“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ― ANAIS NIN
November the 24th will be the date of my final session for Memories by Michelle.
In the last 10 years, I have photographed so many wonderful families, growing as a photographer and a human being in ways that I could never have imagined. Photography has opened the door to so many incredible people, relationships, and places.
In this decade of exploration, I have had the incredible privilege of being chosen to capture engagements, weddings, births, a baby’s first moments, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, international adoptions, and a soldier’s welcome home.
I have been proud to be chosen by Make-A-Wish to photograph their brave, young wish recipients on multiple occasions, as well as by the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters to photograph the relationships between children and their mentors. I have also fulfilled a life-long dream of being published as a writer and photographer in various local magazines and seen my images grace many covers.
On the personal side, I have learned so much by being part of incredible creative projects like Sham of the Perfect (which also sunsets this year) and taken more photos of my own daughter than is reasonable. (But which, I’m sure, I’ll never regret being able to look back on.)
And yet, in many ways, Memories by Michelle never grew the kind of strong roots I dreamed of.
There comes a point in a business’ life-cycle where, if new customers are not flowing in regularly, you have to decide if you want to invest more time and money trying to generate more bookings so you can cover expenses and come out on the other side with some money in your pocket. And then (having a full-time job) whether you have the bandwidth to devote to those lead-generating efforts as well as handling any additional business you generate.
Ultimately, the conclusion I came to was, sadly, no.
For these – and many other reasons – it’s time to say goodbye.
Leaving behind MbyM offers an opportunity to create space for something new. Which may or may not be photography related. Last year I dove into acting classes for the first time (so fun!) I also miss the swing dancing lessons I used to go to weekly and would like to get back to them. I have still never truly fulfilled my dreams of being a published writer with a book on a bookshelf. I’d also like to enjoy weekends around my favorite season – Autumn – just exploring with my daughter, who I only see 50% of the time these days. Time is precious. Opportunities and dreams abound!
Inshort, I don’t have a plan for the space in my life that Memories by Michelle will vacate. The plan, itself, is to create some space and see what happens next!
As to what I’ll do with my cameras and equipment… they won’t sit idle. Once things settle, I’d like to pursue some personal, creative ideas, and I may still take-on the odd photography commission if it works financially and seems like something that would be creatively fulfilling too. If you know of something or have something in mind, especially if it’s commercial or non-profit related, I’m open. But I won’t be booking regular sessions after this November.
I have loved and appreciated beyond words the time I have spent with every one of you, the trust you have given me, the intimate spaces of your life have welcomed me into, and the support you have shown for my photography.
If you would like to join me one more time, this Fall, for a family photo session, please see Fall 2019 details, below.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone – families, individuals, charities, and companies – I have worked with and who have supported me. The moments we created together have been rich and fulfilling and I will carry them with me forever.
“The great thing about real life is that it belongs to you. You can make it up as you go along!” ― Victoria Ashton
Sham of the Perfect is a collaborative photography project made up of an international collection of photographers who are passionate about both family documentary photography and being parents. The project’s name is inspired by the poem A Spring Issue, by Sarah Dunning Park. Our intent is to tear down the sham of perfection shown in more idyllic work and present life, parenthood, families, childhood, and home as it actually is; full of flaws and full of beauty simultaneously.
2019 will be my 5th year contributing to this project. Here are my photos from 2018, mapping our year in weekly images.
Want to document your real life moments?
I may not be able to follow you around all day every day, but I do offer Day In The Life sessions, helping you to capture the small but important moments with your family. Click here to get in touch and learn more.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”―Haruki Murakami
I completed the second year of my photo-a-day project on December 31st, 2017. When I started documenting my days on Jan 1, 2016, I never thought I’d make it through a year, let alone two. And, for sure, this year I almost gave up many times.
