Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas at Ben's Tune Up


It’s one of those joyous times when families come together to affirm their love and connection to one another. In theory.

“This is the best way to spend Christmas.” The stranger said to me as we warmed our hands around Ben’s Tuneup’s outdoor fire pit on a chilly Christmas night. “Way better than family.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-family. In fact, I love my family, and I miss them dearly. But they are on the other side of the country. I’ll be seeing them in February and we will love and connect to each other then. This Christmas, I sat with a motley crew of orphans, enjoying cheer and camaraderie. I provided the camera part.

The stranger and his friend looked like hard working men. Travelers for a living. Some might say they call a truck, home. Some past of which I know not put them in Asheville on Christmas night, gathering around the fire pit. Celebrating the holiday with beers, cigarettes and a gathering of orphaned Ashevillians.

“It’s as if we are two ships passing in the night,” I managed the cliche although I wasn’t really in a talking mood. 

“Exactly!” the man agreed.

It made me think about my travel experiences, and I remembered the joy of connecting with strangers while traveling. It’s something that happens on the road and not so much when you are stationed somewhere. I want to feel that feeling again. I want to travel again, and meet people, and find their stories and document them. The man was feeling it and it made my feelings intensify. 

That long lonesome longing for existential meaning that doesn’t come from any kind of stable anything.

I was in stealth photographer mode that night. Enjoying the smallness of my new mirrorless camera. Figuring out the settings, and enjoying the light feeling of it. Taking candid pictures while pretending I was not shooting people, but only all the pretty lights. (Taking pictures of the pretty lights too.)

There are a few of ways of approaching shooting people this way. In one, they all know they are being photographed and they pose and fake a plastic smile. That’s what you usually see on Facebook, right? Then there is the candid, where you capture people doing what they do and kind of hope they don’t notice. That kind of photography is something I love, and when I tell you why you will know the dark side of me. 

It feels bad to me. There is a kind of rush inside, like I’m doing something bad. Bad like smoking a cigarette, or stealing candy as a kid. (Yeah, got caught shoplifting as a kid too, and that cured me of the stealing thing.)

I mean, I do this photography stuff for a living, but when I’m being paid to spy on people, they are well aware of it and I have artistic license to spy on them all day long. But then there is this other thing, which many people find annoying. I’ve learned that people don’t really like having the camera aimed at them. And yet I do it anyway. I can’t help myself, it actually gives me a thrill. 

Some of the best photography in the world was taken this way. Often with a 300mm lens from the other side of the street. At least me and my camera are smack in the center of things and more than a little noticeable. My subjects are well aware of what I’m doing. I’m only pretending that they don’t see me.

Like the cat who hides in the box with his claws hanging out…

I would love to know what stories these pictures tell in your mind. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Hoping you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season full of joy and connection.

Catherine Vibert
Photographer. Storyteller.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Personal Branding Part II — Will it Blend?

So anyway, where were we? Oh yes, we were talking about Personal Branding.

I’ve been thinking for some time now. Percolating, you know? It’s Christmas Eve and I finally have some time off to write down my thoughts. Thinking about 2015 and all it will bring, and where I am going with my photography business. This blog is a little place for me to write and think out loud. To wax poetic or philosophical, or talk about whatever, psychology, gardening, photography. Or, you know, cats. 

I don’t do well with limitations. Well, that’s not exactly true, I actually like structures in which to create. I think it enhances the creative process to have a few rules here and there. Like in poetry and verse, or harmonious music. And then it’s super fun to smash the rules up now and then. Like, say, Shoenberg. Mash and smash and mix everything up and turn it on its head. Put it into the creative Nutribullet making something completely original out of the sum of broken pieces.

“They won’t take you seriously.” The life coach said to me when I explained I am trying to build my boudoir photography business while simultaneously pursuing my commercial photography business. 

These two genres of photography are apparently not two worlds that coexist well together. I’ve heard it from two different mentors of mine now. 

Can it be that this has supercharged me to try prove them wrong? 

To be honest, typical body-objectifying boudoir photography bores me. 

