chookooloonks life list update: number 16, photograph 1000 faces (the blissdom 2011 edition)

Last week, after returning from Seattle, I almost immediately turned around and got back on a plane to Nashville, for the Blissdom Conference.  It was a whirlwind trip, and I was back in Houston almost as soon as I got there, but I did manage to meet some lovely people and photograph some beautiful faces, all in furtherance of my life list goal to photograph 1000 faces.

The real reason I went to was to speak on a panel about Integrity and Strategy, and I'm so glad I did, because my co-panelists were all amazing women, and it was an honour to speak with them.  Holly, above, was the moderator -- she's one of the cofounders of BlogFrog, a site which provides tools for bloggers to create community.  The word that most came to mind as I spoke with her was "gentle."  She's funny and lovely and a great leader, and I'm thrilled I was able to meet her.


You know how sometimes you meet someone, and even before you get to know them, you get the feeling that this person is a kindred spirit?  That's how I felt when I met Ria Sharon, above, who is "Practical Mommy" on the site  Ria has this wonderfully kind smile, and we hit it off right away.  And considering that her bio specifically states she "coaches people individually and in groups on how to discover and/or reclaim the essence of themselves — the personal brand — that is truly of incomparable value," I'm pretty sure that this weekend was the start of a very long friendship.  I truly loved meeting her.


Julie, the mind behind Mabel's Labels and The Mabelhood is this wonderful dichotomy:  on one hand, she's this delicate, ethereal beauty, who I strongly suspect is part fairy (I mean, really, just look at her). On the other hand? She's this witty, spunky woman with a northeastern-sounding accent, a razor sharp mind and a keen sense of humour.  She's so open and friendly and overwhelmingly fun.  I seriously hope our paths cross again soon.


The final member of my panel was Katherine, who writes Postpartum Progress, a community dedicated to helping and supporting women through postpartum depression.   I'd never met Katherine before, but I have to tell you, if I were ever going through a tough time, I'd want someone just like Katherine holding my hand.  She seems both strong and gentle, and struck me as a person who is capable of limitless empathy.  She's positively angelic, in a guardian-angel-who'd-never-let-anything-bad-happen-to-you sort of way.  Lovely.


I've actually known Danielle (aka Foodmomiac) for several years now.  Danielle also has of one of my very favourite faces I've ever seen in real life, and I've been dying to photograph her for some time.  I adore her.  She's one of those people with whom you could be sitting in deep, profound conversation, and then suddenly, unexpectedly and without warning, out of her mouth comes the funniest thing you've heard in 6 months -- and you'll have to take a minute to catch yourself, because you'll be thinking, "wait a minute ... that shiz is funny." She so wickedly smart, and I'm so glad to know her.


I met Allison, founder of No Time for Flash Cards, the first morning of the conference -- as I walked past her I cooed over her young daughter she was carrying, and I when I saw her face, I knew I had to photograph it.  Allison is just a deep, soulful beauty, isn't she?  And she has this calm, openness about her, too.  It was great meeting her.


Ah, Ryan.  Ryan is the stunningly creative force behind the website Pacing the Panic Room, and I have to tell you, he has been one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to photography for a very, very long time.  The weekly series he did with his wife when she was pregnant is amazing, and his most recent project combining photography and video blows me away.  I actually met Ryan last year at BlogHer (we had a wonderful lunch together with a few good friends), but like most of us photographers, he hates having his picture taken, so I didn't get to take his portrait the last time we met.  I was therefore quite honoured when he allowed me to take it this time.

Related:  are you kidding me with the colour of those eyes?

Speaking of eyes:  Heather has a pair of the most gorgeous and extraordinary eyes I've ever seen that aren't computer-generated.  I mean, seriously, look at them:  they're incredible.  Heather is the creative mind behind Domestic Extraordinaire, and she's also a photographer.  We'd never met before, and we shared stories of what it's like to be the photographer in your family ("my kids are going to think they were raised by a single dad, if they go by the photographs!").   I found her generous and warm and open.  She's lovely, I hope we meet again soon.


One evening after the sessions were over, I was sitting with a few friends having a glass of wine, when I met Carmen, of Mom to the Screaming Masses. "I'd like you to take my photograph," she said, frankly.  "Okay, we'll do it tomorrow," I immediately responded.

The next morning, she approached me.  "You don't have to take my picture," she said, earnestly.  "I didn't mean to put you on the spot.  Seriously, you don't have to."

Right.  Like I was going to let that face get away.

Carmen is incredibly friendly and outgoing, and within minutes, I felt like I'd known her all my life.  I was thrilled to photograph her -- especially because, obviously, she gives good face.  I'm hoping we meet again soon.


And finally, speaking of giving good face:  Amy.  I have to admit that I came to Blissdom with a single-minded intention of photographing Amy's incredible face.  Amy is the creative mind behind the highly successful wooden toy company, Little Alouette, and the blog Amy Turn Sharp (which is actually her real name, how cool is that?).  Amy is outrageous and unapologetic and a force of nature, and being in her company is like being in the presence of a million brightly-coloured fireworks.  Her entire presence radiates joy and badassery, and every time I'm near her, I leave wanting to be just a little more daring.  I was so happy to finally take her portrait.


With that, thanks to all of the beautiful people who allowed me to capture a glimpse of their spirits to share with everyone here at Chookooloonks. Spending time with you all is exactly why I go to conferences.  I feel so much better knowing that you're all a part of this world.


Images:  Photographed with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens.


SongBohemian Rhapsody, as performed by Jake Shimabukuro.  Knowing my newfound fascination with the ukulele, my sister sent me this while I was away at Blissdom, and I waited until I returned home to listen to it.  I remain blown away.  (Talk about the beauty of different!)