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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.

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[VIDEO] Want to instantly change how you’re feeling?

I’m sitting in my pj’s next to the lighted Christmas tree feeling so grateful to be blogging today.

2014 has been an incredibly challenging year. Was it a tough one for you too?

It took all the strength and love I have in me.

You may have noticed that blogging took a back seat. Priorities shifted. I focused on building my health, loving my new family, and loving on my clients.

And there were plenty of silver linings too.

While taking refuge in my creativity, I flourished. I performed my first story-telling gig, gave birth to a solo show, a TV concept, and a filmmaking branch of CMP.

Which brings me to today, and something I’ve created just for YOU.

Filmmaking is a huge passion of mine, and I recently did a photo/video shoot for a woman, Jolene, who’s former Co-Founder of Free the Slaves and has worked with slavery survivors and regular everyday people to help bring about major change in their lives.

We made a little film for you, centered around a simple question that can change your life.

I hope this video helps the next time you’re in a stressful or challenging situation and unsure of what to do next.

This isn’t just a wishy washy concept. It’s provided resurrection agains all the odds.

Watch this video below…

And ask yourself this simple question the next time you’re faced with a difficult situation.

I’ve tried it. It works.

If a slavery survivor can change her life with this simple question, then so can you.

Here’s to a brilliant and beautiful 2015!

Lots of love,

Christa

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Spotlight on Jolene Smith Garcia

Ever meet someone who you know will impact your life in important and positive ways?

That’s how I felt when I met Jolene Smith Garcia.

Jolene is former co-founder of Free the Slaves and a Life Strategist who contacted me to shoot photos and video for her new website.

Her work is about bringing “all the soul-satisfying energy of ancient spiritual traditions, with none of the musty smell.” She wants you to have a repertoire of short, easy, free things you can do to make yourself feel like your SELF again.

Despite the briskness of the NYC winter, her recent photo and video shoot contained all the warmth that Jolene exudes. (My fav photos below, video to premiere in tomorrow’s blog post!)

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We started at the studio and then turned to the magic of NYC streets for the perfect backdrop of spiritual magic with an edge…

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Jolene believes that asking a simple question such as “Would you like a glass of water?” can be the beginning of envisioning a new future for yourself.

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She’s spunky and spiritual, transcendent yet grounded, with a bit of ‘tude. I fell in love immediately and had to know more! Here are Jolene’s engaging A’s to my Q’s…

What do you do?
I help people access magic in their lives because when we do, we tend to do the most good in the world.

Can you tell us a favorite inspirational story of someone you’ve helped?
Suraj Kali was enslaved in Uttar Pradesh, India, and forced to pound gravel into sand with a hammer and paid nothing. Her five children and husband were also enslaved, as was their entire village.

With our support, Suraj worked with other women in her village to convince everyone to band together and stand up to their slaveholder. They literally joined arms and refused to move. The slaveholder sent his thugs to beat them up, and yet they still stood strong.

Finally the slaveholder gave up, and they were free. Almost immediately they began to do their own quarrying, sell sand for themselves, and eventually sent their children to school.

Now Suraj has a job as a caretaker at a guesthouse, where she is earning many times what she did selling sand. She’s still an inspirational leader, coordinating a women’s microcredit group and spearheading village healthcare efforts. She says, “I have come out of slavery. Now I will never go back into it, neither will I let anybody from my village be a slave.”

What are you most proud of?
The people we helped to freedom are still free. They haven’t fallen back into slavery. Many have helped other people to freedom, started businesses, and are employing other people.

What is your greatest gift?
Spotting the sacred and basking in it, bathing in it, and making it easy for others to join in.

How do you keep inspired?
Reminding myself that there is Divine within each of us, including me. Which means we can act like it.

What’s your favorite book?
“Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer

Favorite quote?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver

Favorite object in your home?
A painting by Paula Barragán that my husband gave me.

Favorite hangout?
With a babysitter: Seseribó in Quito, Ecuador. With the kids: Our street, which has a lot of block parties.

