All The Best People Are

Have I gone mad?  I’m afraid so.  But I will tell you a secret.  All the best people are….. Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland

Last year at Blue Fringe Arts Exhibition, I ran into Rose who had made and exhibited a gorgeous, over the top, Mad Hatter’s hat.  The hat told a story, as all the art in Blue Fringe does.  I said I would like to do a shoot with it one day and almost a year down the track it finally happened.

For those who don’t know about  Blue Fringe, it is a yearly art and literature prize that runs in conjunction with Mental Health month. Blue Fringe Arts celebrates and acknowledges the creativity of people with a lived experience of mental illness. Based in the Blue Mountains, the Festival is held in October each year to coincide with Mental Health Month.

Blue Fringe Arts originated as the Adrienne Brown Awards in 1992.  Adrienne Brown, born in 1969, was a young woman who had a lived experience of schizophrenia.  Her long struggle with her illness was relieved, at times, by her love for poetry, the arts and music.  Adrienne is remembered in the Blue Fringe Arts and Literature Festival for her passion for creative expression.  It is now coming up to it’s 27th year and will be held at Wentworth Falls TAFE from 23rd to 26th October.   It’s well worth seeing.

This year, I am the featured artist, and I am so honoured to have been chosen.  I have been fortunate and humbled in the past, to have won both the Photography prize as well as the overall art prize.  Winning was fantastic, I’m not going to lie.  Being chosen as featured artist, unbelievably exciting.  But being surrounded by such a diverse group of incredibly talented, creative and passionate people and seeing the difference art makes in lives is by far the greatest thing about Blue Fringe.  I have made great friends and love spending time with so many of the participants and the committee.

So last Saturday, while a blanket of snow fell on the Blue Mountains, I was going into a bit of a meltdown.  I had about 12 people organised for a big Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  There was a cast of 10 but one couldn’t make it due to the weather.  I also had a behind the scenes shooter and someone who was painting faces too, so I was in panic mode at the inclement weather.  The venue had already had to be changed to an inside location, due to the sudden cold snap but snow really was pushing the friendship.  I love snow.  Adore it….. But the roads were closed and the thought of my whole cast of characters not being able to make it sent me into a tail spin.

I had been preparing for this for ages.  Making costumes, headdresses, scepters, planning images, researching….  I had borrowed equipment from Purple Sky Productions, my “go to” when I need anything.  A portable green screen for a Down the Hole shoot, which I’ve yet to edit and some nice bright lights made for a great set up. The night before the event,  Lachlan had helped me start setting up the teaparty.  I was not going to be happy if it all fell down.  However, Mother Nature was kind and the snow cleared, the roads opened and the shoot went ahead.  We had a tea party feast with great conversation, laughter and fun.  I did some of the costumes and some of the characters did their own.

The gorgeous Rachael painted the most glorious faces while her partner Richard went to pick up things I’d forgotten.  My darling Kirsty was taking behind the scenes images and Nick from Filmclass Pictures came in and did a bit of filming.  Everyone got into character and made the shoot so much fun.  To be honest, the pictures weren’t as good as they should have been as I was too intent on enjoying the day too, so wasn’t completely in photographer mode.  I don’t really mind.  I’m so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people.  The experience was by far the highlight for me.

But here they are.  My wonderful cast of characters.  I have lots of behind the scenes stuff I will put up soon but for now, let me introduce you to Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, the White Queen, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the White Rabbit, the Duchess, and of course, TweedleDee and TweedleDum.  – All the best people are!

curiouser and curiouserred queen, white queen and meits always tea timeas it isn't it aintferrets are ferrets

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The Long Road to Happiness

She finally found the strength to let go of the past. She no longer needed the fear which had haunted her for so long. She found a way to set her spirit free and followed the long road to happiness.  Allowing the past to wash away from her soul. With a promise of brighter days…..Livonne

There has been so much upheaval and trauma in my life and if you had told me seven years ago that I would one day know absolute peace and happiness, I would have called you crazy.  And yet, that’s where I find myself. At peace with my life and happy with where I find myself.

Little did I know when I entered a classroom in 2013 to study photography, that it would be the first steps on the road to happiness.  I had been trying to work my way back to happiness for years and the fact that I’d even considered doing a photography course says I had started making some progress.  But it was only when I started looking at life through the camera lens that really started to find myself.

Whilst I don’t create many self portraits as such, every image is a reflection of my life.  Each image has part of me and my story in it.  That has been incredibly healing and has turned out to be the road to happiness.  This image is perhaps one of the most telling I have ever made.  It is me!

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Imagine a fairytale

Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary life, life gives us a fairytale….

I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to do a photoshoot with these gorgeous girls last month, just 5 weeks before their wedding.  Well yesterday was the day they said “I Do” to each other and started a new life together and now the adventure for them begins.

