It’s that time of year again. Come late December, an overly sappy and retrospective Brett emerges from the Holiday ashes. I share these stories with you all each year in hopes that it might offer some encouragement, and reveal some truths behind the tiny photos we share on social media. The year 2016 has been of the most transformative ones I have experienced thus far, and it’s left quite a mark on me. I endured the usual ups and downs that accompany any dynamic year.
I could bore you with the clients I saw come and go, provide a scary look into my wavering savings account, and all those other daunting details of freelance life. Instead, I’m choosing to share a few of the moments that rose to the top of a most peculiar 365 days. Here we go.
Put it on the Wall.
The last proper show I remember having took place around 2011. Some dear friends of mine worked tirelessly in a borrowed show space to share my “Ugly Duckling” series with a small audience. This year I wanted to be sure and show my work in some form or fashion with my community. I was given five opportunities to exhibit my work on various walls around town. It meant the world to me to see these photos have new life breathed into them. My favorite of these shows were the large scale prints that hung at Fashion Art Mecca, the WELD Show, and my “Faces” exhibit at Peck & Co.
Fueled by a desire to produce large scale prints in a cost effective manner, I ventured deep into an engineering print rabbit hole. Engineering prints (blueprints) are known for their flimsy appearance, but I enjoyed the challenge of making them appear high end. I drew upon the thin paper, and tediously glued hundreds of Swarovski crystals upon some of the prints with the help of my talented friends. Seeing your images on a wall is a sensation I cannot accurately describe. For lack of a better description, the work suddenly seems real once printed and hung.
Thank you to all who came out to see the shows, and thank you Nashville for letting me litter your walls with my cheap and borderline gaudy prints. Below are a few images from these exhibitions.
A Meeting at One World Trade.
I have been to New York a blue million times. Each trip I fantasize that I will be granted an opportunity to walk inside One World Trade Center for a meeting with one of the publications that call Condé Nast home. My heart has skipped a couple of beats on a few occasions at the promise of such meetings via email communications, but nothing had worked out.
On a serendipitous trip that was delayed due to the death of my grandfather, I was granted not one, but 3 of these appointments. It all came to pass at a time when I needed it most. I was heartbroken, and felt the trip was a bit meaningless. Had my grandfather been of sound mind and understanding, I began to remind myself that he would have wanted me to continue with my trip to NYC. I flew up the day after the funeral, and the meetings began to trickle in.
The individuals I met with have had a calendar full of encounters since we sat down to talk, but I’m holding on to how personally encouraging each meeting was. I shared my book with 3 photo editors at publications I aspire to work for… and they liked what we had created together. My heart began to swell once more as they engaged the work with questions, and I was able to relay the gritty tales of how the images came to be. Nothing concrete has come from these initial meetings, except a quiet confidence that things like that can happen to someone like me. A meeting can occur, and when the time is right… change will come. The kind of change you have been hoping to see for years.
Until then, I am going to keep honing my skills, creating images that speak louder than I am capable, and sending those uncomfortable emails that allow you the opportunity to walk through those large glass doors once again.
The Day Matt Shot Coco.
This is not my story, I am simply borrowing it from my friend Matt Priestley. Matt is a phenomenal photographer based in NYC that I have had the privilege of calling a friend. Upon booking a cover story for L’Officiel Thailand, Matt asked if I might be interested in coming up to NYC to assist him on an editorial with supermodel Coco Rocha. Without any amount of hesitation, I booked a ticket. Shoot day came, and it exceeded all expectations. Coco and her husband James were so gracious, and one of the most professional teams I have had the opportunity to observe. Matt absolutely killed the shoot, and I had an incredible time watching my pal succeed on such a high level.
Several colorful Gucci dresses later, the shoot had wrapped. I left so encouraged by the crew’s positive demeanor, and uplifting spirit on set.
Good things happen to good people who work hard and treat others well. We often hear the darker side to this, but I wanted to be sure and include this story as a vaccine to the bitter tales one can hear about legends in the fashion industry. Be good to each other, and work hard. Good things can and will come your way.
Below are a few images from the shoot by Matthew Priestley.
Shooting the Billy Reid Holiday Look Book.
