Saturdays in the Studio

Starting next month, I've decided to begin a new pattern.

I will be spending Saturdays in the daylight studio to learn, work and create, and it'll be a day that I invite others to join me for. 

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Working at Portland Leather Goods has been such a blessing and has provided me this amazing opportunity to utilize the photo studio in my own time. Back in March, I had random thoughts of using photo studios more, interning for some, perhaps even owning or running one down the road. For this to happen so soon is still mind-boggling to me. 

My hope is to step back into photography with a creative lens once again, which, honestly, I have not done in years. In 2012, I unexpectedly took a summer photography class and absolutely fell in love. I photographed everything with excitement and it helped me see beauty around me. I want to get back to that. This means I don't intend on using Saturdays to book paid shoots -- solely just for personal, creative fulfillment. 

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I also want to build relationships with others by inviting them to create with me. I've been brainstorming what this could look like, and so far these things have come to mind: 

Using the space for songwriting and music, for dancing, for writing and blogging, for sketching and painting and macrame, for bringing ideas to visual life and experimenting with light and color. It can be a space for people to brainstorm creative projects together. And I hope it can be a space that is more inviting than it is intimidating (hopefully not intimidating at all!). 

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This is literally me mid-fixing my hair, and you know what, it looked pretty dang cool. Ain't gonna lie. You don't have to be a hipster model to make cool portraits or be part of your own art. 

 Look, it's excited lil me.

Look, it's excited lil me.

I once read a book (wish I could remember what it was) that talked about how God was an artist. He created everything and saw that it was good -- He enjoys his creations and made it beautiful. If we are created in His image, then we, too, are meant to create and make things beautiful. I guess that could mean different things, but for me, it means I'm meant to be a visual artist and I want to encourage others to tap into that calling, too. 

Y'all. LET'S CREATE. 

Portland Leather Goods

This past May, I came across a job opportunity at Portland Leather Goods as an in-house studio product photographer. It was the only photographer job I've ever found that was not 1) LifeTouch, 2) grade-school yearbook photography, 3) a wedding company underpaying their employees, or 4) companies like LifeTouch (aka the cheesy 90's-style glam studios). 

Essentially, you'd be working in the warehouse where all the creativity and production happens, and you'd photograph all of the products for the website using natural light and smiling people. They weren't looking for the moody, hipster photography. It was the first time I could even see myself applying for a professional photography job -- job, not gig (big difference). 

Long story short: I went in person to give my resume, was surprised to have had interviews on the spot, got put through 3 trials, and got hired! It was a full month process and I'm thankful to have been hired out of hundreds who applied. There are so many talented people out there, but I'm thankful that despite my age and inexperience, the team took me in because they enjoyed working with me and my personality and saw a lot of potential during my trials. 

So, here I am one month into working at Portland Leather Goods. 

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So far, I've seen HUGE progress between my working trial vs. my work now. I'm learning the vision and learning more and more every day how to work with each product, each leather, each angle. Starting, I was extremely slow at Lightroom, but I'm about 10x faster than I was. I'm also learning more about business and marketing, and how to analyze it all to see what's best to focus on or improve on -- basically, everything I'm learning are practical things that will help me in the long run of my career as a freelance photographer. 

That's another great thing: the team is extremely understanding of being a freelancer. My schedule is flexible -- if I need to do a wedding, taking a day off or switching days is extremely easy. I can also come in any time I want and leave any time I want, any day, which is a step up from having a strict coffeeshop schedule. 

The best part, though, is that the giant daylight studio in the space, starting August, is available for me to use whenever I want for personal shoots. Amazing. There's a huge world of possibility that opened with that perk; it's a space I can invite other artists and visuals and makers to create with me! I can't wait to see what will come from all of that. 

Either way, I'm really excited and thankful to have this job. It truly is a blessing to have been able to step into a career in photography so fast -- especially into a job that will fuel my freelancing as a wedding photographer. 

Cheers to this new season! 

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Therapy Night Market

St. John's is booming. Our little neighborhood has more and more going on and it's growing fast. Therapy, one of my favorite shops in downtown St. Johns with 10 other locations in California, is adding to that momentum in a unique way by hosting an awesome monthly Night Market in the store that is sure to draw more people in.