I mean, sure, I can put you in extremely uncomfortable yet provocative and sexy poses, light and shoot you like a high fashion model and photoshop the living hell out of you. We’d come up with awesome sauce, magazine-worthy images that will make people’s tongues wag. While I admire looking at work like that, and I even enjoy doing that kind of photography, I find it…I don’t know…just kind of, well, shallow?

Yeah. I know you agree. 

And then there’s the fact that I feel like a shyster trying to convince people to part with their money in order to do it. Rattling off the big boudoir cliché sales pitch about how the experience will transform you.

Come on people, this is photography, not enlightenment (or plastic surgery). We all know this.

And while some people become addicted to stripping for the camera,  you might find that you actually hate it, and then you’d be really mad at me for my sales pitch, wouldn’t you?

In order to make it more interesting for myself, I have a different approach. Typically, a boudoir session is associated with photographing women’s body parts. But I am about relationship. Interaction between me and my subjects is what I love the most about photographing people. I coax out your personality by listening and being engaged, and I photograph you.

My experience is that many women who are not models get incredibly bashful when in the vulnerable position of being half naked in front of the lens. They often get shy and try to hide.

I will find a way to see you, the Victorious, the Valiant.  There is usually a whole lot of laughter involved. 

Because I’m a story teller, in front of my lens, you, are the story being told. 

Here comes the is the mashup part. 

Truth. It’s easier to sell photography to professionals than it is to consumers. Photography that tells your story, what you do, how you work, what you work on, what you love, is necessary. Professional and documentary lifestyle photography, specially cropped to fit your social media banners and other online and print needs — it’s vital to your business.

Here’s how I would pitch it:

I tell visual stories that you will use to promote yourself and your business anywhere dynamic imagery that tells your story is needed. High impact head shot portraits included! (That guy on the right, he's a life coach and a super duper nice guy. I tried to capture his intelligent niceness, did I succeed?) 

don’t need to convince or strong-arm anyone to do this kind of thing because the need for this is a no-brainer. Everyone selling anything needs this. Am I right or am I right? 

Add to the images an in depth interview and a feature on my blog that you can link to and point editors to. Oh, I almost forgot, if you need one I can make you a photo rich sleek and modern website design. Yeah, I do that too. 

You hire me for the day or for parts of a day. I coax you forth and tell your story in images and words — whether in lingerie, covered in clay, or working the crowd in a three piece suit. 

This professional lifestyle and personal branding genre actually has a marketable value that can be fully written-off as a business expense.


So what is my personal brand? The overall umbrella that encompasses all I do, and allows me to be who I really am.

I am the revealer. I am here to expose you. Mwuhahahahaha!

How that will be done and how much will be revealed? That is up to you.

So this mashup — to me it sounds good in theory, but, will it blend?

Catherine Vibert

Thank you for indulging my self indulgent ramblings in which I try to figure out who I am. My storytelling blog in which I will focus on others is going live in a few days and when it does I will link to it here. Merry Christmas!! I hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Self Examination — Thoughts on Personal Branding


What traps me?

Am I a creative force? A Renaissance Woman? A.D.D.? A cataclysmic clash of fractillian ideas that seem to be most active when I am sitting quietly with a cat on my lap, unable to access any way to write them down so they may find a way into fruition by at least being captured long enough to remember a tiny hair of the original splendor. 

Ah sigh…

To be afflicted by fear of judgement. 

To have been judged and felt the sting.

To have withdrawn into an interior walled in universe in which my only escape is through the lens of a camera, until it isn’t anymore. Until the shallow depths of unrelenting ideas seethe and brew until they vaporize into steam and fade into the distance. Like a summer rain on the heated asphalt.

To crave to survive and thrive from some kind of order and sense made of steam and smoke rising from smoldering flames of long ago. Trying to derive passion from a sea of varied interests, seemingly conflicting, if I could only tie them all together and float to an island of cohesion.

To remember essences of former me’s. The stage diva, the troublemaker, temptress, inflated ego, victimized drama queen, hopeless romantic, family glue, divider, uniter, driven perfectionist, sniveling in envy and jealous introversion coupled with authoritarian speech that sounds like a leader, and everyone is confused when they don’t get there, no one more than me…

I don’t want those me’s anymore. They do not amuse…

But somehow I got creative juice from those manifestations. Juice that seemed like a torrent a few years ago, and now feels like trying to drink water from a trickle. I'm not worried about them judging me. It's me who sits in judgement and stops me from tasting the water.

