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One Size Does Not Fit All

This shoot was a fun study in making it work!

A self-described “plus-sized lingerie boutique” sent us a few fun things to photograph. So we booked a model represented by a “plus-sized agency.”

But when our lovely model showed up for the shoot, she was smaller than me! Hahaa! My first reaction was to think Oh my goodness she’s not big enough. But I caught myself super quick and thought Who the heck is to say who is plus size, minus size, regular size, right size. She’s perfect.

So I hustled. I found this mannequin in a back closet of the studio, grabbed it and had some fun.

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I also gave her my #realisbeautiful t-shirt. She is unretouched in all of these pictures.

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The lingerie boutique and the model agency both have different ideas on what plus-sized is. We will, of course, have to book someone who actually fits the clothing we want to photograph.

In the meantime, I hope you find this story and pics inspirational.

When life surprises you, make meaningful photographs!

Love, Christa

ps. we just had a couple seats open up for our upcoming live workshop! Click here for more details and snag your spot.

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Opening the Kimono, a live Workshop in NYC!

This exciting two-day event in NYC June 12th & 13th is an exclusive peek behind-the-scenes with Christa, her team and clients. You’ll see how she works with women, lights & poses her subjects, and collaborates with everyone on set to capture meaningful flattering shots that sell.

DAY ONE: FRIDAY JUNE 12th

An Exclusive Backstage Pass!
A special invitation to go behind the scenes to watch me shoot LIVE in NYC.

Be a fly on the wall during my shoots:
Want to see my team and me in action?
See how I work with my assistant,
How we use the sapce in my fav studio to create variety,
How I work with my clients to create flattering authentic pictures,
and how I pose and light my subjects, on every single shoot.

Q&A afterwards.
Breakfast and refreshments provided.

Click play on the vid below to experience a taste of the first day’s events…

JS

Invaluable. I had my first post-OTK shoots yesterday. Such a difference in how I create images now! I feel like my work has “grown up” into the style I’ve been trying to shoot for two years. I also received ten inquiries after posting some sneaks today. I made some amazing friendships and left with a fresh new approach to photographing women. I have noticed a huge change in my photography after that trip.
-Joanna Smith

HH

It was a ton of fun and the networking was amazing. My biggest takeaway is how simple Christa’s sets are and that I don’t need a ton of fancy backdrops and places to shoot to be successful. I’ve started implementing some of Christa’s posing tips into my shoots, and it’s been really helpful.
-Heidi Hapanowicz

Thanks Christa for generously giving of your time and talent. I am grateful to have been a part of this.
-Joel Callaway

LL 2

It was great! First, Christa is awesome. Second, it’s good to be able to watch a shoot. Observing and being able to ask questions as you go is very helpful.
-Lincoln Lease

I enjoyed watching Christa and her team work. The best part is how friendly and open Christa is. She shared so much and her personality is kick ass. I’m proud that I was part of the event.
-Sarah Murray

Thanks so much, Christa!  The OTK weekend in NYC was an absolute pleasure.
-Linda McMahon

MW

The live photo shoot was so good for me to see. I left there so pumped! It helped me to see what I’m doing right and what I can improve on.  I loved seeing how she interacts with the client. The greatest benefit for me was the confidence I gained. It really was an invaluable experience for so many reasons. I’m very grateful.
-Meggan Weece

The NYC weekend has given me a big shove in my derriere to keep going and get moving, it’s definitely brought the fire within and the competitive spirit (in a very positive and good way).
-Ina McConnell

DAY TWO: SATURDAY JUNE 13TH

Awesome Portraits for YOU + Your Business

You + Me. Mini Shoot. Amazing Shots.

And then on day two, it’s your turn to step in front of Christa’s camera! You’ll be amazed at the great number of beautiful images we can create in in these mini-sessions. I’ve been shooting mini’s (some under 10 min’s) for several years now, and they always yield spectacular results!

headshots

Two different looks (wardrobe changes)
Two different sets (backgrounds & lighting)
Custom Portraits by Christa
20-minute session
My favorite studio in NYC
Ten or more gorgeous portraits.

