Artistic or Trashy?

By Personal

In the age of Harvey Weinstein, Trump, and an endless line of men (and women) being called out for sexual harassment and abuse, you would think the photo community would start covering up a bit more. But the need for likes, follows, social media stardom, has photographers stripping their models to bare all “for the gram”.

Trying to get through Instagram without seeing hard nipples poking out through a shirt, or a woman draped across old machinery in an abandoned warehouse, completely naked, is impossible. I have seen my fair share of beautifully executed artistic nudes, and there are people that still photograph this niche well. But, it has come to the point that photographers are doing it just to boost their popularity. There is no thought process into why this woman is nude in a particular spot, they are not technically outstanding photos (so many are out of focus!), and the posing is more often than not, completely lacking.

I have seen photos posted that are completely out of focus, that end up getting shared around to hubs, only because the model in the shot is naked. Yet, photos that are better quality, where the model is clothed, are left behind. Photos of a woman with her nipples visible through her shirt for no real reason, get comments like “this is fire!”, “that’s tasty”, and more absurdity. Enough is enough.

Talking with other female photographers and models in the community, it is hard to feel any love for this style of photography, especially from our male colleagues. When they post messages to their female models, almost claiming them as their own, and saying things like “Talk to me first before shooting with anyone else. There are real creeps out there who only want to see you naked.” There is so much frustration over these photographers, and their lack of understanding behind artistic nudes, and porn.

So how do we go about changing this view, where women’s bodies are used for likes and follows? We need to hold this community accountable, stop treating it as a way to get dates and see women (and men) nude, and force the start of change.

One Year Gone

By Personal

“Have you heard from Stace?”

“She’s probably just having a Stacy moment. Going underground. You know how she is…”

I go every day, even if it is for the tiniest of moments, wondering “what if…”, “if only I went over to her place the night before…”, “why didn’t I have a gut feeling that time?…” I know it would have only been a temporary save, that she would have found another way to end her pain, to end the demons that screamed in her head. I’ve been there. Those demons are always right there, waiting for the slightest trip to bring you all the way down.

It has been one year since I lost a woman who I considered a sister. We spent so many nights curled up on her couch like high schoolers, gossiping, talking about boys, laughing, crying, discussing the bigger things in life, and photography. We made plans. We would start a non-profit, maybe two non-profits. We wanted to empower people. We wanted to feed and spend time with homeless and those less fortunate than us. We wanted to do good in the world because the world just needed more good in it.

One year since I got texts from a man that loved her saying he thought something was wrong, and I brushed it off as Stacy being Stacy (we all know how she would just disappear from time to time). One year since her mom texted me asking if I had heard from her and my stomach lurching. I knew before I really knew. I knew as I drove to her apartment, reassuring her mom that everything would be fine, even though I knew it wouldn’t. I hoped to find her on the couch watching tv, maybe curled up with a book.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t find her full of life. I didn’t find her smiling at me and laughing at my mama bear antics, always worrying, always with my gut feeling. Instead I found her sleeping. I touched her shoulder to wake her, but there was no waking her up. I found her and collapsed onto the floor. I crawled from her room. I screamed and cried. Then I pulled myself together, and started making phone calls. 911. Her mom. Her friends. Then I waited.

I waited for what seemed like hours in that apartment alone with her. I sat on the floor next to her bed and talked to her. I paced. I answered texts and phone calls. It all felt wrong. I sat alone and wondered “Is this how I’m supposed to deal with this? Should I leave? Should I close the bedroom door? No. Don’t touch anything. Oh look, she left a note. Of course she did, its Stacy…”. I watched the sun set from her apartment as I waited.

Most of that night is a blur. I remember going in and out to answer phone calls. I remember the officers looking at my beat up face and arms and asking if I needed medical attention (I had taken a pretty nasty fall off of my bike just days earlier). I remember looking at her shelf of whiskey and wanting so badly to drown the night in it. I was in that apartment for eight hours until she was finally brought down. I stayed with her for as long as I was allowed. I would not let her be alone anymore. I rode the elevator down with her, standing protective over her body.

It has been one year since that night. One year of me carrying her funeral card and eulogy in my wallet. A year learning secrets she had kept, and understanding the depth of her demons. A year of questioning my choice of not going to her the night before and being able to save her, if just for one more day.

I tend to think of her in the strangest of scenarios. When I’m cooking chicken, when I’m taking a selfie in the mirror (how did she hold her phone in her hand the way she did??), when I hear someone say “Alrighty, bye bye”. Little moments that usually make me smile and laugh.

Dear Stacy, you have left a hole that will never be filled in so many people. I wish you peace. Tonight I’ll be meeting with the SFC, and maybe I’ll watch the sun burn the sky down on the island that we called our refuge.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, please don’t wait to find help.

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This One Is Going To Hurt

By Personal

There are times when you have gut feelings when something is wrong. I’ve had these feelings so many times and rushed to the friend or family member. This time it didn’t happen. It was someone else’s gut feeling that had me rushing to my friend.

Anastacia Campbell was the most brilliant woman and human I have ever had the pleasure to meet and know. Her mind worked in a way that you could only sit back and enjoy, or be absolutely terrified by. A wonderful sadistic humor would creep into so many aspects of her life, and would have her giggling wildly as you fell into the trap she set for you.

Stacy and I met a decade ago, out and about with a group of photographers exploring Detroit. I was always intimidated by her: tall, skinny, platinum blonde, and those big blue eyes. But it wasn’t until this year that we really bonded.

A random message for an event on Facebook asking who might want to go skydiving greeted me one day. I had just gone through a breakup and looked at the message, and decided instantly “Fuck it. Lets do it”. She was so excited and I could practically hear her jumping up and down with glee. She called the event “The Day You Jump Out of a Plane On Purpose”, and what a day it was.

After the jump, we laughed and talked and I was instantly hooked on her again. The next four months came fast and we would spend nights together laughing until our sides hurt, or just sitting and talking, a glass of wine in hand. My favorite nights were the ones when she would get this crazed look in her eye and go “Lets do something”, and off we would go to find whatever trouble she had concocted for the two of us.

She loved driving too fast, blasting her music for the heavens to hear (especially Girl Talk – All Day, and Childish Gambino). She loved her pup and her friends with a fierceness I had never known. She also loved sitting on her couch, phone in one hand, glass of wine in another, legs curled up under her as we talked in whispers about all of our crushes and past loves, like we were still in high school. I would sit in absolute awe of her as I watched her brain work and listened to the words spilling from her mouth.

I will never be able to find a friend like her again. One that comes so naturally, one that has gone through the same experiences as me and helps me open up so easily.

When I rushed to her place that night, I knew. I knew before I even opened the door to her apartment. Tears were already streaming down my face and my body shook with absolute terror. I half hoped to find her curled up on the couch and look up at me going “oh! Hi! What are you doing here? Oh, who cares, grab the wine and pour us a glass!” Instead, I sat on the floor next to her and cried. I cried hard. But I knew I had to pull myself together. For her. For her family. For her friends and loved ones. For her pup Brody. And I did. I knew that this was my duty, and the last thing I could do for her.

I whispered to her in the next moments, telling her how much I hated her for doing this. Crying and saying I wish she had just texted me saying she needed me to come over. I told her that I loved her, and I was sorry I failed her. I let her know that this was by far the best summer I had ever had, and I would never have another like it. And I watched the sun go down from her apartment and knew there was no coming back from this.

Stacy Effing Campbell. My dear girl, you are so loved. You were the brightest person in this world, and it has become so much dimmer without you in it.

Goodbye my dearest friend. Go in peace, go with love. You were afraid of falling, but you are definitely flying now.

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