It was a really tough year. The toughest. On many days, I felt like a little rowboat caught out on the ocean in the perfect storm. I have never felt so adrift, so at-sea, in so many areas of my life at once. It brought me to my knees. It was energy-sucking, confidence draining, emotional nudity. It was humbling. I questioned everything, including myself, and I’m still not sure that I’m standing on solid ground yet. Have you ever got off of a boat after a long, rough voyage? For a while after you step on land, you find yourself still internally swaying, not sure if it’s the ground beneath you moving, or if your equilibrium hasn’t yet caught up to the fact that you’re finally off the boat. That’s how it feels right now. Shaky. Uncertain. But also a bit of a relief.
Looking back on these images was hard and helpful. Hard because it’s like I began the year in one life and left it in another. Helpful because I realized that, along the way, there were many moments I wouldn’t want to write-off.
And that’s why I’m going to continue in 2018. Who knows what the next 12 months will bring my way? Who knows what life I will be standing in on December 31st of this year? And who knows how grateful I will be for the reminder of the little moments along the way.
Maybe I can’t be with you every single day but I can document the flavor of your life in a documentary session. Trust me, every memory has its value, even the moments that don’t feel like they need memorializing at the time. Get in touch to learn more.
Last month, I went to London. On my own. No husband, no kid, no friend, no relative, and no schedule. I had only one mission: to avoid the typical tourist traps and experience London as I know it and remember it, in all its gritty, pulsating, multi-cultural glory. And, to follow my curiosity wherever that led me.
Where better to do that than in London’s iconic markets? Where tacky and trendy meet antique and boutique, where people-watching is an unavoidable pleasure, and each neighborhood offers-up its own quintessential experience.
I walked 50 miles in 4 days, carried blister plasters in my bag, and realized (painfully) just how little I walk in the U.S.
DAY ONE: Camden High Street and Camden Lock Market
Camden is an assault on all the senses. It’s a street that moves to the beat of the dance music blaring from the gaudily-adorned shop facades that reminded me of a slightly-twisted, Through the Looking Glass version of Main Street, Disneyland.
And then, just as quickly, it’s a serene canal framed by weeping willows, crossed by quaint bridges, and with views of transitioning barges, then a skyline of cranes and office buildings when you turn another.
It’s a street-food trip around the world with Korean, Brazillian, Columbian, German, Italian, French, Middle-Eastern, American (“Southern Fried Mother Clucker”), Indian, and a whole host of creative mixtures (think Korean Burritos) jostling for your stomach’s attention, beside the British staples of Fish & Chips and Pie and Mash.
This was my delicious lunch, served from a little stall beside the lock where you can watch them chop the fresh ingredients: a 3-curry combo with lamb and aubergine, spinach and chickpea curry, plus Dal, garnished with fresh mint, a dollop of yogurt, and a sweet chutney. All for just seven pounds.
It’s an indoor-outdoor market that never seems to end, winding in and out of buildings and alleyways and under brick eves that create a network of connected, mini neighborhoods each with their own personality; offerings alternating between vintage clothes, Union-Jack magnets, and modern art. There’s Alice Cooper blaring from a vintage record stall and, two-stalls down, Bob Marley jammin’ in a store merchandised from wall-to-wall with the reds, greens, yellows, and blacks of his home country.
In short: it’s not for people who don’t like lots of people or constant stimulation. In case you were wondering, I am not one of those people. I was buzzing with energy by the time I walked back to the tube station.
INFO FOR PHOTOGRAPHY BUFFS | Shot on a FujiFilm XT-1 with a 23mm 1.4 lens
One of the best things to recommend Sacramento is that it’s almost equidistant between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe – ocean and city 90 minutes in one direction, lake, and mountains 90 minutes in the other. Before I got pregnant and my body got all wonky on me, the husband and I used to love going up to Tahoe in the winter to ski. I’m a winter girl and I love ice skating and skiing and hats and scarves and gloves and hot chocolate and fireplaces. I love the awakeness you feel with the cold wind in your lungs. I’ve missed all that due to hip issues and knee issues and now foot issues and, I admit, my dreams of my girl skiing down the mountainside with me egging her on, have not materialized. In the absence of the ideal vision, there hasn’t been much in-between either. Which is how my girl got to almost 8 without seeing the snow. (sadface) So, I really enjoy watching those great videos we have. My husband checked out https://fpvfrenzy.com/best-fpv-camera/ and we bought a great drone to film our trips.
