An Interview, with Jesse Burke

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Jesse Burke is not only the newest member of our Childhood Unplugged group, he’s also the author of “Wild & Precious”, a collection of images he’s shot of his daughters in nature over the last few years. He’s tremendously talented, has a clever vision, and it’s my honor to introduce you to both him and his work. With no further adieu…
Perhaps we should start off with a general introduction. Tell us where you’re from and three things about yourself.
I’m from Stratford, Connecticut but I consider myself a New Englander at large. I spent many days, weeks, months traveling around all of my life. We live in Rhode Island these days.
Things about me:
I’m a huge, nature nerd. I take my family, which is comprised of my three daughters, Clover Lee, Poppy Dee, and Honey Bee, and my wife Kerry, out and explore nature a couple times a week. I think it’s so important for them to be physically in touch with the natural world.
I spent most of my life as a skateboarder. This may not seem like a major thing but it as truly shaped who I am as a person and parent.
In addition to being a photographer I also teach at Rhode Island school night. I went there for school and feel a deep need to stay connected to academia and help students become awesome artists.
I notice you shoot a lot of commercial work but I’ll bet your heart lies in your personal work, which I feel like is common for many photographers. Give us a brief synopsis about your personal project, Wild & Precious.
Wild & Precious documents the road trips I embark on with my daughters in order to get them intimately connected to the natural world. It also serves as a love story between father and daughter, man and nature and children and nature. It shows all of the adventures we have on the road, where we sleep, what we eat, and the objects and animals we come in contact with.jesseburke3Maybe this is too personal, but I’m curious about your own upbringing. Did the way you were personally raised play a direct role in how you are in-turn raising your girls?
I think as parents we take the things we think worked from our own upbringing and push them forward onto our children and we discard the things we don’t think worked very well. I find myself taking a few of the things that happened between my parents and I and utilizing them but I’m really trying to do something different than what my parents did. I’m in a very different situation than they were. My career affords me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my children and include them in my artwork which really is a magical opportunity.
To teach about nature you too must know the ins and outs. Is this something you tackled as an adult or grew up learning from someone else? What kinds of things, in regards to life or nature, do you make a point to teach your daughter, Clover?
As a child I spent a lot of time outside in the woods. I became very familiar with the indigenous species where I lived, which wasn’t all that rural. So I guess you can say I am self taught.  When I moved back to New England after college and started my first real art project I got very invested in the landscape of the natural world of New England. I took it upon myself to really learn about animals and nature. This has of course parlayed into me teaching my children about that, as seen in my Wild & Precious project.  The two things that I really try to instill in my children are compassion and love towards creatures and the earth in general. We’re all ethical vegetarians, so in a simple way they understand the dynamic there and why we make the choices we make. One of the most important things to me is that my children feel a connection to the earth and the animals that inhabit the same space that we do. I don’t want them to be afraid of animals so I’m go out of my way to teach them about the creatures and how they should interact with them. It’s quite amazing to see the babies not afraid of spiders or bees. We have a beehive in our yard and they have zero concern.jesseburke7
I understand you have two younger girls who are too young to join you on these adventures. Are they eager to join in? Do you worry about how the dynamic will change between you and Clover when they are old enough to tag a long? I imagine it’s been a great bonding experience for you and Clover. Maybe you can touch on the bond between you and Clover, too.
I think Poppy, my four-year-old, is very eager to join in because she understands what’s going on. I actually took her on our first 3 person shooting adventure last fall. It didn’t go all that well. I think she is still too small to really endure the hiking in the woods. She got tired really fast. With that said, I’m really excited about the next phase of this project. Including the two little kids into the mix is something that Clover and I are waiting for. Clover often says she can’t wait to teach her sisters all the amazing things that nature has to show them. The bond that Clover and I have is undoubtedly partially due to our experiences together on the road. In fact the introduction to my book is a letter to Clover from me chronicling how I feel about our experience on the road. And the conclusion to the book is a letter from Clover to me. The letters are my favorite part of the book. Even more so than the photographs.jesseburke8How does your wife feel about these adventures? Does she ever want to tag along? How do you think these trips would change if they involved the whole family?
My wife loves that I take the girls out on the shooting adventures to document the process. She doesn’t feel left out because we spend a lot of family time out in the wild as well. But she knows when I take the girls on a road trip to shoot for the series that it’s work and not all fun. She respects the difference and can totally appreciate it. I feel so lucky to have a partner that encourages and supports my artistic practice.
My motherly instinct is very attracted to the Free Range kids movement, which – in short – is about trusting our children to do more for themselves and allowing them independence. I feel like what you are doing is very in-line with this kind of parenting. Would you agree?
I totally agree. I think we need to let our children be as independent as possible and learn things from experience. I’m a big fan of nature play and free range parenting.
You’re raising three girls. What are the more important lessons you want them to take away from life?
To be kind, patient and understanding, to love the earth and each other, and to be confident and strong.jesseburke10
How would Clover describe these trips? Are there ever times she doesn’t want to go or is it something she always looks forward to?
I believe Clover would describe the trips very much like I do. She looks forward to them as a getaway, a vacation of sorts. She looks forward to the opportunity to spend time alone with dad and go out into the world and explore these amazing locations. The kid has seen more amazing things and done more amazing things than I have and she’s only 9.
Curious how long a typical trip is and how you work around school. Are you okay with her missing a few days of school for the sake of learning outdoors? 
Usually the road trips last between three and five days. We try to take them when there’s a break from school, but I am okay with her missing a day or two for the sake of this. I think she learns a lot out in the woods in a different way than she could ever learn in school. Different things but equally important.jesseburke2
I love the images of Clover in the hotel rooms. Can you touch on what those images represent and why they’re included in the series?
The sleeping images are meant to represent a resting point, both literally and metaphorically, in the bigger adventures. They serve the more precious end of the scale. She is tired and vulnerable and I see that working with the wild child you see in the other images. They are meant to also serve as moments of pause in the book, moments of reflection on what we encounter that day and what may come tomorrow. They are spread out across the book like a backbone. In fact the first and last picture you see are her asleep. This is meant to give the viewer the experience that possibly the entire book is a dream. The sleeping images came into play one night when we were back at our hotel and I decided to take some pictures of Clover sleeping because the stripes on her shirt looked amazing against the stripes of the sheets. When I woke up in the morning she said she had been dreaming of salamanders, that we were out in the woods and she was catching them. Later on that day our plans got sidetracked and we ended up parking in some random spot and hiking into the middle of nowhere. We stumbled upon this stream where Clover found tons of salamanders and ended up catching them and playing. The dream acted as a premonition in some way to the day that was about to come. I took that as a special sign to continue to photograph her sleeping. In fact, I photograph her sleeping every night now when we’re in the hotels. I started to take pictures of the two girls sleeping together on the two most recent trips.
Where has this project taken you?
We spend a lot of time in New England, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts. We spent some time in North Carolina, Virginia, lots of time in the northwest corner, the Olympic national Park in Washington state. We’ve also been out to the desert of Arizona and the coast of Eastern Canada.
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I notice the bloody nose and the broken arm. Do share.
There are images scattered throughout the project and book. They are meant to act as gut punches. Images that make you feel an immediate emotional reaction to the physicality of being young and fragile. These images often come in the form of injury. Clover had eye surgery when she was three, a broken wrist at summer camp when she was six, and a basic bloody nose. These images are meant to allow the viewer to feel the vulnerable and precious side.jesseburke6
Tell us about all the dead animals and why you feel drawn to capture them. 
I think the animals in Wild & Precious act as supporting characters in the play. We often desire to be connected to the creatures we encounter but it’s impossible because of their fear of humans. So oftentimes the only way we get to touch them and be physical with them is when they’re dead. My children have overcome the fear of dead animals. It’s not strange to touch a dead animal but rather a way of experiencing a deeper connection with the animal world. On a side note, death is so closely related to sleeping that the animals also appear to be sleeping in the pictures, which mimics the sleeping of Clover. There’s also a notion of masking throughout the series where faces are secured, both animal and human.
The feel of your photos remind me some of Sally Mann, who is one of my favorite photographers. Can you discuss some photographers that have influenced you over the years?
Sally Mann and Wynn Bullock have served as endless inspiration for me. The way that they capture portraiture and it’s relationship to the landscape is absent particularly when Bullock’s images of his daughters at the beach and in the woods.jesseburke4
 
