Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 24

This past week was the fourth and final week of Ali Edward's Lens of Joy class. To say that I have enjoyed this class would be an understatement. This final week the lessons were on self-portrait work and storytelling with photos. I have a great desire to add more of myself to my stories so I have been anxiously awaiting these lessons. Even though I have always taken photos to support the stories I write, Ali's lesson on Storytelling with Photos has reshaped my view of combining stories and photos. Her approach is to take photos, lots of photos of your life and then tell the stories from the photos instead of the way I would normally approach it; story first and then photos. I think that Ali's approach is firmly rooted in the fact that she is a scrapbooker and memory keeper.

I use to be a scrapbooker so this concept is not foreign to me, just long forgotten. As I started blogging and developing my writing skills, the writing took center stage and the photos were taken to support the stories I would write. Ali's approach has made me go back and look at some of the photos I have taken over the years in a whole new way. What stories does the photograph tell? Many times there are multiple stories within one photograph, layers of stories. This concept is carrying over into new stuff that I am shooting. I thought I would share the layers of stories within one recently taken photograph.


This photography was taken this past Tuesday at a coffee shop in Saugatuck, Uncommon Grounds. When I look at this photo there are so many stories that I see.

I could write about what brought us to the coffee shop in the first place. Mallory is home for Thanksgiving and we love to do stuff together when she is home. Scout, our golden retriever, had a bath and haircut scheduled for that morning at 8:30. We didn't quite make it there by 8:30 but close enough. Mallory is not a morning person and the ability to get up and get going is especially hard for her when she is home sleeping in her comfortable bed. This coffee shop is only about ten minutes from Scout's haircut place, so we figured we would have some Lattes and scones for breakfast and do some writing for the morning.

I could write about how I was brave enough to even take this photograph. There were other people in the coffee shop but not too many, so I set my Canon on the table across from us, set the focus as best I could and then set the self timer. Of course the camera makes a beeping noise as it counts down each time I took a shot and I am running back and forth to press the shutter and get into the shot. Note to self, next time bring the remote. This was huge for me because people were watching and trying to figure out what in the heck I was doing.


I could write about our hair. Curly hair, while it may seem delightful to those of you with straight hair, it definitely has its curses. Finding a stylist that knows how to cut curly hair is also very challenging. We finally found that stylist. We both are in process, the stylist having to do some drastic changes to fix past problems. Mallory has not had her hair cut since August and won't until she is home again for Christmas break. Her hair is getting so long, but our stylist thinks it will be Easter before her's is where it is suppose to be. Mine, because I am here and can get it cut more often, our stylist chose to fix the problems faster and more dramatically. Cutting it very short to get all the crazy layers closer together and eliminate them faster. I had just spent the whole spring and summer trying to grow my hair to say I was disappointed in the gigantic step backwards would be an understatement. Crushed would be a better word. The first butchering was in September, I had another cut in October. It is finally getting to where I feel I have some hair again. At my appointment in December we can finally talk about where she sees my style headed in the future.

I could write about how the focus is sharpest on the chair in the middle instead of on us, but that really doesn't bother me. Ali teaches it isn't about perfection it is about capturing the memory.

I could write about how even though it looks like I am writing, I am actually holding the pen upside down.


I could write about the lady who is in the background in this photo. She was using burlap to create holiday decorations for outside the coffee shop. One of the other customers commented to her how they seem to be using burlap for all kinds of decorating these days. How the big thing is to cover chair seats with burlap, he thinks that would be very uncomfortable to sit on. As he says this he turns around and sees that four of the five chairs at the big round wooden table in the center of the room have burlap seat covers. Oops. The decorating lady says that's okay, nobody sits there very long anyway. Another customer sitting in one of the comfy overstuffed leather chairs by the front window pipes up "Just don't wear shorts when you sit there". Right, definitely don't wear shorts, which won't be a problem for at least another six months here in Michigan.

I could write about how Mallory and I recently got new phones. Updating from the iPhone4s to the iPhone6. As you can see in the photo she is on her phone probably trying to ignore the fact that I am running back and forth between our table and the camera. She is a bit addicted to Instagram. She loves to follow creative people who post about food, theirs dogs and their adorable kids. She and I had a conversation about social media and how if you are looking for a job in a creative field, Instagram is another piece of your work portfolio these days. Mallory would love to find a job where she could use her writing and photography skills so she knows her Instagram gallery will be an important piece of her resume'. Check her out on Instagram @northwoodjane. She has a lovely, simple style. She is blessed with oodles of talent and great window light in her bedroom at school.