Sat. June 13th

KN

These are amazing! I absolutely LOVE what you did. I absolutely ADORE these photos. WOW!
-Kate Northrup

Christa makes women look like fantasies of themselves — it’s so fabulous. And fun. There’s a spirit of defiance and rebellion about the photos, but also a joy…and the joy comes from the kind of atmosphere that Christa was able to create. Amazing.
-Justine Musk

JSG

Christa is part artist, part business strategist. She actually helps you SEE yourself at your next level of success. And captures it on film.
-Jolene Smith Garcia

WOW. The pictures are wow. I am so stunned by your talent. You really captured the best of me. This is the me I strive to be.
-Gry Sindig

RT

Wow, Christa!!! I fucking love love loved working with you. Loved. You are amazing. Thank you for the best photos of my life.
-Regena Thomasheur

Christa made me feel I was in perfect hands and completely taken care of. She’s the
real deal. Ridiculously talented good people attract likewise – Christa’s team was just like her: warm, friendly, highly-skilled and fun.

-Juls ArthurNL

OMG Christa! So freaking amazing!! Thank you thank you thank you! Seriously, the photos are beyond cool.
-Nathalie Lussier

THANK YOU for the amazing photos. They turned out so wonderful. You are a miracle worker to say the least!! Thanks again for taking such great care of me in the shoot!
-Amy Porterfield

 

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Join us for Opening the Kimono, Live in NYC!
June 12th/13th
$1197
OTKBUTTON2 Got Questions?
Email me directly at christa@christameola.com, and I’ll get right back to you.

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The Perfect Accessory…

Coco Chanel and Jackie Kennedy (two brilliant icons of style) know that a classic accessory can be paired with anything – or nothing! – and never goes out of style…

“A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.” -Coco Chanel

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Spotlight on: Laura Corn & Valentine’s Giveaways

My five-year blog anniversary is today, and we’re celebrating with playful pics, saucy tips, and hot giveaways! Just in time for Valentine’s Day…

I recently had the total pleasure of doing a photo shoot for Laura Corn, sex expert, radio personality and author of nine best-selling books on sex, love and intimacy. We were shooting for her latest venture, her new mobile app, 101 Nights – launching soon. I took this opportunity to interview her on her books, her best tips for feeling & getting sexy, and how she got interested in writing about sex in the first place…

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What do you do?
I’m an author of nine best-selling books, and I help couples achieve deeper intimacy through the use of what I call ‘Secret Sealed Seductions.’ My book 101 Nights of Great Sex is loved by over one million couples around the world! I get tickled when I think about Gwenyth Paltrow and Britney Spears being fans.

What made you write your first book on sex?
I was lousy in bed. I wrote my first sex book because I hated sex. I couldn’t have an orgasm with a man! I couldn’t afford therapy so I went to the library & read (and studied) every sex book on the shelves for two years. I taught myself how to orgasm in the library (well maybe not right in the library) and then said, ‘Wow! I know a lot of stuff. I think I’ll write a book.’christa_meola_photographer_new_york_boudoir_nude_33christa_meola_photographer_new_york_nude_boudoir_0011

What’s the central idea of your book, 101 Nights of Great Sex, and how is it different?
My books are unique because they are not books you read, they are books you do. There are 101 Secret Sealed Seductions in the book. Every page is sealed! There are 50 Secret Seductions written for his eyes only and 50 Secret Seductions written for her eyes only. There is also one very special seduction shared by both partners.

Here’s how you play:

Once a week, (or whenever you want to add a little spice to your relationship) you and your lover each pick a sealed page and tear it from the book. There’s no turning back now – and no peeking at your partner’s seduction.  Just follow your secret instructions, and sometime during the week you’ll each be getting an erotic surprise. Talk about anticipation – you’ll both be on the edge of your seats.

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Tell us a favorite inspirational story of someone who’s been helped using your book’s philosophy.
101 Nights of Great Sex has saved a lot of marriages. Its best stated by New York Times best-selling author Dr. Lisaa Rankin, “As an OB/GYN and blogger, 101 Nights is one of my most frequently recommended books. I prescribe it to patients suffering from decreased libido, recommend it to mentoring clients seeking more pleasure, and blog about it as a way to explore the true desires of your authentic self. Plus, (don’t tell my mother!) my own copy of 101 Nights is well loved, tattered, and torn up. My husband thanks you!”

