path was no different.  here i had to move out of my hermit sheltered self and socialize with like minded people in the industry to network, improve my craft and find people that i could work with and who would like to work with me.  by the time i joined this industry getting in with the bigger named photogs and hoping that my career would be launched by such an association was next to impossible.  but there was a community of budding photographers with the same drive and dedication as mine.  finding friends to work with was the path i chose and it's paid off.  we would meet, discuss and vent at will and we grew together.  the company i'm in now is a melding of 4 people that resulted from those interactions!  the situation today for photographers just starting out is no different.  in fact, it might be better.  there's a constant wave of new people and you just have to find the ones that you get along with, have the same drive, are dedicated and work together.  think about it like school, the alumni from years ahead of you MIGHT talk to you because of the school association but the people in your class know you best and that's where you can find your associates.

the other thing i've had to do is study and practice a LOT.  i'm a voracious learner (don't check my grammar on that).  i'm constantly aware of new techniques and people to learn from.  just like any other skill, photography has to be mastered and to get hired (by a client or another photog) you need to earn the trust and respect of your clients and your peers.  this doesn't come overnight obviously and reading about something and doing are two very different things.  we don't learn by osmosis and surgeons don't get to hold the scalpel on live paying patients after reading about the procedure in a book.  even finding models to do things for free on sites like model mayhem you will find that seasoned models look at portfolios before agreeing to FREE shoots.  a career photographer has to prove that they are a photographer and that takes practice.  the composition part MIGHT come naturally to some, the posing, rapport and personality needed in a shoot can also be inherent but knowing your gear and how to use it is not something you are born with.  it doesn't even take much to practice!  you just need drive and creativity.  use items in your home to perfect detail shots, personal jewelry to get ring shots, use your friends and family to work on portraiture, inanimate objects to practice light ... any one of these exercises can be turned into art and build a portfolio.  coz guess what... a stranger won't hire you unless you have something to show for it.  WHY SHOULD THEY?  for primary photographers, the person they bring is either a liability or an asset.  PROVE that you are an asset by working on your portfolio first if you want jobs as a second.  it's your resume and it's all you've got to prove your worth.  any other career requires a good resume to get the foot in the door (that or a friend that's already in) and then you work your way up.  any career comes with a cost be it education, time, money or dedication and photography is no different.  also, don't forget that the job of the second is to be the backup to the primary.  if that primary's battery runs out, the second's shots become primary ... so now tell me, if you were the one hiring the 2nd wouldn't you be more careful about who you chose to come along?

please, if you want in on this industry even for just assisting and seconding ... you need to decide how BADLY you want it.  some careers require a degree, photography might not need a degree but it needs education and practice just the same.  other careers just need you to roll your sleeves up, start from the bottom and work your way up ... here too.  and ... just like any other career the success doesn't come over night and it doesn't just land on your lap unless you are part of a lucky 0.0005% in which case you might as well just buy a lottery ticket coz it's the same odds.

i've been at this for over four years, i've gone through this and i'm still going through it.  i've seen my contemporaries that actually stuck to the career go through it too so yeah... i know what i'm talking about.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

happy birthday to me

curtis is a non-practicing jehova's witness and i'm a non-practicing catholic.  in a nutshell ... it makes celebrations at our house a tricky affair.  even trickier is the fact that my bday lands on v-day.  when we started dating i was butt hurt and near tears the first time my bday came around on his shift.  we worked in the same office and although females in the IT industry were in the minority they got the majority of attention on v-day.  every single girl in that office got some kind of heart acknowledgement.  flowers, toys, chocolates, baskets, you name it.  mind you i can't stand heart and v-day crap ..  i'm not the biggest fan of roses or chocolates but just like any girl i love the acknowledgement.  that day i didn't get anything.  and if that wasn't bad enough, the fact that every person in our office was looking at me wondering "what the hell? isn't it your bday too? curtis really didn't do anything?" that really sent me over the edge.  i left the office early that day and didn't really say much.  i spent the next two birthdays going somewhere to avoid the topic.  one year i visited my cousin in france and had a blast.  but even at that distance i was bummed knowing what i was avoiding.

these days curtis and i meet in the middle.  he has his non-traditions and i have my traditions.  we both grew up with something that the other can't relate to but we talk and we compromise.  we mutually celebrate the day i gave birth to kaya and we celebrate who she is and how much she's grown.  we gather with my family for food and love at christmas though he doesn't really participate in the gifts.  i plan nice dinners for his bday and he lovingly acknowledges mine.  he actually buys me gifts now too.

THIRTY-NINE years old and TWENTY-FOUR weeks pregnant (aka 6 months).  it's my last year in my 30s and i'm spending it by completing our family with a second baby.  like birthdays in the past we'll be chill and cozy and i'll get lots of love.  i might be planning something next year coz after all it's a big one.  the goal for sure is by 40 i should be on the road back to my old jeans and ready for a vacation in the sun!

photo taken at 16 weeks