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Markets are everywhere in Portland. Having one here in St. Johns/North Portland seemed so fitting! And with good weather finally on the way, there's no doubt that Therapy's Night Markets will continue to grow from here on out. I volunteered to photograph these markets as my way of connecting more with the community here, while also letting the community be aware that I'm a photographer (not just a barista, though I love being known as that, too!).

...While we're on the subject, make a visit to The Great North Coffee on Burlington right around the corner of Therapy! Best coffee in town.

Take a fun walk through Therapy to get to the back warehouse where all the local vendors are settled in. So much artwork, handmade ceramics and goods, jewelry, furniture -- even restored cast irons, vintage clothes, and craft mustards you can sample (try the chipotle one)!  The unique selections, incredibly friendly vendors and the central Downtown St. Johns location make this market worth the visit. 

Make a plan to venture around St. Johns and all its quirky beauty while you're on your way to the next Market! Grab some Coava coffee at The Great North Coffee, sip it at the docks at Cathedral Park, grab some dinner at Dubs St. Johns, and finish the night off shopping at the Market. 

Support local artists, and support small business!

Relaunching

Since moving here to Portland, I've focused a lot on settling a lot of things in my personal life. Things have been absolutely wonderful, but now Austin and I are in a spot where we feel like it's finally time to jumpstart things in photography. 

I've freelanced for 6 years now -- I've had so many great experiences as a photographer, and have made mistakes in the process that I've been working on fixing to avoid repeating those mistakes. Essentially, it's time to move from being a freelancer and become professional. Professional in all aspects of being a small business owner and an artist, and a person. 

It's going to be a different journey from here on out. The last six years were about building my portfolio and visual skill; now it's about translating those skills and making a small business of it. It's pretty exciting, but all the while so intimidating. 

I am in the process of revamping and relaunching and recreating for Charmaine Marl Photography. And I intend to go full out this time. It might take awhile before I feel like everything is absolutely complete, but once it is, I know it'll be something I'm pretty dang proud of. 

Cheers to the journey!

2017 Recap

And somehow, the year is already over.

What's set apart this year from any other year of life so far was that it was the first year away from home in pursuit of what God has so clearly called me to. I was called to move to Portland, Oregon to follow the Family that revealed God to me in a real and intimate way, and to reveal Him to the broken world around me in that way, too. 

In January, I moved in with the Fero family who housed many others generously. I roomed with my friend Keren, who'd moved up to Portland for the exact same reason to follow God in The Common Place. At one point, we shared a room with Anton and Courtney's oldest daughter, Eden, and this was definitely a season, haha. Nate, who the Fero's took under their roof just a couple weeks after knowing him, also lived in the house, as well as the Thomas family of 4. It was a unique experience living with 10 other people. But it wasn't just ten random strangers... These were family. The Thomas family home in San Diego was another safe space for me, and Melissa was essentially my spiritual mentor. Keren was one of my closest friends who had walked with me out of the most broken times of my life. The Fero's were the ones who showed me what it meant to walk the lifestyle of Jesus. What a season it was to live with these people and see them every single day. For half a year, we woke up every Mon-Fri to pray together in the living room, and we had dinner with each other every night. On Friday nights, we had church gatherings in our home, the very home we lived in. We ate together, sang praises together, and prayed together. 

Soon after, a handful of other people in our community and I began getting discipled by Anton every Friday morning. This was special. This wasn't a hardcore Bible study that was all academics, that we'd all be forced to come to for the sake of being around people (which a lot of small groups end up being like, let's be honest). This was something we all dedicated ourselves to doing because we wanted to learn hands on the best ways to live like Jesus, and HOW to. As Christians, we're called to live like Jesus -- we constantly read and discuss what Jesus did. What were his patterns? What was his lifestyle? What happened in between all the miracles and all? He did things like rest before and in between his most fruitful moments in ministry. He did things like sit with sinners and people who never set foot in a church before. And so we learned to rest/abide to fuel us to reach people, and we learned to sit down with sinners and invite them into our lives to reach them in a real way. We've done our best to learn how to mirror the lifestyle of Jesus and to read the Word in a way that becomes real to us to actually live out rather than keep puffed up in our heads. What a powerful thing to walk in. 

