Category Archives: Inspiration

The Beauty Of Age Project

The Beauty of Age Project is a labor of love to celebrate women at every age. We often see women photographed in media and at family events but they all start to disappear around age 50. I want to photograph women ranging in age from 50-100 years old and hopefully inspire others to see the beauty of aging…

As with any project, I have decided to set up a few deadlines and goals:

1. To photograph women over the next two years (final session in December 2019),

2. To photograph one woman representing each age,

3. Host a show in January 2020.

I have successfully tested my old Contax camera using Ilford black and white film that I want to also use for the project. Thanks to my friend and fellow photographer, Lena Eivy, of Lena Eivy Photography and her dog for being lovely models! It was also a good test run to see how long the lab takes to process the film.

Confirmed: The old Contax 35mm camera works!

I plan to capture a “test” image using a digital camera so that I can provide a preview to each model and for sharing updates. I’ll save the magic of the film portraits for the show! This way I can save some bit of surprise for those who are able to participate in person first. The completed project will be shared online as a slideshow after the show.

The latest update is that I have found a location I can rent to use as studio space for the duration of this project.
I will be hosting the project portrait sessions once per month so I can keep making progress and keep it manageable alongside my business and family life. I’ve already spoken with a few of my brave, beautiful women and am delighted that some have signed up through the grapevine, believing in the project before I even have anything to show for it! Thank you all, truly, for helping to spread the word!

Warmly, Holli

Selfies for a cause: Dressember!

Slavery is alive today in the shadows of our culture. I’m participating in Dressember because I believe in everyday advocacy. I am hoping that by raising awareness and talking about it, we can all help to shift this culture that looks the other way, or believes that we are powerless.

Dressember day 1.
Dressember day 1.

The first step to change is being aware of the problem. The next is finding ways to support programs that are already working toward that change. And the hardest of all, will be self-education so that we don’t accidentally support the conditions that make it the only option for people around the world.

I’m going to do my best at raising awareness, and invite you to help by sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Email!

But, first some details…

According to the US Government definitions of slavery, there are several different types:

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Dressember day 2.
  1. Forced Labor. Immigrants are the likely victims of this, as they pay for their passage to another country.
  2. Sex Trafficking. It is what it says, forced sex workers, coerced or forced into work through fear tactics and manipulation.
  3. Bonded Labor. This is more straight forward, paying off a debt through employment, often in less than safe conditions.
  4. Debt Bondage. Just like bonded labor, but usually through more organization when an employee relies on the employer for being in another country.
  5. Involuntary Domestic Servitude. Servants who are isolated and work in domestic areas away from other workers.
  6. Forced Child Labor. Children are victim to sex trafficking, bonded and forced labor.
  7. Child Soldiers. Yes, it is what it says. There’s a high likelihood that kids in this area are sexually abused, both boys and girls.
  8. Child Sex Trafficking. This one requires quoting, “According to UNICEF, as many as two million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. International covenants and protocols obligate criminalization of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The use of children in the commercial sex trade is prohibited under both U.S. law and the Palermo Protocol as well as by legislation in countries around the world.”
Dressember day 3.
Dressember day 3.

Now, if that list doesn’t make you want to cry, and angers you to want to take action, you can do an online training, “Human Trafficking Awareness Training.

Still with me? Okay, time for more…many of us, myself included, assume slavery does not exist in America. But, it does. Mostly in the sex trafficking area, but others as laborers. We have one of the lowest percentages of slaves per capita, just .02% (60,000) according to a Washington Post article.

CNN Money reported in 2014 about slave labor in America – specifically in the areas of agriculture, construction and hospitality.

Business Insider did an article on Sex Trafficking. I’ve read about it before, but this is an good overview of the topic and how easily young teen women fall into it.

Dressember day 4.
Dressember day 4.

There are several organizations working to combat the circumstances that enable slavery today around the world. Dressember was started by Blythe who wanted to engage her love for fashion with social activism. It’s really quite brilliant in that it encourages us to participate in the dialog and raise money for these organizations.

This year’s campaign is raising funds for International Justice Mission, and A21. While I did setup a campaign page to officially register, I encourage you to go directly to each organization and give what you can to the one that does the work you believe in the most.

