spending time with sue

I have two very clear ways that I react to the “you need to check this out” recommendation.

One is a very independent and (yes) stubborn reaction of not wanting to get interested in what is cool to everyone else or what someone tells me I should see or go to or buy. I often have this reaction to a shared YouTube video (which I usually love once I actually watch it) or with a color/pattern that is being hailed as “don’t go outside wearing anything else” popular for whatever season is coming up.

The second way I react it to dive in with abandon, trusting the advice and soon unable to remember when I didn’t know about _______.

This year I had the great fortune to work with the photographer Caroline White who told me about a glamour and portrait photographer named Sue Bryce. After my session, I raced to check out Sue’s work because I was absolutely blown away by Caroline’s creations so, if she was a fan, I knew I was going to love it as well.

And I did, but in way that was more wistful and removed. It felt separate from me, these beautiful images from far away (literally, since Sue is based in Sydney).  I bookmarked some of the posts for future inspiration and made a note in my inspiration doc.

Then I discovered that Sue was teaching on CreativeLive.com. It’s a live, online classroom for photographers. Last week Sue was on for the week- teaching posing, editing, retouching, and business strategy. Since it streams live for free, I tried to catch bits and pieces here and there. And it was incredible. Not only the skill and knowledge, but for the way Sue cares so deeply about her artform. Near the end of the final day she was talking to the 6 or so people who had won free in-studio attendance for the workshop. She actually said that she cannot handle all of the people who want to shoot with her so one of main reasons she has started teaching is to share her experiences with other photographers in the hopes that they will jump in and help. Those aren’t her exact words but hopefully the point comes through.

She even issued a challenge to other photographers to come and take her business, to step up and overtake her. She genuinely feels that the type of work she is able to do changes lives and she is only one woman doing it so she constantly turns down dozens and dozens of people a week (maybe even a day) because she cannot physically take that many pictures and travel everywhere her presence is requested.

This got me thinking, and not only about REALLY REALLY wanting to shoot with Sue now (because I have that stubborn streak in this way too- I believe I can accomplish anything or make it happen so if someone says it’s not possible, then I want it even more) but about how I can up my give. How I can share more with other artists and with the world. There are organizations like ArtStart and WriteGirl, so that’s maybe a start. But how can I do more? Can I find a way to start producing more content (my own and that of others)? Can I get braver about finding mentors while perhaps even being a mentee? How can I open up my career in the way that Sue does?

It’s different for actors (and writers and producers…) because I think we have this idea that we have to hold onto knowledge or learned skills or fancy tricks that make us desirable. We think that if we share our “how” we will loose our cache, our specialness and then someone else will get our jobs, our gigs, the things that are ours. But I also think that, as with glamour photography, there is probably more than enough theatre, film, and TV/new media projects for us all. Yes, it might involve making our own or really getting creative or putting ourselves on the line- but that’s likely what Sue did at first. I imagine people thought she was crazy to want to take pictures of women all glammed up. But it’s more than that, it’s about exposing the true beauty in these women. It’s about sharing the parts we normally hide. Wow, it’s closer to what we do in the entertainment industry than I thought.

My head is still swirling from spending this week with Sue, and I am sure there are lessons I’ve get to fully absorb, but that’s the amazing think about inspiration- it comes in waves. It’s about seeing the beauty in everything and finding a way to capture and share that work with the world. Kind of a wonderful thing.

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