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My Best Life

 Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Right now, I am living my best life.

Wait...I take that back.

I am living my 95% life.

The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.

I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.

I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.

Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.

It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.

Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!

Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.

But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.

 

 

KEEP CLOSED?

  Taken at the Garden & Gun offices here in Charleston, SC during the Southeastern Wildlife Expo.

Taken at the Garden & Gun offices here in Charleston, SC during the Southeastern Wildlife Expo.

I am always casting doors open. I aspire to live in the wide open, so I can hear things like birds chirping, see the shadows fall differently, and smell the impending rainstorm as it moves in from the west.

Yet, we are warned. We are told by the writing on the wall to keep closed. Is it for self preservation? Is it a precautionary move? Or is it necessary? Should we be constantly shutting ourselves off because it's just too painful to stay open?

My former self was wide open. I lived fully and without pretense. I fell madly in love, dove straight into uncharted waters and let the current take me fearlessly where I wanted to be. But after years of a battled and bruised soul, sometimes I think a closed door might be a good thing.

The key is not to lock it down and throw away the key. We don't need to vault ourselves. We just need some well greased hinges and maybe a window to the other side. We need to crack the door just enough for the light to come in.

Because after the light pours in, the rest can easily follow along.

 

As I see it

tomato soup
Chef

Recently, I spent some time shooting behind the scenes with the Chef Ken from  NAPA  in Mt. Pleasant. I followed him around like a lost puppy, watching him craft dishes and cook delicious, made from scratch foods right before my very eyes. I lurked near him in the kitchen, dodging busy sous chefs and prep cooks. I listened and asked questions while still trying to be a silent observer.

To be honest, this is sort of what I love - what happens behind the scenes. What does life look like when you peek behind the velvet curtains we veil everything with. Is it authentic? Is it beautiful? Is it messy and gritty? I love all capturing the reality of what is happening - whether it's a chef dishing up his daily orders, a nurse doing infusions on a cancer ward, or a mom with her baby at the park. It's what I come back to as a photographer time and time again - authenticity. It's what challenges me and excites me at the same time. Getting a shot that isn't staged or styled is harder than it looks.

I approach all my shoots the same way I approach life now - with wide eyed curiosity and a deep desire to show life as it is and how I see it.

 

Lately

raised beds

I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully quiet = busy right now!

One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am wrking on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?

Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!

sprouts
chopping
carrots
seeding
magnolia garden-137.jpg

First the rain...

Sunset.jpg

 

I shot a wedding this weekend. It was on a boat that puttered slowly and gently around the lowcountry waters, shifting ever so gently back and forth with the sway of the boat and the shifting tide.

The skies were clear when we started our day - even with some hot sun piercing down on us. And then suddenly, the rain came in. It was a steady rain with no signs of letting up at all. Grey skies all around and a constant, gentle drizzle as we coasted the waterways.

Then as suddenly as the rain came, the clouds began to part just in time for us to see this remarkable sunset, color-filled and awe inspiring. I hustled the bride and groom to the back of the boat where I could get a good photo of them. It was all she wanted - a beautiful sunset photos of her and her husband, ready to start their lives together.

As I was snapping away at the photos, I heard one of her friends holler to them over my shoulder. "First the rain, then the sun..." It stopped my in my tracks. 

Of course.

Of course the rain has to come first. Of course you have to weather the storm first to appreciate the sunshine and the sunset. The thunder is there to shake us and move us. The water is there to nourish and refresh us. And then...the sunshine. To help us grow and bloom.

I have been here. Standing on stormy ground. Always hoping to find a way out. Maybe you are there now. Maybe you are stuck in a storm.  Just know in your heart that the sun will shine soon. It has to. There is no room for only rain. We need both to survive. So settle in and cover up, because this, too, shall pass.

Muddling through

 This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

We all want to look like pros at whatever task we are handling - work, make up, dinner, motherhood. But in reality, most of us are faking it along the way - sort of like we do those first few weeks with our brand new baby. It's excited, exhausting, and exhilarating, but in reality, we are just winging it all hoping for the best outcome. Even though it all looks happy and easy on the outside, we are still on shaky feet behind closed doors.