And, feel free to follow along with my on Instagram: @holli.with.an.i as I post a selfie a day to prove I’m wearing a dress a day!

xo,

Holli

A Touch of Grace: Classic Portraits

We live in an era where everyone needs a proper portrait. With social media becoming our first impression, it’s more important now than it ever was to put our best face forward. And, that’s why I have started telling people that by the time they enter the working world, they need a good head shot.

All that said, there’s a big divide about what a proper portrait or head shot should look like and how to do one. I think the best are those that help a person shine, and engage the viewer. And so, that’s why I love finding that connection in the eyes and keeping the set up simple, yet classic.

I was thrilled to capture my cousin’s portrait. She’s full of beauty from the heart. My hope is that I was able to capture the grace she has as a woman and her fun personality.

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And, she deserves praise for being so patient to see her photos, as I captured her portraits just before leaving for Bolivia!

Tree Woman Project: Moss

The beautiful thing about this project is how it appeals to women of all ages and stages of life. Remember the model who sat patiently for me while I worked through my studio lighting technique with my classmate, Alecia Lindsay?

Well, after telling her about my project, she offered to join the volunteer models! And, since I didn’t have a specific tree in mind, she braved the cold, rainy Seattle weather to adventure around the Duwamish Greenspace with me as we found pretty mossy places in the trees.

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This session was more of an adventure than classic beauty portrait of a tree and a pretty woman…

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I treated the session much like all the rest of the series, by creating her crown, and planning around her dress to pair with a green velvet jacket and a little glamorous makeup…

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This session inspired me to be more adventurous with my editing, and I explored some techniques to make them look like old school film prints…

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Much thanks to Jessica Marie Cantu for being an adventurous Tree Woman!

 

What I Learned From A Model

I never would have thought that I would know a fashion photographer. But, as I’m growing in my work, I’m meeting other photographers from various genres. Last year, while taking a Creative Live course in studio lighting, I had the opportunity to befriend Alecia Lindsey. We got together just this past month to practice what we had learned, and she coordinated work with a model, Jessica Marie Cantu.

This was a really fun opportunity and I am so glad I finally worked with a real model and got to see a fashion photographer in action…and I finally am starting to feel confident with my studio lighting work!

Jessica Cantu by Holli Margell

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My passion is to help everybody, no matter what shape or size, look and feel beautiful in photographs. While I do get inspired by images in fashion magazines, my focus is really on captivating portraits. Until last month, I have only photographed what I call “real women” – but the truth is that we are all real women. And, I realized that while I had the opportunity to work with a model. Yes, she was able to move her body in ways many of us cannot, but she is just as kind and real as all the real women I know.

I also realized this while walking through some mud in the green space while talking with another mother as our kids played. She talked about an article where a ballerina defended the wear and tear on her feet (often regarded as ugly and inhumane) as akin to the hands of a wood worker, a craftsmen. The ballerina was proud of her feet. That gave me an “aha!” moment where I thought about how we are all so different and about how art and media tries to celebrate only a fraction of the body of humanity.

This changes the way I see myself as a photographer. I used to use the phrase, “photographing real women” and I want to change that. I need to stop buying into the divisiveness that kind of language reaffirms. We’re all real. Instead, I will say I aim to capture the beauty in everyone.

Tree Women Project: Bamboo

When I posted about this idea I had for the Tree Woman Project, I was pleasantly surprised. First, I was not expecting so many of my friends and family on Facebook to support the idea. Second, I was impressed by the number of volunteer models that emerged.
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Jackie is such a doll. When I met her we were children attending the same church. She was my friend’s younger sister. I always thought she was adorable, and so it was really like a mini-reunion dress up session to photographer her for this project.
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She’s a strong woman who never stops encouraging others…and with a flair for fun. She brought her own fairy wings that are special to her, and so we snapped a few of those too.

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Jackie was up for wandering around the Kubota Garden with me, so we tried a few other locations too. I think it was a pretty neat way to mark the half way point toward my goal to capture 12 Tree Women!

