behind the lens – the necessity of discovery

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

My best shoots in the last few years have been the ones where I didn’t overplan anything, where I just tried something and ended up exploring something new. Discovery is what makes a photographer real, what causes the viewer to catch their own breath at the “oh, I have never seen this before!” and the “you’re doing something that nobody else is doing.” It is the breath of fresh air that speaks to the authenticity of the person both in front of the camera and behind it.

I have struggled for a while with the “default mode” I’ve used to make solid, deliverable photos. It’s great for racking out shoot after shoot and being consistent, but it doesn’t lend itself to very much exploration or discovery – and you end up copying yourself and everybody else just to get a “product.” It is really, really good for me to look back and find the shoots where I uncovered something I didn’t know was going to be there, like the light that poured into the location where I was shooting for Lisa Leonard Designs. I still remember how happy I was to discover it, and I still love looking at these images. I was shooting details on a pretty girl, and then I was photographing magic.

It’s important to leave room for the unexpected, even when you are shooting for a client. The images I always end up showing are the ones I didn’t previsualize but made when I stayed open to making something new.

What about you? Whether you’re a photographer, a writer, a designer, or even a stay-at-home Mom, when has your creativity been jump-started by something you didn’t expect? Have you stumbled onto something that just *worked* for you? Tell me about it?

exquisitriebyKSauer0000529

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

P.S. I know shot this so long ago, and I posted it already a long time ago, but I’m giving myself a Throwback Monday here because I haven’t seen the sun for over a week now, and I want to spend a little time there. And also, it made a good thought process for me today. So there’s that.

the black dress diaries – manantial

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The “Black Dress Diaries” are a seven-part mini-series born from a magical location shoot I did for a personal project here in Charleston, South Carolina. The shoot began as a simple portrait session with minimal styling and light I’d never used before, but as we shot, it became something more. I broke our 90 minutes together into several different stories to break down the “traveling” nature of the shoot, and I’m sharing these little “diaries” as a “travelogue” for the black dress.

This mini-set was the beginning of everything. My model, Haley and I found a bit of an “oasis” to begin our shoot, a stand of deep green set back from the sandy browns, blues, and neutrals of our beach setting. This one took on a feeling of newness, full up with rich life that we were just getting ready to step out into. I felt like it was a “wellspring” for the creativity we put into the shoot, and so it birthed its name through the exotic backdrop that made me think of Spain or Portugal with its passionate color and varied vegetation. “Manantial,” the Portuguese word for “wellspring,” was the perfect feeling for my inspirational starting point, the refreshing moment I found my courage to begin again.

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photographer – Kelly Sauer
Dress – Urban Outfitters
Model – Haley D.
Location – Charleston, S.C.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Almost every time I shoot, I see something, and I shoot it, and shoot it, and shoot it trying to figure out WHAT I was feeling in what I am seeing. But I inevitably have to stop shooting, and I don’t always get it straight out of the camera. Sometimes, though, I can find it later if I give myself some time, some permission, and a large enough file to uncover exactly what I was trying to capture.

This particular image took me a while, and it’s an outtake from a post I’m wanting to put up soon (so of course I will be featuring it twice because MY BLOG), but I cannot wait to share it, BECAUSE IT IS WHAT I WANT TO SHOOT. I dropped this in as I was prepping a little this morning, and my jaw. dropped. And it was all, “oh, hello, THAT was it!” I had tried to pull out too much on this one, and there was the shot, right there in front of me all the time.

I feel like I might be starting to figure this out…

And also, P.S., I am still looking for a couple or two to model a shoot for me. Pass it on?

love letters (with gossamer vintage)

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

“But pearls are for tears, the old legend says,” Gilbert had objected.

“I’m not afraid of that. And tears can be happy as well as sad. My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes—when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables—when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had—when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I’ll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy.”

– Anne, L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

This lovely little shoot went live at the Cottage Hill Journal back in October, when we were still settling in from our September move and I was all “what blogging?!”