Truly, I think it mostly works when we "fake it 'til we make it"... that is until something big comes along and gently reminds us that, in truth, it's all overwhelming. 

Just remember...the moment you feel like you are out of your league, stop, look around, and remember that you've already gotten this far in life and done just fine. All you have to do now is keep going. And truly, while it may not always look like this on the outside, nobody else really knows what they are doing either. Take comfort in knowing you have muddled your way through more than one time in your life and I am certain you can do it again.

 

Born to Feel

 Holly McGetrick, of  Dandy Boutique , totally keeping her cool backstage at Charleston Fashion Week 2017.

Holly McGetrick, of Dandy Boutique, totally keeping her cool backstage at Charleston Fashion Week 2017.

"Chill out." "Keep your cool." "Stay calm." "Easy does it."

These are all things we hear when under pressure, on fire, jazzed up, or completely stretched.

But why? Staying even in a sea of waves is virtually impossible unless you are a sociopath. When the waves of depression, frustration or fear crash over your head, it's perfectly acceptable to lose it once in a while. The key is not directing that energy to the nearest innocent bystander. But I think sometimes losing your cool is okay.

When you are in panic mode, stop yourself and ask yourself this simple question: will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 days? 5 years? If the answer is a resounding "NO!", then take a deep breath and try go about your business keeping your focus on the big picture. If the answer is "YES!", by all means proceed to lose it. Because I stifling it ain't gonna do you any good, sister.

We were meant to have emotions. We were created as sentient beings. It's normal to feel anxiety, panic, anger, hurt and frustration. As a matter of fact, it's tied to our basic survival insincts. The only difference is now, the threats aren't saving your life against a saber-toothed tiger. We have adapted since surviving wildebeests and other creatures. But the instincts are still there. Our perceived threats are very different now than they were 1 billion years ago.

So next time someone tells you to calm down, smile to yourself and do your thing. Because baby...you were born to feel.

 

Lessons in less

  From brunch at The Darling Oyster Bar where upon I couldn't finish all the food we were given. A nice problem to have.

From brunch at The Darling Oyster Bar where upon I couldn't finish all the food we were given. A nice problem to have.

I often get caught up in the "I don't have enoughs" when in reality, everything I really need is right in front of me. I am clothed, have clean water, have a lovely roof over my head, power to my home, relatively good health and even extra food in the refrigerator and pantry...just in case. And often times, I can't eat all the food that is given to me because, you know what...it's just TOO MUCH.

I try to stop myself there, but in this privileged society, it's hard for me to say I don't need a haircut, some new clothes and perhaps that awesome new iPhone 7 Plus with it's sweet portrait setting that makes a cell phone camera look a little dreamy. (I mean, it IS my job after all).

Sometimes, I even make myself believe I don't have enough to do the things I need to do. I need a better camera, better lenses and a new computer for my job. I need a new pot to properly cook that coq au vin perfectly. And I could definitely use that special, fancy sea salt we ran out of to make that dish taste extra perfect.

If we balance out the "nice to haves" (new haircut, new shoes, new camera) more realistically with the "need to haves" (power, water, warm clothing), we suddenly start to see the shift happen. We start to feel the gratitude for what we have instead of what we don't have. Instead of seeing this lack as punishment, maybe see this as a gift.

I found this paragraph from a photographer I follow (stalk?) today and it really brought this concept I've been mulling over for weeks into fine-tuned focus.

"There are so many challenges to living our dreams: not enough money, not enough time, not enough knowledge, etc…. But the truth is, those are all one kind of problem…a lack of RESOURCES. And if you’re putting off living your own dream because of a lack of resources, then I’ve got news for you. NOBODY has all the resources they need. In fact, the very nature of big dreams is striving for something that’s not yet within our reach…it’s ALL ABOUT A LACK OF RESOURCES. So what can we do with what we’ve got to get there? It’s simple: you need to be more RESOURCEFUL. There’s a big difference."  - Chase Jarvis

Well...ain't that a kick in the pants? Instead of stopping us in our tracks, maybe we could use our perceived lack as a way to be more creative. That lens I want only makes me work harder for the photo I need. That pot and finishing salt I don't have makes me work a little more creatively in the kitchen to come up with another way to cook. So in the "lack" is actually a life lesson. Creativity is equal to Resourcefulness and is extremely necessary when you are working towards ANY goal. 