Has anything changed over the years in regards to what people struggle with sex-wise?
For the most part, a low sex drive is really a low desire for the same old thing. Aside from any medical issues someone might have, the sense of excitement, surprise, and butterflies comes from trying new things. There have been so many surveys done on what keeps a long-term relationship exciting, and scientists have discovered that exploration and surprise thrill our sexuality.

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You also have a new app now too right?
Yes, in addition to my books, I’m proud to say that 101 Nights the App is about to be released. This is a mobile App on Apple and Android, which will put the power of my book in the pockets of millions, through their phones.

What inspired you to create the 101 Nights app?
Your beautiful photography, Christa Meola! So seductive! I thought, ‘Damn I need to create a mobile app with your images and my seductions.’ Haha! Which we did! Yay.

Plus, as the world around me grew in technology, it seemed only natural that the ideas and techniques in my book would be a perfect fit for a mobile app. I had map apps on my phone, weather apps on my phone… why not my seduction app? 101 Nights is the world’s most seductive app for couples.

Tap. Tease. Seduce.

It’s a full seduction toolkit, that fits discreetly in the palm of your hand.

It’s really an exciting product.

Thank you Christa!

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What’re your best tips on re-igniting romance with a long-time partner?
Someone has to make a change. When romance and sex stop, its usually because both partners stop nurturing the relationship. Someone has to step up to the plate and get the playdates rolling. That’s why my interactive books are so helpful

How can you best treat your partner to a sexy evening?
Plan it, be intentional, and by all means, build up anticipation. Tell your partner, early in the week that you have a planned a sexy surprise for the two of you for Saturday Night. Keep your sweetie in the dark. Don’t give too much away but drop hints all week long. Every hint allows your partner to relax, and feel special. Your partner will enjoy allowing someone else doing all the work, and feeling truly treasured. Rarely do we get fun sexy surprises as adults.

What is the most essential thing to feeling sexy on the inside?
Believe in yourself. And by all means don’t lose your sense of humor. Laughing and being joyful is sexy at it’s best.

What’s your favorite trick to feel sexy fast?
I put on red lipstick & sky-high heels!

What’s your #1 tip for fellow entrepreneurs who want to write a book?
You have to be passionate about your subject. Passion will carry you far. A book takes a long time to write and even a longer time to publish and market. So if you don’t have passion you won’t go the distance.

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Thank you Laura! And even more gratitude for gifting us with these hot giveaways!

—-VALENTINE’S GIVEAWAYS—-

Giveaway No. 1
A dozen copies of Laura’s best-selling book, 101 Nights of Great Sex

I have a dozen copies of Laura Corn’s best-selling book 101 Nights of Great Sex! Who wants one? Follow me on Instagram or Facebook, Comment, and Tag a friend to enter. Winners will be chosen at random on Vday, and you can comment as many times as you want with a different friend tagged in each comment. You and your friend tagged will both win a signed copy!

“This is not just another sex book. 101 Nights of Grrreat Sex uses ‘secret sealed seductions’ with special instructions for a love task or favor that each partner tears out and completes for one another. Sounds simple but the anticipation and mystery makes even the smallest gestures pretty thrilling.” – Gwenyth Paltrow

Giveaway No. 2
His & Her’s Seductions

If you’re short on time, but still want to give big-time thrills on Vday, we’ve got you covered.
This Rated R giveaway is available for you to instantly download now at the links below.

Warning: Wildly adult content.
For HIS eyes only: Honeylingus & For HER eyes only: The Velvet Tonguechrista_meola_Laura_corn_101_sexy_nights

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lots of love,

Christa

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[VIDEO] Q&A with Legal Expert Rachel Rodgers, Esq

My friend Rachel Rodgers is a highly-regarded lawyer for creatives and charges major moola to give her clients legal advice.
I’m so grateful that she sat down with us so we can give you the most important, super critical, must-have, stop-everything-and-watch-this-video-right-now legal info that you must see.In today’s video, we cover the 10 Legal Mistakes Photographers Make and How to Avoid Them, as well as give you action steps on how to protect your biz and answer your most burning legal Q’s.

