Music Monday – Marian Hill

If you like sultry vocals over some great beats, this woman is for you. I’ve been on a major Banks kick lately and this song was suggested to me based off of that and my love of EDM, jazz and soulful singers. I fell in love instantly, and you will too. Enjoy!

“One Time”

“Lovit”

“Whiskey”

 

A lot changes in a decade…

Before I actually lived in downtown Sacramento I would visit it and just explore as a teenager. Between classes or when I had a night off and nothing to do, I would roam the streets of downtown and just take it all in. Having been dragged off to suburbia as a child and raised in what felt like the middle of nowhere, being downtown was an exciting cultural adventure for me. I remember one afternoon,  while going around and experimenting with my camera, I stumbled upon an empty parking lot that backed up to a cool abandoned warehouse. I took some photos around the empty lot and its building, which probably hadn’t been painted since the 50s, and then took a couple snaps of the top of that beautiful old warehouse.

The Historic Lawrence Warehouse, 11th & R streets, Circa 2004-2005
The Historic Lawrence Warehouse, 11th & R streets, Circa 2004-2005

Its 10 years later and I now live in that warehouse. I knew this warehouse looked familiar the second I saw the rooftop structure for the old water tanks. Somewhere deep in my very unorganized basket of negatives and their photos, I knew I had a photo of this building, which is now called the Warehouse Artists Lofts. I’m not sure if its kismet, coincidence, or just meant to be, but so many things lined up perfectly for me and this move. I literally found out about the opportunity to live here for cheap the night before the applications were due. The logo for the building is almost identical to something I made up for my own name when I was like 9, I used to sign all my art and stuff with that damn logo which was basically inspired by the FILA logo where all the letters were connected. That was the most embarrass thing I’ve ever typed, by the way. The final thing that makes me think this was totally meant to be, is this photo. There is something so weirdly historically awesome about living in a random warehouse I photographed a decade ago. I didn’t know that 10 years later that building would be dedicated to the artists of this town and become a historical landmark. I didn’t know that I would be a part of one of the biggest accomplishments for the Sacramento local arts scene. I am so in love with the history of this town and now I get to be a part of it. I get to experience it. I get to leave my mark on this city in one of the coolest ways ever.

Now my real work begins, I need to live up to what is expected of me here and I am terrified, because success is scary as hell, but I am also seriously excited to challenge myself and see what I come up with.

you can be whatever you want

applehilltrees

I was raised in the culture of “you can be whatever you want when you grow up” — which seems to be the bane of every millennial’s existence. Until recently, I don’t think I fully understood that statement. Some take it to extremes and think that even if your IQ is 50, as long as you try hard enough you can be president — if you want it badly enough. Some, like me, thought it was meant to say that everything in life is a choice and you have the freedom to be president since gender and race inequality are supposedly a thing of the past and we live in the “richest country in the world”; read: opportunities to be whatever you want. Here is a twist though — what if it means that you can literally wake up one day and be something you weren’t the day before? What if speaking it into the universe makes it so?

One of the things I have learned along my 5-year journey to truly become a professional artist is that “faking it til you make it” is a real thing, and it’s a lesson I couldn’t seem to keep down until this past month, when it basically bitch-slapped me back into reality. I experienced a few months of success in 2011 — my work was published in a calendar, I was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, had my first art show and sold my first print. The thing that got me to that point and through the workload of getting my work show-ready was the fact that I was calling myself a “Photographer” with a straight face for the first time ever. I had never ever before recognized or labeled myself with the title of “Photographer.” I had always referred to myself as someone who just “does” photography as a hobby, never anything with a real title. When the pace of my success came to a grinding halt, I also stopped referring to myself as such — maybe I wasn’t worthy of the title, maybe it’s because I got distracted and stopped creating. I honestly don’t know why and I didn’t realize I even did that until I really looked back on that time in my life.

