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The Power of the Print

After my Grandpa passed away this past New Year’s Eve, the search began for photos to reminisce over and to use for the funeral. The process reminded me of how, several years ago I needed photos for my maternal grandmother’s funeral, and how frustrating it was to scroll endlessly through photos on files, phones, and social media platforms. I found it a draining process compared to the ease with which I flipped happily through family albums. When confronted with the contrast between searching for photos on a screen versus thumbing through tangible photos, I knew then that I wanted to ensure my most treasured memories would be in print form, not just stored on a device or platform.

But how to begin? Well, over the past few years I’ve developed strategies to help with photo organization and storage based on my years of experience as a wedding photographer. I even created a short course to help others tackle digital clutter. You can check out my Digital Declutter Mini Course HERE.

Today, however, I want to talk about the Power of Prints and why photographs in print have an inherent value. Let’s dive in.

  1. Prints are easy to pass on. If you’ve ever been given a shoebox of old photos passed down from a relative, or have gifted a photobook to a loved one, you know just how simple the process of hand-delivering or shipping photos can be. And the great thing is, no matter how mediums or devices change, a photo in your hands will always be an easy treasure to access. Just imagine 30 years from now, when our current social media platforms and devices are obsolete, and your children or grandchildren want to see photos from your youth or their childhood. Are we really going to expect that we can log in to old accounts or dust off clunky hard drives and find our photos? And even if we could, how mind-numbing  will it be to have to scroll endlessly through thousands of digital files? I realize I paint an abysmal picture, but as we live in an era of digital hoarding, our cherished memories are going to be harder to access than a shoebox or collection of albums stored on a closet shelf. This is why printing off a small collection of photos even a few times a year can be a relatively simple solution. And if you’re wondering about whether to print off books or traditional prints, well, I go into more detail on the pros and cons of each in my Digital Declutter Mini Course.

2. Prints encourage us to practice PRESENCE. When we scroll through our devices, we often impatiently swipe from one photo to the next without much thought or consideration. However, when we sit with a photographic print, we are invited to use more of our senses. We can feel the sharp or bent edges of a print or page, run our fingers over the glossy or matte finish, turn the photo over to see if details have been added in someone’s personal hand, look at the details present in the image, observe the quality or age of the paper, even catch a whiff of the musty box it came from or the chemicals that were used to create the print. When more of our senses are engaged while viewing a photo, the more chances that image has to imprint on our memories and stay etched in our minds’ eye. Photographic prints be they in book form, hung on a wall, organized in an album, or loosely collected in a box are powerful in their ability to help us stop, use our senses, and memorize the details. There is a reverence that comes with looking at prints in person that does not translate to viewing images on screen, and the effects can linger for a lifetime.

3. Prints are the final step in an historic process. For most of the photograph’s history, the print has been an essential part of the process. Only in the past two decades has the photograph been able to skip a step and find its final form on-screen. But prior to this, the print was always a part of the photographic process.

When I think back to my first days in a darkroom in the early 00’s, I recall first taking my wound spool of film into a blackened out room where I would extract the film from its canister and slip it into a protective container. From there, the film would be exposed to a round of chemicals that would help develop the images and then stop the processing. Next they would be extracted and hung to dry. Only then could I cut my negatives, line them up to create a contact sheet, grab my loup with which to peer down at my images in closeup detail, and then mark which ones were acceptable for printing. Tedious work indeed. But that was only the beginning!