Click Play below to get all your most pressing legal Q’s answered…

Rachel not only sat down with me to answer all your Q’s and give you her valued legal advice, but she also created an incredible must-have guide: Legal Nunchucks: For Photographers just for YOU.This all-in-one resource is what pro’s and newbies alike need to protect their business, assets, hard work, and future earnings.

It has all the info, templates, contracts and checklists you most need. It would’ve saved me tons of heartache and thousands of dollars if I had it years ago.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again… Smart is sexy. So is protection. So hustle your buns over to get more info on THE legal guide for photogs.

Love,

Christa

ps. TIME-SENSITIVE: Rachel is giving my readers $100 SAVINGS off Legal Nunchucks: For Photographers. But hurry, her offer expires TOMORROW, FRIDAY 2/6 at midnight EST.

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The #1 Legal Mistake Photographers Make

Have you ever wished that you had a lawyer on speed dial?

(Me too.)

To help with all the confusing legal Q’s on contracts, usage, theft, entities, and coverage, such as:

What do I need to include in a contract?
What if a client hates her pictures and wants her money back?
What happens when someone steals my photos?
What’s the best biz entity for me? What if I’m not being paid yet?
What insurance coverage do I need?
What’s worth pursing action and not pursuing?
When do I know it’s time to get a lawyer and how do I find a good one?

Well, I’m excited to announce today’s guest blogger, Rachel Rodgers!

I recently did a shoot for Rachel and her law team. Rachel is a business lawyer, who runs a non-traditional law firm for innovative companies and entrepreneurs. She’s worked with photographer newbies as well as established pros, and has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, MSNBC, and many others.

Today, Rachel will give us critical info to avoid The #1 Mistake Photographers Make.

And on Thursday, Rachel and I will have a sit-down legal throw-down conversation packed with info on all things legal for photographers. She and I will cover all Ten Legal Mistakes Photographers Make (I’ve made them all) and How to Avoid Them, as well as answer all your burning legal Q’s. (More info at the end of this post.)

And now, over to Rachel…

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You are a powerhouse photographer either on your way to, or having already built, a sought-after photography business. Your clients love you, your work is rewarding and you’re loving life.

Unfortunately, there are lot of legal issues that affect a photographer’s business so its not all gumdrops and fairy tales. Taking care of your legal needs as a photographer can be really confusing and overwhelming. Its a lot more fun to just ignore it and hope for the best, right?

Um … no.

Creating a proper legal foundation may not be fun, but it’s what smart photographers do to make sure they don’t have to worry about things like time-consuming and costly contract disputes, unintentionally giving away their intellectual property, and paying way too much in taxes.

The good news is that taking care of the legal stuff does not have to be hard, expensive or incredibly time consuming. For example, you can protect yourself and your business from a whole host of legal issues simply by having a solid contract with every client. Which leads me to the number one legal mistake I see photographers making:

#1 Mistake:
Not having a solid contract (client service agreement) for each client.

This is an epidemic. A lot of business owners, not just photographers, do business without any contracts at all. Which is a terrible way to do business. Why? Because the whole purpose of a contract is to prevent disputes by making sure that all parties to the agreement understand exactly what is going to happen, what is going to be exchanged (services, products, cash), and what happens if things don’t go according to plan (cancellation terms).

How can you avoid making this critical mistake?

For photographers, because your intellectual property can be so easily stolen, its even more imperative that you have clear terms for how your photos can and cannot be used by your clients and clarify exactly what your clients are purchasing (are they purchasing all rights to the photos or just a license?), and you need to ensure that you have your client’s permission to use the photos for marketing and other business development purposes.

