Discipline and Art

Art is just one of those words that is impossible to define. There are so many different versions of what it means that it almost becomes a mirror. Whether revered or reviled, people see what they want to see in it.


For me, it is the practice of any number of expressive forms. It could be painting, sculpture, surfing, ready-mades, installations, ceramics, ballet or basket-weaving: you name it. It all counts as art to me. Some of it I love, some of it is not for me. I consider it all art.


As a photographer and painter, I have always been interested in the human form as a subject. We are so much more than our bodies, but we are also always embodied in the flesh. And, there are so many miraculous things about that, from the way we heal and recover, to the variety of ways we look and feel. Bodies are endlessly intriguing from a formal perspective.


For these reasons, I enjoy working with people who are in touch with their bodies, those who are confident and feel good about themselves. Recently, I had the pleasure to work with someone who is a consummate professional when it comes to her physique. She is a professional trainer and a gold medal winning body builder. She is Gillian Youngof GYB Strength.


After spending a couple of hours finding cool compositions on the beach and around the dramatic rocky cliffs of Carmel, I was totally sold on this woman’s approach to fitness. She sees it as an art. Like many of my favorite artists, she is obsessed with the challenges of the discipline. She puts everything she has, every ounce of her being, every watt of her energy into accomplishing her goal. Yet, she has a carefree and easygoing way of moving through the world.


I had the opportunity to meet up with her a second time, this time to see her in action as a trainer. Sometimes the best way to be an effective teacher is to be really good at your craft. It’s contagious. There’s nothing more motivating than seeing someone who is getting the results that they want. It makes you want to do the same. I could tell that the group of women she works with admire her professionalism and boy oh boy did they get a good workout.


Gillian is less than a month out from competition and this is the most challenging time of her training. It is very much like a fighter preparing for the match. And, as much as it’s her body that she’s training you can very quickly tell that it’s her mind that is driving the process. She’s one of these rare people who has brains, beauty and brawn.  It’s exciting to follow her path on Instagram and you know who I will be rooting for when it’s time to get on stage.

Summer Sun in Santa Cruz

Every single person you photograph is different. It takes intuition and listening to figure out what is the best approach for each individual. I’ve had the good fortune of working with a lot of great and interesting people and some of them like to just get straight to business and sometimes it helps to warm up with some talk first. Not everyone is just ready to jump in front of the camera. Today, I had the pleasure of working with a beautiful young woman in business, a lady boss, a feminine entrepreneur: Jacqueline of Nudo Skincare.

I met Jacqueline one day last fall at Jacob’s shop, the headquarters for Shalom. We were discussing plans for upcoming shoots and we happened to see Jacqueline walk by. Immediately I was aware of her charming good looks. Jacob thought she would be a good fit for the brand, so we just asked her if she wanted to model. It turned out that she was making the rounds with her cousin as they were spreading the word about their organic skincare oil business. I love when small businesses help each other out, so that was the start of a friendship.

I photographed Jacqueline first up the coast in Davenport and after talking for a bit, I became even more impressed by her intellect and spirit. She came across as an artistic, earthy, environmentally conscious old soul. The photos from this first shoot led to her modeling the entire Spring catalogue for Shalom, and then I did the photography for the first website for their skincare product business.

Today, we met up to do another shoot for Shalom, but first we had to sit and catch up for a while to talk business and share stories. Jacqueline and her cousin Catherine are a pair of powerful women and they make connections easily. Their go for it attitude has helped them to fail fast and make corrections so that their brand has evolved a lot in under a year. Now, they are working on branding Nudo Skincare, their skincare products for men and women that is handcrafted in Santa Cruz with organic materials. What started out as smart branding has become even more stylish and cool in a very short time. I have worked with a lot of businesses, and they have shown me the fastest evolution of concept.

After finishing our coffee and tea at the Westside Verve, we drove out to Westcliff to get some photos. I had a turquoise Shalom tank top for her to wear and had asked her to bring a bikini and shorts. Having a model wear a swimsuit they are comfortable in helps in a lot of ways. For one thing, it makes it a lot easier for them to change, which is very important. I want to make sure that any person I work with feels safe and taken care of during the shoot. She had been wearing a beautiful floral summer dress and easily put on a pair of jean shorts and the tank top and we got some great photos by one of my favorite Cypress trees on Westcliff. We then climbed down to the reef and took advantage of a beautiful day of blue skies and blue water at Mitchell’s. There were even some waves, which we captured breaking right behind her. Because I know Jacqueline and care about her story and her ventures it is a lot more meaningful and fun to photograph her. Ultimately you’re just pushing a button on a camera, but the connection you feel towards the subject is very important.

Next we drove down to the lighthouse to get a different look. For this series of shots she changed into a pair of navy shorts and we had a black Shalom t-shirt that had been elegantly cut up by the apparel artist, SNIPTEASE. I noticed some cliff divers celebrating the start of summer with back flips off the cliff by Toilet Bowl, so we hopped the fence and staged a shot where she could be watching them which gave the scene a bit of a story. Most of the cutting on the shirt is in the back, so it gave me a chance to focus on the best part of the shirt with her having a reason to be standing with her back to the camera. Seeing us shooting inspired the cliff divers and the did their jumps and flips with a little extra energy.

We then went out to the point where surfers jump off to surf the Slot at the Lane. In this section, the cliff narrows to a small point of cliff that you can climb down fairly easily and then you are completely surrounded by the deep blue Pacific. We took advantage of this point of view to photograph the front of the shirt with the ocean breeze cooling us off from the warm day.

The thing I love most about photography is the people I get to work with on shoots. It’s a fun way to get to know somebody while you are doing something creative and productive.