At this point, I would then take my selected negatives and slip one into an enlarger in the darkroom. The image would be projected downwards onto whichever type of photo paper I deemed fit for that specific image. Filters would be experimented with and knobs twisted to acquire just the right contrast and focus. When all was ready, I would set the timer and expose a fresh sheet of paper to the light and within seconds, an image I couldn’t even see would be burned onto the photo paper. Another round of adjustments would be made to test different variations. Eventually, the exposed sheets of paper would be slipped into a series of baths where chemicals would slosh over the still blank-looking paper. And finally, voila, an image would appear out of the vapours as if by sheer magic (which it really was!). After extracting the completed images from the final bath, I would lay them flat to dry or hang them in the amber light. Once the drying stage was complete I could take my photo out into the light of day to see whether or not the image was acceptable. More often than not, it was subpar, or another image needed to be chosen, and another round of experiments run through. The combined tedium and magic of it all was intoxicating. I suppose the pungent aroma of chemicals may have had a heady effect as well! But the print, when complete, when as perfected as much as I had patience for, was the zenith. While the photo had been there all along, from the moment I clicked the shutter to the moment the exposed photo paper had been dipped into its first in a line of baths, the print was the photograph finally come into the world. The print came after a long gestation, and there was an awe it carried with its physical manifestation.

By and large, we’ve lost this beauty of anticipation and process in the immediacy of the shoot-and-share era. Of course the new way carries a magic of its own, but when we print our photos, we become a part of an historic process. Sure, the photographic process has evolved, and the steps from image creation to printing may only mildly harken back to an earlier time, but when we create something that we can hold in our hands, even a digital print, we help to complete a full (and fulfilling) process. Holding something in our hands that has been created is a grounding and powerful experience that should not be lost.

I realize that I could easily come across as a dinosaur in my descriptions of the ‘long-lost print’, but I believe that if we imagined a future generation missing out on photos in print, we would mourn the loss of something truly special. Prints are part of a powerful legacy and are easier than ever to print and pass down.

If you want to learn more about getting your photos sorted, stored, and shared easily, click the link HERE for my  Digital Declutter Mini Course.

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On Wrestling with Creativity & Contentment

©KristenWoodPhotography
Maternity Photos with Lauren by Kristen Wood Photography

Back in 2013, some months into my life as a new mom, I realized that my magazine subscriptions to Vogue and National Geographic Traveler were fuelling a festering discontentment that was encroaching on my joy and creativity in the early days as a first-time mother.

Prior to my first pregnancy, I was obsessed with how much travel I could pack into a calendar year and thrived on back-to-back trips, travel logistics, and photography opportunities that took me from Sonoma to Siberia. I was weirdly preoccupied with tallying up my frequent flier miles and plotting their eventual uses.

But a of couple months before Lauren was born, Will encouraged me to find another hobby, one that I could do from home. I was stumped. In my 20’s my passion for photography lead me to art school, which resulted in my career as a professional photographer. From the age of 16 during my first overseas adventure, until the age of 31 shortly after Lauren was born, I immersed myself in all things photography & travel related. To be completely honest, I didn’t really have any hobbies I could do at home, besides research and plan for future trips.

I settled on dabbling in watercolours and calligraphy as I’d done a little of both in the past. I whipped up a simple sign that announced, ‘Homebirth in Progress’ and politely requested we not be disturbed. I think we taped that sign to our front door during all three of my deliveries and I treasure it now with sweet nostalgia.

Initially, I figured this little hobby would be short-lived, as travel was likely to pick back up following the birth of our child. After all, our families lived thousands of miles away and I had no intentions of letting my career vanish into an abyss of dirty diapers and sleepless nights. Essentially, I assumed that in no time at all, I would bounce back with a baby slung across one side of my body and a camera on the other.

But I had pushed myself too hard and too far during my pregnancy. During my first trimester I was relearning to walk after being thrown from a camel in the Jordanian desert and fracturing my pelvis a few months earlier. This was followed by two big trips, one in my second trimester as the photographer for a destination wedding in South America and another during my third trimester as a bridesmaid for my sister’s wedding in Canada. These lead to signs of premature labour and my midwives putting me on strict bedrest for a time.

And yet I still assumed I would have an optimal birthing experience (which I did),  nurse like a champ the way my mom had (not so much), and come out the other side a battle-tested mother of one, globe-trotting again with a baby to boot (lol). No other hobbies necessary. Creativity and career in tact.

