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!