The Pursuit of a Creator

Inspiration

As I was walking home from shooting another concert around the backdrop of New York City skyscrapers who’s lights had been turned out for the night, I couldn’t help but feel how tired I was. Like physically feel the exhaustion overwhelm me to my toes. I had back-to-back days of shooting and not enough sleep, and I felt the weight in my feet with every step that I dragged myself toward the late night–or early morning, depending on your perspective–subway, massive camera bag in tow.

“Gaby, why do you do this to yourself?” my brain blurted out melodramatically amongst the few taxicabs rushing by to pick up any stray partiers trying to get home. I paused for a second to think about that while I waited for the walk sign at a stoplight on 9th Avenue and 57th Street. Why the heck do I do this? And that’s when the answer occurred to me, plain as day and more clearly than ever before.

It’s true, I’m tired and worn out constantly. My friends joke about how I never sleep, how I’m a workaholic and never learned the meaning of rest or a work-life balance. They’re right. I am working myself ragged. I’m so worn out at night that I collapse into bed because I’ve been giving my all every day, while simultaneously creating the most I ever have in my entire life. I’m using my creativity in ways a younger me would have only dreamed of. I’m freaking fatigued and kind of proud of it.

Here’s why: It’s because I love what I do more than I hate being tired. I love the act of creating, designing, constructing, discovering, imagining, actualizing, making art. I do it all day long and I never get bored of it. Being creative puts me in a total flow state, and when I’m in that zone, I don’t even feel worn down. Being locked in on my craft gives me an outpouring of energy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It feels like an avalanche of excitement and energy flowing through my veins, a feeling that I cannot explain or replicate. This is the pursuit of a creator.

Which brings me to my second point: I’m trying to be the best the fastest. Leveling up requires sacrifice, and work, and heaps of hustle every day even when you’re running on four hours of sleep, your inbox is overflowing and everything is getting a little overwhelming. It requires persistence and dedication, and those are the deciding moments where you either give in and give up, or buckle down and get back to work. There’s a level of mental fortitude you have to possess to keep at it, and most people don’t get it or want it. But the ones that do, man, they’re the change makers. They leave the comfort zone seeking growth, with an intoxicating hunger for improvement, for progress, to be the best.

Why am I even talking about this? I guess it’s just to say that if you, too, have a deep, deafening passion and are trying to get great at something, if you love something so much that you’re willing to work on it indefinitely, if you’re shooting for a thing that will take every once of your energy, this is just your reminder that you got this, that you made it this far, that you’re right where you’re supposed to be. Keep at it, and hustle the hell out of life to get where you’re going.

I’m striving for greatness, and tonight that looks like dragging myself onto the subway, twisting the key into the narrow door of my apartment, crashing into my blanketed bed. And when I wake up in the morning, guess what I’ll be doing? You guessed it, getting right back at it, damnit.

Which brings me to my final secret, the most important one of all and the one we always seem to forget: We have a finite amount of time. Whatever you do, use your time wisely. Feel that heartbeat in your chest right now? It’s thumping away even as you read this, as you decide what to make of your gifts and talents. To my doers and dreamers, do me a favor and use the energy and intensity that you have. Use it all and as much as you can, as often as you can. Don’t let it go to waste. I know I sure as hell won’t.

Pixinity NYC Pop Up Photoshoot

Inspiration

It’s not a regular pop-up shop where you snap a photo for The Gram and leave. This is an entire art installation with a heartfelt meaning. The artist, Tianyu Qiu, decided to make his own pop up and partner with Autism Speaks. His sister was diagnosed with autism, and they use computers and iconographic symbols to communicate over verbal communication. He wanted to create a world where anyone could come interact with the art in an accessible way. I loved that concept, so I stopped by this week to check out Pixinity!

It starts out with a wall of shades of pink–my favorite. They told us that pink is the symbol for hope, so there’s a thread of pink throughout the entire show.

Then we moved on to the hallway of neon that transported us out of 2019 and into the digital, pixelated world full of pixelated people, food, and cities!

