The HeART & Soul fundraising sessions are now complete! What a wonderful group of dogs to photograph and such great dog parents! Thirty-nine dogs posed for pictures raising $1560 for art supplies for the teens of the Vision & Voice program!
The program was started by Joan Zephier. She was the recipient of the 2016 Mayor's Award for Individual Excellence in Visual Arts for her work with area high school students by inspiring them to create pieces of art that express their own depiction of what addiction and recovery means to them. Using art as an outlet, they are gradually able to look at life in a different light and are able to deal with everyday living more effectively. The Vision & Voice program now includes the art of original poetry, and expresses many forms of mental health issues dealt with by today's teens.
Joan's philosophy is that every single person has a story, and every single person has an artist spirit. Our unique story told in a visual way has the ability to connect with someone else in ways that our words cannot. (Sioux Falls Arts Council)
I met with Joan last week to deliver a check for the money raised and she graciously answered a few questions so that I could share a bit more about the program with you.
• What is the mission of Vision & Voice and what inspired you to start the program?
I can't really tell you about how Vision & Voice started without including the Recovery Art Show. When RAS started in 2013, Volunteers of America had included art from their adolescent unit to fill a wall. All these 8" by 10" random paintings, then included one artist statement for all. In 2014, we were on the stage at the Washington Pavillion for opening night. That show was hugely attended and received a ton of press, including a huge write up in the Argus. The thing that I felt was missing from the show was the stories of the kids. Kids that probably weren't using to the point of addiction yet, but were growing up in homes where someone was. Kids like my own daughters who were around me, witnessing both my spiral down and climb back out.
In the winter of 2015, Janell Mills called me to come speak to her 211 class at Joe Foss, as I had done for the last few years. I would tell my story of addiction and recovery. After meeting with her students that time, the idea just came to me. I knew that if I just sent a call for art to the school, I would never get a thing. Most of those kids were kids at risk, which was why they were in that school to begin with. Kids like I was (I quit school my junior year and was kicked out by my parents, but that is another story for a different time). So I came back to the campus and asked my then boss, Dennis Ford, if I could buy some supplies and go work with Janell's students to tell their stories of addiction and recovery with art. He agreed and Tallgrass sponsored $500 to get the art supplies.
I sent an email asking Janell if I could come in and work with some of the kids, then take their pieces to the Recover Art Show that fall. She emailed me back in 10 min with a YES! That was the beginning of the Joe Foss Project.
The project has grown and changed a bit since starting out. I guess the mission was to assist the students to tell their stories. It no longer focuses solely on addiction and recovery, but encompasses everything and anything a teenager can go through. Eating disorders, abuse, rape, anxiety, you name it, someone has created a painting about it. I had high hopes of being part of all the high schools in Sioux Falls, and for a year I was at Roosevelt and a short time at Washington as well. Ultimately, I had gotten a new boss who wasn't real big on me being away from the campus that much so for a year I just took vacation and went to Joe Foss (Axtell Park) for a week in the fall and in the spring. We had a big show in the spring for the community in various spots down town, and one for their school at the end of each week. I think it was in 2017 that Janell wanted to see the program grow to include poetry and music. The Voice part started with Kim Bartling working with students on the written word and creating a poetry jam. That was when we moved to the Orpheum theater down town for the end of the year show.
• What do you love most about what the program provides for the teens?
I honestly didn't know what to expect back when I started. I had zero idea how much those kids and their stories were going to affect me. It is the best and the hardest weeks of the year. Someone will always tell me some secret that will rip my heart out, and I will attempt to guide them in how to tell it in a visual way through art. The students are required to write an artist statement that explains their piece, and what it was they were hoping to get accomplished. Those statements hang next to the piece. It is empowering for the artist and so moving for the witnesses. I can only assume that it is the same for Kim when she works with them to perform their poetry. Then to witness their bravery going to the mic and saying the words, it hits like nothing I have ever been part of.