I tell you this because after my car accident in September, being unable to work, people would ask me what I do and replying back with “self-employed” never ever cut it. What do I do? I finally got sick of humming and hawing and started telling people straight out — “I’m a photographer.” I felt like I was telling a white lie because sure I might be an amateur photographer, but I have yet to really achieve success and recognition. It didn’t hit me until I was driving up to Apple Hill to meet up with my friends that there just HAD to be a reason for this accident. Things like this don’t just happen to good people for no reason, and yes I am- unapologetically — one of those “everything happens for a reason” people. As I was hitting my favorite part of the drive up, where you can see over the entire Sacramento Valley, it dawned on me — what if this happened to push me into really BEING a photographer? I’ve been saying I’m one, and I love and practice photography. Why am I not a photographer in my own head? What the hell is the difference between saying I am one and being one at this point? What if this accident was a reminder that I need to quit wasting my precious creative juices on work and refocus them onto walking the walk. I quit my job 6 months ago for a reason — to be more creative, and here I was working like a dog to make money and fund someone else’s dream, screw that. It’s time to be a Photographer, “capital P.” What’s really stopping me from calling myself and being one? Success? If I can succeed with just a few months of work and half the effort like in 2011, why not go for broke and really live out my creative dreams?

By the time I got to Apple Hill it sunk in — I am a photographer. I AM a Photographer. That is what I do. I am a Photographer, and I run my own blog and YouTube channel — and that is what I shall do. I’m so done living other people’s dreams. I want to live mine now and there truly is no time like the present and I can’t afford to keep being reminded by the universe. I can’t afford another physically painful message from the powers that be telling me to stop wasting my time on fruitless efforts.

You can be whatever you want, when you grow up.

This is me growing up. I am grown up, and I am a Photographer. It’s finally time, and thank God, because 29 years is way too long for me to just finally “get it.”

Sincerely,
Valerie Figueroa, Photographer

 

Music Monday – Hippie Sabotage

My longstanding love affair with Pandora has been brought to a whole new level. I first heard this song while driving out to San Francisco and immediately fell in love, so in love that I created an entire station from this one song. If that isn’t saying something then I don’t know what will. I have yet to have to “thumbs down” any song that has been presented on this playlist and it is so perfect that it matches every mood. I get daily and constant complements on this playlist from anyone who is in my car, its basically the perfect playlist. Because I’m feeling so generous I decided to share the playlist in addition to posting my favorite songs from Hippie Sabotage. You’re welcome.

A little fun fact about Hippie Sabotage– they are from Sacramento! I had NO IDEA until a client told me about it while we were listening to my playlist! We instantly bonded over the fact that we both KNEW who Hippie Sabotage is. So yay for local music! Now would be a good time to turn up the bass, hope you have a good subwoofer!

“Sunny”

“Ridin Solo”

“Bust Em Down”

“Call The Doctors”

the chicken or the egg?

Krystal & Vic (Miniatures Effect, edited to B&W)
Krystal & Vic (Miniatures Effect, edited to B&W)

Its a well known fact that I am NOT a portrait photographer. Its just not my thing or my specialty and I will be the first to admit that there are way better people out there to do your wedding, baby shoot, family portrait- whatever involving humans. Sometimes I wonder if I am not good at portraits because I hate them or if I hate them because I am not good at them. What came first the chicken or the egg? Either way I have no problem admitting my faults in this area of my life. I give so much respect to portrait photographers because their job is infinitely more difficult than any other photographers’. Portraiture is not only about composition and lighting, but you also have wild cards which are the very much alive and constantly moving, breathing, and blinking subjects. Throwing kids into the mix? Screw it, better say your prayers.

Out of the many and many photos I snapped of my godson and his family up at Apple Hill a couple weekends ago, the only ones that were acceptable were the ones of the adults. I wasn’t really trying to do portraits, I was really just there to help my best friend get an acceptable shot for her annual Christmas card portrait and I was vlogging the whole trip. I didn’t even bring my cameras (big mistake). Luckily for me my vlog camera, a Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS, has some fun settings (Toy Camera Effect, and Tilt Shift aka Miniatures Effect). For the record I am very much against copping out of taking real honest to god photographs and overusing filters or heavily photo-shopping your work. But if you aren’t doing it seriously or proclaiming it as art- I am totally fine with that. Anyway, I was able to snag a couple photos I liked using these in-camera filter settings which were fun to mess around with.

The Toy Camera Effect gave the photos a really strong vignette, a cool hue, and some minor blurring. The Miniatures Effect aims to achieve that tilt-shift effect everyone so loves that creates the illusion that regular sized objects on the horizon are miniature. In reality its an in-camera digital filter that just blurs out the top and bottom very heavily- but it was still pretty fun to play around with especially considering when I actually use my real cameras to shoot I always play with the depth of focus, sometimes annoyingly so.

Long story short, I ended up with a couple of fun photos and I hope you like them too.

The Calderons (Toy Camera Effect)
The Calderons (Toy Camera Effect)
Victor Thomas (Miniatures Effect)
Victor Thomas (Miniatures Effect)