There are at least another three or four stories that I could write using this one photograph. It was amazing what came to the surface as I started peeling back the layers. This is definitely a method I want to continue using both with my future work and as I look back at past photographs. Peeling back the layers to see what stories the photographs hold.

20 comments:

  1. I like the look of this coffee shop.

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  2. Great idea...including yourself in the stories. I like it!

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  3. I mean your photo. I didn't proofread. :)

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  4. Sarah..... as always, I find your story so entertaining!... love to read your take on things,,,, I would have loved to have been a customer in that coffee shop watching you,,,, I would have taken some pics of you running back and forth LOL..... it is always great to expand our horizons,,,, you are a gifted writer,,,,, so glad I met you here,,,,, have fun with Mallory,,,,

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  5. I love reading you . . . as much as your photographs.
    Thus had me going back and forth . . . from photo to hair to woman to upside down pen and more.
    (I see a photo story on puffy coats, boots and bags . . .)
    Loved this Sarah . . . (Like usual.). (Thus should be this.)

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  6. Wonderful photo, it does capture a piece of your day. It is funny but most of the time I don't think about what story the photo tells. Especially the ones with people in them. My goal is really to start telling more stories with my photos. Though not so easy when people are not in them.

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  7. Ali's course sounds very interesting Sarah , maybe I ought to take the next step. I'm with you on curly hair before I went grey my hair was so unruly now it has settled down.

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  8. Now you've made me wish I'd taken Susannah's course! Next time for sure. But I loved the layers you exposed, definitely a new way of looking, one I think I"ll try to adapt. The idea of taking the photos then finding the stories is fascinating. Well done, Sarah!

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  9. Ali's class sounds great! I hope she offers it again. Love the idea of uncovering the stories in our photo! Great chronicle today!

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  10. Kudos for not worry about what people would think while you were doing this. I'm very self consious about things like that so I probably would never do that. I enjoyed all the various stories that could have come about through this one photo.

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  11. As they say, "every picture tells a story" and indeed it does. When alone I can be pretty good about disregarding what other people might think as I try to get a picture, but it seems when my children are present, either they get antsy or I become more conscientious about them being uncomfortable with me toying with getting a photo. Sometimes we all just need to chill. Mallory seems to have that down-pat. (I like her photographic style/followed her).

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  12. For a moment I thought you'd got someone else to take the photo - well done on setting it up. I'm with you on the curly hair - mine is just wild!

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  13. The part I like the best is when a lady says not to sit on burlap when you're wearing shorts! Definitely not!

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  14. The matching jackets........the paisley rain boots.........the smirk on your face as you try to show a concentration that isn't there because you're running back & forth.
    Remote girlfriend - remote!!
    You're so funny & if Mallory is wondering who pattilin60 is that just started following her on Instagram - tell her it's me because her mama said to do it!

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  15. I love this coffee shop. Looks like a place i can get lost into. :)

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  16. The class sounds lovely and I like the photo of you and your daughter together at the coffee shop...now turn your pen the right way...LOL...

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  17. so many possibilities from just one photo...so many paths to explore...great perspective...love it...

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  18. Sarah, So happy that you have enjoyed your class - it's always nice when the money is well spent! For each of the various stories you might write, based on the single image, you invited me into the story. I have naturally curly hair and so do both of my sons, so we understand your plight. At present, I'm keeping mine short, but I kinda miss my mop of not so well behaved hair. Your Mallory sounds like such a talented young woman and I will check out her Instagram photos (my youngest son is a writer and photographer, too). But mostly, I want to cheer you on for having the courage to take the photo in the first place. I've hemmed and hawed over every photo opportunity this week - trying to work up the courage to take photos in public places (you'll see some from an art gallery on Wednesday's post). Good for you! Your writing and photography are so real, even the upside down pen, and I love every word and every picture!

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  19. Great stories! There are so many stories for each photograph we take...loved hearing about yours. You are brave to keep going back and forth. :)

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  20. That is such a different concept for me too, but as you went further and further into the stories your photo tells, I could see how valuable it is. We glance at a photo and don't usually pause to listen to all it could tell us. Your description of taking the photo with your self timer cracked me up.

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Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)