• Have you been surprised by anything resulting from the program that you didn't necessarily expect when it began?
Something I didn't suspect would happen was that attendance would go up the weeks I was in the building. So much so that I was no longer able to handle the student load by myself. I have brought in various volunteers to help the last few years. Counselors, artists, teachers, art therapists, anyone who was interested in being part of it, I was willing to have help them. In a way, with its growth, it has taken away from the small group discussions and one on one that I loved so much. Growing pains.
• Where/when will the gallery showing be this year? And, can the community participate or help in any way?
The 2021-2022 show will likely be at the Orpheum, they have the space and the stage. If that is not available, we will figure something out. I think the greatest thing the community can do to support is show up for the show. So much has changed since covid and we are still waiting to hear how that will have long term effects on the program. So, stay tuned!
What Joan has done for these students of Sioux Falls is something that will impact them in ways that even they will not realize until looking back at their own story one day. Thank you, Joan for all that you do for our kids and our community.
Like Joan said, you are invited to show support for Vision and Voice by attending the show when it opens to the public. Monetary donations as well as art supplies are also appreciated for the program. If you're interested in being part of the art week, please reach out to Joan or Janell.
To be on the exclusive invite list and receive advanced notice of Pawsitivity fundraiser sessions just go to the home page, scroll to the bottom, and you can sign up there. By doing so, you'll also receive a series of emails pertaining to classic sessions with me, but you can always unsubscribe if that's not something that you're interested in learning more about at this time.
More images from this fundraiser can be seen in the Pawsitivity Gallery.
It's time for this year's Pawsitivity fundraiser sessions! The goal of these mini fundraisers is to raise money (and awareness) for charities and causes in our community.
Having worked with The Banquet for 20 years and being a part of 100 Women Who Care, I know all too well that there are many organizations that the public isn't aware of. The larger non-profits who have the money for advertising are all too often the first to benefit from a fundraiser simply because the public isn't aware there are other organizations who are also in need of support. So, through these fundraiser sessions I hope to introduce you to a few new organizations and their causes.
World at Your Feet
Those who participated last year in the World At Your Feet sessions, made the event a huge success raising $1000 to purchase new shoes for the kids supported by Children's Inn and Mission Haiti.
This year we'll be supporting the arts through Vision & Voice. Joan Zephier was the recipient of the 2016 Mayor's Award for Individual Excellence in Visual Arts for her work with area high school students by inspiring them to create pieces of art that express their own depiction of what addiction and recovery means to them. Using art as an outlet, they are gradually able to look at life in a different light and are able to deal with everyday living more effectively with the realization that life is possible. The Vision & Voice program now includes the art of original poetry, and expresses many forms of mental health issues dealt with by today's teens.
Joan's philosophy is that every single person has a story, and every single person has an artist spirit. Our unique story told in a visual way has the ability to connect with someone else in ways that our words cannot. (Sioux Falls Arts Council)
* If you'd like more information about the Vision and Voice program Joan is happy to connect with you.
HeArt and Soul
HeArt & Soul is what I'm calling this year's Pawsitivity fundraising event. The resulting images will depict your pet in an artistic fashion. There will be a limited number of sessions available and registration begins on Thursday Feb 18th. Watch the Facebook page for more information!
We had so much fun during the first event. I hope you and your furry friend will consider joining us this year!
Oh, these two dogs! What a pair. They are the perfect example of all that's right with rescue pups.
Madi is a dedicated dog mom to every pup she brings into her family, and she called me before she even picked up her newest from rescue! That's how sure she was that she could make this new girl happy.
Jankins is a six year old pup who was described to me as a "grumpy old man... if you're not my mom don't talk to me." Well, it's obvious that he's got a soft side, too. From the minute they got out of the car, he had one eye on his new sister, Jackie.
He seemed to be quite protective and there were a couple of times I couldn't decide if he was coming to say hello to me or to tell me, "Look! I've got a new sister!"
While Jankins was happy to explore, Jackie was more apt to stay right next to mom, after all she had only found Madi not even 2 weeks earlier. You would never have known that Jackie had not always been with Madi and Jankins. (And, this is where I start smiling all over again...) Even though Jackie was a rescue with not the best past, it was very clear that she knew she had found her family and she was quite comfortable with them (and, dare I say thankful... because along with comfortable and happy that was another word that I felt described Jackie as I watched).
I love seeing families grow, and I especially love getting to witness how the first dog welcomes the next. On the walk back to the car I told Madi all the things I saw in Jackie that were just so amazing to see from a dog who had been with a family for such a short time. If you ask me, just like humans, dogs can feel when it's right.
Jackie I'm so happy for you! It's obvious you're where you belong. (And, you make a wonderful big brother, Jankins.) ;O)
That's a great brush, I bet it makes makes beautiful paintings.
Just a bit of photographer humor. ;O)
Photographers have people say to them all the time, "I wish I had a camera like that so I could take great pictures."
It can't come as a surprise when I say, you don't have to have an expensive camera to take great pictures. Be it smart phone or digital camera, there are always things you can do to get images that come out more like what you envision in your mind.
First, let me start off by saying, whether you're a hobbiest or have chosen photography as your profession,
the only thing you should be comparing your pictures to are your previous pictures.
I don't compare my images (not anymore at least) with those of other photographers or I'll find something wrong with my work every time I turn around. That's just how we're wired. The grass is always greener and all that. I look at other photographer's work as art and inspiration.
Second, if you're constantly looking at what's wrong, then that's all you're going to see.
You need to concentrate on what's right with the images that you take. (If you haven't already seen the TEDx Talks with National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones called, Celebrate What's Right With The World, I HIGHLY recommend it. I will link it below.)
We all have a unique way of taking pictures depending on what we're using to take them. The way I use a camera is not the same way someone else would use it. Yes, the settings might be similar, but the technique is most likely very different (and subconscious as well). Using a camera is also much different than using a smart phone. I can't get a good picture with my phone ever!!! I try to use it the same way I use my camera and it just doesn't work that way.
So, I'm going to give it to you straight...
The one thing that will change how your images turn out is practice.
And, I mean every day practice. You will be doing certain things subconsciously when you take a picture and you may never figure out what they are. We are creatures of habit, so even with taking pictures (be it with a camera or phone) you will almost always be doing certain things the same way. A perfect example is, the distance that you choose to get from your subject usually starts out the same each time, and that distance is going to be different from the distance that your friend might start out with. If there are 5 people getting ready to take a picture of a group of teenagers going to the prom, they are not all going to try to stand in the same place. They will each automatically go stand where they normally would to take a picture. Then some will zoom in and some won't.
Want to make practice fun?
Make it a game or challenge!
Start with one thing that you'd like to change about your images and work on that. If you're always zooming in on pictures that you took on your phone then you might (subconsciously) be drawn towards a more cropped look. Tell yourself that every time you take a picture today, you will have to take 2 steps forward before you snap the shutter. So, aim, step, step, snap. You can even take a picture before you step and after to compare them. (I would compare them all at the end of the day just to see which position has the most pictures to your liking.)
Once you're happy with something that improves your images move on to something else, but keep doing whatever it is that is now working for you.
Do you like black and white images? For one whole day, when you take a picture, take two and change the second to black and white so that you can compare them. (This is easiest done on a smart phone, but there is actually a black and white setting on a DSLR, too if you don't use editing software.) Black and white photography is actually an art unto itself. I am a huge fan and spent a couple of years on a personal project of b&w images of downtown Sioux Falls. Some scenes lend themself to b&w and some don't. If you spend some time comparing you'll soon discover which scenes work and which won't before you even take the picture.
I really encourage you to explore different types of photography just to see what gets you most excited. Think about making these a one day (or more if you want) projects:
Landscape photography: Go for a drive and photograph landscapes without zooming into anything in particular. Examples would be: a farm, a cityscape, the mountains, a field of wind turbines, a lake, etc.