What do you think is the most important lesson Clover has learned since you started this project? 
I think the most important lesson she could have learned from any of our adventures is to be courageous and confident. She does things and acts in ways that often make me feel very proud to have helped her acquire such secure grasp on who she is and what she’s capable of.
How about an important lesson you, yourself, have learned?
One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in my life came on these roads trips. Clover taught me to let go of being in control and to collaborate with her. To have confidence in her abilities and to see her as a partner and to not be such a dictator. I have a tendency to be a bit of an overlord when it comes to producing my photographs. She showed me that the best opportunities come from working together and experiencing the moment not as a dictator with the subject but as a teacher and a student where the relationship is reciprocal. I’m stubborn, it took me many frustrating experiences to get to the point where I am today. But I thank her for that, because in the end it’s what makes the images more unique and special.
Your project is going to be released as a book, which is awesome. Can you tell us a bit about what that journey has been like? When will the book be released and where can we find it? 
Yes, the book will be released this fall to coincide with a solo show at my gallery in New York, ClampArt. The book is being published by Daylight Books. It’s been an amazing partnership and experience to bring this book and project to life. Creating the book, editing the pictures, talking about the ideas with essayists, have all brought the project full circle and into much more clarity in my mind. Sequencing the images in the book has also helped me establish relationships between pictures that I never thought possible. It’s a precursor to how the exhibition will look and feel in the gallery space.
As for where you can get the book, I will be setting up a pre-sale website. So stay tuned for that. You’ll be able to buy the books directly from me and also some goodies that come along with the book. We’re in the progress of creating objects and items that will be Wild & Precious affiliated that will be for sale on our website. Things such as hats, stickers and other things. This part of the project is really fun for us.jesseburke5
Will the book contain any images from your instagram feed? Would love to hear your general thoughts in regards to mobile documentation. 
Ah yes, one of my favorite parts of the project has been shooting with my phone in addition to my camera. I approach photography in a very different way with my phone so incorporating the images from my Instagram feed and iPhone into the project was an amazing opportunity to bring two seemingly disparate worlds together. The work is all created at the same time from the and the same mindset so it only made sense that they were family and live together in the book and exhibition. I’m really excited about this because I feel that the Instagram images are much looser and more fun in someways to my formally composed camera pictures. I can’t wait for people to see this book and experience the adventures we go on and hopefully be inspired to take their own adventures. It’s a wild and amazing world out there and we as parents need to make sure our children are aware of just how magical it is.

Speaking of mobile documentation, Jesse is moderating the Childhood Unplugged Instagram feed this week. Hop on over to say hello and check out his features. Thanks for your time, Jesse, and best of luck with Wild & Precious

School Days

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I dreaded having both boys in school this year. Last year, because we newly moved to the area, Hooper attended a preschool that was 12 miles, albeit 30 minutes, commute. He went two days a week and waking him up and getting him fed and dressed in a timely manner on those days was torturous. And by the time I picked him up a mere 3 hours later, I’d had spent nearly two hours in the car.

Because of his birthday, this year we had the option of signing him up for preschool three days a week or enrolling him in the transitional kindergarten program. When I heard the TK program was 5 days a week, I almost immediately discounted it. And then I heard that it was state funded and, well, because money doesn’t grow on trees and because the local school offered the program, it started to look better and better.

The transition from preschool to TK has been a rough one for Hooper. The amount of things that confront you as a parent that you didn’t anticipate are vast. And I know I’m still speaking from ignorance because all I can do is laugh about how much more is in store for me. The truth is, and I think all of us parents feel this, is that none of us know what we are doing and yet we’re in these roles as mothers and fathers that give us the authority and responsibility over the lives of others. Somehow we’re supposed to raise these beings of ours to be good, decent people and it’s all based, more or less, on instinct; or, at times, on necessity — using the tools we have and picking up others along the way.

Willy and I dread picking up Hooper from school.