I knew I’d end up doing a mermaid image when I took a photo of them beside the pool.  The Little Mermaid has always been one of my favourite Disney movies.  Part of that is because of the music which I adore but there’s more than that.  I love mermaids.  I always have.  Mermaids and Unicorns.  I believed in them, in fact I still do.  Just because we’ve never seen proof, doesn’t make them not real.  Even if they are a figment of someone’s imagination, they are real and beautiful.

I’ve often been called a dreamer.  Mostly it was meant as an insult, but I now take it as a compliment.  The dreamers of the world hold so much power in their beautiful minds.  Imagination is the precursor to real life.  Someone imagined electricity,  phone, computers etc before they came into being and our lives are radically changed as a result.

We need to use our imagination everyday to imagine a new way of life.  Imagine what we could do if we all collectively imagined a world with no poverty, no war, no hatred, no climate change. Imagine a world where people are accepted for who they are with no judgement or prejudice.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?   To quote John Lennon.. Imagine all the people, living life in peace… Imagine, Imagine, Imagine.  We all need to imagine.

There was a song I heard when I was a very small child by Tom Clay, about the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and John F Kennedy.  It impacted me greatly on many levels as a small child but regardless of the trauma and grief in it, the words that impacted me most were these.  “Some people see things as they are and say why?  I dream things that never were and say why not.”  Those powerful words made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my dreamer world.

Someone once dreamed that you would be free to love whoever you wanted to love and yesterday proved how far that dream has come.  Isn’t the world amazing? We all know there is so much more to do, so many more wrongs to make right, but let’s celebrate each victory.  Let’s appreciate every dream that becomes a reality.  As Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing  you can be”.. Let’s stop living ordinary lives and start living our fairytale.  Imagine that!

An Ordinary Life
Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary life, life gives us a fairytale.

 

 

The Magic

I do believe something magical can happen when you read a good book….JK Rowling

I can honestly say that reading is the most important skill I have ever learned in my life.  Of that there is no doubt.  I have spoken before about how someone gave me a “read along” book of Mary Poppins when I was quite young and with the help of Tinkerbell ringing a bell when it was time to turn the pages and my amazing Mum, I learned to read at a very young age.

By the time I went to school, I was well ahead of other kids and did the first 2 grades of school in one year thanks to my ability to read.  Reading has always been able to distract me from whatever was going on in my life.  Being able to read from such an early age, I retreated a lot into the books I read.  I didn’t just read them,  I became part of them.

I climbed the Magic Faraway Tree to visit Moonface and Dame Washalot.. I became part of the Secret Seven and when I ran out of those books, I shifted my allegiance to become the sixth member of the Famous Five.  Little Women, Seven Little Australians, Anne of Green Gables, the list went on and on.  I read voraciously.  I read fairy tales, poetry, magazines.. anything I could find.

I’ve never forgotten how special it is to open a book and feel the magic of becoming part of the story.  I never want to lose that feeling.  When I went to the Promoting Passion workshop by Brooke Shaden last month I took a range of photos of the models there.  As soon as I took this one, I knew I would make it into a homage to literature.  The gorgeous  model is Lea Lorenz and she played the enchanted reader perfectly.

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When Life Imitates Art

Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true, that life imitates art far more than art imitates life…….Oscar Wilde

On the 15th April 2018, I was playing with some photos I had taken in Paris and I pondered what the earth would look like after we careless humans had finished with it. That thought prompted me to make this image of Notre Dame Cathedral with water pouring in, the roof destroyed, given back to nature…….Post apocalyptic . While I posted it on Instagram and Facebook at the time, I ended up removing it from Instagram as it’s not my usual style of work.  I left it on Facebook though as it’s harder to scroll back and to be honest, I’d forgotten about it.

Scroll forward a year  and I woke up to the news of Notre Dame being destroyed by fire. Then Facebook sent me a memory… a reminder that I did this picture.. On the 15th April 2018… Exactly a year to the date that Notre Dame burned. While I pictured it flooded and it had actually burned,  I imagine the water inside would have been quite plentiful after the fire had been put out. 

Then I saw a photo taken of the inside of the cathedral after the fire.. The roof was damaged in a very similar way.  Not exact but similar.. And if you’ve been to Notre Dame, you’ll see that it’s exactly the same area that I imagined damaged.   While I know it was human error due to the renovation work, I have to be honest,  I felt totally spooked by the similarities and of course the date, being exactly a year prior to it’s destruction.  How often does life imitate art?  I think more often than we actually realise. 

I’m a strong believer in envisioning our future the way we want it.  I’ve always kept a vision board and mostly everything has happened that I’ve put on them.  Is it really a secret of the universe or do we see the images of what we want and remind ourselves constantly what we’re working towards?  Is it a combination perhaps of the two?  Really, does it matter?  As long as I’m travelling the road I want to be on and it’s working for me, I’ll keep doing it.  But when I think of envisioning my future, this wasn’t what I had in mind.  It makes me more careful of what thoughts I allow my brain to entertain.