Favorite can’t-live-without item?
85% dark chocolate, French roast coffee, red wine, an occasional night of gin tonics.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome as an entrepreneur?
When I was 25, I was deciding whether to go all-in to work against slavery. It would mean quitting my job, and being seen as a kook, or even worse (at that time): irrelevant. Not many people knew about modern slavery yet. Even most of my mentors in the human rights field told me I was throwing away my career. It took every drop of courage I could muster to decide: I don’t know whether I’ll make a difference, or be successful at this, but I do know that I want to be the type of person who tries. And I did.

What is your craziest goal?
It would be amazing to serve as an intern to one of the survivor business owners for a week, if she’d have me, and then go on to intern for another. Mining, shop-keeping, farming, bead-making, whatever. After our daughters are grown, I’d love to do that for a year-long trek through villages in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, and DRC where we worked (and where Free the Slaves still works). I think I would cry every day at the poignancy of it all.

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To say this beautifully spirited woman inspires me is an understatement.

Check back on the blog tomorrow for the premiere of the little film we shot for Jolene.

It contains the incredibly easy and powerful tool you can use to change how you’re feeling instantly, and feel more like your SELF.

Love,

Christa

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Morning Light

There’s nothing like beautiful morning light streaming in through the windows…

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This little series was shot for Laura Corn, sex expert, radio personality, and author of nine bestselling books for her exciting new mobile app. We’ll post details on the blog when it launches.

Plenty more sensual moments from this photo shoot coming up!

Lots of love,

Christa

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Wildcat Weekend Nudes (NSFW)

I love shooting nudes.
Especially at the Edward Weston estate, Wildcat.
Particularly in natural light.
There’s something so real, simple, earthy, creative, and magical about shooting the naked human figure.
I zen out and focus on line, light, shadow, story.

What do I see? And how do I feel about it?

That’s what I ask with every picture…

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I created these pictures at Wildcat while co-leading a Live Nude Photography Workshop with Kim Weston, Ed Weston’s grandson. If you’re interested in future workshops, you can sign up for info here.

Keeping with my real-is-beautiful policy, this gorgeous and gutsy woman remains unaltered and unretouched in ALL of the above (and below) photographs.
Because let’s get real.

Lots of love and nudity,

Christa

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Please share if you believe #realisbeautiful

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Spotlight on: Natasha Lakos

Meet one of my favorite people on the planet – Natasha Lakos!

We get into a lot of trouble together. When I suggested a spur of the moment trip to Paris – she was all in! – and we had the time of our lives. When she suggested we jump into a helicopter to see a bird’s eye view of NYC – I said – yes! – and we had a thrilling ride. Whether I’m dragging her to a Tony Robbins seminar in San Diego, or she’s dragging me shopping in Soho, we always have an inspiring hilarious adventure – usually complete with a divine cheese plate and wine.

She’s smart, funny, talented and has a killer combo of bright outlook and biting insight. And I love her dearly for that!

An incredible artist and designer, Natasha and I first met when collaborating on the redesign of my blogsite in early 2011. While she’s currently putting her magic on my brand once again, I had the opportunity to photograph her on her most recent trip to NYC…

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I loved photographing all the little details that inspire Natasha… design, fashion, handwriting, books, quotes, black and white…

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If you ever get the chance to meet or work with Natasha, jump! You’ll leave that meeting inspired and seeing even more beauty in the world. Here’s a peek into how Natasha works, thinks and keeps inspired. Best enjoyed with cheese and wine…

What do you do?
I run a manifestation atelier masquerading as a design firm. I’m a Creative Director + Graphic Designer who works exclusively with heart-based entrepreneurs who are ready to be propelled into their future and serve the greater good.

Can you tell us a favorite inspirational story of someone you’ve helped?
The stories of each of my clients inspire me because it’s truly a courageous thing to dare to be ourselves in order to be of service to others

What inspired you to start this career?
I’ve always been drawn to art, commerce and personal development. Then, when I was starting my business, a friend was diagnosed with cancer and everything became crystal clear: nothing matters except love and our contribution to it.

If you could ask the world one question, what would it be?
Who are you really?

How do you keep inspired?
I make inspiration-gathering a priority. Taking time to get or be inspired used to feel indulgent. Now I understand it’s necessary. As a friend says, it’s part of being a Creative with a capitol “C”. I pay attention to things that intrigue me. As Einstein said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

What are you most proud of?
My relationships. My life is full of incredible people.

When do you feel your most beautiful?
Naked!