The blue room is filled with foam pixels for you to play around with and emojis with different expressions in pixel form. It kind of feels like you’re walking around a live version of Mario Bros, which was awesome.

I won’t give all the surprises away, but let’s just say there are some blacklight rooms that are very trippy and an infinity mirror you could stare at all day long (we did). What I loved about this pop-up is that it wasn’t just about photos. You could tell the artist spent a lot of time thinking of ways to make it interactive and interesting for the audience, and created a safe space where everyone was free to play in their own way.

This room, unsurprisingly, was my favorite. It was all about sending a love letter and there were pink paper airplanes flying around the room and this pixelated heart with wings. Not to mention the massive pink ballpit. This always brings out my inner child, and I had fun swimming around in a pixelated pink ocean!

The whole experience is filled with vibrant colors that correspond to different themes in the rooms. Here are a few other favorite shots, including one I took of the creator of the project, Tianyu. We had fun playing for a few hours and letting our inner child run around!

The Pink Ballpit!

This was honestly my favorite part of the entire shoot. It was just so pink. Aka my favorite. If you haven’t gone yet, definitely check Pixinity out this fall before it’s gone. I was really hyped to support a pop-up that had a deeper meaning and was partnering for an awesome cause.

If you like these photos, make sure to have a look at my website and follow me on Instagram! Feel free to drop me an email at gdeimz@gmail.com for any shoot requests, questions, or just to chat! If you’re in the NYC area, let’s grab coffee and talk lenses and shoot locations 🙂

Best Graffiti Walls in NYC to Photograph

Inspiration, photography tips

When my cousin asked me if I’d shoot some fun engagement photos for her and her fiancee, I was immediately excited. They’re a super fun couple who hate the traditional cheesy engagement shots, so I knew our shoot would be fun and totally out of the box–something I’m always down to try with photography.

We immediately started scouring Instagram for the best spots in NYC with the coolest graffiti. I’d walked by a lot of cool spots in passing, but I had never really put together a definitive list on the best spots to keep track of. So, after we ran around shooting all day–and I do mean the entire day–we had tons of good spots that I would recommend for you guys to try if you’re looking for good shooting spots. Here they are:

  1. Freeman Alley

This spot was perfect for them because they don’t love having to take pictures while an audience of people watches. Freeman Alley is pretty hard to find if you don’t know that it’s there, so there’s never a ton of people hanging around, which makes pictures easier. The graffiti in the alley is always changing, but theres a diverse selection to choose from. Also, while you’re there, grabbing a bite at Freeman’s is never a bad idea!

2. Houston Bowery Mural

This is one of the more known spots downtown, but that doesn’t make it any less photogenic! The mural gets changed every few months, so there’s always something new to shoot with. Queen Andrea is the most recent artists selected to decorate the wall, and it’s filled with vibrant colors and a massive “Believe” script over the top. It’s massive, so you’ll have plenty of room to get your shots for The ‘Gram. Just be careful though, because it’s right next to the busy street.

3. NOMO SOHO Graffiti Wall

We saw this wall in our inspiration pics, but didn’t know exactly where it was, so it was a huge surprise as we were strolling down Crosby Street and came across this piece and the ivy archway. It’s definitely a great spot for pictures, and the pastel tones on the brick come across beautifully in camera. Just note that this is an entrance to a hotel, so people will probably be walking back and forth, but don’t let that stop you from getting your shot!

4. Dumbo Love Wall

I told you we went everywhere–we even made it to Brooklyn before the sun set! If you’ve walked around NYC, chances are you’ve probably seen some heart murals. Those belong to JGoldcrown, a British graffiti artist based in NY and LA. We shot at the Dumbo one, but he has murals up in Freeman Alley, Mott Street, St. Marks, and Williamsburg. This is such an iconic NYC graffiti stop, and I think it’s a must for your graffiti photo list.