Each day, the teacher walks the kids out to the flagpole where all the children wait for their parents to retrieve them. And each day we get there just a bit early to sit and watch from the car as Hooper invades someone’s personal space. I spend a few minutes watching, wondering when this behavior will end and when I can quietly crawl out of my hiding place to claim this reckless child as my own. It reminds me of the infant stage when you’re in a restaurant and your child is screaming and everyone is looking at you and all you want to do is desperately pretend that the baby is not your own because you’ve tried every trick in the book and they’re still crying and you’ve reached the level of defeat where you’ve totally surrendered to their screams and almost don’t even hear them anymore but all these people are looking at you to do something to make it stop. Yeah, it’s like that.

The other day I picked Van up from preschool (he’s going two days a week) and his teacher told me how polite he is and how he’s such a delight to have in her class. What I wanted to say to Van’s teacher was, “well it ain’t nothin’ I’m doing at home because my other kid is supposedly a dick”. And please know I’m obviously being facetious when I refer to my sweet, first-born, number one cuddler (who nailed me in the ear with a shoe the other day) a dick. I understand that he needs time to transition and that behavior doesn’t change overnight (side note: it’s gotten a lot better over the last two weeks, yay). I also know better than anyone the inner workings at play… the fact he only very recently dropped his nap, yet will fall asleep on any afternoon car ride even if it’s only 10 miles away. The fact is, we can all make excuses until we’re blue in the face for our children. The reality is that they are human and just like us, they are figuring out the ropes. I’m trying my best to be consistent, though admittingly at times I feel like a fumbling idiot.

We’ve all shed tears. We’re all learning, we’re all growing.

But I’ll tell ya what… Tuesday morning, when both boys are in school at the same time? Yeah, it’s my new favorite day of the week.

And as a side note, so much love to all the teachers out there that find it somewhere deep within them to have patience and even love for a wild little boy like my own. So much appreciation, my heart swells.

And as a side, side, note, there are just too many kids and not enough teachers in public schools. How’s that for ending a post with a loaded statement?

Brothers

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I overheard you guys up in your room laughing and saying “Let’s go show mom our poo butts”. Moments later you both came running into my room, naked, and started sticking your little bums in my face.
You self sufficiently made yourselves your own breakfast the other morning. It consisted of leftover stale Cheetos. Which you shared. So there is that.

I had to break up a fight that involved one of you with your peep out threatening to pee on the other.

You’re both in a stick-your-tongue-out and spit phase. That’s fun.

You fight over cars that we pass by. It goes a little something like this, “Wow, Hoo-par, check out that coo car”, to-which-Hooper, you say, “I want it!”. This is always followed by an additional “No! I want it!”. And a full on fight breaks out over a car that doesn’t belong to any of us.

Along the same lines you recently saw a car tugging a boat and fought over who would be the captain.

You both like to take all your clothes off and tackle on the sofa. Not sure why you have to be naked for this to happen, but it’s definitely become a thing.

Every once in a blue moon you’re embrace each other with arms wide open and almost sarcastically say “it’s so nice to see you” as you embrace. I’m pretty sure you’re mocking me, but whatever.

We’ve caught you trying to kiss one another’s buttholes. It’s gotten to the point that your Papa and I have decided that the next time we see it happen we’re washing both of your mouths out with soap and water.

Hooper, you always want to wake Van up while he’s napping. Just. Can’t. Wait. To. Play. And then fight.

We put you to bed the other night but then found both of you, completely naked, standing in your bathroom pointing and laughing at the pee Van made on the floor. We re-dressed you and put you back in bed because doing it twice is so much more fun. As is cleaning up pee.

I’m realizing a lot of these tidbits have to do with poo, pee, butts and private parts, spit, or nudity. Welcome to our life at the moment.

A Wedding, Rhonda & Allen

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I spent the evening with Rhonda, Allen, and their three beautiful children on a warm summer evening on the day they said their vows and conjoined as a family of five. The ceremony was at the Temple in Newport, followed by a backyard reception in Laguna, and finally some family photos at one of the many beautiful coves along the coast. I’ll always consider it warm pleasure to be invited to share in these special moments with people that would otherwise be strangers.

Interested in hiring me for a wedding, family session, or event? Shoot me an email: ashleyjennett{at}gmail.com.