My very first designer purchase was a pair of Billy Reid buffalo leather lace up boots. I have been a fan of the brand ever since. Over the years, I have had the privilege of getting to work with this incredible company at the runway shows, Shindig, and have been given the opportunity to shoot some of the wonderful folks featured on the journal.
This summer I gathered up some photogenic pals, and took a sailing adventure on my friend Salome’s boat. We had set out to create images to pitch to the Billy Reid crew, and had an incredible afternoon. We sent along the results of the shoot, and the opportunity to collaborate on an upcoming collection arose. I am so thankful to all my pals who pitched in and helped make this project so special, along with all of the encouragement and resources they brought forth.
As a result of this teamwork, in October I was asked to shoot the Holiday look book for Billy Reid, and it was a defining moment of the year. Billy cast a slew of friends that he found inspiring, and we shot them with painterly light against a cream plaster wall. It was such an incredible experience getting to know the subjects while featuring the unique yarns, wools, and furs that made up the Holiday collection. The perfect combination of dynamic individuals and fabrics made my job quite easy. I became an observer, and was given the opportunity to interpret the details of the garments and the humans that were wearing them.
Below are a few of my favorite images from the shoot.
Time to be a bit vulnerable. I hesitated to include such a personal tale, but realized I could not accurately relay the story of this year without including this part of my journey.
This spring I was shown a photo of myself, and the effects it had on me were quite monumental. What was meant to be a surface level behind the scenes photo revealed much more to me. The guy in the photo seemed a bit sad, and I could almost hear the thoughts of self doubt that were swimming through his brain in that moment. Those thoughts caused me to feel like a spectator of the project that I was very much a part of, and that grieved me. I recall practically refusing to be shown on camera because I did not feel worthy of that privilege. Who wants to look at him? At that moment I decided that I wanted to walk into 30 feeling the best I possibly could. I also just wanted to like myself. The narratives we play over and over in our heads are exponentially important. I began to realize just how hard I was on myself, and how constantly self critical my thoughts were. I spent so much time criticizing myself that I had no room to lend a listening ear to others. I became motivated to take better care of myself, and in doing so… stop thinking about myself so much. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized just how continually selfish I had been with my thoughts.
Feeling deeply motivated, I began to do the necessary work in order to walk into 30 feeling the best I have ever felt. I committed to a more healthy diet, developed a habit of long distance running, and cross examined all of those self critical thoughts I spent so long mistaking for a voice of reason. I am very happy to report that I was able to walk into 30 with more joy in my heart than has ever been present.
As a result of the hard work I put in this year, I was able to lose over 45lbs. Let me be very clear, this is NOT a story about weight loss. It’s about learning and pursuing what you need to be a spiritually, physically, and mentally healthy individual. This looks quite different for each and every one of us. The journey of these past few months and the pursuit for improvement in these areas have been quite the trial. Once the growth began to make itself known, I discovered a well of motivation to draw from and press on. I am not naive enough to believe that I will wake up every morning feeling spectacular about myself, as some days are admittedly much tougher than others. Perhaps I just feel for the first time that I am worth fighting for.
Please take a moment this year to asses what it is to bring forth your best self. Yes it’s tough and requires much uncomfortable change, but I can assure you it’s worth every single sacrifice. Share your goals with those close to you, and hold your thoughts accountable. I am still pursuing these things, and want to be a much more invested friend, family member, and photographer as a shining side effect of these pursuits.
I was going to share a photo of me before the weight loss to illustrate the transformation I have experienced this year. I have decided not to demonize that particular phase of life by comparing it to a healthier version of myself. That being said, I am sharing an Iphone photo of myself that I didn’t feel the need to retouch, hide behind my hands, or alter… to me that feels like growth.
These events are just a small look into the moments that made 2016 the formative year it was. I know that it has been a tough year for many of us, and I want to encourage you all for the soon approaching fresh start that 2017 promises.
Use your art to say what you mean. We need that perspective now more than ever, and art is a powerful tool to share positivity and create life bearing change. Take care of yourselves in the coming year, and remember to pursue the things that will keep you centered. I will join you all in taking more risks in 2017, and let’s continue to use our giftings to lift one another up.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and here’s to bravely taking 2017 by the horns.