5. Wandering!

My last tip for you: wander around. Here’s just a few other places we went that ended up having super cool or cute graffiti. The coolest part about NYC is that it’s constantly changing, and a piece you love might be replaced next week with a totally new one. Definitely pick out your spots, but make sure you plan in some time to wander around and see what you can find in the city. If you do happen to stumble onto some great spots, let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

Special thanks to A and Ty for such a fun day in NYC and trusting me with their pictures. And if you like these, make sure to have a look at my website and follow me on Instagram! Feel free to drop me an email at gdeimz@gmail.com for any shoot requests, questions, or just to chat! If you’re in the NYC area, let’s grab coffee and talk lenses and shoot locations 🙂

UES. Ice Cream Photoshoot

Inspiration

One of my favorite things to do in NYC is bring my camera to places that have cute backdrops and cause a huge scene doing a mini photoshoot in a public place with lots of people staring at us.

Okay, I’m joking, but seriously, sometimes restaurants, graffiti walls, and NYC popups are too cute to just snap a pic with my iPhone. So I get all dressed up, trudge to the location in heels, bring my wide lens and a flash, and just have a full-on photoshoot wherever we are. Pro tip: You can’t be embarrassed by this in NYC. Everyone is doing mini photoshoots for The Gram, so I just go with it and act like it’s perfectly natural to be staging a shoot in whatever public place we’re at that day.

A few faves: The Pint Shop. It’s a pink paradise with larger than life pints of ice cream and sprinkles. The Gucci photo pop up. It’s a room filled with hundreds of old photographs and Polaroids. And most recently, UES. ice cream shop, well, in the Upper East Side. This place has a twist, though. You have to say a codeword to the shop manager, and suddenly the wall of hundreds of pints of ice cream opens to reveal a secret door that leads you into a hidden speakeasy in the back!

WHAT! Pretty sweet, huh?! When my friend told me about it, I was excited to go and check it out, but I knew that I wanted a cute photo in front of that adorable ice cream wall, so we rounded up a few girlfriends and met outside the shop to get our ice cream and drink on.

When we got there, we realized that the shop was tiny, and only about 4-5 people can fit in there at a time. It was a tight squeeze, but we managed to get a cute waffle cone with sprinkles and snap some fun shots (with strangers onlooking, but you can’t be bothered by that in NYC) before saying the secret phrase: “I’d like to volunteer for your storage room.”

Then suddenly, an attendant whisked us to the back, revealing the speakeasy! We spent the rest of the evening in ice cream bliss, enjoying our sweets, ice cream flavored drinks, and the excitement of the hidden secrecy of the place. If you’re in NYC, it’s definitely worth a visit for the delicious ice cream and drinks in the back.

Check out some of the photos we took below:

Having a Career You Love

Inspiration

My parents wanted me to have a practical career. Something stable, with normal business hours and a steady salary. And then when I was twelve, my mom handed me a camera to take to a concert, and that concept went promptly out the window. Luckily for me, throughout high school and college, my parents realized that my passion for image making wasn’t going anywhere, and they were not only supportive but insanely helpful in making sure I had opportunities to develop and cultivate my craft. They helped me get my first photography internship, and agreed that I should study photography in college. 

Fast forward five years and I’m living the dream in Manhattan. And by “living the dream” I mean I work three part time photography jobs, often work nights and weekends, and haven’t slept since February. But guess what? I love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s the most rewarding career I could have imagined for myself.

I’ll be honest: having a career you love is hard. You’re 100% invested. You live and breathe it every day. You wake up thinking about it and answer those last few emails before bed at the end of the day. It’s not going to be the easy route, because the hustle is just as important as the passion. That whole “Get a job you love and you won’t work a day in your life” phrase is quite honestly garbage. I have to work hard day in and day out to further my career, and all the weight and responsibility of that is solely on my shoulders. It’s intimidating, but that makes it even more rewarding when there are successes. 