Necessary items to include in your contract:

How many calls/emails/meetings with you can the client expect?
How many photographs can the client expect to be shot, showed?
Will you provide hair and makeup stylists, wardrobe?
When and how will the photos be delivered?
When and how will the client pay you?
What happens if payment is late?
What is and is not included in the price (retouching, copyright)
What happens when a client fails to show up at their appointment?
What happens if a client doesn’t love her photos?

Customizing contracts to suit your business

Spend some time thinking about your policies, and then set them down in the client service agreement so that you are crystal clear on what happens in different situations, and the client is crystal clear on what she can expect.

If you have specific rules on set, list them. You might prohibit or allow alcohol (for adults), you may limit the number of guests, you will probably want rules about food or drinks and cell phones. This is also the time to let the client/model know what to bring, props, outfits, etc.

Special clauses for nude or boudoir photography

Photographing models in the nude or semi-nude requires some specific clauses in the contract (and often in the model release as well.)

Because of the sensitive nature of such a session, you will want to set forth policies that you are comfortable with and that will make your model comfortable. For example, many boudoir photographers limit who can be present during the shoot. It’s a good idea to mention that, as the photographer, you may need to reposition the model’s lingerie or touch her to get the pose right.

You’ll want to consider, and diplomatically set forth in the contract, what circumstances will wreck the deal. If the model shows up intoxicated, or is suffering from bad tanning or botched Botox treatments, you may not be able to get satisfactory images.

You’ll also want to make sure (require proof) that your model is 18 years of age or older. The laws that prohibit child exploitation vary from state to state, and are often enforced on the discretion of local law enforcement. Furthermore, persons under 18 are not legally able to sign a contract or a release.

Important boilerplate items to include

And don’t forget the boilerplate which is all of the legal language you see at the end of an agreement. It may seem really monotonous and irrelevant but it is incredibly important. If you ever have a problem that escalates into a full blown dispute, that boilerplate protects you and can save the day.

Boilerplate must-haves:

The Limitation on Liabilities clause prevents the parties to the agreement from suing each other for additional, extra, and over the top damages.

Recovery of Litigation Expenses (also known as the attorney’s fees clause which is easier to say but not nearly as impressive). The typical attorney’s fees clause allows the winning party of a lawsuit to recover their attorney’s fees and other costs incurred to bring the lawsuit to enforce the agreement.

No Guarantees clause states that the service provider (that’s you, pretty thing) cannot guarantee a particular outcome.

Transfer of Intellectual Property is mega important because it states how and under what circumstances the intellectual property is transferred from the service provider to the client.

Entire Agreement; Modifications; and Waiver. This clause states that what is written in the contract is the entire agreement between the parties. That means that emails, conversations, and other statements made between the parties are not a part of the agreement. This section also requires that any modifications to the agreement be done in writing.

When and how your client should sign the contract

Be sure to send your agreement to clients at the very beginning of your engagement using an electronic signature software like HelloSign. Electronic signatures are totally legit. This not only lets your clients stop procrastinating on signing your agreement, but also helps you stay more organized and on top of your contracts ensuring that you have a signed client service agreement for every client. And it gives scanners everywhere the right to gracefully bow out of this whole contract signing operation. They can retire with fax machines in Barbados or something.

The best protection you can arm your business with is having proper contracts in place between your photography business and your clients, with terms covering what rights to the photos the client is purchasing, the terms of the client’s license to the photos, cancellation clauses, payment terms and all that beautiful boilerplate that is sure to save your ass one day.

Because your photography deserves a great business backing it up – one that’s armed for whatever might pop up.

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Got more legal questions?

We’ve got you covered…

I’m hosting a no-holds barred conversation with Rachel that will be posted here on Thursday. We’ll chat about the Top 10 Legal Mistakes Photographers Make and How to Avoid Them. Plus, she’ll be answering all of your legal Q’s.

Join me and our special guest, Rachel Rodgers, for a fun convo and legal throw-down…

The Top 10 Legal Mistakes Photographers Make
& How to Avoid Them

Thursday, Feb 5th
No need to RSVP. If you’re on our list, we’ll send you a reminder.

Ask your legal Q here by leaving a comment by Tuesday evening, and Rachel will tackle it during our chat.

See ya here on Thursday!