Eight years later I write this and laugh at my naiveté.

“When life circumstances force us to adapt our creative outlets, they often become the first things to be sacrificed on the altar of our to-do lists.”

Jaime Fenwick in Jerusalem
Backpacking through the Middle East in 2012.

Turns out, breastfeeding was an all-consuming beast for me to tackle and made travel extremely difficult. I couldn’t nurse well in public because I struggled to let down any of the meagre milk supply I could muster. My midwives who’d seen it all told me that while most women struggle a bit at one stage or another with breastfeeding, very few struggled to the extent I did. And yet, we attempted travel during the newborn stage. 

Our pediatrician, who shared my enthusiasm for far-flung adventures grimaced when we shared our plans for schlepping our newborn to Mississippi for American Thanksgiving and two different provinces in Canada over the Christmas holidays. Lauren was the first great-grandchild on my side and the first grandchild in both our families and we were eager to introduce her to everyone.

While I do have fond memories and photographs of those trips, the struggles we faced vastly shifted my perspective on traveling with little ones. Specifically the one in which Will and I both wound up with bronchitis on the last leg of our journey, rescheduled our return flights incorrectly (my doing), found a flight to Las Vegas, rented a car at midnight, and drove through the dark to a little motel in the Mojave Desert where we slept for for a bit, before finally finishing the final eight hour drive home, sick and exhausted.  Through it all, Lauren was a total travel champ. We, however, swore off holiday flights from then until our last child was out of diapers, and have faithfully stuck to that vow ever since.

But wouldn’t you know, I continued to obsess over travel opportunities. To the point where it became unhealthy. Will and I fought over how to make travel work, I took on photography jobs that made breastfeeding a nightmare, and of course I poured over any and all books, magazines, and websites that spurred on my travel dreams. When my monthly issue of National Geographic Traveler would arrive, I would go down the rabbit-hole of wishing and hoping and land in a puddle of discontentment. The same thing happened whenever my issue of Vogue arrived…the content was so glamorous and pulled together that I found myself flipping the pages feeling jealous and resentful.

“I realized that stewing in a pot of discontentment, comparison, and resentment was not only going to make my life miserable, it was stifling one of the things that could help me thrive in this new stage of my life: my creativity.”  

This pattern continued for a while before I realized that stewing in a pot of discontentment, comparison, and resentment was not only going to make my life miserable, it was stifling one of the things that could help me thrive in this new stage of life: my creativity.

It was then that I realized that my creativity was something I had to defend and cultivate with more intention than I had ever done. Creativity is a gift we are all endowed with, but more often than not when life gets hard or circumstances change, our creative outlets get pushed to the back-burner. When life forces us to adapt our creative outlets, they often become the first things to be sacrificed on the altar of our to-do lists. 

But tapping into our creativity is essential to the art of thriving. Sure, it may not be what we have to prioritize in a survival situation, but if we neglect creative outlets or the exploration of our creativity on a regular basis, we make a way for discontentment to creep in, and with it, a host of other nasty neighbours like resentment, irritability, and comparison which are bound to take up residency in the space that creativity could have occupied. When we allow creativity to take its rightful place in our lives, it spills over and carves out room for healing, joy, and gratitude to settle in.

Kristen Wood Photography
Kristen Wood Photography
Del-Valle-Hike-with-Baby
Hiking at Del Valle with Lauren

When all of this dawned on me, I canceled my subscriptions to Vogue and National Geographic Traveler with some sadness and regret, because it felt like giving up my dreams in a small way. Not forever, but for a time. And so I searched for other magazines that might inspire the current lifestyle I was immersed in. Home, garden, and cooking magazines became my inspiration (this was before social media or Pinterest  had the kind of presence it has today). The two current subscriptions I receive are Martha Stewart Living and Magnolia. In addition to content, I’m pretty picky about the quality of photos, paper, font, etc., (this is an art school geek talking here) but those two magazines really stand out in those departments along with subject matter that resonates with me.