This shoot is a classic example of what happens when your planned narrative goes awry and the story has to change. I had envisioned a beautiful vintage set with a lovely French vibe, but the day before the shoot, everything changed with a surprise package from one of our vendors, and I had to re-plan the whole thing overnight. I ended up “writing what I knew,” a sweet photo story inspired by my grandparents’ long-distance romance during World War II.

While this story wasn’t what I had originally planned, it has become one of my favorite sessions, combining the vintage appeal with a soft elegance that I always kind of read into my grandma’s house when I was growing up.

The shoot features a real bit of a new story: the boy’s hand in these pictures belongs to the young man who proposed to our lovely model just a couple of weeks after we photographed them. They graciously allowed me to create a little more intimacy in our shoot than they had allowed themselves to have yet, and I photographed their wedding in December. It’s going to be fun to share those real wedding photos here soon!

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

CREDITS

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Location: Private Residence
Gown: Shop Gossamer
Florals & Styling: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Hair and Makeup: Dannon K. Collard, MUA
Silk Ribbon: Silk and Willow
Vintage Details: Sarah Wallace & Kelly Sauer
Model: Kayla Miller
Set Assistant: Joshua Long

abundance, in process (with chaviano couture)

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

Posting so much of my work recently has me thinking a lot about my journey as an artist. I wanted to be “a photographer,” but I have ended up realizing that I am really an artist. And being an artist… well, that isn’t as easy as being a photographer. A photographer sees what is and retells it on camera. An artist sees what is and interprets it through a medium. A photographer mirrors reality; an artist looks for ways to explain it. And I am beginning to see that the two don’t always coexist very peacefully. As a photographer, I can make a business plan, but it might not work well because the artist may not yet be ready to be real enough in that plan.

I feel as though it is like creating a lovely gown: first you have to put the pieces for the vision together, and then you do the fitting, and then you sew it, and then you fit it again, then you add the trimmings, and then you put it on the girl for whom it was always meant, and THERE it is, the way you first dreamed it. But it takes time. And you have to be patient with the process, because you can’t just sell the muslin for walking down the aisle.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

When I started taking pictures, people were just wowed by “oh you take good pictures!” and they told me I should be paid for it. And I was wowed too, and I agreed. Then a few people started paying me to take pictures. And then, to my surprise, I couldn’t keep shooting the good pictures *I* wanted to take, because clients expected something from me. So I shot through what *I* would expect if I were paying someone to take pictures for me. Which isn’t a bad measure, but my artist side didn’t like that AT ALL, because timing and money and technicalities and production took over and the things I wanted to see and say got a bit lost in the shuffle of doing the work.

So what happens when the work is not its own reward? When “doing the work” is just “doing the work?” I wanted to be a photographer because the work itself rewarded me. It gave me back my life, it gave me back my passion. It let me sing my song.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

I know you’ll say that I’m doing good, and I’ll say YES, I AM DOING GOOD, and then I will say that I have never been so discouraged while doing good, because I am sad and it is hard and I have lost my voice. The dress is half-done, and I can see what it might be at the end of the process, but I’m the only one who sees the final vision, the only one who knows the gap between what I am doing and what I want to be doing. There is no one out there who can see that for me, or who can tell me how to get from here to there. And I can’t ask anyone else to believe in the vision before it has been brought to fruition.

