I work as a creative director, stylist, model, and concept developer. I am passionate about working with all kinds of different people from all walks of life, regardless of any categories that they fit into or any identities that they hold. My goal with the art that I create is to create an inclusive space to uplift all identities, explicitly queer femme folks, and all bodies. Body inclusivity is essential to me, as well. I work a lot on passion projects and building a community of artists who genuinely enjoy creating the stuff that we create. I don't have any specific goals beyond that, and I let things fall into place that ends up falling into that place. Through that, I've built this community of friends that I get to call my best friends and also get to work on amazing projects with. It's one of the most fulfilling things for me to be able to have a social, creative outlet, because a lot of other art mediums that I've enjoyed, and still enjoy to this day, but they're isolated, and I do them in isolation.
As an introvert, that getting out of my comfort zone and working with other people on art projects is something that kind of fulfills a social need and a creative need in one. That the purpose of art to me is to build community and work with other people and listen to their ideas and have that art be shared among people in general and celebrated. So that is why I do art. I incorporate my understanding and studies of sociology and intersectionality into the art that I make and being aware of marginalized identities and how my privilege can be used to uplift those identities in photos and give voices to those people that may not be heard if they didn't have a community to uplift their voices.
I grew up as a pretty confident person. I attribute that a lot to my personality type and also just, I had a stable family life, and I'm grateful for that. I grew up having a good head on my shoulders. That does play a significant role, I think, in being able to feel comfortable in your skin allows you to do things, to put yourself out there in ways that society tells femmes they shouldn't.
People should focus on trying to enjoy parts of themselves. Take a step back and realize how messed up the social structures are in our society. The goal is to keep people oppressed and especially femme people. You're taught to be ashamed of yourself, that if you don't fit into a specific look, you're not worthy of being represented. That's a systemic issue. That's not worth your time being ashamed about. It's not a personality trait within yourself that needs to stay hidden. No. It's empowering to know that it's not you, it's all of us.
When you engage in tearing yourself down and other people down, you are participating in the systems that are trying to tear everyone down. Understanding that gives you a perspective where you can step away from that narrative and say, "Hey, you know what, that's the problem; I'm not the problem."
That gives you a better headspace to feel more confident in putting yourself out there and being exactly who you want to be exactly who you think that you are because it's liberating to give your middle finger to those messed up—the systems in general. You have the power to go against that if you want to and call out the system instead of beating yourself up for not fitting into the system.
That stuff is what builds community you know, that's what solidarity is, is understanding, "Wow, we're all being hurt by the systems that are at play here, and I'm not going to compete with you," because that's what the system wants, they want you to remain silent. it's not a fun thing to do is to hate on yourself, you know?
Community building and art happen simultaneously. When I first moved to Portland, I met some people in one photo community here, and I worked with several different people, and it was fun, but I didn't feel a sense of community. There was a group chat, and a lot of people in the group chat didn't know each other, and some did. But there wasn't this community of people that existed, at least to my knowledge.
I had fun, and I was able to create individual pieces, but I wasn't modeling with anyone else, I was doing solo projects. They didn't have that much conceptual development necessarily. It was kind of on the fly, which was cool, and it was an excellent experience to do that stuff. But I've always enjoyed high school, I would sometimes plan out shoots not extensively, but my friends and I would go out and put on cool outfits that look cute together. We would take pictures together. I liked being in photos with other people that I cared for. I thought it was fun.
When I moved to Portland without having any close friends, I didn't have other people to do those projects with at all, I was doing the kind of one on one with photographers, and that was fun. then, in the springtime of my first year living here, I kind of decided to start reaching out to people on Instagram and kind of start trying to meet my people, you know, because I had met people…I always say that trying to make friends is dating, you meet a lot of people, and I feel you have this feeling when you meet someone, and you know they're your people. that hadn't happened to me that many times by the time it was late winter. I had a couple of people that I was "Hey, consistently seeing these people, but there's still not this community that I have." I kept messaging different people, and people that I had never met before.
Some of them had already, I'd seen on their page that they're into photography, so if that were the case, I'd be "Hey, do you want to shoot?" or something that, but throughout the winter and spring of 2019, I met a lot of people, hung out with a lot of people. The people that I liked and felt they were my people, I kept in contact with them. I would plan gatherings at my apartment where I would invite all these people that I liked, and none of them knew each other. My friends that I had made that had had no experience or no connections in the realm of photography, they were "Oh, that's cool that you're doing that," and then they would come onto projects and they liked doing it, and we kind of built this big friend group community of people that enjoyed working on photo projects, and also hanging out with each other.
