For the first time in my life, I ventured off into another country. I knew no one, had no idea where anything was, nor did I have anyone accompany me on the journey.I was completely independent from everything I was comfortable with.Once I arrived in at the Gatwig, I changed my US currency to pounds, which absolutely baffles me. Papers and coins of different colors and designs, not something I’m used to. I hurried to catch the express train to Victoria Station, and daydreamed as we passed every stop.
Once I arrived in London, I settled into my hotel, a small room perfect for a one night’s stay. My final destination was Wales, so this would do. I grabbed a taxi for the first time in my life and ventured to a house with a stand-out pink door, awaiting a friend that I had only met online. We discussed that she would be working on a styled shoot, and I could come along to witness, and of course, take some behind the scenes photos as well. I met the most lovely human being, Ana Louisa, a photographer from Lisbon that runs a wedding blog called Sweet Rebel Bride, Poppi, a highly talented wedding couture designer, and Aggy, an aspiring actress with looks similar to Ruby Rose. I got to explore the city and eat British mexican food, shaking while scolding myself for having underestimated the cold in London. I did get to see The Eye of London and Big Ben, so I did accomplish some sight seeing.
The following morning, I ran to the bus that would take a group of us from London to Wales where the Snap Photography Festival was being held. I was one of 12 people on the bus, and we went around introducing ourselves in a rather obnoxious fashion.
For example:“Hello, my name is Lauren.”
Spending 6 hours together on the bus created a sense of comfort in all of us. None of us had ever met previously, besides Ana and I from the day before. We also discovered after the introductions that two of our attendees were key speakers at the event, only by name, and not that they actually said who they were. Gabe McClintock and Peter Jurica. It was humbling.
After 30 minutes, the bus driver pulled over into a gas station, and for the first time, I got to see the kind of food that was considered a convenience; freshly made sandwiches with healthy ingredients, no drinks with artificial preservatives, and nothing remotely linked to fast food. My inner American was finally happy. On the road, goats and sheopards passed by, abandoned castles laid on mountain tops, frost ever so gently dusted the grass. In Florida, there are hardly any moments where there is no such thing as greener, and seeing the new life of decaying trees gave me a new perspective. There are cycles of life everywhere.
When we arrived, everything seemed so, for the lack of the word, foreign. The ground, made entirely of loose stone and planked wood, lead to a few different buildings: the tavern and dining hall, the lodge where business breakfasts would be held, a circus tent filled with straw bales and a heater for warmth, a fire pit surrounded by seats. I wandered around, following each trail, and discovered a valley vast in size and gleaming with life, a natural rock wall cascading high above ground level, and 3 dogs ran past, Mossy, Arrow, and Bru.
Following another trail that lead towards the top of the hill, I passed by the sleeping arrangements, domes made of see through materials to view the landscape, bell tents with their own fire place to keep people warm, bluebells and tulips that bloomed wildly on the side of the path. At the top of the hill was the learning lodge, where all the workshops and speakers would be conducting their works. Alongside were the ruins of old English buildings, aged by the years as the Earth started to reclaim what was hers.
When I got back to the start of the trail, photographers from all parts of the world began to pour in: Chicago, Missouri, Wales, London, Lisbon, Florida, Australia, Canada, and many, many more. The audience was vast and diverse, each of us coming from different places, but we all had one thing in common: our love for photography.
On the itinerary we had been given weeks prior to the event, it stated that Wednesday would be a day to “dress to impress,” which we all believed to be a party for that night. Right before morning classes, Laura Babb passed out white envelopes to everyone, and once opened, a wedding invitation was inside for THAT afternoon. I had been itching to photograph a wedding from the amount of inspiration I’d gathered from the workshops so far, and I was ecstatic. The following images are from that wonderful day.
The following morning, a group of us decided to go explore the beach of Wales, We packed a few cars and set out to adventure.
(blurry photo of Corgis, but look, CORGIS!)
In between classes, I was able to hang out with a few photographers, both in front and behind the camera. The magic created by creatively driven people can bring you such a flood of feelings about your work, and I’m honored to share some of them with you.
On our last night, we listened to local bands perform in the tent. Folk songs, wild vibes, and soulful music played throughout the camp, followed by a surprise burlesque show, and lastly, a fire dancing extravaganza.
On Friday morning, we said our goodbyes, and of course, took a group picture to remember each other by. 90% of the people in this image will be returning next year, including myself, and I can’t wait to see this wonderful group of people again.
Another 6 hour bus ride later, the last of us said our goodbyes, and I went to bed, resting my eyes on my last night in London.
On my last day in London, I had a few hours before I needed to catch a taxi to the airport, and I decided to explore the city by myself. I’m so glad I did.
There are several things I learned about myself on this journey.I take too long to get ready.I enjoy long walks by myself.I have no idea to pack for cold weather. I talk to myself in song
I miss spending time with my family. I am beautiful the way I am. There are hardly any limitations that will get in my way of bringing an image from my head to life
As you may have noticed, I did not document a lot of the sights that I saw throughout the trip. The images are but a small fraction of the things I was able to see. Why though? If there’s one thing I learned, it is that you need to enjoy the little things and witness the moments in front of you. Yes, I am a photographer, and a camera in my face is what I’m primarily used to, but every once in a while, it is perfectly okay to put it down and see life through my own eyes.
It is the small moments in life that truly define what we think of it, and can influence each and every one of us. The smell of coffee beans being grinded in the morning, the butterflies in your stomach when someone says “I love you,” the first time you hold your child after they’ve just been born.
It is these moments in life that we treasure and hold on to, that play over and over in the back of our minds and give it meaning. It is family, love, unique experiences, and our way of thinking that help define us and give us a purpose in life. Everything is about the human experience, and all of us are capable of living it to the fullest extent. This may be one of the greatest lessons I will ever learn.
Though this is posted a few days later, and I am currently writing this on my 8 hour plane ride back to Florida, I can’t help but feel as if I am leaving a part of myself in England. Each and every unique moment and experience have created one of the most amazing journeys I will ever go through in my life. When the plane took off, I cried, tears welling up in my sight, the first time caused by sadness, and I am so damn grateful for this life.
To be 100% honest, I was a model before I became a photographer. Though I won’t name names, the photographers I worked with had no real sense of their craft, and in result, I thought I was a horrible person to photograph. The images did not show who I was, nor was there any real direction. There was no way I looked like the girl they were showing me in the photos. Who was that? Did I really look like that? I began to feel less and less good about the way I looked, thinking the problem was me. Throughout the trip, I became the muse for many other photographers, whose works are displayed below. Each one of them, no matter whether they shot weddings, portraits, street photography, boudoir, all of them told me I was beautiful. It’s amazing that it took being a photographer, and not a model, to finally see myself the way that I am. I know now self esteem like never before.
Voyteck | Photography
Selina Marie Photography
Shelley Richmond Photography
If you also follow my Facebook page, you would know that for the past 3 years, I’ve always taken a nude self portrait on my birthday. The first year, I had a dream about an image in where I was nude, and got scared when I realized I had no idea what my family, fiance, and friends would think of me. I created the image and posted it, only to be flooded with positive comments. For the following years I did the same, which lead me to create my other outlet, The Flower Project, a photo project dedicated to photographing nude women and sharing stories about personal things in their lives.
While in Wales, I took this self portrait to represent the broadening of my horizons, experiencing new things, discovering things about myself I hadn’t known, and taking a chance on everything life has to offer. This is the first time I’ve done one that wasn’t on my birthday.
It was less than 50 degrees out, and my feet stayed purple for the rest of the day, but in my opinion, it was well damn worth it.