Our Strangeness

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Photo Copyright© Reylia Slaby Photography and may not be used without written permission

It is important to fully explore the unique, unusual, and strangeness of ourselves. To marvel at our abilities to be odd. There are so many of us who feel out of place and awkward, if not all of us, and it takes us years to finally settle into ourselves.

I say to you, dear artist (aka everyone), be that part of yourself. Don’t push it away, but give it the spotlight. Figure out more ways you are weird, and then let it bleed into what you create and how you design your life.

I am 25, and I am continuously stripping away the layers of my anxiety that insists on a steady regrowth of insecurity and lack of confidence. I feel my limbs shake, and give way to awkward pauses in my speech. When I would stand in front of people, be it during a seminar or just momentarily at a party, once my stream of words was interrupted, it was guaranteed that I would be tripping consistently throughout the rest of the talk. Kind of like the runner at the Olympics that after one hurdle just kept fumbling over each one after that. Basically, everyone was glad they weren’t him. But I was him, in my daily life.

Now though, I find I smile more at those trip ups. I find more I am comfortable with where I lack. I recognize them, and see more clearly where I should try to fill. I feel aware of myself, who I am, and make more decisions based on what I am comfortable with.

I do things that match my strangeness. Match it today, tomorrow, and every day forever.

Always,

Reylia

 

 

 

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The Fearful Artist

Fear seems to be a big part of why I don’t create. Over the years, my own fears have eroded my desire to create and to push on. It is a strange thing, to be so in love with your craft, but to be terrified of it once you are faced with it.

One afternoon I was sitting in Starbucks. My time there was one continuous sigh. I go here to get away, to find time to relax, to allow my brain a release and a chance to recharge. And yet, I find myself in a panic each time I visited. Thoughts such as Nows the time I must create. You don’t have much time. What do you want to do? No one will create you future but you blah blah blah. A phenomenal rainbow of thoughts, each color a different shade of fear and pressure. I don’t know how it happened, but in my adult years, I have totally lost the ability to relax and to allow my own self to drift through my work and what I do. My confidence was slowly stripped away by own own doing.

When you are sitting in a cafe, the last thing you want to be doing is thinking of this. Questioning yourself, who you are, your own competence and abilities. And yet without interruption, I have somehow made criticism my daily meditation.

I looked back at my accomplishments, and felt nothing. All that I felt was what I hadn’t done, and what I should do from now. I looked at my goals from this past year, and all had yet to be accomplished.

Why is this? Is it because my crushing pressure and high standards of myself were taking its toll on me? Was it because I was messaging my boyfriend too much? Was looking at too many images of artists who were doing better than me? Was it because I still didn’t have the equipment that I wanted and needed? Or could it be that I didn’t actually believe in my own abilities, and was just biding my time. Or, maybe this age of digital wasn’t actually for me, and my world and creativity had been stunted by the endless possibilities. They did say that more choice was worse than fewer choices, didn’t they?

I knew it was ridiculous. None of them made any sense when I thought it out. The pressure wasn’t real, I didn’t need to do anything I didn’t want to. I was free to create anything, or to create nothing. That’s the thing about art, it shouldn’t be rushed and it shouldn’t be forced, no more than you can make water run down a stream quicker. You can only remove the rocks.

As for my boyfriend. Yeah, probably. I tend to lose my own personal focus when I’m in a relationship. I can’t help but think of the fate of two lives than just my own. In a way, its my own creative project, thinking about what the future will be like and what we could and should do. It was also a slight addition. I find solace in having a partner, its fun, its always wonderful to have someone that cares about you, its just not healthy to be careless about it.

Images though..the vast endless array of impeccable artists with incredible lives. They all say its possible too—to be like them, to do what they do. And of course it is, there is always that sliver of possibility that says if you follow the blueprint perfectly, you could do it as well. But its ridiculous to say that to someone who has an opposite life in a completely different situation. It’s not fair, and it’s not reasonable. I always felt like they should put their focus on telling people that they shouldn’t aspire to be them. Different people need and want different things, instead of continually getting bombarded with propaganda that tells them what their lives should look like.

As for equipment….yeah maybe. That one could actually be possible to some degree. But it was still implausible as to why all my art suffered, and not just the side that required equipment.

One thing, I thought to myself, I was hardly ever creating. It was rare that I created, and it was rare that I made mistakes. I didn’t allow myself to. Something about it was too painful, coming short was painful.

