NYC: listen

So, here’s the backstory: in January and February, I took a class from Yan Palmer. Yan’s promise was to help us figure out how to match our outsides to our insides, and boyohboy it was good.

The experience reminded me of a couple other classes I’ve taken—art in high school, for instance, where I realized that drawing was literally a skill that, to an extent, can be taught, and also Advanced Syntax and Rhetoric in college (did I impress with my recall of that class title? 100% my aim), where we looked at the fundamental rules of language and how they can be manipulated to make people feel something specific.

Yan’s class was like that. Let’s meet and name tangible elements of our work, she said, and ask those elements to do something special for us.

Additionally, the class reminded me that action begets progress. So, in a time typically slow for most portrait photographers—the couple months following Christmas—I took a deep dive into my business. One drill I put myself through was an “ideal client” list—if I could photograph anyone, who would it be?

Realizing that several of those people lived in the same place, I checked to see what flights to that place would cost, and then I checked my “points” or whatever and realized I could fly basically for free—and suddenly, my outsides were looking like they might match my insides: I started making plans to put my physical body in the city where I’d find the people my heart wanted to photograph.

I know New York has an reputation of high expense, but if you have the right resources, it’s a great place to visit on a budget. I flew for free, stayed with friends, and used public transportation most of the time. Bigger budget items included a ticket to visit the 9/11 Museum (the memorial is free) and a ticket to see Anastasia (a friend of ours was a swing!), which has since closed (one reason I hurried to get the trip done in March).

My primary goal of the trip was to listen—that’s a goal I recommend, it’s relatively simple and highly rewarding. In listening to the city, and the people I know within it, I saw such diversity in daily experience and sameness in character strength. Does that have to do with the people I know, and the bit of Texan within each of them? ;) Likely, but we won’t dwell on that.

Meet Julia Shirar and family:

Meet Trae, Michelle, and Seph:

While we’re talking through all of this, here’s something to examine:
Queens and Brooklyn, motherhood and home.

I felt the similarities, but I didn’t see them until I got my film scans back. For all the disparities in experience, in some ways, motherhood is motherhood is motherhood, and home is home is home, fatigue and touch and achy love.

So, in a sense, that’s it. That was my trip. I can throw in this bit: there’s power in asking. Discomfort, also, and vulnerability, but the payoff can be something like this—the whole trip. But also this specific job I was able to pick up while in town:


It’s good to ask for favors, mostly for practice in receiving, but also to learn how to be a better giver.
Rearranging my schedule for the right opportunities is good.
Standing my ground is also good.
Be quiet, but also sometimes talk to people on the train, I may run into someone with whom I share a last name.
Listen listen listen listen. Visit with the intent to grow, not take.

Special thanks to the Harrison crew for hosting me, each of these friends for allowing me to linger and listen and photograph, and most certainly Jeff and Jenny and Jim-pa for manning the home front.