If you are ready for a challenge, if you’re ready to get to work, if the unpredictability excites you, then take the leap and go for it. Lately my office has been in a Chicago airport, the Rocky Mountains, a coffeeshop in Manhattan, a farm in Missouri, and who knows where else in the world I might be. There’s not a lot of stability, and there are no guarantees, but it’s what I love. It takes a lot of work and a lot more self discipline, but the challenge is part of the excitement. So get out there and make that dream a reality. I promise it will be worth it.

I Like Photography Because It’s Perfection

Inspiration

In a boundless world full of life and people and action and movement happening in an endless constant every instant, my task feels simple: fill a 2 x 3 rectangular frame, and capture. It’s entirely my choice what to fill it with, and the possibilities are delightfully endless. You can add–or subtract–anything your heart desires. Color. Contrast. Intense, sharp drama. Sparkle. Beauty. Excitement. Sweet, nuanced emotion.

When you’re holding the camera, you’re in charge, which means you have complete control of the orthogonally shaped box where 22.3 Megapixels will be swiftly preserved in multitudinous quantities. I painstakingly pick what’s special and what sits inside my picture. I create the rules. I choose the light, the tone, the angles and the presence or absence of any and all form. Then, later, I alter and meddle until it’s exactly what I want, until it’s precisely how I envisioned it in my head. It can be an exhaustive undertaking.

I’ve done it for so long that it’s now familiar on an instinctual level; I know how I prefer the smallest details in minute ways I could never verbally convey. It’s ambling into a room and surveying the light like it’s a tangible object. It’s immediate, automatic previsualization for composition and the slight, specific angles I hold the camera, in a manner that doesn’t even always make sense to me–but sometimes you just know, and it just feels right. It’s the way I can work my Canon with my eyes closed (and, once, inebriated, but I’ll save that story for later).

I drag the bundle of pixels into Photoshop and begin my surgery. Observe the mess and mayhem. Begin work. Spot remove the imperfections. Adjust the color balance, smooth things out. Scrutinize. Carve out the important pieces; let the rest melt away. Make it clean. Precise. Intentional.

I find an absolute perfectness in the chaos of it all: the way the human face and figure will never be exactly symmetrical. How ordinary light can create enchanting and extraordinary photographs. The way nothing can be replicated ever again. The feeling you get when all the elements come together faultlessly and are captured exactly as you envisioned.

The odds of getting a flawless, immaculate shot are almost none, and yet I still wake up every day in search of another, no matter how elusive. It’s an art form of creation not quite like anything else, and it’s become a part of who I am. And for a girl in a constant strive for perfection, sometimes, during brief moments of magic, she achieves it, and contained within the lines, according to her, is something beautiful. Something perfect.

Moving To NYC

Inspiration

I always had a feeling that I didn’t quite fit in, in Callaway County, MO, Population 44,000, but it started to become extra obvious around my preteen years. While other girls were decorating their rooms with butterflies and stars, I filled canvases with skyscrapers and pictures of the Eiffel and the Arc de Triomph. I asked my parents for supplies to learn knitting and screen printing and video editing and painting, and once they put the camera in my hand, it never left. 

My mom had given it to me to take pictures at a concert, but while I was waiting in line, I saw a lady wearing a gorgeous cream-colored sun hat with colorful beads on the rim, just barely covering her eyes, and I took a picture of her face. When I showed my mom, she scolded me, saying, “Gaby, stop taking pictures of strangers!” She didn’t understand yet, but I did. Even then, I knew I wanted to capture people, to make them timeless, to show the beauty in life, to show the essence of being human. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in college, when I was told the word for what I was creating: portraits. 

Some kids ask for a car on their 16th birthday. I asked to take a trip to New York City. I stepped onto the concrete playground and fell in love. I walked around Manhattan with wonder and Central Park in awe. It was even better than I’d hoped. I knew I wanted to live there. And now, somehow, my dream is finally coming true. Today is the day. My plane leaves Lambert in an hour. But it’s still pretty scary. I just want to find a place to call home in the creative world where I know I belong, because, for my artistic side, that place was never Missouri.