Or course there are other ways I tap into my creativity, but I have found that what I’m reading, watching, or listening to, is often the first and perhaps easiest thing to begin cultivating in order to inspire my creativity. The things we surround ourselves with can either inspire us or make us feel worse about lives or ourselves. The same goes with people.

Left to Right: Lauren’s Winnipeg Winter, Lauren’s Post-Bath Curls, Nursery Photo by Kristen Wood Photography

If you’re stuck in a rut of discouragement, comparison, or bitterness, I highly encourage switching out some of what you consume for something that elevates and uplifts. It doesn’t mean that what you’re partaking of is bad, it just might not be right for the season you’re in.

Here are a few questions to prompt your search for healthy sources of inspiration to fuel your creativity:

  • Does what I’m reading, viewing, or listening to make me feel light-hearted, inspired, or motivated?
  • While I’m reading, viewing, or listening to this do I get a nagging feeling that it’s not healthy for me?
  • Are there other interests that I haven’t spent time exploring that could be inspired by books, magazines, music, movies, shows, podcasts, or social media feeds?
  • Do I find myself swept up into a comparison game when reading, viewing, or listening to this?
  • Do I feel guilty for things I purchase after I read, view, or listen to this type of content?
  • Do I find myself creating new things or adapting old ideas after I read, view, or listen to this content?
Kristen Wood Photography
Kristen Wood Photography

“Tapping into our creativity is essential to the art of thriving…when we allow creativity to take its rightful place…it carves out room for healing, joy, and gratitude to settle in.”  

I am passionate about coming alongside others to inspire them in their creative journey. With 15 years’ experience as a creative entrepreneur, I have been able to cultivate a strong repertoire of strategies to boost creative output and help others tap into their creativity. If you would like to have me speak either in person or online at your upcoming conference, workshop, or retreat, please email Jaime Fenwick at hello@bringinginspirationhome.com . 

Jaime Lauren Photography
Lauren napping on me at about 6 weeks old while I photographed the olive harvest at Olivina, our local olive oil producer here in Livermore.

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How I Found Inspiration & Restoration in the Cotswolds

Cotswold-village-upper-slaughter

When I embarked on an 8-day walking trip through the Cotswolds, I had reached burnout in my career and exhaustion in my personal life. I’d been attempting to juggle running a photography business and an online wedding publication with a toddler and a baby clamouring for my attention. My work seemed strained and uninspired, and I felt my creative coffers had been drained. I was attempting to do too much, with too little rest. As a result, I felt like a mediocre mom and businesswoman.

Sound familiar? I think it’s something many of us women struggle with.

I decided that the best thing I could do for everyone involved was take a yearlong, self-imposed creative sabbatical in order to focus on rest and restoration. During that time I delighted in spending more focused time with my family and creating for creation’s sake. Around 9 months into my sabbatical, I traveled to England where I traversed the English countryside with two dear friends. I spent the first 4 days with my friend Jody from California, and the second set of 4 days with my friend Mandee from Canada, who now lives in the UK.

I’ve traveled to many countries, and have traveled by numerous means, but never had I traveled on foot before. The act was transformative and powerful. 

Interior-church-window-and-sill-with-flowers

Before my trip I’d anticipated that the experience would reignite my creative energy, but what I didn’t expect was how the act of walking–daily, and for miles on end–would restore me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve traveled to many countries, and have traveled by numerous means, but never had I traveled on foot before. The act was transformative and powerful.

Each day began with a hearty breakfast, the donning of my daypack, and the wide-eyed wonder at whatever landscape might slowly unfurl before us. I was both unplugged and yet deeply present, lost in the beauty of the place and the pace.  