In April, I got a job at a coffeeshop in the neighborhood. I had the choice of working at one popular coffeeshop, Catheral Coffee, that a lot of my friends worked at, or to work at The Great North which none of my community even knew. I was tempted to work at both, but God told me that Cathedral Coffee (where we had been graced to have our worship nights at every month after hours) was taken care of and that the Spirit was already present there, and so I was called to The Great North to be a light. This was my ministry, and has been. This was my outreach, my outlet of being amongst the broken world and showing them a clearer picture of who Jesus is. I've been able to show love to people who would typically be shunned or pushed away, unfortunately. I've been able to build relationships with people in an intimate way and talk to them about Jesus with love. I think a lot of people who have been hurt by religious people have been healing, and it brings me joy to know that God has been using our Family to be part of that process. In my time at the coffeeshop as my transition into my future career as a Photographer, I'm excited to see how Photography ends up being yet another outlet for me to reach the world.

In June, I got engaged to Austin, my best friend who has been walking with me in every single area of my move to Portland and my life in Portland. We had been getting discipled together, we'd been reaching out to people and trying our best to use our relationship as a story of God's power of redemption and restoration. Our relationship was the surest thing I'd ever experienced in my life, and, long story short, we got married 3 weeks ago on December 9th. Our wedding day was filled with immense love and joy, people got to see a joyful picture of a love founded on Christ. 

In August, our Family opened up an official Crossfit Gym building. Since before I moved to Portland, they'd started a Crossfit gym in the Fero's garage. People from all over the neighborhood were coming to the gym, and then afterwards, they were invited into the home for food and fellowship (on Fridays, there was house church right after a session). A lot of gym members became friends, then became family, then became saved and then became wheels to reaching the world around us. Since having a building, we've utilized this space for our worship nights and this coming January, it will be for our church services. We'll never have to worry about a city like Portland kicking us out for worshiping, because God has provided the opportunity to actually own the building itself. 

As the year ends, I look back on the entire year and see God. I see His goodness and provision and proof that He was with us. I see assurance that moving to Portland truly was what God wanted for me. I've been blessed in numerous ways in Portland and I can feel in my bones that 2018 will be a beautiful year in other ways. 2017 was a year of pioneering; spreading out and reaching people and meeting people and starting new things. 2018 will be about settling; taking root where we are, taking care of the people God has brought to us, and following through and thriving in the things we've started. 

All I can say is that I'm thankful that our Father is so, so good. And I'm thankful for all that is to come. 

Salomon Wedding

This summer, two very amazing people joined hands in marriage. Andy and Dayna have set a great example to me personally of a relationship lived out for Christ, so it was an honor to not only photograph their engagement early this year, but also to have photographed their wedding months later in July.

I first got to the bachelor pad and, as with most weddings, the men didn't have much to stress about for getting ready -- at least, not much compared to bridesmaids. Andy took a moment to himself to read some words written for him from his bride-to-be...

...while she got ready and looked as beautiful as ever. Gotta give a hand to the makeup artists that do an amazing job with bringing out a bride's natural beauty. Dayna looked so dang beautiful, as usual. :-) 

When everything was done, Dayna met Andy in a field for their first look at each other -- suit and tie, gown and flowers and all. The first look is always such an intimate moment before weddings that I'm always honored to be part of. As a photographer, you have to capture those moments, all while not interrupting the connection in what was happening. And they had such a lovely connection.

We went back to the venue to prepare for the ceremony, and I caught even more precious moments happening all around. Dayna and her mom shared a moment together. Anton prayed for Andy. Then the couple prayed with each other. There's a lot of emotional, physical and mental preparation involved in weddings, but more importantly, spiritual preparation. What better way to do so than by being in prayer?

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.

They do.

Personally, I thought this was one of the most nicely decorated weddings I've ever photographed. Good taste, guys! Beautiful theme, colors, decorations, setup. ALSO, can we talk about Andy's mom's calligraphy everywhere? 

After dinner and an endless amount of tacos, the program went on and was filled with so many words of wisdom from so many of Andy and Dayna's loved ones. I've noticed that sometimes speeches can quickly get dull or cliche, but the words shared that night were so meaningful, eloquent and a blessing to everyone who listened. I wasn't surprised everyone had amazing things to say about Andy and Dayna, both individually and as a couple.

Cheers!

Some nice sentimental dancing...

...And then came the crazy dancing. Who says the photographer can't join in? 