I have been cut off from my source. 

This is what it is like inside my head these days. The nutshell version.

“Have self compassion,” they say.

Does that mean one should not be honest with themselves? Is the self compassion movement simply another example of whitewashing ourselves to refuse, as is the norm in society, to truly examine oneself?

Or is that just an excuse for allowing an inner terrorist to threaten me with the truth that I am not always the angel of light in this world. Putting it mildly. But who, really, is? Aren’t we really a society of narcissists refusing to look at our effect on the world and on others?

And in suppressing that truth with sugar coated numbness, we propel shadow monsters to squeeze forth from the woodwork, wielding horror and psychopathic ugliness upon society. We sugar coat everyone else too. No, it is not, ‘all good’. There are people out there that are not ‘all good’. Am I one of those people? Eeeeeck!

Rip the shadow from my feet. Don’t look within and notice how much of that is me, hating, feeling envy, jealousy, etc. Just don’t go there. Hide it if I see it in myself. Sugar coat it. Squish it into a black tar ball in my inner right brain, where it might provide food for my creative expression. Or it might kill my creative supply off completely. Or erupt publicly somehow. 

Just pretend. Just keep always pretending.

No. That is not the answer. Sew the shadow back on and take a good look at it. Examine. Examine. Sew the parts together. I am not a single thing, I am a patchwork quilt made with blood and guts, fear and terror, talent and luck, wrinkles, age spots, menopause… I have a point of view that is only mine. I do not. fit. in. And neither does anyone else.

So what is my personal brand? The one I want the world to see, the creative force that isn't a puff of steam?

To be continued…

Monday, August 25, 2014

Want Ad: Wound to Your Knife

Want Ad:

Nutcracker Female Seeking Single White Male:

Only pretty faces need apply. Must think of self as akin to Jesus, walks on water, could be a pillar in the community, well respected, stands out in the crowd. exhibits a stroke of genius, might be erudite, a fount of knowledge. Once involved, must make diminishing comments about everyone, be hyper-evolved and above the crowd, employ vulgar honesty with an intent to reduce trust, be self effacing for effect, reveal self loathing tendencies, must not feel empathy or acknowledge anyone else’s emotions, be cruel with belittling comments but sweet so no one is really sure. Must instill fear and use passive aggressive, button pushing, tactics to elicit others to express the seething undercurrent of rage you feel. Must act oblivious to own deleterious effects.


I don’t want to be hard on myself, but I feel the need to process and reprocess here, now that I am seeing this little drama for it’s flip side, which is me. And perhaps I’ve been indulging a victim mentality about my tendency to attract crazy people into my life — my own inverted narcissism, which has kept me a little blind over the years. So I’ve read and read and read over the last few weeks, about narcissism, borderline, and bipolar disorders (all are represented in my relationship history), and I have come to one conclusion, I need to heal whatever it is in me that wants that guy. Not just wants him, craves him like a drug. If there is truly a deep chasm of a void in me that is so desperate to be filled, why do I keep trying to fill it with poison? 

Lately, I’ve been wondering why my choices in relationship almost always are that guy. I do see my dad in there, and I know that’s a hot potato. What it comes down to, I’m a rescuer. Not really, because I’ve never rescued anyone or anything and would do far better to rescue myself than to keep trying to rescue people who find rescuer types to be the wound for their knife, so to speak. But I see people that seem so great on the outside, but seem to need some kind of healing, and I am drawn in like a moth to flame. I hid it well over the last 6 years living way out in the middle of nowhere and dealing mainly with my dad. It helped me quite a bit, to live with my dad and see his issues for what they were, him, not me. And I learned to deal with him when he had a cruel or abusive streak, I would just get up and walk out of the room. So that helped.  

Imagine my surprise when the first guy I dated after all those years, turned out to be imbued with the very same flavors! And of course I saw it in the first few minutes of talking, we always see it… it’s that we see it, and although we don’t like it, we somehow think we can fix it, and we want to try. No, want is the wrong word, we feel utterly compelled to try. While normal, healthy individuals are walking away in the other direction, we are inviting these nuts into our lives and our homes.

