So it’s been a couple of months since I participated in the Elevate Fine Art Exploration study but I am THRILLED to be back.   Last month I had to bow out at the last minute due to illness but I am happy to share in this cool little project that I am very proud to be part of.

So traditionally fine art photography is photography that someone would want to hang in their home as an art piece but I’m going to veer away from that this month and show off an ongoing project that I have sort of inadvertently taken on over the course of the past several years.  I didn’t start on this as a project intentionally, it sort of took form over the course of the past 2-3 years.  Now I feel like perhaps it is a project to document my life as I have progressed on a sort of life journey (more on that in a moment).

It’s known that some artists document themselves, some to the point of obsession, it’s not the case here – I tend to self photograph only when the whim hits me, some weeks it’s several times and other times months go by without one photograph of myself.

It is written that Rembrandt sketched his own face thousands of times during his tumultuous life.  There are theories about this “obsession” (I disagree that it was an obsession).  Some suggest that he was his most readily available model, other theories go deeper and suggest that he used his visage to test new (painting and sketching) techniques.  Still others suggest (and this is my favorite theory) that to a greater extent his self portrait studies were done as an outlet for feelings & ideas concerning the nature of human existence.  That’s my favorite theory because I find myself questioning these very things during this stage of my life, I feel like I am on this extended life journey that has to do not only with self expression of others but also trying to find the root of my own existence.  That as well as coming to fully embrace and accept my own existence on this planet, in this plane – however you choose to look at our human condition.

Please don’t think I’m being all fancy with the work that I am doing, I am using the simplest tool I have, my iPhone 4 camera.  My husband often jokes that my iPhone camera is a narcissists’ (wet) dream because it has created a little bit of a monster as I search for perfection in my own human condition – I am far from finding it, by the way.

So for this month’s exploration please allow me to share some of my “work”, I joke with friends that I am looking for the perfect Facebook profile photo but that isn’t it, I’m simply seeking something in myself – what it is…I don’t know but the Facebook perfect profile photo is something we can ALL relate to.  I suspect Rembrandt never found what he was looking for (and if he was around at the time of Facebook I suspect he wouldn’t have any of that nonsense!).  I’m ok with not know what it is I seek – honestly I’m just enjoying the journey.

So bear with me and my exploration of self in self “portrait” study.  These images were done with a purpose in mind, I truly believe that I only can recognize my OWN vision in my art by recognizing myself and my place in the world.  I know that I open myself up to criticism about self indulgence and although that may be true on some level, at the heart of it I feel in every fiber of my being that until I know myself fully I cannot judge others – be it their intentions or their beliefs.  This is huge for me.  So huge that it defies explanation, it’s an experience one has to live.

Ok, I’m bearing my soul here, some of these are dumb, silly, cute and just plain WTF inducing.  Enjoy!

Professional_photos_self_portrait

This shot (above) makes me smile, I like the eyesmile here.  🙂

 

marianne-drenthe

I found this tutorial on this hair do on Pinterest, it’s one of my favorite shots – isn’t that funny?  It doesn’t show anything of ME but I love it

study_self_portrait

I’m including this one because it’s sort of dumb, me hanging off the bed seeing how gravity deals with my facial structure

after_party_MGM_Grand_corridor

This shot is in the SkyLofts at MGM Grand after I left a party at WPPI 2011 last year.  All of Vegas at my feet (as if!).

Silly_self_portrait

My extremely talented friend Dena made me this awesome scarf (which I wrapped around my head as a joke)  I like how the photos of my daughters are in the background of this shot

Study_of_Self_Portraits

This seriously grainy shot was taken at House Of Blues, super dark in the restaurant but I liked the ceiling behind/above me and the memories associated with this night out with my husband to see CAKE

Photography_self_portrait_study

Finally this was taken at home, I like the light as it falls on my face and how the shadows are filled with skin color

 

 

I’m sure there’s a treat in store at the next stop on our Exploration blog circle, you will be visiting  Arroyo Grade California fine art children’s photographer  next, she’s a talented friend (and I look forward to meeting her face to face in the next week at WPPI 2012!!)

 

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  • Gina K. - February 13, 2012 - 10:10 am

    Love this! Great self portrait exploration, and you can tell that you are really enjoying the process. You definitely have some FB profile keepers in there :).

  • Nichole Van - February 13, 2012 - 10:24 am

    LOVE that you shared this, Mare! Not only do I love seeing your cute face, but I love your sense of wonder with what it means to just be human, haha. Love it!

