Why my job matters more than ever.


I was interviewed by a local paper earlier this year about my work as a photographer, and I jokingly talked about how my occupation wouldn’t matter if, say, a zombie apocalypse happened. And while that may still be true, three events this summer have shaken me to the core of who I am yet have solidified how important I think my profession is. Those three events were funerals. One of them for a cousin, one for a close friend here in Colorado, and one (the most shattering to me) was my best friend from college. My best friend was also a full-time photographer and an inspiration/place of safety for me because she went full-time several years before me. (such a brave trailblazer she was)

With all of these tragedies – and I don’t say that lightly, as the oldest one of the three was 34-years-old and the youngest was 21– I realized how I (and probably many others) respond to loss. I pretty much became a hoarder, hunting and gathering every shred of them I could find. Letters, poems, mix CD’s, gifts from them, but most of all photographs. I frantically scanned in all the old ones I had, desperate to make sure I had it in digital format and saved in three different places. I wanted to hold on to every piece of them I could get my hands on and not let anything slip through the cracks. I wanted to remember everything. I wanted to see our joy and love and shenanigans and adventures. I knew that we had had them, but there was something about seeing it in a photograph–in something I could touch and feel with my hands– that made it more real, more comforting. Perhaps the way a Catholic person touches the beads of a rosary while praying certain prayers– to have a tangible reminder of what they’re saying and why it matters–I needed something solid to remind me of all the goodness and beauty that existed in these friendships. As my guy Cameron said, “I think there is something innately human about needing to assign the tangible to the seemingly intangible. To have something to point to in order to remind ourselves of our deep connection to it all.” 

I’m so proud to be part of a profession that makes this possible, that allows people to carry their memories and the feelings associated with those memories around with them and prevent them from evaporating like rising smoke. A profession that helps people hang onto what’s good in the world and bring some tangible to the intangible, some order to the chaos (hopefully). So, as I shoot now, I think and feel differently than I did before this summer. I think about how people will look at these photos for years to come, for the way they’ll look at them differently after someone in a photo passes away, how they’ll hold that photo even more dear. This summer has been a watershed moment for me, and I hope I continue to see the world this way.

And having said that, I want to share some of the special photos I’m taking comfort in and also some I’ve taken that I hope others take comfort in someday. They aren’t award-winning shots necessarily, but some of the most important things in life aren’t the most breathtaking or beautiful. They’re the things that take you back to a time and place and fill your soul a little bit. They’re just moments, but isn’t that all life is? The sum of all our moments?


A pile of the pictures between us. I miss her so.


The first person I ever did karaoke with (back in 2001!), and my favorite duet buddy thereafter. (this was 2013)


Nashville & Florida


Just an old school gem I’m glad to have in print.


So glad this moment was captured. This was right after I gave a speech at her rehearsal dinner, and it was a really special moment for us.


First looks rule.


An embrace I would want to remember.


Grandmother and granddaughter.


There’s nothing like the raw emotion in childbirth. It’s not something that can be recreated! This kid could never see these photos and doubt that his parents were elated to welcome him into their lives.


Family dance time.



Mother of the Bride taking it all in.


These two are co-workers giving a presentation, but they also happen to be close friends. I just loved this little sideways glance they had here.


The head of a school in Denver passing the baton off to a new leader. I snagged this at the back of a classroom the first day of school.


This is no marketing scheme or ploy, I promise, but I have come to really love and appreciate Artifact Uprising in this difficult season and the way they honor the craft of photography and printing. Even their slogan speaks to me these days: “Inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible.” I feel like I’ve ordered from them every week this summer!

Thanking a hero.



In 2002, I took my first photography class at Austin Peay State University. Thankfully, my teacher gave us an assignment to take a field trip to the library and read books about other photographers. Little did I know this assignment would change my trajectory as an artist. I picked up a book by Duane Michals, who I’d never heard of but who quickly seeped into the deepest parts of my artmaking soul. He became “famous” (as famous as artists get, I suppose) in the 60’s for his avantgarde approach to black and white photography and storytelling. As Mary Thomas said in an article for a Pittsburgh newspaper:

“An innovator in the realm of fine art photography, Mr. Michals is credited with introducing the use of several photographs, or sequencing, in narrative work, and with the addition of handwritten text. His subjects include such universal themes as familial relationships and sexuality, and his formal expression often includes elements of the poetic, surreal and metaphysical.”

Finding an artist whose words are as moving as their art is about as rare as finding a performer who can sing as equally well as they can rap (ahem… how many Lauryn Hills are out there?). Duane Michals is the total package. In fact, I typed up many quotes from that first library book in Arial Black typeface on my Compaq laptop in 2002 (printed on plain white paper), and I’ve carried them around with me ever since, decorating every new space with his thoughts. The one I always keep closest to my desk is this one: “I believe that art should touch. I believe that it should move one to a greater consciousness of what one’s life is all about.”  Such words to live by! And I have tried. And I have felt grateful to Mr. Michals over and over these past 15 years for inspiring me to.

This past Friday, Cinco de Mayo of 2016, I got to thank him in person.  My gift to myself for enduring my first surgery and all the subsequent physical therapy and such was a ticket to New York City to attend the opening of his new exhibit. He did not disappoint! At 83, he’s still pushing himself as an artist but he also has such impeccable humor and kindness, refreshing to see in someone with his amount of celebrity and accomplishment. In fact, I had been standing around trying to meet him for quite some time at the gallery, but being both very short and in a leg brace left me at a slight disadvantage for getting to the front of the line. Mr. Michals noticed this and, after a while, interrupted someone he was currently talking to, put his hand out towards me and said “This young lady has been waiting for quite some time, and I’m going to get her over here.” So he took my hand, pulled me in, and we began to chat about life and photos and where we were from. When I told him I live in Colorado Springs, he said “Oh, it’s beautiful there.” Then he pulled back quickly and asked in an almost frightened way, “You’re not a born again Christian, are you?”  I was prepared to talk cameras or film or a whole host of things with him, but not my spirituality! Ha. So, in my caught-off-guard state, here’s what came out: “Yes. But… I love you!” Followed by, “And your work is SO important.” Relief came over him at that, so he went on to tell me some about his short films in the new show and said I should definitely see them. (In one of them, he’s walking up and down a NYC neighborhood street with a sign on him that says “Tickets to Heaven : $5)

So, that was that. It was a short conversation that was long awaited. It was worth it. I’m thrilled I got to meet him and thank him in person for being so courageous with his life and art and for inspiring me to do the same. And I think he liked hearing it because, as my college drawing professor just told me in January, “They’re just like you and me. They like to hear nice things about themselves.”  :)

[below are pictures of Mr. Michals’ work and some my photographer friend Joanna took of me meeting him. it’s so handy to have photog friends! ]


Duane Michals at his opening at DC Moore Gallery in New York.



My fabulous friend who captured all the moments at DC Moore Gallery

Some of Duane Michals’ iconic work : 

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This one was on display in the gallery. It was amazing to see it in person hanging on a wall after admiring it in books for so many years!