far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. i may not reach them, but i can look up and see the beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.- louisa may alcott

today, i want to share and blog about someone i consider not only my mentor, but also a really great friend.  cheryl jacobs-nicolai.  cheryl is a brilliant film photographer, who i so admire and respect.

i met cheryl a few years ago, at one of her workshops, when i first started photography and it was b/c of her, that i had my aha moment.  it was cheryl's inspiration and words that helped me get the confidence in  myself and move my work and my business forward.  her work moves me beyond words.  no matter what cheryl shoots (children, adults, local tavern regulars, equestriennes...whomever), she captures the soul of the person in her photograph better than anyone i have seen. 

if you've never seen cheryl's work, please take a few minutes to check our her website. i will be so worth your time and you'll keep coming back again and again.

i can honestly say that i love everything cheryl produces but here are a few of my favorites:

and a couple she took of my kids and i, when she was visiting last year

lastly, i may have shared these words of cheryl's once before, but i don't think a photographer can ever read this enough...

Style Is Not a Voice

- Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don't look outward for your style; look inward.

- Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It's like money; you only have it when you don't need it.

- Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a consensus.

- Say no. Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don't fit you, say no to overbooking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you're stressed and anxious.

- Learn to say "I'm a photographer" out loud with a straight face. If you can't say it and believe it, you can't expect anyone else to, either.

- You cannot specialize in everything.

- Know your style before you hang out your shingle. If you don't, your clients will dictate your style to you. That makes you nothing more than a picture taker. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that's tough.

- Accept critique, but don't apply it blindly. Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn't not make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.

- Leave room for yourself to grow and evolve. It may seem like a good idea to call your business "Precious Chubby Tootsies"....but what happens when you decide you love to photograph seniors? Or boudoir?

- Remember that if your work looks like everyone else's, there's no reason for a client to book you instead of someone else. Unless you're cheaper. And nobody wants to be known as "the cheaper photographer".

- Gimmicks and merchandise will come and go, but honest photography is never outdated.

- It's easier to focus on buying that next piece of equipment than it is to accept that you should be able to create great work with what you've got. Buying stuff is a convenient and expensive distraction. Spend money on equipment ONLY when you've outgrown your current equipment and you're being limited by it.

- Learn that people photography is about people, not about photography. Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection.

- Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself.

- Never compare your journey with someone else's. It's a marathon with no finish line. Someone else may start out faster than you, may seem to progress more quickly than you, but every runner has his own pace. Your journey is your journey, not a competition. You will never "arrive". No one ever does.

- Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacence.


thanks cheryl--

for being you.  for being honest.  for being real.  for inspiring.  thank you for all you do and all  you offer to others.  i hope to see you soon.  looking forward to hanging out and shooting some film ;-)