A Family Session, with The Rays

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It’s very rare that I get an email requesting my services for a true lifestyle session. I emphasize true because there are a lot of people out there calling shoots lifestyle sessions that are indeed entirely directed and composed. I, myself, am at times one of them. I always prefer that at least a portion of my sessions are candid in nature. I thrive on those moments when life must take over; when diapers have to be changed, cuts need a bandaid, children need to be fed, shoes need to be tied… because those are the little moments that are some of my favorite to capture. Mostly because people stop overthinking how they appear because, well, shit’s gotta get done.

I was so happy when Angela emailed me requesting an entirely candid session… I believe her words were “from bed head to breakfast” or something of the like. These images are far from perfect, with no re-dos and very minimal direction, but there lies a truth in their grainy goodness that far exceeds anything I could have orchestrated myself. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the moments captured; the love and war between siblings, the toothpaste in the sink and the inspection by a father of his son’s job of brushing his own teeth, the playfulness of a baby that is no longer really interested in nursing, and hair blowing wildly from that all powerful fan that’s so necessary in these dog days of summer.

I captured this family in their home, in Claremont, California.

Interested in booking a session? Please visit my website and email me for more information: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

Google & Pregnancy

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I think we all fall victim to the google trap, but us moms seem even more susceptible than the rest of the population. The time spent trying to conceive has always been the worst for me (hello, ovulation calendars), followed by actual conception (literally treating google like a magic eight ball, “am I pregnant“?), and then I more-or-less fall off the google wagon as raising two boys has given me some confidence in the instinct department. But given that every pregnancy seems to be unique, it’s a trap that’s easy to fall into time and time again.

That’s why I’ve opted to have a google free pregnancy. It saddens me a bit that I’m even creating such a thing.

When I make the tags for the shirts we sell over at The Bee & The Fox, I cut and handle a lot of Jute. This seems inconsequential except for the fact that I only recently learned that my skin is super sensitive to Jute and following making tags, the palms of my hands become deathly itchy. It doesn’t necessarily happen right away; I’ve noticed the following day to be the worst.

Given that we were hoping to conceive and before I recognized the Jute as the culprit, I turned to google in hopes of it acting as my positive pregnancy test and I googled, “itchy palms during pregnancy”. And you know what? There is such a thing.

And that’s when it dawned on me: Anything you can feel – cold, itchy, sweaty, bloated, crampy, crappy, nauseous, hot, and so on an so forth – can be a pregnancy symptom simply based on the fact that some women, somewhere, make note of it during pregnancy.

I googled “heat intolerance” (which has hit me hard this pregnancy) which led me to wonder if I could be suffering from hyperthyroidism, which can result in low-birth weight (I kinda wish), stillbirth (wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy), weight loss despite increased appetite (I kinda wish), heart failure (no added note in parenthesis needed), and preterm labor (which, to be honest, having a baby before my due date – for once – sounds kinda dreamy. I’m being facetious, obviously. Or kinda, anyway). In reality, I know I’m simply affected by triple digit heat and I don’t find that entirely mysterious.

The 4th edition of the now infamous book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, even boasts that it contains even more content when it comes to the physical concerns with pregnancy “with even more symptoms, and more solutions” (this is in addition to even “more” in terms of workplace concerns, emotional concerns, nutritional concerns, sexual concerns, etc, etc).

I know pregnancy is precious, but like parenthood, it has become really precious. Too precious, in my opinion.

So that’s the short of why I’m challenging myself – though it’s less of a challenge and more of an instinctual insistence – to a google-free pregnancy. Because I’m my own best resource and if stuff comes up along the way that causes concern, I can kick it old school and ask my good ol’ doc.

Who’s with me? And who has found that google caused fears that in hindsight were unnecessary?

*Image on left by Cass Bird, Image on right found on Pinterest

Palm Springs

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I shot a wedding the other weekend out in the desert and we opted to make a family trip, with hopes that September would bring a hint of relief from the otherwise torturous desert summer heat. It did not. It was the kinda heat that makes every step you take a conscious effort, where every cell within your body feels swollen to it’s capacity. It’s one thing I’ve noticed in all three of my pregnancies now — the inability to tolerate extreme heat; or even the 80 degree days, for that matter. The desert did not hear my plea.

