sundried self.

Today, blog-a-day gets personal.  I, Caroline, do solemnly swear to bare my soul in the sentences that follow.  Get ready.

So, I’m a photographer.  I’m an artist.  By accident, really.  Growing up, two words came to mind when I heard ‘artist’ — one was starving, and the other was cliche.  So naturally, I had to avoid such frivolous paths.  I stuck to being a classical musician, which was expressive without being unique or daring; I just played someone else’s music.

But even then … I didn’t fit in.  There was this thing inside that made me a bit weird… not like the others.  Most folks chalked me up to being rebellious, a provocateur, a fashion deviant.  But why?  I didn’t feel that way, so why was I labeled like that?

Then I met Jayden.  I was 17, he was 21 and touring the world as a very, very cute red-headed Aussie musician.  He was smart, had character, wasn’t starving, and was still living out his dream of being a musician!  How was this possible?  Jayden saw the potential in me and encouraged it.  He never questioned the motives behind my strong personality, he nurtured the good and felt free to challenge the bad.

Still, I only saw myself as an appreciator of the creative.  I got my degree in Art History, because the world makes sense to me when I look at it from the perspective of art.  But I didn’t acknowledge the things that I could offer the creative world.

Suddenly, friends started asking us to photograph their weddings… events… families.  Suddenly, our hobby turned into something we did together, something we loved, and something that was a tool for us to meet new people.


They’re really beautiful, you know.  You’re really beautiful, you know.  I started realizing that when I looked at someone through my lens, they were beautiful.  It didn’t matter their gender, age, race, size, or fashion — I started to see their stories.  The people they loved.  The things that mattered to them.  Their laughter, their tears.  This stuff gets me… us, really.  So it became our thing.

I started realizing that I had to PERMIT MYSELF to see myself as an artist.  To acknowledge that the thing inside of me wasn’t bad; that the word artist didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to eat.  It didn’t mean I took daily self portraits to post on Facebook while I lived at home with my parents, who were paying off my debts from private art school.  I realized that I had to permit myself to think big.  To think bigger than my fears, and bigger than the path of life that is expected.  To extend my imagination beyond weddings and beyond portraits, and start asking myself, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” … “How can I use photography / art to give back?  To spark real change?!”

If you actually had a dream — no, I mean a dream.  No, a dream so big your heart races when you think about it, what would that be?  (Even if others thought you were crazy…)  People throw around the phrase ‘chase your dream’ so often that the word has lost all meaning.  It was only recently that I started realizing I had never allowed myself to dream bigger than the conventional.  Hugh MacLeod says, “Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists.  That’s half the battle.”

My dear friend Sarah explains such dreaming with the word audacious, which means: extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave, fearless, extremely original, without restriction to prior ideas, highly inventive; recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law or the like; insolent; brazen, lively, unrestrained, uninhibited.  That’s some serious dreaming!  So why not?  What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?  How would you change the world?

Jayden + I have some pretty nuts-o ideas up our sleeves at the moment.  They keep us awake at night, and when I daydream about the ideas coming to pass, I forget to breathe.  But I feel more alive than ever.  I love this journey we’re on — that we’re on it together, and that there are incredible people around us, supporting us, collaborating with us.  Most people think we’re kinda crazy, (and we are) … but another big lesson we’ve learned is:

If your community is made up of people who understand, you waste far less time trying to explain yourself.  You respect each others goals and tasks, you collaborate.  When I started to realize the beauty of this, I wrote in my journal, “I’m surrounded by quirky, hilarious, eccentric, crass, honest, raw, adventurous folks and I LOVE it.  We collaborate, chat, laugh and dig deeper into life quicker than most.  We have a community… there’s support, there’s [creative] accountability, and healthy competition.  I love not having to explain myself.”  There’s so much freedom in this.  Even if your community isn’t where you live, get plugged in!  Between Twitter, Facebook and the blogging world, connect with like-minded creatives and be yourself.  Put yourself out there, and be OK with rejection if you don’t find ‘your crowd’ the first time, or year, or decade.

And another thing:

OK, OK..  That sounds weird, I know.  I’ll explain..  Envy and comparison are common pastimes in humans, but they won’t get you ANYWHERE!  Don’t wish for what someone else has, they’re probably wishing they could trade with you..!  Build your own perfect world.  Write your own unique story.  Why copy someone else when you are your own individual?  Individual meaning distinguished from a group, distinct, indivisible entity.. where’s the room for homogenization in that ?!

Austin Kleon says, “Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.”  So I don’t!  Admittedly, I’m still totally in the warm-up phase of my marathon.  But I’m not letting that stop me anymore.  My motto?  Be deliberate.  Simplify.  If our life is cluttered, we can’t focus on what really matters to us.  Our desire for success is greater than our fear of failure.  How strong is your desire?

When Jayden + I were at the What If Conference earlier this year (which was amazing, by the way… and there’s another one coming up in July!), our friend Justin shared a few quotes that totally got me.  I’ll wrap this up with a few of his words:

“It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad.  Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow.  Regret and fear are the twin thieves that would rob us of today.”  -Robert J. Hastings

“It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”  -Paulo Coehlo

“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.”  -John Shedd

And so thanks for reading, My Fellow Friend Ships (get it?).. sail on out of your personal harbor, whatever that may be.  And please reach out.  I’d love to hear a little about your journeys.  xo

(PS:  The photos I used in this post are from our adventures in Jordan, Brazil, and Scotland last year…)

by Caroline

show hide 17 comments

May 8, 2012 - 5:00 am

Miriam Hi! I enjoy Jayden’s Godly music with the band. Now I’m enjoying you (Jayden + Caroline), your photo art and a fresh view at life through your lens. I’m blessed!