Nature photography: Go on a hike and photograph birds, flowers, water falls, trails, anything that looks interesting through the lens. (Usually, these things photograph best when you zoom in on them.)
Macro photography: For one day, only take pictures of things "zoomed" all the way in. (Get as close as you can instead of zooming in with your device). This could be a drop of water on a leaf, one word on a page in a book, the strings of a guitar, or a dog's paw. ;O)
Street photography: This involves images of people usually outdoors in a particular city or area. (If you're familiar with Humans of New York, this is street photography at its best.) These images might be of workers, shop owners, people walking around downtown, or just everyday happenings in any given place. Vacations are great for street photography. You're able to document where you've been with more interest when including the people who live there.
If you want to up your game with photography, don't worry so much about the camera you have. Figure out what types of photography you love and then practice, practice, practice!
By the way, I was serious about taking a look at Dewitt Jones' TEDx Talk, too. It's less than 20 minutes long and I think you'll find him very entertaining with a great message, too. :O)
Celebrate What's Right With The World - Dewitt Jones
Need proof that it's not the camera that "makes great pictures"... Take a look at these 2012 Olympic photos shot by photographer, Dan Chung with a smartphone! Nine years ago!!
Dan Chung's Olympic smartphone photoblog
It doesn't matter what you use for taking pictures. Use whatever you've got and practice making art. Oh, and print something for yourself!!!
Looking towards 2021 I feel like we're going to have to work a little to find our "new normal." Like everything in life, there needs to be a balance. 2020 has tipped things a bit too far to one side and we need to make sure that moving forward the good outweighs the bad.
There are so many side effects that could arise from our experiences in 2020 that we've yet to anticipate. In order to keep the scales tipped in our favor we need to do what we can to make sure to include things in our lives that make us happy.
When we were kids we would ride our bike, color or draw, or maybe build things out of legos. These things took us to our happy place.
As adults hobbies are our happy place.
Our hobbies are take us to a small world that we've created for ourselves where we can relax and take a breather from our everyday lives. Here's the definition of hobby. Just look at all those words having to do with relaxation!
I've always had hobbies that I loved like quilting, digital scrapbooking, and photography. They've changed throughout my life, but there always seems to be times where if I hadn't included them in my routine for a while my husband would notice a change in my mood and ask something like, "Do you need to quilt something?"
This year more than ever, we need to find things that make us happy and purposefully go to that happy place that they create for us.
We need to balance out the world around us with the one that we create for ourself.
And, a hobby doesn't have to be creating something. It can be working on a puzzle (my new favorite past time combined with a good audio book), reading, or playing games with your dog! Anything that isn't a "have to" will work just fine. ;O)
I hope that you'll find and visit your happy place on a regular basis this year. I really feel we need this to not only be happy, but to be healthy as well.
Wishing you good health, lots of love, and tons and tons of happiness in the new year.
When you have a close extended family, and your dog dad is being deployed, the best gift for everyone is photographs.
They wanted pictures for him to take on deployment and they wanted pictures for the family for Christmas. So, we got all of that as well as a really fun session!.
Together is our favorite place to be.
Shannon told me that Odin and Cloud were friends, but I didn't realize just how good of friends until I saw them at their session. When Ray took Cloud with him to change out of his military uniform there was no stopping Odin from running after Cloud. He wasn't panicked, just wanted to be with his best friend. Then, back they came together. If Cloud was on one side of the trial, then that's where Odin wanted to be, too. They really are so adorable!
These two get to have lots of fun with their dog parents. Cloud has trained for search and rescue and loves long boarding with his dog dad. Odin is still just a pup really and loves to play frisbee. He even has a special backpack that lets him bike ride with mom.