We left much later in the day that we had planned, which is the case when you have kids, isn’t it? I always underestimate the time it takes to fill and package orders and given the fact I had worked in the hospital the day prior, I had not had the time to pack or get organized in the way I’ve learned you must when you’re running a household with children in it. I’ve never been a planner or an organizer and while motherhood has changed that to some extend, I know too well that there are cracks in that front and that my old wait-til’-the-last-minute self often shines through. And because life likes to pay you back in ways that sometimes feel unfair, we ran into standstill traffic that was just enough to make me a bit queasy.

We stopped at a liquor store once we got into Palm Springs and picked up a few essentials, including donuts and sugary cereal, something I blame on sending Willy into the store while the boys and I waited in the air-conditioned car. Come the next morning, no one was complaining about said choices.

Because we rented a home via AirBnb, we left Jimmie back home which allowed us the freedom to check out The Living Desert; something we always wanted to check out with the boys but never got to since most of our trips to the desert are with Jimmie in tow. We paid a small fee to get in and another small fee for the tram, which picks you up and drops you off at different areas of the park. I joked that the tickets should have been $5 and the tram ride should have been $50 because there was no physical way any person could walk those grounds, in that heat, and survive. Every step, again being a conscious effort, every cell, again swelling to capacity. It felt like there were more people working there than visiting and by the end of our hour or two stent, I could see why; it was simply unbearable. We made good use of our time indoors for lunch and in the discovery center, where the kids touched just about everything they could – including a possums tail – within a few minutes but spent the next thirty climbing up and down a small carpeted hill while Willy and I waited for our body temperatures to cool to a normal level before making what I estimate to be a couple hundred feet walk to the exit. I considered waiting for the tram, which would have made the full loop back around the park, just to take us to the exit and avoid those couple hundred of feet in the sweltering heat. Did I mention that it was hot?

We also spent some time in the pool because water is more or less a necessity in conditions like these (am I being dramatic?). And later in the day we did some off-roading and happened upon Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, which had some of the most beautiful woven rugs, tapestries, and ceramics.

I woke up the next morning fretting about the wedding, cuz’ that’s what I do before just about every shoot, no matter how big or small. And as if luck were on my side, the clouds hung around most of the day and between that and my adrenaline, the heat was more or less an after thought. The wedding was terrific and the couple every bit delightful as I had imagined. I’ll be sharing some of those images soon.

We left the following morning, hitting up our favorite breakfast joint just one last time; the deal sweetened by it being “Grandparents Day” and the kids eating free… something all of us parents can appreciate because we all know how wasted half those meals are anyway. Later in the day we returned home to a house full of dust (we’re working on one of the bathrooms), bags begging to be unpacked, and a memory card full of a couple’s special day begging to be edited.

But, alas, air conditioning. And a thirty degree temperature drop.

Fall Sessions

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I may be shooting myself in the foot here because space and time are both quite limited this fall (energy too – ha). But if your schedule is flexible and you’re interested in booking a session, email me. Live outside of Southern California? I’m hoping to do more travel sessions in the new year, so speak up (I have an email request from someone in Austin so if you too are in that area, please raise your hand. And by raise your hand, I mean send me an email). I also potentially have one spot left in San Francisco, on Tuesday October 20th, if anyone is interested. Email me: ashleyjennett{at}gmail.com.

Forty One

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A Portrait of my family once a week, most weeks, in 2015

Willy: Has begun asking me if he’s having good hair days. It’s awkward.

Hooper: Came upstairs to request a new shirt because the one he had on was soaking wet. When I inquired about the wet shirt he told me, “it’s a very, very, very, verrrrrrry long story”. Apparently I’m pretty good at summarizing long stories because I can tell this long story in just one sentence: I was playing with the water in the downstairs bathroom.

Van: Spun around in a bunch of circles and then told me, “Look Mama, the house is tipping”, expecting me to be just as dizzy as he.

Me: Stood up on the bed only to be hit by the blades of the fan, which are spinning quite fast on these hot summer (I mean fall, hashtag: ?) days. If parenting alone doesn’t kill a few braincells, the fan definitely did.