  • wendy - February 13, 2012 - 2:31 pm

    OK, I love that you did this for this month’s post! Being in front of the camera is so hard for me. I love that you are exploring “self”. And you are too cute!!!

  • kamee june - February 13, 2012 - 5:50 pm

    i think we should make this one of our themes for one of the months: self portraits! i really enjoyed this, so much! cheers, to you!!

  • jefra - February 13, 2012 - 10:28 pm

    I love this whole theme! What a cool idea for an Elevate post. And number two – the earring – the best!!!

  • Jennifer N - February 14, 2012 - 12:04 am

    you are so fun! you all should make a self portrait fine art month 🙂

  • Cara - February 14, 2012 - 5:27 am

    What an interesting fine art concept. and executed with your phone, nonetheless.

  • Renee P - February 18, 2012 - 10:23 am

    How fun! Getting in front of the camera can be so hard

  • elizabeth pellette - February 26, 2012 - 11:58 am

    love to see your beautiful face

Last night I drove down to Wilmington, just south of my home, where my first studio resided from early 2007 until this past December.  Wilmington, as you may already know, was the former home of all things Marmalade (well if you came out to my studio anyway!) for almost five years.  The #1 reason Wilmington attracted my eye in the first place was because of an amazing old building, a delapidated train depot built in the 1860’s.  The depot stood majestic, beautiful, aged, glorious, despite being shuttered up with mismatched plywood boards, its’ facade crumbling in pieces to touch for anyone who dared near it.

For me the depot was nothing but perfection.  While I discovered the depot long ago, I rediscovered it for photography purposes in 2005 when I started scouring locations for my newly birthed professional children’s photography business.

During the long days of summer, before I moved Marmalade Photography out there, you could find me and my (mostly) compliant (but often resistant) children at the depot stopping for some time in the shade of the brick building, photographing mini sessions together.  In my dreams, dreams I had only shared with my husband during this time, I had this SOMEDAY dream that maybe I would hit the jackpot with the lottery and be able to purchase this building for my very own studio purposes.  Was it illusions of grandeur?  Perhaps.  In my naive mind, the thoughts of a dreamer, it was completely attainable (no matter how prohibitive the cost!)  I had huge plans for this old, decaying brick structure.  I’d figure out a way to keep the old and bring it in with the new.  It would be mine.  I was mostly convinced of this.

That never came to pass and instead I moved my business into the North Water Street area of downtown Wilmington in early 2007.   I drove by that old depot regularly, it became the beacon to entering work mode for me.  The sight of the old building never failed to make me smile and dream of the “what if…” aspect of it.   In May 2007. upon almost completion of studio fix up, I had my first session out of the studio (I’ll include photos below).  This was a vintage themed session, something not seen often at the time (now very ubiquitous in our little photo world).  It was vintage not because of my vision but because the mom of the girls was SO into the historical aspect of where my studio was located (aided by my waxing poetically ad nauseum during our client intake process) that she brought all these AMAZING vintage props and we had a blast going from location to location in my old beat up town.  Of course our session together wasn’t complete without taking the girls to the old train depot up the street.

Through the almost five years that Marmalade Photography resided in Wilmington I used the train depot more often than I could count.  I used it for the amazing session with triplets that had me laughing the whole time, the shoot with the family with four brothers, some of my favorite people were photographed there by yours truly, I used it at workshops and mentorship programs with other photographers, I took my kids there, I continued to dream as I drove by it, clients always remarked at how awesome that old building was.  Without doubt it was an iconic building.  With its’ crumbling red brick exterior, covered with peeling old (probably lead!) paint and fluorescence, shoddy old roof, boarded up windows, occasionally open door to the bottom level where vandals and curiosity seeking types would break in to check out this formerly majestic site.

Some brilliant soul has done a YouTube video of my former friend, she really aged in the past year and it’s clearly evident why they had to do away with her.  Sadness fills my heart when I view it because her former glory is still evident behind her sagging exterior:

Sadly my dream is now ended.  I had to drive to Wilmington last night for an away volleyball game for my daughter.   I anticipated my usual excitement (and braced myself for that bit of sadness that was to be expected after leaving a beloved place that was a home).  As I drove up Kankakee Street towards the railroad tracks I immediately noticed the pile of rubble that took the place of my familiar old friend. All these years the familiar  that greeted my entry into the downtown area was GONE.  I was in shock.  Utter shock and disbelief.   I had no idea that this demolition was planned far in advance, to my knowledge there were still plans to move this structure somewhere else in town.  Imagine my disappointment that progress killed my beloved building.  Video killed the radio star.  High speed commuter train service killed my 1860’sish friend.