Ever since then it's been an excellent way to continue to meet people because I'll meet someone and if I kind of their vibe, I'll be "Hey, we have this group shoot coming up, if you're interested in joining, you should come." then so many people, I've met a lot of people at my school that probably have never done much photo work stuff, and they come, and they do it, and then they keep coming, and it's super fun.
My exposure to social media and stuff compared to a lot of other Gen Z people who are younger than me is different. I would say that I'm maybe one of the last years of people who didn't have the social media explosion. I mean, I learned cursive, and we didn't have iPads when I was in school. It was still people who started getting cell phones that were my age, usually in middle school, seventh or eighth grade. Whereas now, you know, you're in elementary school, and you have an iPhone. If I could put my mind into someone who is a freshman in high school now, I would say that their experience is probably way different.
The images that I work on, regardless of the photographer who takes them, is being kind of a color explosion on people's bodies. My favorite styling era in the late 60s to the 70s, end of the 70s, probably, and that's a lot of my wardrobe. I style with my closet, you know because I don't have some budget to have my styling clothes and then my average person. My styling clothes are my everyday clothes. Most of those clothes are colorful. I love color in general. Color has always been something that I'm drawn to, and I enjoy messing around with primary rainbow colors and pastels. Instead of reds, I do pinks, and instead of primary greens, I do lime greens.
I love 70, vintage fashion in general, and I love it. It also much aligns with my ethics of using all sustainable second hand clothing to style. I don't want to contribute to the fast fashion industry. It all aligns well with what I enjoy in terms of how things look and my ethics, it's a win-win, in my opinion.
My shoots have a pretty diverse range of different looking people. I include short people, tall, whoever wants to be involved, you know? People who show up every time it's different, but our community is quite diverse. Some of them are professional models who are signed to agencies, and they do fit into traditional beauty standards. But then there are plenty of people who are they have never done modeling before in their entire lives.
I try to be as inclusive as possible, honestly. Everyone looking at content deserves to see images with people in them that they can relate to and that they can look at and be "Wow, that could be me," you know, because that when you're growing up, you feel so detached from mainstream media. I remember as a kid…and, you know, I'm a white, thin-bodied, middle-class cis-read woman. You know, someone who sees me and be "Oh, that's a cis White woman," you know? But even with the identities, I hold who are represented in the media; I still grew up thinking, "Oh, those are the models," you know, you just, you don't feel they're a separate category of people "Oh, they're a model," you know, it's just…If I walked into an agency, a regular mainstream agency, they would probably say, "No, bye." That's not something to harp on yourself for. That's society's issue. That's not our bodies' issue.
What is represented in the media should be relatable. Some people want to do modeling, and they may never get the chance to because they only have access to trying to get into an agency. The agencies are in alignment with the status quo of only allowing for a particular body type with specific features and whatever that fit into that category of who's represented, and that shouldn't be the reality.
As far as process, I don't have a structure for figuring out how I want to go about each project. My inspiration is usually the clothing I have. I also think about ways that people can look attractive together with outfits and in a specific location. I don't come up with one particular shortlist or anything. I come up with outfits to a certain extent but honestly, a lot of times I just, I know the color scheme in my head or I have some sort of idea, but I pack a bunch of clothes with me and then kind of figure it out as we go when we actually all meet up together to get clothing and makeup on, and then we choose a location, and then we kind of let, whatever happens, happen, and I don't have a specific goal with trying to get this published at this particular place, or you know, I don't have any expectations of "making it" or anything that. My goal is to make art and have fun doing it.
Start with the skill that draws you to a medium in the beginning. It can be intimidating to look at a skilled person who has taken a lot of time to curate their style and produce these images with high production value. If you're starting and you go on Instagram, you see these images, saying, "Oh my God, the production value of that is unbelievable. I want to do that." It can be discouraging because you started taking photos, looking at the photographers who have fantastic equipment, being shooting in studios, and having an excellent team behind them. All of that stuff isn't salient when you look at an image, and you don't understand all the things that have gone into that and all of the years of practice that person has had.
if you have a specific skill, if you are "I'd to start with taking part in these, and I'm interested in the fashion aspect of it," or, "'m interested in the shooting aspect of it," or, "I'm interested in the concept development aspect because I have so many cool ideas and I don't know how to bring them to life." You might be interested in being in them as a model. You have to start working with people who have the skills that you need, but even if those people don't necessarily have the highest quality skills or the most perfected skills, and you have to be okay with that. Many photographers who I've worked with earlier on in my journey into this world where I didn't take on any creative director role really, and in general, was more relaxed, the whole vibe around it, and the skills weren't as refined. Each time you make something where it's more thoughtful, it's you gone to kind of the next level, and you keep getting more mesmerized by what you're creating.
