On Friday evening, at the BlogHer/Kirtsy Gala, I was asked to paint words on the bodies of attendees -- much like Katherine did for Jenny on this post. I was happy to do it, and as people lined up to have their shoulders, arms, thighs and even calves painted, I would ask them, "What makes you different?"
Lynn approached me, introduced herself and whispered what she wanted printed. I won't tell you what she said, but it was somewhat self-deprecating, and there was no way in hell I was writing it on her body.
"I'm sorry, Lynn," I said. "I can't do that. And now for suggesting that, you've forfeited your right to choose your words."
I took her arm, and instead of what she suggested, I wrote: UNCOMMONLY BEAUTIFUL. She smiled and thanked me.
About 10 minutes later, she returned. "Is there any way that I could get you to photograph me before you leave New York?"
"Of course!" I immediately said. "How about tomorrow morning?"
The next morning, she met me in the lobby, and I took her to my now-designated spot, where I'd been photographing a lot of the faces you've seen so far. She sat down, and I started talking with her as I snapped photos.
Finally, at one point, I told her to close her eyes. "Take a deep breath." She did. And then I said:
"Now, I want you to keep your eyes closed, and think of your daughter."
A smile started to creep across her face. I kept my camera trained on her eyes.
"Okay, now open your eyes and look right at me."
She did, and I got the lovely shot you see above. We should all have moms who have that expression when they think of us, shouldn't we? Lynn is clearly a woman capable of very deep love.
Later that day, I was in the elevator on my way to meet some friends. On my way down, the door opened and in walked the woman you see above. I smiled hello. She smiled back. Then she stopped.
"Oh my God, are you Chookooloonks?"
I laughed. "I am! Who are you?"
"Sugar Jones!" (And before I go on, seriously: could there possibly be a better name than "Sugar Jones"? I have not stopped thinking of this name since I met her. She sounds like she should be the sexy protagonist in a Blaxploitation film, or crawling around the top of a grand piano, singing torch songs. In fact, I think it might be a crime to have that name and not be hot.) "I love your blog! I would love for you to take my photo one day."
"What are you doing right now?"
"Now? Nothing!" she said.
"Well, I'm running down to the lobby to photograph some friends," I said. "If you'd like to come with me, I can shoot you, too."
She agreed, and I'm so glad she did. Sugar is exuberant and enthusiastic and dear-God-in-heaven has a pair of the most striking eyes I've ever seen. She was a pleasure to photograph. It was great meeting her.
Nyasha, above, and Nadia, below, are two of the three founders of MamaLaw.com; but more importantly, they are also two of the three founders of Blogalicious, an annual conference that celebrates diversity in social media. I feel like I owe these women big: last year, when they asked me to do a keynote address for their inaugural conference, thinking about what I was going to present sparked the idea for me to write my book; indeed, the name of the speech was The Beauty of Different. So therefore, it is in large part due to them that the book got written.
They've been such calm champions of the work I've done (a fact for which I'm forever grateful), and as much as I love these images of them, my camera can't fully capture how beautiful these women's souls are. But hopefully you can see a glimpse here.
(Incidentally, Blogalicious 2010 is in Miami, Florida, October 8-10. If you love intimate conferences with smart conversation, run-do-not-walk to register now.)
After I took Nyasha's and Nadia's photos, it was time for me to prepare for my panel. Khadijah "Moon" Ali-Coleman, Carol Gillott and I led a discussion on "turning your online place into an art space," and I have to say, I'm really pleased how it turned out. Our room was filled with artists -- smart, intelligent artists who had a lot to share with us, and seemed to enjoy what we shared with them. I had so much fun.
Unfortunately, I didn't have much of an opportunity to get to know Carol, and I wish I had: she's a force of nature, and such a talented artist. Also, she has such a great sense of style, topped off with a pair of the most vibrant red glasses ever to grace a face. I wish I had taken a portrait of her. Next time, Carol.
But I did have some time to sit with Moon, and she's just lovely. She's soft-spoken and passionate about her work -- work which includes being a spoken word performer, actor, playwright, singer, and God knows I'm forgetting a few things. If I had to come up with one word to describe her, though, I think that word would be "gentle." She's just such a gentle soul. I loved meeting her.
Now that the panel was over, I could officially relax: after a quick dinner, it was off to The Volstead, where some friends and I were hosting an old-school meetup. One of the first people I ran into was Doug. I met Doug at BlogHer '06, so at this point, we're old friends -- in fact, he showed my family a great time last year, when we visited New York. He's scary-smart, and really funny, and a great dad.
Also, he has the best radio voice I've ever heard.