So I’ll share this image of Notre Dame that I named “After We Leave” even though it’s not my usual style… It still freaks me out a bit to think that I did this exactly a year before Notre Dame was damaged.  Was it a premonition?  Or just a spooky coincidence.  I guess we’ll never know.  There are some mysteries of this thing we call life that remain just that.. A mystery.  And just in case it does work, let’s all imagine a world living in harmony, where war, poverty, climate change and crooked politicians don’t exist and we live as one with nature…. It can’t hurt can it?

flooded-notre-dame

notre-dame-comparisonThe image on the left.  Credit Livonne Imagery.

The image on the right. Credit:CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/POOL VIA REUTERS

Unlocking the Soul

She lived in a cage with the door wide open, never realising she could leave.  She craved freedom.  She longed to fly.  She desperately yearned to unlock her soul.  Then one day she realised that she had held the key in her hand all along.   She had only to  believe in her wings to carry her and to trust her dreams to guide her……….Livonne

When I gained my Diploma of Photo Imaging in 2014, I really had no idea what I wanted to do.  As I’ve spoken about in previous posts, I tried all sorts of the usual commercial photography options and found I really didn’t enjoy them.  I was at an age where I wanted to find that one thing that would enhance my life and not feel like a chore.  I had tried my hand at composite photography but really didn’t have the skills to make the images that lived in my head though I kept trying.

As I browsed the internet for inspiration, one particular artist’s name constantly appeared –  Brooke Shaden.  I loved her images.  Though they were a bit darker than I would normally be drawn to,  their beauty drew me in.  She was able to tell a story with one image.  The storyteller in me was enchanted.

I bought a few of her tutorials and learned so much about how to make a cohesive image out of many different photos.  She spoke about finding inspiration and textures and curves and all sorts of stuff that I was longing to learn.  Armed with the knowledge, I started to bring the images in my mind into reality.

I became quite voracious in my need to learn and went on to find many other artists who had different techniques and teaching styles.  I had never wanted to become a Brooke clone but rather to find my own style, however the inspiration I gained from her was invaluable.   A few months ago, I saw that with the sponsorship of Sony Alpha Female program, she was coming to Australia for a Promoting Passion 2019 workshop in Melbourne.

So last week, I headed down to attend the workshop.  It was fantastic being in a room with so many other like minded people and listening to Brooke speak about finding our passion and following our dreams.  The other guest speaker was Joel McKerrow who I was enthralled by.  An  award winner writer, poet and speaker, he held the audience in the palm of his hand with his awe inspiring prose and wisdom.

All in all it was a great day and I was so pleased I made the effort to go.  Although there were many highlights throughout the day, the image maker in me was thrilled to spy Brooke posing for some images on the other side of the room and I managed to head over and get a few shots.  Here is my favourite of the day.  It was appropriate for me that she had keys in her hand as it was her images that inspired me and her tutorials that unlocked the skills needed to bring my dreams to life.  It was an honour to finally meet her and even get a hug.  Thank you Brooke.

Brooke-Shaden

 

From the Depths

Because there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away…. Sarah Kay

Resilience is an amazing thing.  We speak of courage and of strength as  the most important characteristics a person can have whilst resilience can sometimes be seen by others, as desperation.  We’ve all seen them… the people who keeps trying and trying and never seem to get anywhere.   It can seem a bit sad, some might even regard it as pathetic,  because people only see the percieved failure… But it’s that resilience, that determination to brush oneself off, get back up and have another go that is the most important.

Yes, it takes courage to decide to try something new.  It takes strength to do it. But it’s resilience that will finally get you over the line.  It’s not easy to feel like you’ve failed at something just once but when you’ve failed time and time again, that really is confidence shattering.  The feeling that everyone is judging you and more often than not, they are.  But it’s the “I’ll give it one more try” person who will eventually succeed.  And when success comes, it tastes all the sweeter for the wait.

Thomas Edison is quoted as saying “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.. That is what resilience is all about.  Over the years I’ve tried many things to find that one thing that will make my soul sing.  I sometimes despaired of ever finding it.  I was embarrassed when I failed at something else.  I have been laughed at and criticised.  I’ve had people tell me to my face that I should just give up or mocked what they considered to be “my latest thing”.  But I didn’t listen.  Oh it hurt, but I knew that in amongst the chaos and sadness of this life, there was something special that was my key to happiness.

I found it in making art.  I didn’t think that’s where I’d find it, but I have.  I’ve risen above the criticism and the chaos and have found my happy place.  When I’m making an image, I lose all sense of time.  I’m in a peaceful zone and I love it there.  I don’t do it for anyone’s approval.  It is my sanctuary. Just as the ocean continues to roll in and kiss the shoreline, only to be sent away everyday, I have persevered in my quest to find my soul purpose.  And trust me…. it tastes sweet.  When the world says “Give up!” hope whispers “Try one more time”.

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From the Depths