Love,

Christa

ps. Rachel, overachiever that she is, not only took my questions and answered them for you, but she also did 1000% better and created an awesome guide specifically for YOU! Legal Nunchucks: For Photographers started out as a blog post for me and is now an info-packed 64-page guide with all you need to know and essential tools you need (contracts, templates, checklists) to avoid legal disasters, save money, and keep you and your clients happy. Plus you guys save $100 off until this Friday Feb 6th at midnight EST. Check it out.

 

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5 Things I No Longer Believe About Photographing Women

As my 5-year blog anniversary approaches, I’ve taken a long look back through my archives. I laughed a ton, cringed a bit and had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all of the clients and stories I’ve had the pleasure and honor to share.

And I’m so grateful to you, my dedicated enthusiastic readers. Many of you have emailed me noting quite a difference in my photos over the past couple of years as well as how much you think marriage agrees with me. Thank you! I agree with you.

Speaking of changing, there’s a lot I do and think about differently now versus 5 years ago or even 1 year ago. I thought it’d be interesting to cover just a few things that have changed with regard to how I photograph women.

5 Things I No Longer Believe About Photographing Women

1. Photoshop is a woman’s best friend.

Yes, I actually said that. This belief has changed the most. There is a long list of what qualifies for woman’s best friend, starting with self-acceptance, body-love, good girlfriends and an amazing partner. Photoshop isn’t all evil and shouldn’t be public enemy number one, but the damage it causes in projecting an unrealistic unattainable perfect ideal is. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be doing a post on feeling sexy on the inside.

2. Never show a woman her pictures without retouching them.

Similar to the belief above, I used to think showing a woman her pictures unretouched was just plain unfriendly, not to mention unprofessional. But I’ve come to believe that retouching a women’s pictures before they see them is a disservice. For the past couple of years, it’s been so much more fulfilling to show a woman her photographs totally bare naked unretouched and allow her to see herself as she is. To have a woman fall in love with herself as she is instead of retouched into someone else’s version of perfect is an amazing gift. Anyone can look like that girl in the magazine. Just add photoshop. What no one else can look like is YOU. Sharing the authentic you is the biggest gift I can give.

3. I’m happy to photograph you without a signed model release.

When I first started shooting, I thought that if you didn’t want to sign a model release, you still deserved to have photos taken and not shared, so I’d happily do it. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful photographers willing to photograph you without a signed release form. But at this point in the game, I’m fulfilled by sharing my work with the world. My new belief and practice is that I will no longer photograph a subject without a signed model release.

4. No husbands allowed on set.

Over the years, many husbands, boyfriends, male besties, (and even one son!) have asked to be present during the shoot. I always thought the policy of no men on set was a good one… it was just the girls having fun, she’d be able to relax more readily, the pictures would be more of a surprise, and the husband might distract from our creative focus. Well, boy did I learn how wrong I was. You can read more about what changed my belief here: Ordinary Couple, Inspiring Story. Also, some of the best photographers, stylists and assistants are male – including mine! Male energy on set is a glorious thing. I now offer the choice to have either no men present or have your partner there.

5. I can make a woman love her body.

Only a woman has the power to love herself. The old belief was a nice idea, and I was definitely enthusiastic, passionate and earnest. But I’ve learned, mostly by being a woman, that I cannot make any woman love herself. I can only show her the beauty that I see.

What have you changed? Do you have any old beliefs, or maybe ones that need revisiting?

I’d love to hear how you’ve changed your game. Join the conversation here.

I’ll be hanging out and to hear how you’ve changed and what you do differently.

Because, hey – people change, processes evolve, and when you know better, you do better.

xoxo Christa

ps. blog post coming soon: The #1 Legal Mistake Photographers Make

 

Photo above: Jerry Zalez, CMP Associate Photographer

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Uncle Anthony & Me

Everyone has a crazy relative. That person that no one gets, that becomes ostracized. For my family, that was my Uncle Anthony.