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Tree Women Project: Deodar Cedar

When I think of Christmas trees, I envision a classic Scandinavian Noble fir. As I was learning about trees this past summer, I saw the Deodar Cedar and thought it looks very much like a Noble, but was surprised to find it’s what some folks call a “real cedar” tree. They grow very tall and look like giant Christmas Trees.

My Dutch friend, Robin, was the chosen model for this tree because she is a strong woman. A mother of four, her reputation proceeded her as a woman who gets things done. Though our kids don’t know each other, we have become friends through Facebook. Exchanging comments through social media seems like a shallow way to make a friend, but I can honestly say that I admire and appreciate her.

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This was like getting together with an old friend to play dress up!

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As a mother of young kids, I really think it’s important to feel beautiful, and to be celebrated in the midst of seemingly thankless years of raising kids past toddlerhood. That transition for the kids to become independent is vital for both parties, because it’s so easy to get lost in the care and shuffle of daily living.

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A hearty thanks to Robin for being my model, and braving another “Seattle Winter” day – braving the cold and steady mist-like rain to show let me capture her beauty!

Tree Woman Project: Douglas Fir

In the spirit of the season, the Douglas Fir tree was the inspiration for this Tree Woman portrait session. At this maturity, the Douglas Fir looks an awful lot like a classic Christmas tree. Cassie was my intrepid model who braved the cold, rainy day with as much excitement as I had for our photo-project adventure.

Her style is fun and very Seattle, so I had to snap a few photos of her dressed normally before she went into Fairy-tale beauty mode (a mix of Tinkerbell and Peter Pan suits her)…here’s my favorite:

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From Seattle girl to Beauty girl:

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Going with the fun feel of the dreary-dreamy weather, we adventured nearby to some other parts of the Duwamish Greenspace, and found a few perfect spots for exploration. Even though this wasn’t part of the Douglas Fir themed shoot, I just love them. It feels like a story is waiting to be written about these scenes…and, sadly I don’t know what types of trees they were – they are prefect for a woodland story!

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And last but not least, a little admiration for old snag of a tree, the decay process revealing an ornate pattern:

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She is more than just beauty too – a woman in the Seattle Tech world, I greatly admire. Big thanks to Cassie for being my model!

Tree Women Project: Bigleaf Maple

There is something magical about the Bigleaf Maple tree leaves. I remember walking to elementary school and being completely excited when the maples along a street we walked started dropping these wonders of nature, their size and color still delight me. My brother and I would collect the ones with the most vibrant colors to give our mom as if they were as precious as wildflowers.

It seemed fitting to pair Donna with the Bigleaf Maple as she turns ingredients into magic at her shop, Stuffed Cakes. She is a culinary artist, and gets credit as the Make Up Artist for our session!

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I am truly delighted to be able to see this project come to life, and grateful for women like Donna who answered my call for a real woman model. Stay tuned as I hope to capture one dozen of these Tree Women Portraits by summer 2015. And, my then, I hope to have the experience and systems in place to offer these types of concept based portrait session next fall!

xo, Holli

Tree Woman Project: Lawson Cypress

I have had a love for trees for quite some time now, and this past summer, I was able to volunteer with a Tree Ambassador program in Seattle by photographing trees for a self-guided tree walk map.

Capturing beauty in women is also a passion of mine. When I discovered Brooke Shaden, both of those passions merged into a lovely light bulb moment: I wanted to photograph women AND trees. This little idea further grew after meeting and hearing Jeremy Cowart speak during Creative Live’s Photo Week in September. His work is amazing, and his experimental nature inspired me to just jump in and start my idea: Tree Women – and did a first try with my daughter last month.

When I posted to my friends on Facebook asking for volunteer models and help with the project, I was so encouraged. Not only did I get volunteer models, a fellow photographer friend offered to assist. The morning of our photo session, it was super windy – like storm warning the night before windy. It was so gusty, that I almost cancelled for fear that we’d be in danger, but my model/friend Tasha was sure it would be okay.

And, boy was I glad we decided to go for it. Literally, the clouds parted and the sunshine came out toward the end of our session. It was beautiful!

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Jump!
Did I mention how great Tasha was for being willing to climb and jump from the tree?!
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Huge thank you to Tasha and Chris!

p.s. Check out Chris’ photography too!