March 17, 2012 - 1:25 am

sami d incredible. full of beauty, truth, and inspiration. thank you for this.

March 10, 2012 - 7:48 am

todd hunter mcgaw you & captain J are the SHIZ! i fully love youuze eh! (miss you)

March 9, 2012 - 5:47 am

anda keep writing stuff like this 🙂 we are so on the same page re: community etc. felt like i could have written this myself. it’s tough in wi sometimes … i definitely have fostered a creative community all over the world. while i’m here for the long haul physically … i continuously invest in my friends who ‘get me’ all over the world virtually, and by traveling non-stop. But that’s the good life, isn’t it? <3

March 8, 2012 - 10:19 pm

Leilah Smith You both, are more than just artists, you guys are both a powerful combination that oozes the most concentrated original creativity, positivity, individualism, and beauty. I know, I probably comment these type of things all the time, but I have to say, I am blessed to count you as my friends and to have even from a distance, watch you grow over the last decade! I really don’t think you realize how much inspiration and drive you guys instill in me, as well as anyone who comes in contact with you. It’s pretty obvious your enthusiasm spreads like wildfire and you both have such a wonderful talent and selfless love for pulling out and capturing the beauty in everyone around you. Your positive energy is magnetic! Although, I do not consider myself a religious person by any means, but I think that you should know that I see testimony of God through your lives. <-Okay, sorry for the cheesy novel. I guess I should have just posted "Thank you guys for being who you are…I'm glad I met you." LOL!!

March 8, 2012 - 9:16 pm

jen Caroline, you evoke so much wonder and beauty in the world. I love looking over your words, your work, your pinterest (gosh, I sound like a stalker). You are different. I’m thrilled to see what you and J are creating, what hasn’t even come to be! Thank you again for our shoot and for giving me so much “visual stimulation” and intensity in how I see things. I’ve realized, in reading this, that since leaving the work force I have lost a Mt. Everest, and now I shall be a-looking for it. Thank you!

March 8, 2012 - 7:37 pm

Ken love you both so much. thank you for sharing caroline. fantastically beautiful and inspiring. you and jayden make me smile.

March 8, 2012 - 7:21 pm

Jennifer Klementti Great post Caroline! So honest and real…this journey that we are all on is pretty incredible! I wish I go to know you better in Cabo. I am excited for you guys to be truly chasing your dreams. Looking forward to hearing more about it!

March 8, 2012 - 10:35 am

Dave Stark Such an amazing post Caroline!! Your spirit and your heart are inspiring. I can’t wait to see everything you and Jayden cook up. You two are the type of people Jenn and I want to surround ourselves with because it is evident from this post you would “get us”. Thanks for sharing and hope to see you in Portland!

March 8, 2012 - 7:32 am

TJ Getz Caroline, Thank you, THANK YOU. This was so touching and poignant, it refreshed my thinking in a much needed way. It was great meeting you and Jayden. I look forward to seeing where your dreams take the both of you. 🙂

looking forward,

March 8, 2012 - 1:27 am

Laurine This was a daring thing to write. Thanks for baring your soul with us. As well as surrounding yourself with people who “get” you… I always think hanging with people who bring out the best in you is always wise. Also, we should all spend time with people that are further along in the “journey” than us and help spur us to be better people… And also spend time with those who you are able to sow into.. And they will glean from you. It’s a healthy balance to have and I qualify myself by saying I’m married to an artist. Well that’s my experience. Can’t wait to see what happens next on your adventure. Xx

March 8, 2012 - 12:31 am

Shaun Ranft This was beautiful. It really, truly made my day. I’m going to be 23 this year, and yesterday I had this sort-of shattering realization that I haven’t done anything all that substantial with my life… yet. I’ve been working at taking chances, and reading this certainly helps me. Thank you, Caroline.

March 8, 2012 - 12:13 am

Beata English WOW Caroline… your post is beautiful! Thank you so much for your sharing and baring yourself to us! It was an absolutely pleasure to have met you at “What if” and i hope our paths cross again soon! xxx

March 8, 2012 - 12:09 am

Kerrie Amazing and true. Truth from a great talented woman who is becoming wiser with every breath she breathes….x

March 7, 2012 - 11:48 pm

Becs This is such an inspiring post. I too have learned to surround myself with people who just except me. Thanks for your honesty. Love it… and you…xo

March 31, 2012 - 12:16 am

i took her to india, Fawlty … india at the oval! [film friday] » Woodnote Photography Blog […] big plans we want to share with you very soon.  This is the very tip of one of our dreams that Caroline mentioned a few weeks ago…  We’re excited to share this little beginning with all of you, so […]

March 21, 2012 - 11:41 pm

OPPOSITION : the fly in your ointment, the assassin of creativity » Woodnote Photography Blog […] Caroline wrote a beautiful and personal account of her development as a creative individual; the hurdles of creative realization, the process of […]

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