A new friend that I made at The Volstead was Lara -- a friendly, straightforward woman, who walked straight up to me and introduced herself. I liked her immensely (and she wasn't afraid of my camera, which is a big plus), but mostly, I loved the slow realization that this is a person who would, quite literally, give you the shirt off of her back. She's a woman of deep faith and a generous soul, and I hope I get to know her better.
The meet-up at The Volstead was awesome -- not too crowded, but hopping, just the same. However, I've never been much of a partier, and I'm certainly not one now, so quite suddenly at the ridiculously early hour of 9 pm, I felt my internal low battery light start blinking, and nothing sounded better than to go back to the hotel, grab a glass of wine from the hotel bar, and go up to my room to start packing for the flight out in the morning. I began making my rounds to say goodbye, specifically to Danielle, with whom I'd had dinner earlier.
"Wait, it's too soon!" she exclaimed.
"I know," I said ruefully, "but I'm exhausted. I have to go."
"Do you want to meet early for coffee tomorrow?"
"How early can you meet?" I asked skeptically. She looked like she was in for a good long night of revelry.
"How about 8:30?"
"Absolutely. I'll meet you at 8:30 in the hotel lobby."
"Done." I hugged her and walked gratefully back to the hotel.
The next morning, I was waiting in the lobby at 8:20. By this point, I was completely skeptical, since photographs of Danielle in full KISS makeup in Times Square had been bandied about on Twitter from the night before, but incredibly, she walked through the hotel doors at 8:30, looking bright-eyed and refreshed.
"I cannot believe you made it," I said.
"Neither can I," she laughed. "Coffee?"
I'd met Danielle briefly at last year's BlogHer conference, but we've spoken online and on the phone several times since then, and I got to spend some good quality time with her this year. I'm a full decade older than she is, and every time we speak, I find myself wishing I was as switched on as she is when I was in my early 30's. First of all, she's frighteningly funny (and if you don't believe me, you should read the post she read at last year's BlogHer Community Keynote, Stuck in the Middle With You. A warning: it's about tampons.) Secondly, she's blazingly smart and a feminist, and her recent argument about why she calls herself a feminist had me waving a hanky and shouting "alleluia!" alone in my little studio last week. I was so thrilled to find that in spending time with her, I liked her even more -- and I've made it a personal goal to make sure to continue to cultivate this friendship.
After breakfast, I went back to my room to get my bags, and discovered that my roommate, Kelly, was awake. I don't even know where to begin to tell you how much I like this woman. The phrase that comes to mind when I think of Kelly is "larger than life." She's perpetually happy, seriously witty, and lives her life right out loud. She's confident, deliciously brazen, and makes a living as a passionate assistant principal -- in fact, whenever she talked about the students in her school (which was often), those insanely green eyes of hers would literally flash with love. She's honest and forthright and I love this woman to pieces. When we finally hugged goodbye, I didn't want to let her go.
But let go I did, and dragged my bags (and my friends Jenny and Laura) to the Juno Baby breakfast, which was held at the always-fabulous FAO Schwartz. Juno Baby is this very awesome line of musical baby products (DVDs and CDs), which introduces babies, toddlers and soon, preschoolers, to original-scored, classical music. It was great to see their products and meet the founders.
But it was also great to see some people I didn't have a chance to visit with during the conference.
Christine is the founder of BostonMamas.com. I met her at the Mom 2.0 Summit earlier this year, and could not stop staring at her amazing face (I honestly worried that she thought I was some sort of weird stalker). It was one of my biggest regrets that I didn't get to photograph her during that conference, so when I saw her at this breakfast, I quite rudely insisted that she go with me to the nearest picture window so I could take a photograph.
Christine, of course, is lovely -- in fact, my word for her would overwhelmingly be "gracious." She warm and generous and she positively glows -- but the glowing part could be because her family is happily about to get just a little bit bigger. It was great to reconnect with her.
And finally, Asha. I've known of Asha for several years now -- we've attended several conferences at the same time, and exchanged friendly glances and smiles, and she's one of my co-panelists on Momversation -- but we'd never actually made an effort to sit down and speak with each other. This year, Asha made a point to come over and talk to me right before my panel, and I was so happy to see her at the breakfast. When I watch the videos Asha makes for Momversation, I'm always struck with how calm and thoughtful she appears -- she strikes me as limitlessly kind and introspective. She also strikes me as someone who is so intelligent and cerebral, she's blissfully unaware of how positively physically stunning she is, which is always such a refreshing trait in someone, don't you think? Our time together passed far too quickly, and I'm hoping we'll get some more time to connect in the future. (Asha -- dinner in New Orleans at next year's Mom 2.0 Summit, yes?)
And with that, you've now seen all the best portraits of all the people I photographed at BlogHer. On Friday, I'll share with you ALL of the photographs I took, as well as a little insight into how I take them. But for now, I'll return you to your regularly scheduled Chookooloonks.
Images: All photographed with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens.