Hello folks! Last month we made another outing to the Coconino National Forest with wonderful friends. We have found a great camping spot that we return to often to and it’s so good to us. The forests in Arizona have been plagued with fires, which is incredibly sad (please, please do lots of rain dances for the forests that are in trouble-lots of tragedy happening as a result of the dryness and resulting fires). For the first time in our camping history we did not have a campfire, and just a few days after we left, this area and it’s surroundings were closed due to high fire risk. For almost 3 days we had: 5 dogs, 8 kids, 7 adults and immeasurable fun on this trip. For Birdie, our 9 month old Welshie puppy, this was her first camping experience. Last time we went, we were only dreaming of bringing her home and watching her enjoy these woods- and enjoy them she did! She had never experience that sort of gigantic wilderness freedom before, so we kept a close eye on her at all times, though she had no desire to wander away from us-and came to us each time she was called. This meant she could run and play off leash with the other pups, and people- and be fully engaged with the forest, energetically swirling around the earth, wearing an infectious perma-grin. The girls and boys wanted to have their own tents this time. The girls decided to turn theirs into a temporary make-shift spa, and I was flattered and thrilled when they asked me to come in to photograph them with their masks on their faces and cucumber slices over their eyes.
There are a lot of photographs here from this trip, but I actually had my camera out for very little time overall. The goal is trying to strike that balance of enjoying some moments with it, and many without it too. While I have enjoyed working on these photos and preparing them for the stock photography companies I work with, I am anxious to reconnect with self-portraiture after a bit of a hiatus. I’ve noticed the fluctuations, the ebbs and flows my artistic creations have taken over the years, and am learning to accept their natural evolution. After all, how can our expressions always be the same when each moment in our life is never the same as the one before – – when we have so many layers living within us, many of which are contradictory? There is a lot going on around me, which is both why it is hard to focus on self-portraiture and why I NEED it so badly. And although I haven’t been turning the lens on myself much lately, I have been writing a lot. I’ve made rough drafts of poems and stories that mean a lot to me and are very personal. Maybe I’ll share them at some point, or maybe I won’t. Right now, I am too enraptured in the process to think about what I will do with these works in progress. Meanwhile, I am waiting to hear back from various publications (this can be a long process…) on a completed story called “Day of the Living,” which I co-authored with a brilliant writer/artist Warren Cox, also a childhood friend. This story, which was such a pleasure to dive into as a collaboration with Warren. He really made it come to life! It touches on the shifts that we experience in connection to creating art over the years – – and that uninvited dark cloud of self-doubt; happiness and happiness…
Lately, my internal struggles with the process of creating mostly emerge from the pressure to keep my work consistent in genre/style whether it’s my photography or writing — because it is what I was taught – – and wanting to completely reject that pressure and attitude. Undoubtedly, I was drawn to art in the first place because I wanted to design my own point of view, and break through rules and boundaries that don’t fit my soul or my particular dimensions. I want to experiment, I like mixing things up, I need to create. I am interested in and appreciate lots of different kinds of art/photography and writing styles. I don’t want to have to choose between things I actively enjoy. And really, I have yet to think of a good reason why I should. I have sometimes wondered if I am a bad artist, or looked down upon because of perceived deviation in my work, and- – yes – – self doubt – – has always been easy for me (and most of us) to find. It constantly roams my mind, and always will. What I feel though is this: it’s all just as complicated and as simple as self-expression, maybe it will appear uniform at times, but if that was ever my intent, it is no longer.
Happy trails & embrace their twisting and turning pathways!
Links to previous camping posts:
This is blog that goes on forever-n-ever – – if you’re still here, I decided to look back to our very first camping trip in nearly the same spot, with the same families (we’ve added more pets and friends who sometimes join since then). Perhaps the desire to look back, was fueled by my reflection on how our artistic style and output may change over time. These photos were taken in 2012 when I was very new to DSLR photography. My kids were toddlers then and the feelings these photos bring up are beyond my ability to covey with words. These photographs are the keepers of some details that got lost along the way. The reveal how different my kids look now – – how much they’ve grown, though their spirits remain largely unchanged. These photographs are not substitutes for memories, but they do hold a lot of value to me. I guess this is why I am drawn to the documentary side of photography as well as more abstract/experimental. I am beyond grateful to have these people in my life as constants, and for this special spot in the forest which is so connected to our souls. And some things don’t change at all…like Pippi (the Vizsla puppy below, now almost 6 in the pictures posted above) staking a claim to her own camping chair.
Natalie resides in Peoria, Arizona, with her husband, two children, and two dogs. Her artistic journey has taken many twists and turns but photography and writing have become the primary outlets for her artistic expression. She is an artist at Offset.com and Lensdrop. Her work/photography has been published by National Geographic Your Shot, Lensbaby, Beyond the Wanderlust, and has been licensed for ads by Samsung and other companies for advertisements. Her best days are filled with trying to guide and raise up her offspring and pups, music, reading, creating photographs and writings, hiking, yoga, cooking, and sky-gazing. In the social media world, she can be found on Instagram @natalie_a_wheeler, and as a moderator for @theechoesinside, a hub for self-portraiture.