"How do I choose? What would you pick?"
I have this conversation with clients a few times each month. As a person who has thousands of photographs of animal family members in her possession, I can relate. It's difficult to decide which ones to put on the wall, and it's even harder when you are investing in an art piece.
It needs to be right.
In my experience, people experience a physical reaction when they come across the photographs that move them. There is a brief gasp. Eyes might water. They smile broadly. Those are the signs I look for when I observe clients taking in their proofs.
Many photographers help clients by asking them to create three piles: yes, no, and maybe. My version is a little different.
I need this in my life. Now that I've seen it I can't imagine not being able to see it every day.
In other words, a yes pile for me needs to be a "Heck, yes!" Something that goes on your wall is a part of your daily life. That doesn't leave any room for lukewarm feelings or waffling.
I really like this.
The biggest difference between this maybe category and the above yes is the physical reaction. If your face doesn't erupt into a smile, if you don't reach for tissues, or if your heart doesn't ache when you see this photograph and you really like it, it's a maybe. Maybes don't belong on walls. They are a great fit for albums, loose prints, and tabletop displays. They frequently become less treasured over time.
I don't feel anything.
You like the photograph, yet you don't feel anything when you view it. A few weeks from now you won't remember this photograph at all. This one has no place in your home or office.
Choosing what will grace your wall is a big commitment of heart and wallet. I'm here to reflect how I see you respond to the photographs so you can do what feels right to you rather than what seems logical. Sometimes that means ordering one piece when you wanted to order three. Sometimes it's ordering three when you thought one would be just right.
Here's my last bit of wisdom.
If you don't already have a place for it, don't buy it.
I want the photograph you choose to already have a place in your heart and your home (or office). When a client tells me that her piece is stored in a closet or her spare bedroom because she hasn't found the right place for it or hasn't gotten around to hanging it, I wilt. It is my hope that you will be able to immediately be able to enjoy your art when I deliver it to you, and that's the main reason I am happy to install art I create.
You are making an investment, and the way to see a return from it is to put it on the wall.
What questions or considerations help you to make a decision?
No doubt you've witnessed the awesome power of sunbeams. Maybe you've even experienced it yourself. They have a way of trapping animals like an irresistible magnetic force. They apparently also erase any shame or doubt that may be involved with lying in the middle of the floor, impeding foot traffic. Or stretching to take up most of the sofa.
One of the qualities I enjoy most about being with creatures of advanced age is their comfort with themselves. Cats seem to settle into this comfort zone early in life.
I know who I am. You can be okay with that or not.
And I'm okay with taking naps. Lots of naps.
We humans have much to learn from our incredible companions. Like where the best napping spots are and why resting when you are tired is a good thing, indeed.
I also think there is something about surrender. When I feel comfortable with myself and grounded in who I am and what I can do, it's much easier for me to surrender to something. I can let go of control and go with the current.
Maybe that's what sunbeams are all about.
Apparently it is now. At least in my life.
A few weeks ago I made a deal with whoever was listening (because I don't want to dive into spiritual beliefs here, so you can fill in that blank) that I was going to surrender to art. I was ready to create the works I was meant to create.
That meant that I would need to make peace with my well-intentioned tendency to want things to be just right (i.e., perfect). Perhaps you can relate to that.
Days before my scheduled appointment with her human to present her proofs, Hannah kindly began a conversation with me. I was in my kitchen, stirring dinner on the stove. She was in her home, about a half-mile away.
"Excuse me, hello!" she sang. I could hear her as clearly as I could hear any human talking from two feet away.
We had a delightful, humorous, frank series of conversations. Through our exchange of ideas I learned more about her than I ever could have known from photographing her. She is love, joy, conviction, and so many wonderful things.
She asked me to do something for her human I've never done before. She requested a special and specific art piece. When I told her I wasn't that kind of artist, she assured me that she would bring the art to my hand if I would trust her. She emphatically and kindly stated that her person needed to see this piece.
I couldn't say no to that.
We worked together to create something very different from what I thought I could do. She showed up to create with me, and I can't explain how my hand managed to do any of this because I felt like I had given over my hand, eyes, and brain over to her and the process. She helped me to surrender.
This is a peek at what we made together. Hannah directed me to draw, in marker, a portrait of her that showed the top of her head. Then she wanted me to fill in the canvas with watercolor of her aura.
Her human was delighted. She assured me that the conversations I had with Hannah were quite normal - she is politely persistent.
I am so grateful to Hannah for trusting me with this opportunity. I am grateful for her human, who has nurtured her soul and cared for her for more than a decade.
Hannah has graciously offered to help me refine my drawing skills, so if you love an animal who might appreciate a different portrait message . . .
This window is unmistakably the window of a house with animals. It is lovingly spotted with nose prints and maybe an occasional spray from a sneeze.
New clients sometimes feel intimidated about creating art in their homes, especially when going elsewhere isn't a possibility due to health (or in this case, a cat who despises travel). They fret about the quality of their furniture and lighting. They feel their homes aren't "pretty" enough because they don't look House Beautiful or Sunset. They worry about extra hair on the sofa.
Life is art. Your home is where life happens.
Those nose prints on the window will be the ones that will be hard to wipe away someday because they are the last ones. That extra hair on the sofa is an indication of how much joy and love happens there. Your life together is beautiful, and that kind of beauty isn't staged for a magazine.
We can talk more about why home is the ideal place for photographs when we meet. For now, it's worth noting that anything less than a hoarding situation can yield breathtaking art. Stacks of boxes from your move don't have to be in the frame - we can work around those. We can create images that are narrowly focused to exclude distractions, which is what normally happens in portraits, anyway. It doesn't matter if your furniture doesn't match, because we'll see just once piece at a time in a photograph (and believe me when I say I'm in no position to judge).
The photo above happened on the back of an overstuffed, green leather chair that matched nothing else in the room. It had some cat damage. The three cats in this family have had their way with the window. And none of that matters, because the important piece of this photograph is the subject. This guy who sleeps everywhere and anywhere with style is what the family wanted to capture. He is most stunning in his natural habitat, as is every other creature.
So there's no pressure. You don't have to clean everything. You don't have to clean anything. Do what feels right and the art will follow.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.