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Embracing the Unique

Lesson 6 from: Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

6. Embracing the Unique

Lesson Info

Embracing the Unique

Why can't we embrace everything that makes us unique and stand out? Why do you we feel like we must go with the grain versus against the grain? So, I'll just be vulnerable with you, in front of you about me to encourage you to do the same. Not live, you don't have to do this live but, (audience laughs) just in your own business. So, I had this picture made not too long ago. Right in between miscarriages. nd this is Luis Garvan, he has photographed me before. I highly suggest if you ever get the chance to be photographed by him, he's from Mexico but he's brilliant. And the photos he made the first time around of me were, like really beautiful and there was a lot of life to me and when I saw these photos, there was a sense of loss in the photos but I like it because it reminds me of what I was going through at that time. And this is where I was at at that time. This photo resonates with me as being me even though I'm usually a very upbeat, happy person this was a harder time in my life. ...

So we have to look at me as a baby. I did look like a Troll Doll and I'm pretty sure my kid is going to come out looking like a monkey just like I did. But my Mom said that I was the easiest baby ever. Thank God. And that I never cried. Please let this pass on. And I was such a good sleeper that she'd have to wake me up to feed me because I just wanted to sleep all the time. That is still, to this day... I can take a nap, I could take a nap right here in front of all of you and I would not care at all. As a kid, I was very venturous with my eating, so Mom never worried about what she put in front of me so I was eating matzo ball soup. Very Jewy thing to eat (laughs). My family's Jewish so they make matzo balls and most kids would turn their nose up at it but I... Mom never had a problem. She could do anything with my hair that she wanted to I was just kind of, go with the flow. I wasn't like normal kids where, we'll talk about this more. Like girls don't like their hair brushed or pulled, they say it hurts really bad, and I was never like that. So from the time I was little, obviously I had a lot of hair also, since you could put curlers in it. My best friend growing up was Heidi, my Grandma's dog. And to this day like, I think I love animals more than people. My husband complains about it often, that I love the dog more than him. It's not true. I love them equally. (audience laughs) I was always the kid that dressed like nobody else dressed. I had an attitude and a persona and I was most beautiful, my most attractive error in my life was when I was about 13 years old. (audience laughs) Anybody that grew up in the 80's, we all were very capable of the double roll, hair sprayed, curling iron effect. Where you did one roll on top, one roll on the top and then with hairspray in hand you would brush and spray at the same time. But my love for animals never went away. When I got to high school, I had a really hard time. I didn't have a lot of friends. I remember my first day of high school, I walked in and the girls laughed as I walked to my seat because of what I was wearing, or whatever. And my Mom, she's watching, she would always just make excuses, cuz she she didn't know better. She'd just be like, "Oh, she's a dancer," or, "She's an artist, you know how it was." But to me it was, making excuses for me rather than saying, we love that that she, like is experimental with what she wears and she doesn't want to wear what everybody else wears. That wasn't her fault. But it did make an impression and an affect on me as a kid that I always had to be excused for. I couldn't be embraced, like Jackson. So, I wasn't raised like Jackson where all of that stuff was really embraced and encouraged. Mom didn't know any better, she just made excuses for it. However, I was lucky enough to go to a magnet school, so I found art and theater and I found other people that were just like me, like-minded and that really helped me settle in. And so I joined theater and I did theater all through high school as well as the art program. And it gave me this wonderful opportunity to be really... express myself and experiment with being other... pretending to be other people. Theater kind of is just like childhood make-believe. Only you get to do it on stage and sometimes you can swear and make people laugh, right? It's fun. And as an adult, I've been so sad that I haven't been able to do theater because of the schedule that it usually requires but that's why, I've embraced speaking and teaching a lot because it's kind of like that. I get a chance to speak in front of people and make them laugh, and entertain them. I also was, early on a humanitarian. So this was a trip that I took when I was 16. Habitat for Humanity. We built a bunch of houses there. In high school, senior year in high school, I (laughs) our group of friends didn't decide to just do the norm and go to prom. No, we had to dress up in different time periods. (audience laughs) I'm right there. My date is the flaming gay guy with top hat and the cape in the back. And when he walked in to pick me up, at my house, in front of my family, he like walked in the door and he goes... "I'm here!" And my Mom was like, "I think we need to try and get you dating some straight boys." (audience laughs) It's like, Mom he's not straight and I'm not dating him. I just couldn't find anybody else to go to prom with, so I went with Leo. And he was a good friend of mine, so. That's carried onto me as an adult so I was a dancer also. So this is at Foundation. We'd decided to bring our group country line dancing, which I had to lead. I do a lot of work with animal stills. This is my Mom and I in Africa. Working with the giraffes there. We were just recently in New Zealand, my poor husband, and Jeanette, and Tristan were driving along the coastline and I just screamed, stop the car! And I saw all these sea lions, like on the shore. And I don't even think the car was actually stopped. I just jumped out and plummeted down this hill, rocks flying everywhere, I didn't grab my camera. And then I just sat. They're like, "What are you doing?" Like, "I don't even think you're supposed to be close to wildlife like that that!" And I just sat amongst a bunch of seals, sea lions for literally like an hour, I didn't leave. I was originally a marine biology major. This is me with my nephew. Early on I loved kids too. This is when I lived in Mexico and I was working in an orphanage there shooting and working and volunteering. And I haven't changed much, like I'm still... This is from my wedding. And I'm still like, the same person I was as a kid all growing up. My Mom made my wedding dress. I didn't have any details when the wedding coordinator asked me what my colors were. I was like, my eyes? I don't know what you're asking me. I don't have colors. I've always gone against the grain and just... As I've gotten older, especially like close to 40, I just have embraced who I am. And it is who I am. I have mouth like a truck driver, which is a very big concern for CreativeLive, and I'm (laughs) I try very hard to like, rein that in like when I taught kindergarten first grade. I say things that are inappropriate most of the time. I have no fashion sense whatsoever. And I'm, just okay with it. And I'm just genuinely a happy person and I'm okay with all of those things. And sometimes I'm silly and sometimes people will tell me to quiet down. And it just is what it is. So I've embraced that with my business too. Rather than fighting against or trying to blend in or be somebody that I'm not, I've just realized I should just be me because once I started being me out in public, with speaking and photography, that's when I started to get noticed. Not when I was a wedding photographer and I was trying to make photos like everybody else. It was when I finally was like, eh screw it. I'm just gonna be me and see how that works out. If you haven't seen it, you can search it and I think there's a link for it on my website. My very first outing publicly was WPPI when I did Photographers Ignite, it's five minute talk. And my friend signed me up for it and I was like, I don't, what? I don't wanna do this. And she goes, "You can talk about anything, it just has to have something to do with photography." And this was in front of, like 2000 people that I'm... I don't know anyone, I don't go to WPPI. Like, I'd only gone one other time. And so I was single and online dating at the time. So, I decided to talk about how awful people's profile photos were online dating. And that is what launched my career publicly because I think I was the first one to drop the f-bomb ever on WPPI stage and everyone was like, Whoa. And I didn't talk about pretty portraits or getting wedding clients. I talked about how I was internet dating and that guys with rifles and black eyes were trying to get me to go out with them. But because I just trusted my gut, and went with who I was, it actually worked in my favor.