And for that lesson today, I am grateful.

 

 

 

A Fresh Future

  Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

This past weekend, I got to attend 6 (or more...it's all a haze now) events for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. One of my dream events was shooting at Fresh Future Farm – an urban farm created as a response to addressing food, health, economic, and environmental disparities. Fresh Future Farm is in the middle of what's known as a food desert in North Charleston - an area where grocery stores have pulled out of the area because these are unprofitable neighborhoods. And as you may well know, grocery stores equate to big business.

So there I was, shooting a farm to table dinner in the middle of a food desert on the cutest little farm I ever did see, with some of the top chefs in the country cooking over open flame and plating up one of the most spectacular meals I witnessed in all the events I attended... maybe even in my whole life. All of it was Inspired food from the region – some of it grown right here in Charleston.

As I stepped away from the event goers and party planners into the field of collards and cabbages, I took a moment to appreciate where I was and what this meant.... For me. For the community. It was all a little overwhelming to be honest. Not only am I doing PRECISELY what I loved (HELLLOOOOOO.... farm, food, & people are my intersectional bliss), but I was getting to witness it being done for a cause that mattered. I saw community coming together and chefs making magic.  Suddenly, my heart felt fuller than the bellies of those lucky little diners.

I am lucky to do what I do every day. It's not easy. It doesn't come with all these romantic notions of love and grandeur and cups that runneth over. Don't be deceived. This work is hard. It's relentless hustling and constant let down. It's time away on the weekends and tired muscles from walking with too much gear. But it's what fills my soul. Especially when it intersects with moments like this.

I am forever grateful for this job, this life, and this continuously unrelenting call that hasn't left me since I first picked up a camera at the age of 12. I love what I do. But today, I feel inspired and incredibly lucky to just be here...basking in the aftermath of it all.

Thanks CHSWFF2017. I can't wait to see what you cook up for next year!

 

Cultivating faith

 A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at  Compost In My Shoe .

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.

This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits. 

But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas. 

And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.

 

PORTRAIT SPECIAL

Hey friends...

So it's January and I can't think of a better time to freshen up things for yourself. There really is no better time than now to get some new, fresh portraits done for the new year - whether you are looking for professional shots to update your LinkedIn profile or you are looking to get some fresh shots for your social media accounts. Now is a great time for new photos for yourself!

 

ONE OUTFIT/LOCATION - $150*
Additional locations and outfits for an added fee of $50/change.
 

Let's get you on the books and give you a fresh look for 2017!

 

*Price includesa minimum of 5 final images in color or BW. Images are sized for online use only. Additional sizes can be purchased for a small fee. Price does not include travel outside the greater Charleston Area.

A little work with Garden & Gun

Brays Island

About a month ago, I went on my first shoot for Garden & Gun - a publication based out of Charleston. If you aren't familiar with them, you need to check them out. They do a great job at celebrating Southern culture by showcasing all the best parts of what we have cultivated here and telling out dynamic, beautiful cultural Southern story.

I got to be a part of one of their highlight events during Jubilee Weekend and traveled to Bray's Island Plantation for the Women in the Field series. I don't usually share loads of photos, but I was so excited and inspired by this gorgeous place, I wanted to show you more than my usual one and only one style. Enjoy!

 

camelias
mural
jub-114.jpg

Little chicken

My dad used to call me little chicken growing up (one of the more endearing nicknames he had for all of us.) Every time he said it, this is exactly what I pictured in my head: strong hands protecting his little fluffy, vulnerable babies. Some days, this is all I want...strong hands gently holding me until I am ready to fly away, but always open and waiting for me as a safe place to land once again.