When I was kind of still new to this world as a model and stylist, one of my best friends, Hannah in Bellingham, had some work on her page with the gel lights. I remember seeing that picture on her page before I had ever even worked in a studio, I explained to her how cool that was and then fast forward to now, it's I've worked with gels so many times. If someone said to me that hadn't gotten into this world yet "Oh my god, that picture is so cool." If they were moved by it, I probably would brush it off too. You need not be comparing your stuff to theirs, and its just…No art is comparable in general. Still, especially if you're a new artist in a specific medium, you can't compare your stuff to anyone else's art but primarily, a professional and super refined technique, because you'll get discouraged.
Start working with a lot of different people, it's okay if you have images that come out that are produced from people you work with early on that you don't love. There have been plenty of shots I've gotten back, especially earlier on where I'm I look back at now—maybe I was excited about it then or somewhat excited about it, but I look back now, and I'm, "Ugh…Oh," I just…that's fine. You know, I'm so grateful for all that experience I had because it helped me…With that experience, that wasn't necessarily "my style." It helped me develop my style, you know, you have to be super flexible with what you create. If it feels good. It's your style that feels good. What I created back then was my style at the time, and it helps me have a more clear path or a clearer understanding of what I wanted to continue to create and what I wanted to kind of leave, you know, and move on from you.
The more you work with people, the more you'll be exposed to different types of artists, and you find the artists that you work well with, and then you keep working with them. That's kind of the case for me, I've found that I produce the best work with people who I have good chemistry with and continuously work with because we have that solid foundation and understanding and trust with each other. I never have to worry about leaving a shoot with someone who I enjoy and have previous experience with, I don't have to worry about the final product, it's I know that I'll get them back, and I'll love them.
When you're starting and working with different artists and trying to develop your ideas, you're going to be working with people who likely have a similar skillset as you, and you're not going to necessarily love all of the images or whatever art medium it is. Still, specifically in photography, you're not going to enjoy all of the outcomes of what you work on with those people, because every artist works differently, every artist has a different style, editing style, communication style, and all that stuff, and you're not going to mesh well with everyone.
Same way when you're trying to make friends or dating people or trying to find a place to live. You're not going to like everything. Through that, you will find the people that you do mesh well with and continue to work with them, and the art that you produce is likely going to continue to get better and better. Or if you see that work and you're "Ah, that's …it's not really... It doesn't have potential, in my opinion," then you can be grateful for that experience and move on and then you have a more precise understanding of what you don't want to be creating, you know,
For a long time to do a rainbow-themed shoot where each person was in a monochrome outfit, it ended up falling through. Fast forward to three or four months later, I was explaining this idea to our friend Mandy. We shot that project, and everything ended up working out so correctly, though, and the images were terrific. I fully creatively directed that and styled it and brought on all the people I felt that was a big game-changer for me and, kind of, figuring out what I want to do with the art I make. My potential with creating projects that, and I don't know, I feel that was a big moment for me to understand that what we can create when we all bring our skills together is impressive.
All of these projects, for the most part, are passion projects, and no one is getting paid. It's literally for the love of art, and I am terrified that I'll be in a position where I don't have the time to do that and feed myself and live under a roof. That is super terrifying to me because I am I plan a lot of the things you know, I carry a lot of weight in the projects that I work on. I love doing that, you know, it's so fulfilling to me, and there's nothing I want in return from people you know, and that goes entirely against…I don't want to charge people to be part of it. That's goes against the idea of the art that I'm making, you know?
Figuring out ways to make it work is still something I struggle with when about the future — how can I do this and even work on all these passion projects? And also be able to do this so that I can live and not have to work a nine to five job that doesn't feel fulfilling to me where I’m thinking about doing shoot stuff? I don't want to be able to be there mentally in a position that I'm getting financially supported from, where my head is in the space of, "Okay, what's next?"
I imagine continuing to do this type of photo work. I'm still trying to figure out how I can make it work, and it turns into this whirlpool of 'what if, what if, what if." I try to take one step at a time and be, "Okay. I got to keep working on what feels right and what feels good." I have noticed that the more I do all this work and work on shoots and stuff, I get more job opportunities as a freelance artist, here and there. Different brands have reached out to me seeing my page on Instagram and saying, "Hey, love your style. Can we work together?"
Those opportunities are fantastic, and I'm grateful for them, but there is no way at this point I could survive off of it. It intrigues me, but relying on being a freelancer, it gives me a lot of anxiety because of the instability. I'd be more interested in either starting my brand — a business but with other people, not by myself. There I could manage, lead, use my skills to the brand's advantage. Other people could bring their expertise. I'd like it to be collaborative and stable.