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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Life :. Pondering over WHY and HOW

why would a beautiful young girl resort to cutting herself to vent frustration?  how do i get through to her?  what could i tell her that would make her wake up and shake her out of it?  how do i show her that i understand what she's going through and that i get it?  how do i tell her that it really does get better?  how do i make sure that my own children don't fall into this outlet for frustration and what do i say to them if they do?

i met that beautiful young girl earlier this year.  when i asked her why she thought she was doing it she gave me some vague "i dunno" and some wishy-washy pointing in the direction of some acquaintances that might have been the cause but no defined notion of what they did.  i didn't sense abuse (verbal, mental or physical); not that i'm a mental health expert or anything but after talking to her it seemed like she had a lot of pent up and built up teenage angst.  she's twelve.  the whole conversation stayed with me for weeks and really had me thinking.  i'm a long way off from raising teens but i wanted to ponder over it now.  best be prepared yes?

coincidentally, i just had a conversation with my brother-in-law about our recent bouts of depression a few weeks before i met this girl.  we talked about our individual frustrations and how we deal with it.  i've since realized that regardless of age, as humans, we all have a hole that needs to be filled.  not to over simplify but a lot of it seems to boil down to a need for success and acknowledgement.  children love to be praised, teenagers love recognition, adults live for it.  some need small gestures like a hug or pride in themselves or a simple "fb like" and others need grander gestures like trophies, money, power and fame. various levels but my point is ... it's basically the same.  i feel like the things she's going through, i'm still going through.  the difference is that i know the source of my frustration and when i'm sick of it i can step away and focus on something else.  i can bury myself in a book, a movie a bag of chips or a very expensive trip to target.  my brother-in-law hits the gym.  i know others that would turn to drugs or alcohol and others yet that become workaholics, food bingers or serial daters.  i was telling him that this driving need and the temporary solutions we take to resolve our lack of fulfillment are so "self" centric.  a lot of times we don't even know what's wrong; we just stop the gap with whatever is in our reach.  i would think that for our younger generation especially, identifying the problem might be the biggest part of the problem.  maybe it's worse.  maybe it's knowing the problem but not being able to admit it.  on top of that, the set of options available to our kids for that stop gap is a smaller list.

i wondered if it wouldn't be a more productive temporary solution to focus on helping others as an option.  it might give a two fold return.  i know that when i've focused on helping someone else for a change i learn something about myself in the process.  selfishly, their success also feels like my own and it's great motivation.  parents put their kids in sports, arts and other extra curricular activities which are great ways to develop confidence, fill that need for acceptance and accomplishment.  in my formative years, the nuns that ran the school took our extra curriculars one step further by giving us little projects to care about that were centered on someone else.  we would sponsor a child's education or go help with a poverty stricken family.  we would visit schools to share our education with less fortunate children.  it gave us a glimpse at life outside our box and something to ponder over.  it didn't make sense to me then but the experiences stayed with me and actually... it makes a whole lot more sense now.

if only life could be this peaceful always...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life :. Parenting Worries . Racial Awareness

the list of worries that a parent goes through seems endless.  keeping them physically safe is one of the simpler matters to maneuver.  i lose more sleep thinking about side stepping drugs, peer pressure, social media, and sex.  this week i started reading Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children.  i'm only three chapters in and it's already added to my list of concerns.  i can't believe i forgot about helping them through the race issue.  i want to slap myself in the face over my naivete.

i grew up in the philippines and we have our own issues on social class and skin color.  my own experiences growing up cannot possibly compare to being a black kid in a dominantly white environment in america.  according to the theories and studies in this book, despite our integrated school environment children will naturally want to categorize themselves.  i now understand it as being no different than the boys vs girls thing and we all know that at a certain age little girls hate boys and vice versa.  we all think it's cute and we all know that in time those feelings will change.  skin color is just another way for them to associate and group.  there is no malice in it i don't think (at least not initially) but it should definitely be discussed.  we openly talk to our children about boys and girls and how they are different.  we even ask them to identify themselves as one or the other.  on the topic of skin color though we don't discuss it.  even in our house we haven't brought it up at all.  my brother in law is apple pie white with his blond hair and blue eyes.  curtis is half black.  i'm an amalgam of european and filipino.  some people don't even know how to categorize me when they see me.  it makes our household a melting pot of skin colors. i guess we figured it was a non-issue and therefore doesn't warrant a discussion.  THAT's naive.  the truth is that my girls are going to come across skin color discussions at some point in their young lives.  dia took after me and has a much lighter complexion while kaya took after curtis with her beautifully chocolate tones.  we live in an environment that's got a great assortment of cultures but we're short on african americans for sure.  apparently the concerns just might be greater for dia, my lighter skinned child, than for kaya (check out the story of twin boys daniel and james).