 

 

Trust the outcome

  Jim Martin. Compost in my Shoe. Farm shoot, Fall 2016.

Jim Martin. Compost in my Shoe. Farm shoot, Fall 2016.

You have to do the work...

Work the land. Plant the seeds. Till the soil. Weed. Water. Mulch. And watch with patience as things develop.

The good stuff takes time and love and reckoning with things you might not be prepared for. But the rewards are great.

Take your time. Do the work. Trust the outcome.

A Few Things

  Plate South

Plate South

It's been hard to keep up with what I am working on these days. My job takes me from babies to brunches to beautiful women and everything in between.  I am months behind on blog posts and image posts and all the things I want to tell everyone about each amazing day I had - every one seemingly better than the one before it. Here is a short view of some of my latest shoots. I love every delicious bit of my work and I am always grateful I get to carry a camera around with me and take photos of the BEST things in the world!

New Happenings

La Gloria

So....things have little topsy turvy this summer to say the least. That's not to say they are bad...just a little more messy than I am used to.

You see, this summer I decided to embark on a passion project I have been working up in my head for some time now. I decided to take some things I am very passionate about and combine them into one place where my skill set could grow and flourish. Sometimes as creatives, we don't get the projects that showcase our best work, so instead of waiting for the opportunity, I decided to make the opportunity. And so, Plate South was born. 
 

Plate South is a blog that I have created for my very own selfish purposes. I have always been a huge fan of photographing people and their stories as well as lifestyle around those stories. And I love food - I mean, really...who doesn't? I really love food photography as well. So I created a blog designed to highlight all the talents I have as a photographer, a writer, a designer and a foodie.

Plate South is about the culture of food in the South. It's about eating. It's about dining out. It's about the makers and the purveyors. It's about the markets and the recipes. It's about everything that makes up the growing, evolving, changing food scene we are now experiencing as a culture. 
 

 This is Eddie.  You should read about him on the blog . He was an amazing character to interview!

This is Eddie. You should read about him on the blog. He was an amazing character to interview!

This blog is for me. But it's also for you. If you are passionate about food or southern food or food photography, this is something to follow.

I am still for hire. I REPEAT...I AM STILL FOR HIRE! This is just something I am doing as a side project for myself to showcase to you some of the talents I have as a photographer. So enjoy the blog and read along. You are sure to find some little nugget of what you like along the way.
 

Let me know what you think and what I can do to make it better! If you have an idea, feel free to call me and let me know! I'd love your feedback!

Much love! And thanks for all the support, friends!

Libby

Cooking up a plan

  From my shoot with  Charleston Shop Curator  out at Wild Dunes recently. More to come!

From my shoot with Charleston Shop Curator out at Wild Dunes recently. More to come!

I have been spending time this summer cooking up a new project I have become pretty passionate about. I didn't realize when I started mulling it over in the beginning of this process that it would actually come to pass. Ideas around here can be like throwing pots of spaghetti at the wall - you just have to see what sticks. And when it does, you know it's ready.

I am enjoying the extra push it's taking to get a project going. It's made me realize a lot about passion and how the things you are really just obsessed with eventually bubble up to make themselves known. You can't deny passions. They consume you and push you to do more.

And that is a good thing.

 

Lessons

golf

I love learning new things. I am admittedly a perfectionist which can get in the way sometimes. But I really believe learning new things can be life changing.

Okay...sure....maybe a single golf lesson can't change your life. But I am a firm believer that learning a new skill can give anyone a chance to approach the things they do every day just a little differently. So perfecting and practicing that frustrating golf swing could open up a new opportunity with a skill you are trying to perfect at work (hello, WordPress!). Or maybe learning a new recipe actually helps catapult those changes in your diet you have been hoping to make. Sometimes the change is directly related, and sometimes...not so much.

Whether you sign up for a golf lesson, take a cooking class or listen to a new podcast, learning something new is a great way to change the direction of our current path. It's a great way to open ourselves up to the possibilities of something new.