What’s your favorite book?
The War of Art

What’s your favorite piece of art?
Right now I’m loving anything by my 4 yr old niece.

What’s your favorite quote?
Current fave: “Your crown has been bought and paid for. All you have to do is put it on your head.” – James Baldwin

What’s your favorite object in your home?
A crumpled up tube of white oil color that used to belong to a teacher of mine. It’s framed and hangs above my desk.

What’s your favorite hangout?
The ocean. Or a swank, chill cocktail lounge.

What’s your favorite can’t-live-without item?
Passport.

What’s your #1 tip for fellow entrepreneurs?
When you have an online presence that reflects your true identity, the world re-arranges itself to gather at your feet. “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” – Coco Chanel

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I just love Natasha’s favorite piece of art and tip for entrepreneurs.

Here’s to being yourself and staying inspired!

Love, Christa

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Spotlight on: Gry Sinding

Meet Gry Sinding. One of my super cool NYC girlfriends. Gry and I hit it off immediately when we first met in early 2011 as a part of Marie Forleo‘s Mastermind group. Gry’s playful spirit and high energy lights up any room she’s in.

She’s a fanatic about online marketing and has a mind like a steel trap for email strategies and program launches. If anyone can, Gry makes online marketing sexy!

As a coach and mentor for female entrepreneurs, she walks her walk. She puts herself in the company of the best, and has been mentored by some of the greats in her industry – Brendon Bruchard, Jeff Walker, Melanie Duncan, and more.

One of my favorite things about Gry is her enthusiasm for learning and passion for living life to the fullest – as you can see here in this recent photo shoot we did around her neighborhood in NYC.

I wanted to capture who she is, what everyone loves most about her, her spirit, and all of the wonderful moments in her day that “replenish her soul” as Gry puts it.

ps. Gry is UNRETOUCHED in all of the pictures in this post… because #realisbeautiful.

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Gry lives and works all over the world, and has homes in Norway, France and Greenwich Village. She is a voracious book-lover who inhales books faster than anyone I know. When she’s not working, you’ll find her shopping for flowers, riding her bike, meditating or just exploring her city.

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Gry is also a diehard romantic! Her hubs, Henrik, is a total huggable sweetie pie…

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Whew! What a marathon shoot. That Gry is quite a bit of work to keep up with! Post-shoot, I took an opportunity to interview my gorgeous friend, so that we may all get to know her a bit and be inspired!…

What do you do?
I help female entrepreneurs get more clients, have more fun, and have the freedom that made them want to become entrepreneurs in the first place.

Can you tell us a favorite inspirational story of someone you’ve helped?
A client I recently worked with used to be a notorious smoker and was afraid of most things, and feeling lost in her business and life. She had lost her daughter, then her home and then her retail business burned down. So she began always preparing for the worst. She felt stuck in her life and was close to giving up on her business and dream of being an entrepreneur. She was working more and more, had no free time and felt lonely.  After working with me in my online program and implementing the strategies she learned, she now travels the world, is taking care of herself, meeting fun people, eating healthy, and quit smoking. She’s made a ton of new friends in our community and is having the time of her life. Plus, her business is booming. She went online with her store and is now making $30,000+ a month with her online business alone. I’m so proud of her and the way she turned it around in just a few months. All she needed was a support system, a plan for doing the right thing at the right time, and putting her energy into the right marketing.

What one question would you ask the world?
What can you and I do to be 10% kinder today?

What’s your greatest gift?
I’m an action-taker and maximizer. Give me a good idea and I will test it out immediately – learning from every mistake – and at the end I’ll have made it awesome, or learned a lot from it.

How do you keep inspired?
I put FUN stuff in my agenda every day.

What’s your favorite book?
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Favorite piece of art?
My glass vase, by Cathrine Maske

Favorite quote?
“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” -Judy Garland

Favorite hangout?
ABC Cocina, NYC by Jean-George, the NYC Restaurant King

Favorite can’t-live-without item?
My MacPro, iPhone and a Moleskin notebook

What’s your #1 tip for fellow entrepreneurs?
You can only steer a car when it is in motion. So take action, have fun and learn from the ride – and keep moving forward.

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Looking at this beautiful unretouched face just gives me such joy!
Please share if you believe #realisbeautiful!

Lots of love,

xo Christa

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