My Uncle Anthony was my dad’s older brother, and he’d babysit us (my two brothers and me) when we were really young. We made up a nickname for him: The Boogan. Because he had a homeless look about him. He wore the exact same clothes all the time – dirty baggy pants way too big for him cinched up with a worn out belt and always the same plaid shirt.

But what really stood out was his hair. His hair was huge and a total mess. Like Einstein, but more homeless. It never looked brushed, despite him walking around with a black Ace comb in his pocket all the time. And he never really washed it.

During summers, Uncle Anthony would come down the shore to stay with us for a couple of weeks. First thing he’d do at the beginning of each visit, was offer us ten bucks to wash and cut his hair. Oooh, tough decision. My brothers never did it, but I always did. He’d hand me his black Ace comb, sit in the kitchen on the folding chair with a towel around his neck and a huge smile on his face.

Once the shampooing was over, I’d be grinning too, so happy to de-Boog-ify him. To give him this transformation.

Because underneath the Boogan was a really sweet man, playful and a child at heart. We played chess, laughed a ton, watched Popeye cartoons together. We’d go to the shore on the weekends, where he would take a bar of soap into the ocean to wash up. Yeah, that was the unsocialized part of him.

We were always just a bit scared of Uncle Anthony. It wasn’t just his appearance. He was so hotheaded. My dad said being in the war made him a bit crazy. I still have an image of him running around the yard chasing me with a big yard rake because I said motherfucker.

When I was thirteen, Uncle Anthony came to my holy confirmation, and it was the cleanest we ever saw him. He had slicked his hair back with byrlecreem and combed it back. He had a new lavender plaid shirt tucked into his pants. The black Ace comb tucked in his shirt pocket. He put his false teeth in. We took pictures.

And that was the last we saw of him for awhile. We were no longer kids who needed babysitting. We grew up, got busy. My parents split. No more summers at the shore.

Fourteen years later, my dad died. And I wanted to get back in touch with Uncle Anthony. He was like the next closest thing to my dad. So I called a distant cousin, who knew where Uncle Anthony was. I found out he was still living alone in the NJ suburbs. He hadn’t ever married, no kids, no job – he was living solely off Veteran’s disability.

I called him up, and he met us at Freehold racetrack where we were scattering my dad’s ashes. He was gentler – no more anger. Same homeless look though. It was good to see him, and connect with him as an adult.

I promised I’d come again.

About 5 years later, I travelled again from LA to NJ and visited his place for the first time. I was struck by how lonely his place felt. It was like a tribute to loneliness. Empty place, except a couch and a folding table nearby with some clipped coupons and a shop list, that just read: milk, bologna, bread.

Most striking was that the walls were completely bare except he put up magazine clippings of babies and kids happy and smiling all over one wall. It made me so sad. I interviewed him: “Why didn’t you ever marry?” “Never had money, couldn’t support a wife or family.” “Are you happy here?” “I like it here. There are no crowds.” Which is hysterical because the place is desolate, and he says he likes that there are no crowds.

I promised to visit again.

The next year, I went to see him again. This time, the place was even more bare but he had added a couple things. He now had a little doll with a washcloth over it, like a blanket. And another the exact same on the floor near his bed. And a standing fan in front of the taped magazine clippings on the wall, and he’d turn it on and watch the them flap in the breeze. He said, “They like that.” I kept thinking has he really gone crazy now? Are people going to think he’s a pedophile? Which was heartbreaking to me that he never got to nurture a family. Because he was always so great with kids and really good to us. He’s just been on his own. Not loved, not touched, not talked to.

I promised to visit again.

The next year on Christmas, I made him a pan of lasagna and wrapped a gift – a framed pic of him and me from my last visit. He answered the door in Longjohns and a winter coat. Crazy as ever hair. I tried to give him the picture but he refused. Maybe that was too much reality? He had a new pic up of Donald Trump’s baby with The Donald’s hair photoshopped on him. He’d take out his black Ace comb and do the combover. He’d sing little lessons: “One, two, buckle your shoe. You got no money, then ya got no honey.”

I remember he turned and looked at me at one point during this and in a different tone of voice said, “I know what I’m doing.”

It was a total lucid moment. This is how he managed his loneliness.

And I promised to visit again.