We walked each day through small sections of the Cotswolds, an idyllic patch of English countryside just a couple hours west of London, that boasts of sleepy villages, hillsides dotted with sheep, honey-coloured limestone cottages drenched in roses, and rolling woodlands that make you feel like you’ve stepped into A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. I paused to watch an earthworm wend its way up from the rich soil of a farmer’s field, knelt to brush the soft petals of deep red poppies. I stopped for breaks of tea from my thermos and to use the loo in a handful of cozy pubs. Those pubs offered us a range of local, seasonal fare that warmed us from the inside out: hearty tomato soup,  flaky pot pies, and amber pints of ale. There was no agenda but to eventually arrive at the next village, where drivers from our walking company would deposit our bags at our next farm stay, boutique hotel, or pub inn.

Cotswolds-sheep-in-farmers-field

hailes-abbey-ruins-cotswolds

The act of following directions and maps provided by our walking company served as a giant scavenger hunt for adults. Seeking out field gates and trekking across farmer’s fields, scaring up a bouquet of pheasants, and spotting the spire of the nearest church were all part of the day’s events. The intimate connection with nature was restorative in every possible way. My body felt strong and healthy as I strode up one side of a verdant hill and then down the other, my lungs took in the fresh clean air and lingering moisture that followed a rain shower, my eyes gazed upon the beauty of God’s green earth instead of staring blankly into a screen, and my mind turned to thoughts of gratitude, prayer, meditation, and dreams for the future. When we turned in each night, following a hearty meal and a hot shower, my body and brain fell into deep slumber as the down pillows and duvets enveloped me in a snowy cocoon. I missed my husband and kids, to be sure, but I knew that the rest and restoration I was experiencing would linger long after I returned home to them. I knew that this experience was a gift and something I would cherish forever.

 

pink-roses-in-the-cotswolds

white-bed-cotswolds-accommodations

arched-tunnel-greenery-in-the-cotswolds

What I didn’t realize then, was how everything I’d seen, eaten, felt, and experienced while walking day after day, would impact and inspire me daily in the years that followed. I know now, from both my own experience and from all the reading and research I’ve done on walking, that walking has the power to stir the creative juices in ways that sitting and brainstorming cannot. So now when I need to rev my creative engines, I find time to walk in nature. I also know that dreams need mental and physical space to be nurtured before they can take root. This walking trip enabled small seedlings of dreams to rise up within me and be nourished while experiencing local culture and landscapes. I was inspired by everything I saw, and that served as the catalyst for dreams I’m pursuing even today. I also know that creativity is something that can be spent, but need not evaporate if we tap into our creative roots for sheer pleasure on a regular basis. This trip invited me to indulge in photography again for the sheer enjoyment of it, to journal and write for pleasure, and to cook potpies through every fall and winter since I’ve returned! The creative juices that began to flow during and following this trip have not been staunched. Instead, they are constantly renewed because of the lessons I learned on that walk, about how to keep my creative edge.

view-of-naunton-cotswolds

The other takeaway I experienced following my walk through the English countryside was how much I needed to share this place with other women. I knew in my soul how many women could experience restoration and inspiration if they joined me on a walk through the Cotswolds, and so I set out to craft a retreat that would enable them to do so. In June of 2020, I’ll be leading two groups of women through this tranquil region, and have designed the retreat to incorporate both content and opportunities to help each woman tap into her creative roots. If this sounds like the very thing you desire, I want to encourage you to dig a little more and see if this retreat is right for you. Just click on Cotswold Women’s Walking Retreat and I’ll send all the details your way! You can also email me at: hello@bringinginspirationhome.com

“This walking trip enabled small seedlings of dreams to rise up within me and be nourished while experiencing local culture and landscapes. I was inspired by everything I saw, and that served as the catalyst for dreams I’m pursuing even today.”  

I cannot wait to hear from you, and I am so looking forward to guiding you on this journey into restoration and inspiration as we walk through the Cotswolds next June!

view-from-broadway-tower

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