Sometimes, in fact, 90 minutes can feel like a lifetime away.
We have bought snow gear almost every year for my girl (and then not going and having to donate it because she grows out of it before the next snow season) and so, when we finally mustered the time and commitment to make it up the mountain a few weeks ago, I had to buy her new snow boots, and she had to wear last year’s ski pants that wouldn’t fasten around the waist. She’s a summer girl that likes bare feet and flappy, barely-there dresses. To say she was less-than impressed with all the layers and bulk would be an understatement.
But we were undeterred, forging out into the snow-covered rocky outcroppings of Sand Harboron the Nevada side of the lake, laying in the snow, and making our first family snowman. Ok, really, the husband made the snowman, my girl thought it was too hard and gave up early on, and I just took pictures. What!? I couldn’t find my ski gloves. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
This stuff just isn’t like they script it in the movies, is it?
I’m on a mission to take and photograph more day trips this year – my own and yours. Let’s chat about your plans for family fun in lakes, mountains, beaches, cities, deserts, or anywhere in between.
For as much as I love the bustle and excitement of London, the English countryside and its green rolling hills, are deeply ingrained in my childhood memories. In the summers, my parents and I would go on Sunday drives. Sometimes these drives had a destination, planned by my dad and his AA book on places of interest, and sometimes they didn’t… just a meandering drive through country lanes to see what was going on in the little towns and villages of England. We always ran into something. A cute village, a picturesque riverside, historical landmarks, a village fete. Even when you’re in the middle of seeming nowhere in England, you’re never far from somewhere and something. I love this about being home.
One of my favorite day trips was to the many historical homes and castles dotted around every area in the British isles. I HEART British history, hard. We went everywhere around the country when I was a kid, in day trips and two week holidays, criss-crossing the nation in the path of Kings and Queens and Lords and Ladies. And it was definitely something I wanted to share with my girl while we were home.
I have some really fantastic memories of this stately home in Essex. The most recent one was right before I came to officially live in the U.S. My parents, my then-husband-to-be and I, came out for the Last Night of the Proms, a picnic under the stars classical concert with full orchestra. There is such patriotism around the Proms and we waved little Union Jacks while singing Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory while the sky lit up with fireworks. For a 20 year old girl who was leaving home for a new country, it was a bittersweet evening.
The English countryside is so beautiful, as are the large, historical home that adorn it. I love the sweeping, green lawns, and the big blue skies with puffy white clouds. I love this history and the majesty.
After all good days out, a drink and a spot of dinner at the local pub, is the perfect ending.
Leeds Castle is actually not in Leeds but it is affectionately known as “The loveliest castle in the world.” It dates back to Norman times and was one of the homes of Henry the VIII (who I have a historical obsession with) and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The grounds around the castle are just as breathtaking as the castle itself and the walk along shaded pathways up to the castle entrance was just incredible. The castle is one of those places where I could have happily strolled around for hours, exploring each nook-and-cranny with my camera, finding something new to love at every turn.
You can also stay at the castle, either one of the many cottages, in their bed-and-breakfast rooms, or on the grounds in what they call “Knight’s Glamping.” Personally, a night in the Maiden’s Tower looks good to me. Maybe next time…
Old MacDonald’s Farm is a relatively new attraction to the area where I grew up. We took my girl there not long after it opened, which was during our last trip 5 years ago. Although it doesn’t hold childhood memories for me, places just like it do. Small, simple, fun parks like this can be found all around England and they’re perfect for a relatively inexpensive but fun day out. Whenever we went on our two week holidays, we would inevitably find and visit little parks like this wherever we were.
Since we went on a weekday during school hours, we basically had the park to ourselves. In some ways that was cool but it did mean that the visit lacked the atmosphere created but hundreds of kids flying around at breakneck speed to the next thing.
Norfolk and my nerd-gasm at a Church in Windsor Castle
I'm Michelle and I love vampires (before they were cool), peanut butter and that deliciously off-balance feeling you get when you step off a plane in a new country. I'm also a mum, a writer and a visual storyteller.
Click here to learn more about all that.
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