With that I bid adieu and am including a random sampling of photos taken over the years there.  It seems to be a fitting end to five great years in this amazing and sometimes comical old town.  Leading off with images of my first client session at the depot – here is a small sampling of work we created together:

 

chicago-suburban-photos-siblings

 

Oh I forgot to mention one last tidbit about my move out of Wilmington.  It seemed as if the universe spoke to me that everything would be all right, a confirmation that yes, I was making the right move at the right time leaving my Wilmington space.  It happened that on my last day, the day I was handing over my keys to my landlord, Charles,  a letter arrived from my friend and former workshop attendee and mentee Stefan.  In it was this great photo of my two girls at the train depot from 2008, it was my last piece of mail in Wilmington.  Given that this studio is no longer mine and this train depot is no longer Wilmington’s – it was a fitting end to an amazing run.  Goodbye old friend, thank you for helping me create beauty and art for so many grateful and wonderful families and for me.

 

Children

 

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  • Janine Dietz - February 10, 2012 - 11:08 am

    What a beautiful story to accompany your beautiful images. So sorry to see such an amazing building gone but I know that no matter where you end up, you’ll be creating just as beautiful images there too.

It was a very busy weekend here in Marmaland – the highlight of which was this wonderful opportunity to photograph Little H, she’s seven months old and filled with curiosity and happiness.  One of my favorite stages of a child’s life.  My thanks to her beautiful parents for inviting me into their home to capture photos of her at this amazing stage.

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We were fortunate to have a mild February day and were able to get a few images outside their lovely home in Old Town

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LOVE how her pea pod topped knit hat mirrors the pad she is lying on.  NEVERMIND she’s in foot grabbing stage!  Did I mention this is one of my favorite ages?

mother-child-photography-chicago

LOVE this quiet, contemplative spot.

Welcome to the Marmalade Family Little H.  xoxo

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I admit that I am not the praying type, spiritual yes – religious no.  However I’ve been talking to God as of late and trying to make sense of human suffering.  One of my “invisible friends” (as another invisible friend calls her friends on the internet) is very very sick and has been through so much – one person should not be asked to bear so many burdens.

I met Melinda about 10 years ago, we had mutual sorrows at the time.  Myself, Melinda and a couple of other strong women came together to create a group for recovery of post partum hemorrhage and hysterectomy survivors.  Before we found each other we each felt very isolated, alone.  It was through our group that we found meaning, we sorted out the why and what.  We gathered more members – some of which are these amazingly powerful women that I am blessed to know (and in a way grateful for my own not-so-pleasant journey because I would have never brought them into my life otherwise).

As our group grew, our wounds healed, our emotional states began the long road of recovery.  We found solace and comfort in the knowledge that we were muddling through recovery together.  In the early days of our group we each struggled, held up each other, gave each other a shoulder to cry on.  We vented, we cursed, we laughed, we healed.  It’s been awhile since I had anything significant to contribute to this still-growing group of amazing ladies but they will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Since I’ve known her Melinda has been through an amazing journey and unfortunately not all of it is good.  She suffered through and recovered from breast cancer and about 18 months ago was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  As I write this my young, beautiful, sweet friend – a mother of two beautiful girls, a wife, a daughter, a teacher is very very ill.   She is currently hospitalized and is very sick.  Melinda’s blog outlines her journey HERE. Reading her blog I cannot help but be humbled by her struggles, I still am in recovery mode for the events that brought us together and she has had so many earth shattering things happen in the course of those years, a weaker person would not be able to get out of bed daily let alone care for two young children and everything else in her life.

I ask that you lift her up in your thoughts, wishes of peace, light and love must surround her and her family as they try to make sense of all of this.  I’m hoping that I will get an opportunity to meet all of them very soon as our group is trying to get a hold of someone in her family to see if I can get down there to photograph her and her family so that they have images of their mom & wife to cherish forever.  Please hold them in your thoughts.  I hope that I can make the journey down south to visit them very soon.  I simply ask that you keep her and her beautiful family in your thoughts.

xoxo,
Mare

p.s. if you or someone you know is a survivor of post partum hemorrhage & hysterectomy (life saving hysterectomies are performed soon after childbirth for countless women who experience massive life threatening blood loss) please request membership to our NING support group by emailing me at mare.drenthe@gmail.com.

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  • Pieces of Sunshine - February 5, 2012 - 3:37 am

    Sad to read of Melinda’s passing. Trust you continue to heal and find peace. Life is a gift, we need to embrace it dailies much as we are able. Seems like Melinda did this.