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Ratings and Reviews


Kirsten is an incredible teacher. When deciding whether to purchase this class, you should first take a look at her first CL class--Modern Storytelling. It's the best way to dive into this material and is a good starting point. If you're interested in this genre, buy BOTH classes. Both are so packed with helpful information about the family photojournalism genre. The first class was a solid, well rounded introduction to family photojournalism, and this class is more in-depth, specific, direct, intense, full of composition technique, and really just takes it to a new level. She doesn't waste time in this class repeating all of what she taught the first time. Kirsten is very candid and personable which I find really helps us viewers learn from her authentically and enjoy the class. I feel like I know her from watching so much of her class and I know that helped me to connect with the class and understand the material better. I feel like I finally have the tools to really tackle this genre and a better idea of what I'll face. I HIGHLY recommend this class--BUT only if you have an interest in this type of photography. THIS ISN'T A CLASS ABOUT MAKING PRETTY PICTURES, IT'S A CLASS ABOUT CAPTURING REAL MOMENTS IN A BEAUTIFUL WAY AND STORYTELLING THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY.

Image by Marcy

I'm adding my review in hopes of giving some perspective to the few negative comments. I've been a fan since Kirsten's first course, and have been hankering for more ever since. I wish the viewers who decided to jump ship before watching the whole course had reconsidered, and hung in there. Here's why. Kirsten describes this class as more of an "advanced" class. To my way of thinking, it's an excellent adjunct to the first. I took notice of a good bit of the questions in the chat room on CL while the class was live. It was clear to me that there seemed to be plenty of viewers who had not watched the first based on their questions. To get the most benefit, you really need both courses. There is overlapping content, of course. But there is specific and pointed information that was really only generalized in the first course. Invaluable is the segments that were taped live at a family's home, where Kirsten shot a DiTL. That filming was shown and dissected in this new course. VERY informative. To put it succinctly, yes, there is some repetitive info, but necessary to bring it all together, and yes, new content. YES, the front end is a bit heavy on the personal. If I remember correctly, that viewer choose NOT to stick with the program, which is fine. BUT, had they stuck with it, that person might have had a change of heart. You see, I think you have to take all the information in it's entirety. Because, the openness, the vulnerability, the honestly to me is *endearing*, for one thing. But also, she definitely USES that personal information in the context of her teaching. Listening to her personal experiences (KLB's) gives US an opportunity to look deep within OURSELVES and CONFRONT our own past. OUR PAST is what shapes our future, good, bad or indifferent. We can allow our past to propel us to success, or sink us in despair. Either way, our past helps form our POV which is very important for our photography (as well as how we approach or avoid life in general, and affects us in business too...) I appreciate her honesty. I appreciate how she shares her struggles, both past and present. Both personally and professionally. For me, the whole package is more important that the individual "pieces". Who knows about that viewer.... maybe this genre is just not their thing. Maybe that person wants or needs to shield themselves from their own personal issues. IDK. Also, it's just a fact of life that *not everyone will LIKE .... ___ (you, me, her, etc). Whooo knows. That's their right, their choice. And it's true that this genre is not for everyone. But if you love it, then get the course. If you missed the first one, then get them both. You'll be happy you did, and you'll have saved yourself time and frustration trying to figure this out on your own.

Meredith Zinner Photography

She is outstanding. I love her candor, honestly, openness and extraordinary eye for talent. I love how true she is to herself and how fiercely yet seamlessly she works to show the truth and people's real stories. I love how she is a real person and shares true stories about herself that keeps her human. I'm so tired of this culture being so damn 'precious' about a baby's bottom fer crimmeny's sake... she's extraordinary, refreshing and unlike anything else youve shown. She's got an incredible eye, sense of humour, talent and so much to share with her very thankful audience. Thank you so very much! Thank you Kirsten!

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