The market is cruel, because it encourages the artist to pause in his growth in order to put food on his table. Not everyone has the option of relying on someone else’s support while making what is real to them. I am a little embarrassed that I have that option, but so very grateful that my husband works hard and diligently to care for us when I only get paid enough to help out with groceries and business bills once in a while. I don’t want to take that for granted. This is why I am taking some time in 2015 to be an artist and not just a photographer. I am giving myself permission not to say the same thing over and over again – but to speak about new things with the same voice.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer
custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

I’ve been posting a lot of work recently (and OH BOY do I have more), because *I* want to see it. Because part of my process requires seeing it again through others’ perspectives. Because I told these stories with my camera and wanted to share them, and they have been locked away for publication or editing or lack of time to share. Because I want to find the threads that connect my work, and the habits I want to break, and the things that hint at where I want to be at the end of all of this.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

It’s like a “behind the scenes” event, the story behind the story, and perhaps I am not as far along the road as I thought I was, but I feel so relieved to let go of “being all that.” A business like mine needs to grow organically and honestly, with lots of heart and letting go and holding on and being in love and embracing the lack along with the abundance to see the beauty in the promise until the promise is kept.

Thank you for letting me putter.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer
custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

dress design by Chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer | exquisitrie
custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

CREDITS:

Images originally published at Style Me Pretty

 

as featured on Style Me Pretty 2014Photography: Exquisitrie By Kelly Sauer
Hair & Makeup: Brielle Brenner Of Blue Bird Artistry
Accessories: Carlee Sizemore
Models: Vivian Byrd
Venue: Private Residence
Ribbon: Frou Frou Chic
Set Styling: Carlee Sizemore
Veil: Chaviano Couture
Vintage Rentals: Blue Eyed Yonder
Wedding Gown & Design: Chaviano Couture

 

the bride wore glasses (with kelly lenard)

exquisitriebyKSauer0000386

I had an eye doctor tell me once (as he wrote out a very slight prescription for glasses for me) that my eyes were really good, and that I was probably just more sensitive to visual variations that most people. I sighed with relief, figuring I could live with a slight stigmatism, so long as I didn’t need to figure out contacts so that I could still take pictures. I’ve always had an aversion to sticking my fingers in my eyes (!!!), so I have been grateful to get away with only glasses when I need them for tired eyes.

I have often wondered how girls who *must* wear glasses work things out for their wedding days, and that curiosity led to a little mini-shoot with one of my favorites, Kelly Lenard, when I was pregnant last spring. We didn’t get it published, but I thought I would share it here anyway, especially since it features this gorgeous bouquet (one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen) and one of the most interesting and beautiful gowns I’ve ever shot, a rare, hand-pieced pineapple silk gown designed by Cathy Ebrada.

And of course I had to share it here because it features my own little flower girl along with our sweet model, who had just found out she was pregnant herself (talk about a fun personal connection with your subject!).

I think we made glasses look GOOD, and fun, and I hardly noticed them for the pretty. So here’s to the bride who is afraid she shouldn’t wear her glasses on her big day – girl, you can look amazing and just. like. wonderful. you.

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada
photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada
photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada
photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Floral Design: Kelly Lenard, Intertwine
Gown: Ebrada Atelier
Model: Millie Lewis Models
Location: Charleston, SC
Hair & Makeup: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Shoes: Kohls
Canvas Backdrop: DIY + Home Depot

the black dress diaries – zahavah

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Hidden in the glorious wildness like unmined gold…
― John Muir

The “Black Dress Diaries” are a seven-part mini-series born from a magical location shoot I did for a personal project here in Charleston, South Carolina. The shoot began as a simple portrait session with minimal styling and light I’d never used before, but as we shot, it became something more. I broke our 90 minutes together into several different stories to break down the “traveling” nature of the shoot, and I’m sharing these little “diaries” as a “travelogue” for the black dress.

Today’s diary, Zahavah, carries a Hebrew name for “golden one,” given because of the light, the scarf we added for the ten or so minutes we shot herethe gentle middle-eastern feeling to some of these photos. I had worn the scarf (a Goodwill find!) as a fun fashion touch for the shoot that morning, and on a whim, I threw it into the shoot. I had no idea it was going to do what it did to the pictures until it happened.

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photographer – Kelly Sauer
Dress – Urban Outfitters
Scarf – Thrifted
Model – Haley D.
Location – Charleston, S.C.