This was such a fun session. I don't think they stopped smiling the entire time! Well, maybe Odin did once when he thought Cloud might be going somewhere that he wasn't. ;O)
There's something special about dogs in the same household being best friends. And, I think it says a lot about how much they feel part of the family. It's such a joy to see.
I wish you lots more fun adventures together Cloud and Odin. It's obvious that together is your favorite place to be.
What can I say about this 8 month old bulldog? Well, his name is Gerald and he has more personality than his wrinkles can handle.
He's got so much spunk, and loves to play with his dog mom (sometimes with a sly twinkle in his eye). And, if he isn't getting his point across he won't hesitate to give you his puppy dog pout (which I'm sorry Gerald, but it's absolutely adorable).
During his session Gerald played fetch with his ball and tag with his stick (any stick actually), and he showed off his repertoire of tricks which were pretty impressive for an 8 month old.
Then after lots of playing, a drink of water, and a little rest Gerald posed like a pro.
He's so full of spunk and personality, and obviously thinks the world of his dog mom. Wishing you and Taylor lots of fun adventures, Gerald! Oh, the face of a bulldog... one of life's unexpected joys. ;O)
When photographing pets I'm all about getting those shots that show the personal connection between the dog and their human. But, when photographing dogs separately from their two-legged friends, action shots are hands down my favorite. When they're dock diving, playing ball, or just running around in the yard, the joy they feel shows in their every move.
I've been a bit scarce on social media lately, but I have a good reason... I became a gramma! It's so much fun for me, but one of the grand-dogs is not sure about it all yet.
This is Birdie. She's a one year old Greater Swiss Mountain dog and not only does she have lots of energy, she's also been a little pouty since she's no longer getting 100% of the attention, 100% of the time. (The baby may have toppled her princess crown just a bit.)
During my latest visit we took Birdie to the park and she had a ball. Since this week's prompt for the blog circle is action, I thought Birdie's pictures from our little trek would fit perfectly.
Here's a series from what she would probably call the best play date ever. When she saw this particular dog, it was like she'd spotted her long lost buddy. They had so much fun!
I love seeing such unbridled joy in dogs. And yes, I'm usually grinning from ear to ear watching them, and I may end up saying their thoughts out loud to whoever is near. (Come on, I know you talk for your dogs, too.) ;O)
Have a great weekend!
This is a blog circle post so if you'd like to see action captured by other pet photographers, just continue around the circle starting with Linda Perdue of VPShoots Photography serving the Tampa Bay Area in Florida.
Happy came to Sioux Falls from over two hours away to celebrate her 3rd birthday. She had a rough first 2 years of life before her dog mom found her, but she's now learning that a dogs life can be a beautiful and fun one. Being that this was Happy's first birthday with her mom, it was a special one with a special celebratory day.
Happy had all the frills of a princess party, but she also got to have tons of fun doing all the things she loves to do. The list included dressing up (she loves dressing up), playing fetch, destuffing toys (we made do with a new ball), and hanging out with her mom.
At the end of the evening, I commented to Happy's mom that this was one of the few times that a dog didn't seem to be tired after a session. Happy walked out of the park with a grin on her face and I swear a little skip in her step. Happy is definitely with the human she is meant to be with. Wishing you many more memorable birthdays, Happy!
When I talked to Ted's human on the phone, I knew that this was going to be a fun session.
I was told that Ted was an 18 month old Golden Retriever who liked to play ball and go on walks and runs with his humans. (Sounds like most active 18 month olds, but...)
...then she said that Ted likes to be in everyone's business. From her comments I gather that Ted feels that at the dog park, fun is in direct correlation to how dirty you get. He's "the fun dog" and one that Annie describes as gregarious. She says he's the one who would be setting up the keg at a party. ;O)
(This picture cracked me up. Never one to miss an opportunity. Just sneak up on them and act like you're the perfect dog when they say "come." HA! I'm on to you, Ted.)
Even though he's a social butterfly, Ted loves more than ever when he's got his pack together. Hanging out with his humans is what makes his heart smile.