And then we wonder why?

If you see yourself in this, please read this incredible article by Shari Shrieber, and remember, it’s time to focus all your nut cracking and empathic healing skills on YOU.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Things He Said

from desert flight
he descended upon her nest
on a Taurus moonlit night,
dragging his broken, golden wings behind,
warning he may not stay long
yet engulfing every moment
awake and asleep, with his presence.

he said she was a stepping stone
and so he stepped on her threshold

she said she didn’t really mind
(except she did sort of mind )
but looked for a deeper voice
she caught a glimpse of in a dream…

and she was hungry
his lips were sweet,
a flavor she had known

It was nectar
to be near him.

something told her to let him stay
and he stayed
though he said he didn’t know why…
and she offered him water
and he drank and drank and drank

and they would laugh, and play, and he flooded her with attention 

and as soon as she felt in love

he said he felt nothing


no thing at all

she dreamed of poison snakes in the gemini moon...

the surface is hard
but surface cracks
the stepping breaks the stones
under the stones is the water
he longed for water
she let him drink

as she longed for water
so drank his tears
listening, patiently
to long dead stories that filled the air
with sound and sorrow
and longing

she touched his scaly wings
his steel clad armor skin
and tried to reach inside
feeling moments of melted metal
she sang to break the barriers
to feel the soft inside spaces
and heal the broken pieces
or at least try to soften the edges.

He drank with desert thirst,
offering hollow words to her hope
that almost, maybe, he might want her
if she just kept offering her tenderness...

he wondered why he stayed,
arguing that it was


for him

that their arrangement 
was simply a business arrangement
and needs should be negotiated

except they never were discussed

and she excused it.
wrote it off,
because who was she
to have needs that mattered?

and his kisses felt guarded
unless she worked to open them
to soften them
as though afraid to push open
the gates he held so closed

and it drew her in, 
that he was so willing to receive

...the allure of healing, 
(with a sound like being sucked into the void)
seduced her into a twisted hall of mirrors.

and he said he didn’t find her beautiful
while he raved about women all around him 
who wanted him, or (he imagined) wanted to taste him,
women who appeared and circled and reappeared
and wrapped themselves around his world,

while he said he longed for a stepford wife
that had all the inner qualities he found in her
and she would never have the outer qualities
he ordered from the menu
and was confused because she wasn’t that
(because he was supposed to be omnipotent)

she wasn’t there for that character  
she was there for the water she dreamed of
behind the dam of his devices,
and patience began to grow wings
his stream of unconsciousness
denting her armor
her body aching in pain
from his boots…and she questioned her willingness 
to receive the mental blows
while she longed to reach the shores
of the deeper waters

she questioned his intentions
as they walked and mingled, her floating on his arm
the world saw her beauty
and he saw glimpses in their eyes,
she could see him seeing them seeing
what he wouldn’t see

and he defended, deflected, mirrored her weaknesses
got mean on a dime
pushed her buttons on purpose
and attempted to undermine her insights

they slept,
(wrapped up and entwined)
in a sea of self doubt
she dreamed... 

of wasps destroying trees
of bees threatening to swarm
of trying to garden in a vast wasteland...

In the cancer moon’s light 
she knew that he had to step 
on his own stepping stones
to see above the mask
break the armor
that kept him blind

only then
could he see her beauty
hear her insights
touch her with longing fingers
to find the waters
inside of himself
to offer nectar
to their union

she knew
he would need to protect
and give back what he was drinking
or she would fix his wings 
with the bloody needle of his own shadow,

the one he couldn't see
the one he tried to make hers,

and she would send him flying
into the lonely desert
of his superficial existence.

before the roar of the Leo moon, 
a hurricane smashed the glass
in the hall of mirrors.
where she saw the truth lying in the shards,
pieces of her scattered on the ground 
in a heap.
A glimmer of reality echoed in blue,

fogs of awakening...

there would be no great healing,
that was a mirror of her narcissistic hope...
she had simply been Carrion food,
picked apart methodically, 
(as a raptor knows the most delectable parts),

Be gone! she said as she released him to the sky,
his great dark wingspan casting shadows over the nest,
silhouetted as they ascended
and disappeared into the morning.