kids operate under a very simple logic.  they won't account for the mixed race of their parents; they just go by what's obvious, skin color.  even curtis whose mother is white, identifies himself as a black man.  it's just the obvious choice i suppose.  i guess i kinda do that too by calling myself asian even though i'm about 40% european but that's coz i grew up there.  even that's not right though coz technically filipinos are pacific islanders.  at some point i think we started saying "who cares" and then chose not to discuss it.  our kids are of mixed descent and that's that.  but kids being kids, they have no filter.  cruelty might be their first experience and i don't want that to be a barrier to progress.  naturally i also want to protect them and i certainly don't want my kids to be the source of the issue either.  many will say that we're operating in a much more varied racial environment now.  yes, that's definitely true but visually... we're still short on the darker skin tones in my neighborhood.  i just want to be prepared by making my children aware just as i now am.  the book of course cautioned against negative anticipation. kind of like going to a psychic and being told that you'll be hit by a car and then spending your time looking for the car.  i don't want to teach them that the world will be cruel.  the world can be cruel regardless of color.  i just want to teach them to be confident women of character.

i'm a worrier it's true.  i've been talking to curtis about this book as i complete each chapter.  i can't say that it really tells me how to handle the issues it brings up.  it's more about giving me a sense of awareness.  on this race issue i am now officially VERY aware.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

a gallon of sanity and a break

i've been such a stress bucket lately.  dia will only let me work in 2 min spurts.  no joke.  it's gotten me into such a frazzled funk. even now i have dia screaming bloody hell, trying to climb onto my lap so she can type on my keyboard as i "pen" this in.

last night i texted curtis a honey do list at about 8pm.  he was on his way home from the gym.  "honey can you pick up some bananas.  while you're at it grab a gallon of sanity and a break would be nice."  from there i went on to tell him i was ready to curl up into a ball and cry.  it's been tough to not have any personal space or even a moment to think long enough to string some maybe intelligent words together.  it's been rough.

today curtis sent me out of the house to get some work done so i took my laptop to panera.  i didn't bring my power cord on purpose.  i wanted to make sure i used my time efficiently and if the power was going to run out on my laptop then i had no time to waste.  fb was definitely off.  it was perfect!  i headed home after i was done feeling so much better.  it's not like i needed that much time either.  i just needed ENOUGH time to string a couple of intelligent thoughts together.  to show my appreciation i brought curtis lunch.  i guess he wasn't done.  i was back at 1pm and he told me i had to go pick up something for him at 3.45.  i headed out to the parcel pickup address and found myself at the door to a massage place.  he booked a relaxation massage for me.  i feel loved and i soooo soooo sooo appreciate him.

yeah... she's cute.  don't be fooled.  she's a demanding lil terror too.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

conquering fears and coming out a winner

i've raised my kids to be fearless.  i'm trying anyway.  i had such a sheltered upbringing and it's a major source of frustration for me that i'm not that adventurous and almost over cautious.  it's very much an inner struggle.

the opportunity to shoot a wedding in italy came up and i jumped on it.  didn't even hesitate for a second but as the date drew near i was experiencing anxiety.  i had only traveled internationally by myself once before and it was to go see my cousin in france.  getting in and out of planes is no big deal and going to a non-english speaking country but being accompanied by a resident?  well that doesn't count as scary at all.  this trip however was going to require me to travel solo to a country i've never been to before.  they didn't all speak english and i had to maneuver the train system by myself with ALL my luggage and camera gear.  my online searches on this process was turning up some horror stories.  i was losing sleep.  not gonna lie... two days before i left i was kicking myself over taking the job.  what was i thinking?!

it's a good thing i'm not one to back out of a challenge.  one baby step at a time i got through that trip and had a blast!  i loved it so much i would sign up to do that once a month if i could!  actually, i'm not sure that curtis would let me ... but it would be awesome!  don't get me wrong, there were some hairy moments there.  hauling gear solo through that train system was a chore.  thank god for kind strangers and in some cases creative entrepreneurs (aka bag carriers for money).  oh yeah .. i totally went there.  you do what you have to do.  of course luck was totally on my side too.  by sheer coincidence, sitting next to me on the train was kim maru, an amazing canadian wedding photographer.  what were the odds of that?!  thank god for her coz she gave me the crash course on the train system that came in really handy during the transfers.

the amalfi coast couple was amazing and so accommodating.  never mind that my brain was confused the whole time i was with them; their british accent coupled with their filipino features was throwing me for a loop.  between them and their family i felt soooo at home and so at peace.  the couple i met in venice came with an entourage of 15 friends to help them get in and out of the most well thought out 4 outfits complete with hair and makeup change.  it was an instant styled shoot and i was in heaven!  i wanna be part of their gang.  like i said ... conquer fears = winner.

here's a few of my favorite images from the trip..