Blissfully Aware Episode 23

A conversation with documentary filmmaker Leslie Askew

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Leslie Askew, The Netherlands

“It’s my purpose to be a voice and a vehicle for other people. End of. It has nothing to do with me. If I’m serving that, then I’m on my path. So I’m happy to help anyone who can advance it.” — Leslie Askew

The status quo says only some media creators are artists. That resources are scarce. Today, a story from Leslie Askew about her birth as an artist. Her storytelling has taken her from CNN to independent documentary film.

This is a story about bucking the art establishment in favor of listening to your inner voice. What happens when we build our systems and technique from a place of collaboration? When it comes to something as sacred and personal as art and creativity, how do we break from the establishment to nurture it? …


Blissfully Aware Episode 12

A conversation with still life photographer Maria Baez

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Maria Baez | Principal Photographer, jet.com

“No one knows where the work is going to take them. Doing work in the first place is such a vulnerable thing. Putting it out there, you’re already in the unknown.” — Maria Baez

In this episode, I sit with Maria Baez, a principal photographer at jet.com. Maria is a friend, and we got to know each other at Estée Lauder Companies, where she set up a fantastic in-house media studio, and I worked on creative strategy. She is a talented content creator and thought partner who is five years into her commercial photography career.

We usually talk with business owners and creative people who are further along in their careers here, so it’s great to bring in a fresh perspective. In this episode, we see the business through the eyes of someone who is also seeing it anew, charting a new path, and developing their voice. …


Blissfully Aware Episode 9

Photographer Heather White on creating beauty out of love and loss

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“Our flaws are what make us interesting. And so I feel like when I’m behind the camera, I’m not just a portrait photographer, I’m a documentary photographer. I’m just there with the studio lights, and I’m documenting the energy and the people. I’m capturing those in-between moments and emotions. Nothing’s posed, everything’s real. That’s the sweet spot where you capture the real person.” — Heather White

I am so thrilled to have Heather White with us this week. Heather is a birth doula and a documentary photographer, and she brings so much warmth and courage to everything she touches.

You’ll hear us talk about life after birth, creating beauty out of tragic loss, changing social attitudes through human connection and emotional art, and regaining a sense of self as a parent. …


Blissfully Aware Episode 8

Stephanie Rooker’s never been casual about music

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Photo credit: Deneka Peniston

“My mission is to wake up the voices. We need all the voices, we need all the songs. No one can be left out. We need all of them, more than ever. The more people can step into owning their power and their magic and their capacity to heal themselves and heal this world, the better.” — Stephanie Rooker

Stephanie Rooker is a force of soul in the New York music community and beyond. She is a vocalist, composer, voice teacher, therapeutic sound facilitator, and founder of Voice Journey.

Her albums have been described as brooding, sometimes sultry, with lyrics that draw just as profoundly from conscious hip-hop as from classic soul and funk. Stephanie wants people to feel the full spectrum of emotion through sound, and she has used her practice to heal and activate social change. …


GROW

A quest for creative autonomy and community in Israel

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After nine years as a graphic designer in established Israeli studios, I have decided that a nine-to-six lifestyle is not how I do my best work. Until now, I have held jobs for about a year and a half at a time. I bounced from branding studios to advertising agencies and back. A cycle formed and repeated at each role.

I always started with enthusiasm and a happy feeling in my gut. Then after six months, I began to think, “What am I doing here? What do I bring to the table?” I inevitably compared my work and process with other designers. …


GROW

And a realist, who wishes to be an artist

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Part One — A search for belonging

In April of last year, I moved back to my motherland to test where I truly belong. Growing up in Southern California, I never considered myself American because I was born in Seoul. Seoul is where I learned to walk, talk, and do all the things you learn in your early years. And then we left. By the time I turned 26, I had lived more than half of my life abroad. And I knew in my heart that I was different because of it. …


REFRAME

The photographer talks about renewing herself by pushing her comfort zone and even creating before thinking

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Melissa Schriek

Dutch photographer Melissa Schriek has had a glorious summer. Her ongoing bodies of work “The City is a Choreography” and “A Study of Uncomfortable Positions” received excellent write-ups (here and here). Her unique eye has also earned her commissions for fashion labels Tony Ta and HENK. Where she goes from here is up to her, and the possibilities are endless.

Seeing Melissa’s work for the first time is impossible not to pause. It’s striking. The images are like a crazy dream, where you’re the spectator of a balletic trance. The city hums in the background. It’s raw, sometimes bent out of shape. But her heroes — the ones you’re taking in — are full of grace. …


REFRAME

Photography and structures by Massimo Gammacurta

Perforated egg, a still life.
Perforated egg, a still life.
Massimo Gammacurta

It is hard to talk about pain. To grasp its cause, make sense of it, and put it into perspective. It’s deep-rooted and complex. When the ache is vast, how do we heal? How do we find the courage to acknowledge trauma in the first place? That’s a massive question that deserves exploration. And we will do that at The Daring, separately.

But let’s say that you and I got there. We moved through surprising, messy flashes of awareness where every muscle was straining for a shorthand to escape. Imagine all that behind you for now, and you are breathing in a quiet place. You are facing your truth. You are free to study it, the root of your pain. What is the source? Visualize, that with great care, you are bringing that knowledge from the inside out. You emerge empowered to confront what or who hurt you. You see that you are not alone with this discomfort. There are people to connect with, who have met similar conditions. Envision now, that your story is part of the social fabric. It is our collective narrative. …


REFRAME

Marie Weikopf’s intimate portraits capture Berlin drag culture

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Marie Weikopf

A couple of years ago, Marie Weikopf started documenting the life of drag queens in Berlin. They showed her their homes, their transitions, and took her to the shows. While shooting and editing the series, she focused on intimate, in-between moments. Indeed, the portraits are pensive records that encapsulate the contemplative artistry of drag culture.

Candid and in color, the personality Marie captures is phenomenal, given how subtly demonstrative the artists are in her presence. We’re gliding into a fascinating and private space. Describing the experience, Marie tells us: “The art of drag queen seems like something staged, or even superficial. But actually, it’s the opposite, like something that comes easy and natural. It’s an innate part of them that they can run free with and enjoy.” …


RETHINK

Ben Tyree on the arc of creativity and navigating the music industry right now

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Ben Tyree is a composer, guitar player, and eclectic musician with staggering versatility. He came up in the diverse D.C. music scene, and we got to know each other as kids. We’d hang out in record shops and smoke cigarettes while driving around with our friends. We sang to radio tracks on top of our lungs — he like a stallion, me off-key. Yes, we’ve come a long way.

Over the years, I’ve watched Ben build a sustainable music career and collaborate with luminaries as varied as Vernon Reid, Kyp Malone, Nicholas Payton, Dr. …

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