I don't usually repeat myself on The Bubble Joy but the last post about Ellen struck a deep chord. In the nearly four years that I've been blogging consistently, this essay was by far the most read and most widely-shared. By my metrics, Ellen went viral.
So I thought I'd share some behind-the-scenes moments. These are snaps caught with my iPhone.
Also, to be honest, I hope to embolden you readers to nominate yourselves or someone you admire for a blog post and photo shoot. You do not need to be in the Milwaukee area. I will travel! (You can email me privately by clicking here.)
Here is How the Process Works:
I find a subject, preferably a woman, preferably over forty, who's spunky, who isn't camera-shy, who has a story to tell, who is willing to try something new, to take a risk, to trust me. Basically I'm looking for a badass. And before you click away because you do not refer to yourself or anyone you know by that name, please hold on a moment. Many women who have lived a long life are, by default, badasses. It comes with the territory. Sometimes, they don't realize it until I point it out. Sometimes a badass doesn't know she's a badass until she's in front of the camera.
After I find the elusive 40+ badass, we get together and talk talk talk. I ask questions about her life, her history, special objects from her past. The most important question I ask is "how do you envision this photo shoot?" This approach was suggested to me a couple years ago by Ann Barter, the baddest badass on Peaks Island, Maine. Ann and I had many adventures together in college, and she knows first-hand that I'm pushy. Her advice to me on this project was this: "Let the subjects determine the arc of the story. If you get them on board, they're more likely to show up."
Then I bring in Renn. She is a professional photographer here in Milwaukee. We fit together like hand and glove. I'm always crazy over-the-top with ideas for props/lighting/wardrobe/art direction. Renn reminds me that we have no budget and no crew, other than my poor husband and sometimes an unsuspecting child. I ignore her.
Last is location. Again, with no budget, this requires creativity and connections. (If you have access to a heated dairy barn and a large baby pool, email me!)
The actual photo shoot is always a total hoot. It is fast-paced, filled with laughs, unforeseen hiccups, and usually enhanced by some delicious homemade snacks and a bottle of wine. For this shoot, my daughter-in-law Jane did the hair and make-up. Ellen wasn't one bit worried.
Not every shot works out. When I wrapped Ellen in this sleeping bag, I was hoping for a ball gown effect. We tried on blue, red, and orange sleeping bags and decided the orange was the best. She almost passed out from the heat and in the end, I think she looks more like an older, happier Lizzie Borden. Oh well.
This is what Ellen said after the photo shoot: "I loved the experience, your woods, Jane, Renn. The best part was seeing you and Gary working seamlessly together. You should run a marriage course. Cooperation 101. I mean that."
Yes, I couldn't pull off any of this without Gary. He once joked that with me, his acquiescence rate is nearly 100%. But he enjoys the creative process. He likes working with his hands. And he is very excited to see me trying to become my own version of a badass.
So! Do you have a smidge of badassery in your DNA? Email me! Or if you prefer reading about older women with axes, subscribe to my popular newsletter below. It comes out every other Friday and it will always contain something that surprises you and something that makes you smile: