Creativity Doldrums

Most days, I feel incredibly lucky that I have been able to build my love of photography into a succcessful business.  I feel so fortunate to have clients who I genuinely like and so honored that they put their trust in me to document some of the most special and important days of their lives; engagements, weddings, births, family celebrations and even intimate Boudoir sessions… Their stories, their connections to one another and the emotions of these events never fail to make a lasting impression on me.  As I post-process the images from a session, I often find myself smiling wistfully at the way a man is beaming at his future wife as she walks down the aisle… or wiping a tear from my eye as I look at the father-of-the-bride making his toast and remember his heartfelt words… or even laughing out loud at some of the antics I catch when people are unaware they are being photographed.  In these moments, I feel content.  Fulfilled.

But while working in a creative field is a privilege, it can also be a challenge.  When I’m paid to photograph an event, the clients have an expectation of receiving certain shots and I’m 100% responsible for making sure I deliver.  I am often faced with conditions that are beyond my control; from locations with poor lighting to restrictive or limited schedules to unpredictable weather… and while these challenges are part of what I love about what I do because they force me to adapt, grow and improve… I often find myself thinking, “If only…. ”

If only I had complete control of the lighting.  If only the weather was just right – not too sunny, not too rainy, not too hot/cold. If only I had the time to explore more interesting locations, poses and ideas.  If only I could get out of the “safe zone” and explore more creative post-processing techniques…  I fall into the trap of comparing my work to that of other creative artists… and I feel… deflated.  Why don’t I have iconic images in my portfolio of a bride delicately poised on the edge of a waterfall, with her veil blowing in the wind just so?  In these moments I sometimes lapse into the creativity doldrums.

That’s when I know I need a change of pace.  Something to kick-start my creativity and recharge my batteries.  An opportunity to experiment and lose myself in the pure artistry of creating something that is 100% my vision.  A “day off” from pressures and expectations.

So when I saw a post on Facebook about a Workshop being offered in Montreal by Michel Feugeas,  a photographer from Trois-Rivières whose work I admire because his style is so evocative and different from mine, I immediately signed up.  Although I teach workshops myself, I knew that spending a relaxing day in studio, as a workshop participant rather than as a teacher, would be just what the doctor ordered.  And it was!

Michel wisely limited the number of participants to just five photographers, giving each of us ample time and space to work with a wonderful and uninhibited model, in a large studio that had lots of available light.  We spent the first hour or so getting to know each other and talking about the subtleties of creating artistic nude portraits.  Then we started working with our model.  Michel encouraged each of us to explore our creative vision with the only “restriction” being that we could only use the natural sunlight that was streaming in from the windows.  No studio strobes or speed-lights.  It was liberating.

I recently saw a quote on Pinterest that said:

“Be confident.  Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t.  Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when you accept everything you are – and aren’t – that you will succeed.”

After a wonderful day with Michel, his wife and four other incredibly talented photographers I feel like I’m back on the road to accepting everything that I am – and am not… I hope you will enjoy the images I created on that day… but if you don’t, that’s OK too. 

Paal Juliussen - November 19, 2012 - 9:56 am

This lady has the eye of a true artist. Your photographs are truly inspiring!

Karine Lê - November 18, 2012 - 10:02 pm

The pictures are wonderful. And your words have made me reflect too. So thank you.

Tamara Stimpson - November 18, 2012 - 6:40 pm

Vic,
These images are incredible! Your talent just grows every time I see new photos of yours!!! I am so glad to hear that you found the antidote to your creative doldrums!!!!

Sarah Cartier - November 18, 2012 - 5:33 pm

great shots and i am happy that you found an antidote to your creativity blockage!

I really like how natural she looks and in the natural light, very sexy indeed

Vincent Lamoureux - November 18, 2012 - 5:29 pm

Great post Victoria! Lots of important messages in there! Nice images too! My favorites are #6 and the second from last. You worked that natural light!

Michel Feugeas - November 18, 2012 - 7:24 am

Nice work Victoria ! And it was a pleasure to meet you with the whole group during the workshop. Hope to meet you again sometime 🙂

Michel

Michel Bourgeois - November 18, 2012 - 1:26 am

MAGNIFIQUE!!! J’aime celle où elle attache ses bas!

Isabelle L'Italien - November 18, 2012 - 1:13 am

Super! J’aime beaucoup ta façon d’écrire. Et tes photos sont magnifiques!

I always thought we would have more time…

On October 10th, 2012 my younger brother Michael de Martigny died at the age of 42 of a massive heart attack.  He had been struggling with Crohn’s and Colitis his entire adult life and had undergone countless operations as a result of the disease.  Despite all these operations, he was also required to take several kinds of very strong medication just to survive.  Unfortunately, on the morning of October 10th his body could no longer cope and he died at his home in Caledonia, Ontario.   Today, as I get ready for his memorial service, I am thinking about his life, and about our relationship…

I wish I could say that Michael and I were close, that we were great friends who chatted regularly and were a big part of each other’s lives.  I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit that we weren’t – at least not in the past few years…  Earlier this summer he reached out to me for help with a problem he was having and for the first time in a long time I was able to help him with what he needed.  After that, we started communicating more regularly, but I always thought there would be time to repair our broken relationship…  

He came to Montreal in August and we spent an afternoon at my mom’s, sitting on the patio outside, having “nibbles” and talking about our shared passion for photography.  He planned to make another trip down to go to the Williamstown Fair, something we had enjoyed doing together as kids – but I was too busy… I thought we could do it next year. 

He wanted to move to Cornwall, where my grandmother lives, so that he could be closer to the family while still maintaining his Ontario health benefits.  His illness made it impossible for him to hold down a job, since his bouts would come on unexpectedly and he would miss work for several days – sometimes having to be rushed to the hospital for a blood transfusion.  No employer would hire him, so he was thinking about taking some courses at St. Lawrence College in the hopes that he could find employment working from home.  He tentatively suggested that maybe he could do some work for me, maybe help me with post-processing for my photography business since it was something he loved and was interested in learning about.   “Sure,” I said, “When you’re all settled in Cornwall, let’s talk about that”.  I thought we’d have time.  I thought we could talk about it when I’d see him at Christmas.  For the first time since 2006, he was going to come home for Christmas this year…

But there won’t be a Williamstown Fair with Michael next year and there will be no more family Christmases together.  All I have are my memories… and my regrets.   And an overwhelming sense of loss,  sadness and guilt that I didn’t make more of an effort to know the adult version of my brother better.

As children, we were very close.  It was just the two of us for the first couple of years and then when my sister Kirsten came along, we delighted in finding new and inventive ways to torment our younger sibling.  We once told my sister that she was an alien baby, hatched from an egg and born with a tail that had to be amputated to make her “look human”.  We were united in our mischievousness, though often the ideas came from Michael 🙂  

Michael was always inquisitive too and fascinated by the world around him.  One night when I was babysitting at our house in St. Bruno, he decided to stick a fork into an electric socket to “see what would happen”.  It started a small fire, he got a nasty shock and I got one of the biggest scares of my young life:  I was fiercely protective of Michael and could not imagine him getting hurt on my watch.  I was so protective of him, in fact, that I often took the blame for his antics so that he would not have to be punished.  I remember a certain very expensive and intricately carved wood coffee table with a glass top that my parents had bought on one of their trips to the Orient… and I remember the gleam in my brother’s eye as he smashed the top of that coffee table with a hammer, just to “see what would happen”.  I think we were both a little shocked when the table shattered into thousands of pieces.  When my father stormed into the room demanding an explanation, I looked over and saw Michael’s lip quivering, so I said that I did it. 

Michael was also an entrepreneur.  He somehow got a hold of an old Playboy magazine when he was in grade school, but instead of just hiding it under his bed and sneaking peeks in the wee hours as most young boys would do, he tore out the pages and sold them to the other boys at school for $1 each.  It was quite an embarrassment to my parents to be called into the school over that little incident – but I was secretly a little proud of his ingenuity!

It was as adults that we drifted apart.  He moved to the Toronto area, I was travelling for business and we were each busy with our own lives.  There were periods where we e-mailed or chatted on Facebook on an almost daily basis – and then there are large gaps in time where we didn’t speak at all.  It’s hard to identify a defining moment when we lost that connection that we had shared as children.  It happened slowly; a missed birthday, a Christmas when he didn’t come home,  an argument over something that seems stupid in retrospect… but I always loved him and hoped that he was doing well.  I wish I would have told him that more often.  I wish I could have protected him from the difficulties he faced every day, the way I did when we were younger…

As I look back at old photos of us as children, I remember the boy my brother used to be.  Looking through the photos he had taken as an adult, I can see a glimpse of the man he became.  I’d like to share some of those photos with you now, so that you can also see that despite his struggles, Michael had joy and adventure in his life, he had friends who cared about him and often had a four-legged companion at his side… but most of all, he was able to see beauty in the world around him, which he captured through his love of photography. 

I hope that wherever he is now, Michael is no longer in pain, that he is surrounded by beauty and that he has a puppy at his side until his loving and faithful dog Deefer eventually joins him.  And I hope that he knows that I loved him, even if I didn’t tell him often enough…

Vanessa & David del Burgo - October 29, 2015 - 10:42 pm

Victoria,

I’m so sad to hear about your loss, heartbreaking. Time and love are so precious in this world, it seems the older we get the deeper those words hold meaning.

My sincere condolences to you and your family, your brother sounds like he was a wonderful person, who will live on through you and his loved ones.

Big hug and kisses,
Vanessa & David

David Kuehlein - September 18, 2014 - 6:50 pm

Dear Victoria, Linda and Kirsten,

I am so sorry to hear about your loss and for my delay in forwarding my condolences. I am not sure if you will remember me as it has been close to 30 years since I have seen any of you and probably 10 since I last saw Mike. I have so many great memories of Mike and all of you, both in Oakville and during my visits to your family when you were in Beaconsfield. Mike was one of my best childhood friends and will live on in my memory for ever, from our mis-adventures in a dingy on Lake Ontario until the last time he popped into my life in what must have been 2000 or so. As you said Victoria, it always seemed like there would be time to catch up with each other in the future and I deeply regret not having seen more of my good friend over the years. I thank you for the wonderful words and sharing Mike’s beautiful pictures.

Catherine - November 16, 2012 - 12:54 pm

I am so very sorry. Thank you for sharing your memories with us/your blog readers. Love and peace to you and your entire family. (The photographs are lovely.)

Emilie - November 7, 2012 - 10:10 pm

So sorry for your loss… Your article is really moving and heartfelt.

linda schmaltz - October 30, 2012 - 6:08 pm

Victoria is my daughter,she is my friend, and during the days following my son’s death she was my rock.She took me to Caledonia to make the final arrangements for Michael and throughout this process she was unflinching in her support. We endured sorrow that no one should ever have to experience. She kept my mind busy , so that I wouldn’t have too much time to think( I was not allowed to drive),she accumulated all the e-mails sent by friends of Michael,talked to several of his close friends and when we came back home, scanned hundreds of photos to produce a Memorial Album that will forever be treasured. Victoria put together a family slide show and a slide show of Michael’s photos that formed the tribute paid to him last Sunday,she is quite a girl my Victoria and I am extremely proud of her. She may have forgotten ,but a few years ago when Michael was hospitalized with a perforated bowel, Victoria was the first person on the scene, something Michael was very touched by.All of you are correct when you comment on her blogs and her facebook page, she is a very special person. Her Mom

Clara Campanile - October 29, 2012 - 11:11 pm

So sorry for your loss Victoria. God Bless , may he rest in peace xoxo

Sam Yam - October 29, 2012 - 8:19 am

Your tribute really touched me, it was beautifully written and I am sure your brother knew how much you loved him!! xxox

Babi Rosch - October 28, 2012 - 10:18 pm

My deepest sympathies. It looks like he was a gifted observer, as are you.

Audrey Belliard Smit - October 28, 2012 - 10:14 pm

So so sorry for your loss, Victoria.

Tony Limongi - October 28, 2012 - 10:00 pm

quite a tribute Vic, thans for sharing…

Dianne Sessenwein - October 28, 2012 - 9:08 pm

Beautiful to read. I can see you really did love him. I am so very sorry for your loss. Its so hard to lose a sibling.

Sarah Cartier - October 28, 2012 - 7:40 pm

Your speech was heartfelt and honest and beautiful. Even though I never met him, I could tell through your speech and slide show that you both appreciated beauty and Nature. You did a wonderful tribute to him today xx

Andre T. Jandke - October 28, 2012 - 7:36 pm

Sorry for your loss Victoria.

Tracy Batten - October 28, 2012 - 7:15 pm

Victoria, this was beautifully written 🙂 Thank you for sharing your most previous memories. You are a wonderful sister xxxx

James Warne - October 28, 2012 - 7:08 pm

Victoria – a beautifully written tribute to your brother, and some remarkable photographs to boot. He was talented. As Vincent said, feeling guilty for life having taken you down slightly separate roads later in your relationship with Michael is something you must try to overcome. My sister died in 2004 suddenly, and like you and Michael we were extremely close growing up, but for the decade or so before her death we had simply not been as close. I was living in Canada, she mainly in the UK but also travelling a lot to exotic places. We exchanged emails once every couple of months and saw one another perhaps every 18 months. We didn’t love each other any less, we just were leading our own lives more independently of one another for a time.

Strangely I did not feel guilt about this when she died. But like you, I do feel incredible sadness and an overwhelming sense of “I thought we’d have more time”. Time to get closer again, share more, see my kids grow up with their Aunt Sophie and may be one day be an Uncle myself (we learnt she was engaged after she died…she’d been planning to tell my parents the day after she died when she had planned a visit. She never made it.

I do hope you can continue to find solace in the wonderful memories you clearly have of your childhood with Michael. It sounds like he was a very lucky brother to have you as a sister.

All the best – James.

Jordana Leigh - October 28, 2012 - 7:07 pm

Beautiful write up Victoria… Xxx

Felicity Robichaud - October 28, 2012 - 7:03 pm

Beautiful … <3

Vincent Lamoureux - October 28, 2012 - 6:44 pm

Dear Victoria, thank you for sharing your feelings about your brother’s passing and for displaying his photography. I understand your feelings of loss as my brother also passed away at a very young age. We know however that feelings of guilt will not change anything in the situation. The best we can do is to focus on enjoying life with our loved ones and for you to continue to be the outstanding person that you are. You are such a wonderful person as a wife, daughter, sister, friend and, yes, photographer!

I offer you my sincere condolences and count my blessings to have you among my friends.

Vincent

Isabelle David - October 28, 2012 - 6:17 pm

C’est un très bel hommage à ton frère.

Candice & David’s First Look @ Golf St-Raphael | Montreal Wedding Photographer

Wedding traditions have changed over the years and modern brides are starting to incorporate new ideas into their wedding plans.  One of my favorite of these is the First Look, where the bride and groom see each other for the first time before the wedding ceremony.  While the more traditional brides may balk at this idea, it’s something I always suggest because there are some very compelling reasons for seriously considering it:

  • When a groom sees his future wife in her wedding dress for the first time, it is often a very emotional moment.
    • Staging a first look allows the couple to share this moment in private and let themselves truly get swept away with how they’re feeling – without worrying about all the family and friends who are looking on.
  • While that walk down the aisle may feel like it’s taking an eternity, in reality it lasts only a few moments and then the ceremony begins.  Couples are often forced to choke back their emotions and pay attention to the task at hand instead of taking their time to be lost in the moment.
    • A well-planned first look provides plenty of time for couples to share that intimate moment with no interruptions. 
  • Often the wedding ceremony is in a location where the photographer cannot control the setting, the light or the well-meaning guests who often get in the way while they photograph each special moment.  As a result, the opportunity to create beautiful images of all the emotions of that first look can be compromised as we try to stay out of the way and work around these obstacles.
    • When planning a first look, I will choose a secluded location with beautiful light and we will shoot from a discreet distance so that couples can have their privacy for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Most of my clients value photography and want to have visually stunning images to remember their day – but creating those artistic and unique portaits takes time, which is often in short supply in a jam-packed wedding day schedule.
    • Since a First Look is before the ceremony, we can plan for a longer portrait session and couples need not feel rushed to get all those breathtaking images in the short cocktail hour between the ceremony and reception.  This also means that they can enjoy cocktail hour with their guests.

David and Candice planned their wedding for this past August at the beautiful Golf St. Raphael in Ile Bizard.  When we met to discuss the timeline for the day, before I could even suggest doing a First Look, Candice asked me if we could do photos with her and David before the ceremony.  For Candice, seeing David alone, in a private setting was absolutely imperative since she was so nervous about breaking down with the emotion of that moment.  David was also on board with the first look.  Shy by nature and not used to being the center of attention, he wanted to share that special moment with no one but Candice.   I was so happy that they brought this up, and that we did a First Look on their wedding day on August 17th…

During their First Look, Candice and David were able to open up to each other and experience the emotions – and then once they were all cried out we headed out onto the golf course for an uninterrupted hour, where we created some beautiful images together.  Our portrait session was a little bit rainy, but it was fun and stress-free since the First Look helped eliminate any nervousnous about the ceremony or the rest of the day, so they were able to relax and enjoy.

Leave a comment below if you’d like to see some of the portraits from that session… 🙂

Kathy Coffin - October 7, 2012 - 9:58 pm

Such beautiful pictures:) Thanks so much again Victoria for helping to make this such a wonderful day.

Candice Adams-Barbiero - October 7, 2012 - 9:16 pm

I am so happy we did this. Thank you Victoria! These are amazing 🙂

Sherine Elshami - October 7, 2012 - 1:19 pm

Wonderful idea! Wish we would have done that.

Kayleigh & Travis @ Stewart Hall | Montreal Wedding Photographer

I first met Kayleigh and Travis at Tom & Jordana’s wedding back in 2010.  I reconnected with them in the summer of 2011 when I needed models for a workshop I was teaching and they volunteered to help out, along with Jordana and Deanna (another amazing girl in their entourage).  When they arrived at the workshop, I learned that just a couple of days earlier Travis had popped the question, and of course, Kayleigh said, “Yes”… I thought the shiny new ring on Kayleigh’s finger was the reason that she could not keep a straight face and kept flashing her thousand megawatt smile, but as I got to know her better, I soon learned that that this was par for the course!

In August of 2011, Kayleigh and Travis asked me to be their wedding photographer and a few weeks later we headed out to Old Montreal for their engagement session.  It was during our afternoon in the Old Port that we really got to know each other.  I learned that Travis has modelled in his youth and that Kayleigh was a swimming all-star who even went to the Olympic trials!  I also saw first-hand the incredible connection that they share and understood why Kayleigh was always smiling…

Fast forward to September of 2012 and it was finally the Big Day:  Travis and Kayleigh’s wedding.  From the moment I arrived at Kayleigh’s parents’ house in the morning until I left the reception in full party mode, there was no shortage of laughter, happy tears, surprises and beautiful, genuine expressions of love and support from everyone who was there to share this special day.   I hope you’ll get a sense of that through some of my favorite photos:

 

Jess G - October 3, 2012 - 3:39 pm

What beautiful pictures!!!!

Sarah Cartier - October 2, 2012 - 4:55 pm

so bright and happy! you captured it!

Elisa - October 2, 2012 - 1:48 pm

Victoria, how beautifully you have captured Kayleigh and Travis’ special day. The love and the emotion you have conveyed through this series of photographs, particularly the more candid ones, is palpable. To see the father of the bride’s reaction to seeing his beautiful daughter, the parents of the bride’s embrace, was overwhelming to me. And the happiness and joy! There is so much joy in all of these photographs, you can just feel it. Once again, an amazing series.

Melinda - October 2, 2012 - 8:20 am

Absolutely amazing photos. Congradulations to both of you. xoxo

Dianne Sessenwein - October 1, 2012 - 10:20 pm

Beautiful Kayleigh and Travis. You are a georgeous couple!