This past Friday (March 25th, 2016) I drove a familiar, memorized route to Greenville, SC. Familiar because I drove this same path so many Monday mornings of 2014, photographing Barb Blair's second book, Furniture Makes the Room. The concept was to expand on her first book, the DIY bible Furniture Makeovers, which became a gold standard for before-and-after enthusiasts everywhere. Barb's target for this second book was to create a beautifully styled, interiors-centered work, lush with photographs and an eye toward detail. She chose fifteen pieces to re-work, and while she does walk the reader through those processes, the book mainly concentrates on how each piece functions in various environments. Her mantra is, always has been, 'Live with what you love', so she shows these bold pieces, each in three different environments, as versatile and even preferable -- especially when combined with an eclectic assortment of art, objects, and textiles. To bring her concept to life, she assembled a team of contributors, and I found myself, somehow, among that privileged group. The wonderful people at Chronicle published the book. Barb, obviously, designed and completed each piece, developed plans for each styled vignette, and wrote the book. Julie Dodds of Willow Florals contributed the elegant. flowing arrangements, Jessica Barley of A Darling Day was our prop stylist, and Angie Thompson lent her impeccable aesthetic and positive energy to each shoot. I had the happy task of photographing all of it.
As production began, this is how it looked, for my family: Monday mornings I drove the girls to their respective schools. I then settled our beloved occasional nanny/basically family member, Jen, into John's car so that she could pick up the girls that afternoon, always comforted that she was the one who would be with them while I was away. Thankful she was there. Next step, I drove the two hours from Athens to Greenville to meet Barb and the team for shoot days. We typically shot six to seven hour days, and then I would drive back home.
Initially, Barb and I spent some one-on-one time shooting each furniture piece in original form, followed by her step by step process as she essentially redeemed them, and lastly we shot simple flat-lays of the tools she used. Then began the styling phase, where each team member worked together, combining our strengths, and seeing beauty unfold as a result. Our days were filled with hauling furniture, decor, and photography gear, removing and subsequently replacing the contents of (sometimes multiple) rooms in friend's homes/studios or Barb's own former studio. Constantly perfecting vignettes with flowers and styling elements to complement her pieces; always adjusting, refining. Studying the perfect light to bring her beautiful vision and work to life.
Making this book has been a marathon, and those in the industry will attest that quite a bit of time stretches between initial conception, to production, to final delivery, to publication. Barb's writing phases took place after shooting was completed, followed by edits and revisions. The timeline of all of this is strange, in a way, because the shoots somehow become distant memories, and anticipation to see how the work will come together grows in intensity as the months pass. But then bits and pieces of the layouts and pages would come along, beautiful surprises at the most unexpected times. Our editor at Chronicle would send them to Barb, who faithfully and excitedly passed them on to our team. All of this anticipation culminated at the book launch party, which I photographed, shown above. The launch party perfectly coincided with the grand opening of Barb's new studio and shop, which is the stunning space where we celebrated. It was a moment that Barb worked so hard toward, and being able to photograph this significant time for her was an honor.
Overwhelmed is how I can best communicate what I feel when I see the book. From initial glimpses, to seeing the cover design, then the whole book laid out, and finally, holding the actual finished product in my hand... it humbles me, moves me and fills me with gratitude.
As for my work, I am self-taught. I have always been drawn to photography and as a beginner, I consumed every bit of information and technique that I could get my hands on. I was thrust into full time professional photography when I suddenly needed to provide for my girls and myself, and I had no other way to earn a living yet still be present with my children most days. I saw my work begin to evolve and progress as I shot over and over again, hundreds of hours, honing my craft. The 10,000 hour rule, people. It's a real thing. I am by no means a master in this art form, which is obvious and doesn't really need to be said, but I'll say it anyway. I love the work and it will always be something I do, professionally or otherwise, because I find beauty in it and I am compelled to photograph beauty. Though I have never aspired to fame or wealth through my work, I have a vision for how I want my body of work to look and to grow. My focus has always been on the work itself, rather than the hustle, achieving status, etc. Those things are not bad or wrong, nothing like that, it just isn't what motivates me, personally. That being said, I did not, could not have known, that I would be given an opportunity like this. Barb has been a woman that I have looked up to and followed for seven years; her work ethic and positive energy are an inspiration to me and many others. I now hold in my hands a beautiful book by this gifted maker/author and a reputable publisher, with my name on the cover as the photographer. This whole process, from start to finish, has been a gift, and I am so grateful. I want to also thank my readers and supporters -- many of you have followed my work for years, faithfully encouraging me and affirming my efforts. Your affirmation and continued interest has been a source of pride for me and has allowed me to continue doing something I love. Thank you for that.
Lastly, I am excited to share that I photographed another book for the endlessly talented interior designer Kirsten Grove, which will be published by Sterling, and will be released late fall 2016. I'm eager to share some of the shots from the whirlwind production that Kirsten immaculately planned and executed, along with the story of how she and I connected -- it's related to this book, and again, I have Barb to thank. Thanks Barb. Ha. (I'll just call you and thank you again over the phone.) Next up, a few words about how this whole mama/wife/artist balance (or lack of, often) is coming along. xx