Jimmie: Had an upset stomach and shit on the rug I bragged about thrifting for $35. It wasn’t the kind of shit that could be cleaned off, if you catch my drift. Y…yay. 52weekproject-b

 

A Mother & Child Session, with Carolyn Mara Borlenghi & Co.

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My dear friend Carolyn, who participates in Childhood Unplugged with me, came out from Florida to visit and I was more than delighted when she asked me to snap some photos of her and her boys at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. The entire shoot was very comfortable and felt very collaborative, with more art direction than is typical of my documentary style, though I’ve come to love it nearly just as much. It feels so fulfilling to have a vision and then to execute it. And with such a beautiful artist in her own right as my subject, it was awfully easy. Her boys were a joy to work with, sweet and charming and downright handsome. A with a love like they have for their mama, it all flowed naturally and smooth. Made me think I need to get in the frame with my boys more given the fact that they love me so dearly at this point in life (hashtag: subject to change). In any event, Carolyn is all kinds of beautiful; equal parts elegant and fun.

Interested in hiring me for a session, wedding, or event? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com

Sometimes it’s good to talk to strangers

strangersWe were all raised with the ‘do not talk to strangers’ rule, but do you think it was actually useful? Sometimes I think it would have been more helpful to hear ‘listen to your instinct’.

Sometimes, when Willy wants to do something I think is crazy, I say ‘if you think that’s the best idea for our family, go for it’. Like when he wanted to get another dog and accused me of being a dog hater and fun killer because I made it known that I didn’t think it was a good idea. Rather than fight him on it, I threw the control back on him- if you think that’s a good idea, go for it. I trusted him to trust his own instinct and in the end we both agreed that another dog in a townhouse probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
The thing with rules is that they’re very black and white; they don’t allow for a lot of self introspection. And the beautiful thing about introspection is that, when used, it helps one build their trust in their instinct. And when you trust your instinct, you develop this beautiful sense of confidence.

I truly believe that the majority of people of good. Sure, there are a few bad seeds, no doubt. But it feels instinctively wrong to make rules based on the few bad seeds when the the majority are good.

I encourage my boys to talk to strangers. It feels like I should censor that statement or that it should be included in some post of horrible mom confessions or that I should find a more subtle, careful way to announce it… but it’s simply that; I encourage my boys to talk to strangers. And minus the one homeless lady with a questionable mental illness that combs the San Clemente streets, we’ve never had a bad experience.

When we attended the Music Under The Stars events at the Mission over the summer, Willy and I would take the boys around and offered free hugs to all. The joy it brought people was incredible. I feel we lack so much human connection; we’re all so distant from the people right around us. And the self-confidence I saw on my boys’ faces as they hugged hundreds of strangers on those nights brought the biggest smiles to our faces.

Meeting new people and bringing joy is important.

So rather than teach my boys not to talk to strangers, I encourage the exact opposite. Instead, I emphasize the importance of trusting their instinct… Because I want them to be good decision makers more than I want them to be good rule followers.

How ’bout you? How do you navigate the realm of stranger danger?

*Images found on Pinterest

Dara Scully, on Childhood Unplugged

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A while back I featured an image of Dara Scully’s on the @childhoodunplugged instagram feed and immediately it drew a lot of attention; a few were disgusted by her work while others defended it. I’ve loved her work ever since I first laid eyes on it and I embrace the fact that some of the images make the viewer a bit uncomfortable. With all due respect to the artist, I wanted to give Dara an opportunity to discuss her vision and her philosophy of childhood. I think her thoughts on it all are very beautiful and raw. You can head over to the Childhood Unplugged blog to check it out. Please show her your love and respect.

Childhood Unplugged

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The calendar says it’s fall and minus the fact it’s getting darker a lot earlier, it still feels a lot like summer here in California. That didn’t stop us from diving into what has become one of our favorite fall traditions, however, and we set out to Casper’s Wilderness Park to BBQ and, of course, hunt for bears.

Hoping that despite the busy fall schedule we can continue with this fall tradition; so simple and yet so enjoyable (minus the fact that baths are a must as soon as we get home). If only they allowed dogs… that’s my only complaint.

Please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.