After sweating off all of the tacos from dancing, everyone sent Andy and Dayna off on their honeymoon. It was bittersweet -- sweet knowing we had just celebrated their marriage in great company with great people, but sad knowing the night was over and it was time to say goodbyes not only to them, but to each other. But the night ended with so much love and joy in the air. 

Congrats again, Andy and Dayna! 

I hope and pray all blessings for your friendship, for your love, for your mission. You guys are family and I can't wait to see how your marriage will shape all of our journeys in Portland. Thank you guys for being one of the first examples to show me that following God will lead you to the right person, in the right place, at the right time, in all the right ways. God began something beautiful between both of you and He was faithful to see it through. You're both blessed to have one another! And I'm blessed to have you as friends. See you both soon in Portland! 

Friendship

As I mentally prepare to leave San Diego, I’m reminded of what will be left behind — more so, the friendships and relationships I’ll be leaving behind. Mind you, I know these bonds won’t disappear, but they’ll certainly change in more ways than both sides will expect. And this will be a test of which friendships will remain strong, and which ones won’t. 

It got me thinking about friendship as a whole — what makes it, what breaks it? More specifically, what strengthens and sustains it?

When I was younger, I thought the strongest relationships depended on time. You know, having a childhood friend who saw you in diapers and who walks beside you in graduation, sees you get married, etc. Because you'll always be friends, almost like a positive obligation. And it's true, time is a factor, but time isn't what determines the strength. I could know someone my entire life and yet hardly know them at the core; on the other hand, I could know someone for a short month but feel so familiar with the depths of their character and the corners of their mind. So I’ve realized it’s not the time, but it’s what you do in that time that develops the bond. In other words, it’s all about the relational intimacy and the effort you put into the friendship.

It’s all about being intentional with people. And to be intentional out of love.

When I spend time with a friend or family member or whoever it may be, what do I do in that time? Is it all just mindless talks, laughs, sharing entertaining images found on Facebook? Sometimes I catch myself seeing friendships as just a means for surface-level entertainment. But then I remember that my loved ones and whoever I'm interacting with are actual people — people who are far more than what is seen at surface. They're people with hearts, souls and minds that have so much to say. And I want to hear what they really have to say, because I love them.

I want to talk about the things that actually matter, and stir up conversations that bring that to light — things of the heart, mind and soul. Because when we share those things, something absolutely beautiful happens — we're no longer just two buddies who can hang out and laugh at funny jokes, but we're two companions connected at the heart, mind and soul who build each other up. I’d much rather understand someone deeply through hearing them speak about past or current pains and how that’s shaped them into who they are today, than about something funny they saw on TV. I’d rather learn about their childhood and what happened that forced them to grow up mentally. I want to hear about their passions, and why their heart grew inclined to those things. I want to hear their life stories of defeat, and of bigger victories, and how that inspires them now. I want to hear about what’s going on in their life now, and where they’re meant to go from here on. I want to hear about their heartaches, and I want them to hear me when I offer to lessen the weight of those burdens. Tell me something real about you, and let’s make our shared words worthwhile. Because these things reveal to me where your heart truly is, how you think and see and perceive life and people around you, and what/Who your soul longs for — and that’s who you are at the core; that’s who I am at mine. And when we see each face to face in this transparency and honesty, and when we've reached that level of intimacy, we can build one another up, encourage and support each other out of love. And that's when you're begin living life together. Maybe that sounds boring to some people, but that’s where the depth is. That's the depth most people crave in their lives. That’s what separates a meaningful relationship with a surface-level one. That's the depth that makes me excited to see how friendships, both new and old, will grow from here on out. And that’s the depth I've experienced in many friendships that assures me that those relationships won’t die when I relocate to Portland. 

But I’ve learned that having these kinds of deep relationships takes mutual effort, and a whole lot of it. Not everyone you meet in life will want this depth with you, and not everyone will be willing to put out that effort, and that’s okay. But those who are willing and are desiring of that, keep them close and dear to you. Because they’re the ones meant to stay in your life. Share life with them and love on them despite the distance, and those bonds will last a lifetime. 

I know that years from now when I'm still away from San Diego, when others begin moving to other faraway places, when they take on busier schedules and get married and have families, the deep relationships I have now will always remain. Some way or the other. And I take comfort in knowing that God will take care of them and our friendship. I'm eternally grateful for every wonderful person in my life, and for the beautiful people who have shared their lives and hearts with me.

Cheers to the next chapter.