Wow, it’s been a couple of months since I participated in the Pros blog carousel.  This month I am particularly excited because our theme is ALTERNATIVE CAMERAS.  I had super high hopes for the execution of this month’s theme but ended up getting super sick for most of this past week and ended up unable to come up with something awesome while laying on the sofa all day.  🙂

Not to worry, I had a really cool AHA! moment earlier today – use of my FAVORITE alternative camera (my iPhone 4!) but with a twist.  Normally I use a few iPhone apps to create amazing works of phone camera art like the one below:

Chicago_photographer_cameraphone_art

While the apps on my phone help me express my creativity within the confines of my phone – I thought it would be kind of cheating using just THAT as an alternative camera method.  To me alternative cameras include homemade pinhole cameras, Holgas, my old Polaroid cameras…you get the gist.  Manual, non-digital, more film-y things come to mind when you utter the term “alternative camera”.

While brainstorming I had a total AHA moment and started digging through my piles of never used items.  YES!  I found an old sunset filter (from my old Cokin system) and a homemade (on plexiglass) filter I made in 2010 at a creative photography workshop I attended.  Tons of snow here in the Chicago area would’ve made for some sort of stark images, I loved the idea of warming them up with the Cokin filter.  I used my iPhone – yes my handy iPhone – for pics with this filter combo.

The homemade filter is just a piece of plexiglass, cut to a rectangularish shape, beat up with sand paper, nails, black paint smeared by hand.  I made it sort of to have a built in vignette.  Lastly I am including a photo taken with that filter (and a quick BW conversion, nothing else) with just that filter and my Canon camera I use for all my shoots – just to showcase how incredibly awesome a small, relatively inexpensive homemade filter can create kind of cool art.

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My Nigra Magnolia bush, cold & barren

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The sweet gum tree is ready to shed these devilish balls come spring (sigh)

Here’s the two filters I used for the above 3 images in combo with my iPhone camera (no apps!)

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Finally here is the photo I mentioned above, taken with that homemade filter + my Canon body and a simple black & white conversion:

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I encourage you to round through the carousel and there is a lot of talent in this circle and some amazing ideas for this project, the next stop is my friend Dawn Sela – NY Baby, Child and Family Photographer

Previous blog carousel entries can be found here if you’re interested in what we’ve done before.  More of my iPhone blog entries are located here.

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  • Corey - January 22, 2012 - 8:33 pm

    Beautiful, Mare! Love your homemade filters – too cool!

  • alpana - January 22, 2012 - 9:13 pm

    What a great idea to use the filters – will have to steal it! Love your interpretation.

  • christine plamann - January 22, 2012 - 10:53 pm

    beautiful as always and i love that you have a homemade filter 🙂

  • Anna-Karin - January 22, 2012 - 11:25 pm

    Ooooh you are so creative! Love the idea of home made filter. I am inspired to try one my self now. Great captures with your choice for alternative camera!

  • dena robles - January 23, 2012 - 7:18 am

    Okay, um WOW! You have me hooked. Expect some questions coming your way or me knocking on your door someday soon.

  • June - January 23, 2012 - 7:26 am

    I was expecting something super creative from you, and of course you did not disappoint! Gorgeous and inspirational!

  • Samara - January 23, 2012 - 7:58 am

    Ok SERIOUSLY?! You must write up a little tutorial on how you made those filters because that is AWESOME! love love love!

  • jules - January 23, 2012 - 9:32 am

    love the landscape! seriously so gorgeous! thanks for sharing the textures, too! beautiful work as always!!

  • teri mason - January 23, 2012 - 10:10 am

    Wow, this brings back memories!! My dad used to make filters when I was a girl, and also did some of my own, gosh so long ago! Your images are great, love the ethereal quality of the woman. So dreamy!

  • Julie - January 23, 2012 - 10:23 am

    These are so great – I have not played around with making homemade filters in YEARS – not since I was a non-professional and was actually taking time to try EVERYTHING. This post has inspired me to get creative again with filters – how fun!

  • Mary Beth - January 23, 2012 - 1:49 pm

    Mare, I absolutely adore your creative take on this! Stunning photos and reading how you created them makes them even that much more special. I may just have to play with making some filters. I know I have some scrap plexi around here somewhere…

  • Danna - January 24, 2012 - 4:12 pm

    LOVE these Mare!! Now you have me thinking I need to go dig out all my old filters and start playing! lol