I cant wait for the adventures, the art, the creating and hating and loving and funny moments and small still silences and the crazy bustling streets and coffeeshops and the overwhelming sense of movement and life and progression and finding yourself and getting lost on the way and everything in between. A city I love, a craft I love, and time. Fingers crossed. 

As I paid for my one-way ticket to LaGuardia airport, I had to chuckle, because it asked, “Business or Personal?” It’s both.

Finding Inspiration In New Places

Inspiration

I’ve been in London almost a month, and I’ve barely unpacked my camera. I’ve settled into my flat, successfully navigated the Underground to make it to my fashion photography courses, and even managed to make some friends and go out with them. But I haven’t been taking any photos.

At first, I was getting a bit exasperated with myself. I’m a photographer in London and I can’t find anything to photograph? What’s wrong with me? But sometimes when you are in a brand new place, it can be overwhelming. I haven’t had any big ideas for conceptual shoots yet, and at first, that freaked me out. I wondered, where had the inspiration gone?

It’s not that I wasn’t interested or inspired; actually, it was quite the opposite. I’ve been going to art galleries–Tate Modern, The Royal Academy, Bjork Digital at Sommerset House. I was being inspired, I was just overwhelmed. Sometimes your headspace can get so full of absorbing what’s around you or being busy with routine tasks that it can feel like there isn’t any room for creativity or inspiration.

I often find that when I’m in need of an inspiration increase, it’s because I haven’t been giving enough attention to working on creative projects. While some things just have to be done during the day–work, cooking dinner, answering emails, binge watching Stranger Things— I think it’s important to carve out some time to focus on your creativity. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of time. Take ten minutes before bed and sketch or write. Allow yourself one hour in a coffeeshop to sip tea and brainstorm. Use a lunch break to collaborate with coworkers. Share and discuss ideas. Take a walk with no distractions. Leave your phone at home and look at the amazing world around you.

Dream, ponder, create. Let yourself think of ideas, even if they are terrible. Especially if they are terrible. Start somewhere, because you can build off that to find better and more cohesive ideas. See a play, or take a yoga class to clear your head. It’s all about your mindset. You are uniquely you, and you have the imagination to do it. You just need to refocus and revitalize your creative energy and vision.

Other ways I combat the creativity gap: organize. Keep a list of ideas, mood boards, photo samples, drawings and snippets of inspiration from anywhere. I take pictures of spaces in restaurants, billboards, even just people walking down the street. Cut out visually interesting pieces from magazines or newspapers. Designspiration is a great website that I use to get the wheels turning in my head.

Most importantly, give yourself a break, and realize that mental inspiration blocks are pretty common with creatives. Inspiration can be found all around us; it just takes time to process and interpret. Just be patient, keep going, and be open to letting yourself absorb the world around you. If you are mindful in those ways, I promise that inspiration will follow.

Why I Do This Photography Thing

Inspiration

Usually I focus on writing about tips and techniques within photography, but with my college career culminating this year, I have been thinking a lot lately about why I even got into this in the first place. And the truth is, I fell into it.

I picked up my parents point and shoot camera, like many kids do, in middle school. I remember it was summer, and I took a photo of a lady with a white sun hat that had blue beads that matched her blue shirt. She was looking away, and I clicked the button. I gasped when I saw it, without even realizing that I shot my first portrait. When I showed it to my mom, to my dismay, she scolded me for taking photos of a stranger. She didn’t see what I saw: the beauty captured within that moment.

Moments. That’s really what it all boils down to, for me. I capture moments, sometimes insignificant and easily forgotten, sometimes grand and gorgeous. I look for things that other people might miss, for moments in life that carry emotion, and connection, to other human beings. That’s what I love about shooting portraits, whether it’s weddings, seniors, or just a candid of a stranger in the park. 

On days like today, when I have a long day of my internship, then night class, then Photoshop homework, then answering emails, setting up shoots, and applying to grad school, I try to remind myself why I do this. It’s for those moments. They keep me going.