But maybe, what if, it didn’t have to be? What if I didn’t even think about it, and allowed my body to go on auto pilot with the art, forcing the side of the critique out. So long, you have overstayed your welcome in the gallery. And just let me..be me.

Perhaps I was afraid to do things wrong. To share too much, to give too much away. To reveal pain and failure was to be one. Maybe though, just maybe, it wasn’t.

Day 24 | Skin

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Image Copyright © Reylia Slaby

Today has been a bit more unusual for me. I have been out and about in Osaka, taking care of errands, meeting with a make-up artist I often work with, and also gathering a few things for shoots. While the things I have done are brimming with banality, what changed the pace of it was just that: My pace. I’ve had a bit of a running injury, in that I’d worked the muscles of my calves so fiercely that now I am unable to walk, but instead now am forced to shuffle. My annoyance was that I was unaware of how badly I had pushed my legs. I had only gone running for an hour, and was at my usual pace and route, so it was surprising to me how badly my legs hurt the following day, and even worse today. Alex thought that I might have been exaggerating my walk, but I am sincerely immobile. A walk that once was ten minutes is now thirty.

While I hope that tomorrow is better, I must say that part of me has found this outing to town in this state almost refreshing. There wasn’t for a moment that I had a chance to rush along with the crowd, but instead had to carefully navigate my feet up stairs and through the twists and turns of city roads. I had time to read posters, and to look at people. I felt myself think, instead of having my thoughts brushed away with the breeze of my pace. I never thought that something like this could be pleasant, but in all if it’s irony, it is. Maybe the secret to happiness is slowing down after all, allowing enough time to feel and absorb all that is happening around you.

Always,

Reylia

Day Two. The last gift summer gave

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From this project, one thing I hope to learn would be new color pairings that attract me, and use them for inspiration and reference in future photoshoots. It happens on occasion that I see certain colors that intensely grab my attention; they look like what poetry would, if poetry was a color. For several moments I admire it and muse that it would be nice to use it for a new piece. But I rarely document them, and it goes unthought of and forgotten.

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But today, as I walked down my street, small purple flowers floated above my head, and quietly landed on the cemented road below; a gentle proclamation of the forthcoming winter. Before I came across this subtle scene, I had been quite upset, and was very raw with emotion. But as this slow dance of the relinquished season was demonstrating itself on the road, just by watching the natural array I instantly felt separated from my sadness, and was able to just look and enjoy the simple beauty that was there to publicly enjoy. One of the last gifts summer gave.

Always,

Reylia


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One Year of Pictures. Day 1

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Image ©Reylia Slaby 2017

It surprised me about how fearful I was about this project. The idea of just taking one photo a day, an instant of my life, and then posting it. There was a sharp resistance that flooded through me, and within minutes I recognized it as the fear of the imperfect.

Somehow I had built it up in my head that everything I shared online had to be a spectacular, fully formed, and completely thought-out piece. And to keep my “reputation” as a photographer, nothing had to be anything less. I couldn’t strive for anything but my ultimate best each time.

This way of thinking came slowly over the course of my life as a photographer, sharing piece by piece, and rarely disclosing the numerous images that failed. The concepts that I hadn’t been able to do justice.

I had been wanting to do a 365 day series for a while, but each time my thoughts played with the idea, I had dismissed it because of my obsession with perfection, and creating an image with multiple layers of meaning. On top of it, I was also a bit skeptical about the idea of a “series”. This distrust stemmed from a phone call I had with a gallery owner in California several years ago. We were talking about my work, and he commented on how the flow of my pieces wasn’t consistent, that it didn’t feel complete as a series. And to be honest, while I eventually compiled my pieces under a single series title, none of them had been intended to be constricted into one series, but to stand on their own two feet. Because I was younger, and quite green in the Fine Art world (I still am), I felt instantly inferior because I couldn’t create a streak of homogeneous images. I had attempted to make a series several times during the course of the year, only to come to the conclusion that me in my present state didn’t make art in that way. I couldn’t create in accordance to what fit the mold of what a gallery wanted.

So eventually I associated the idea of a series as something constricting, a confine that prevented me from creating work in the way that was in harmony to my spirit and style.

But then, something changed.

It started by me feeling bound by the precision I felt my own work needed to have. Creating become a chore, instead of something I desired to do. I felt that the way I wanted to make my pictures was unattainable, and therefore eventually didn’t create as much. I had in essence trapped myself within a cage of who I felt I needed to be. I didn’t know how to enjoy myself within what I was creating, was terrified of failing, wasting resources and people’s time. Failure was my antagonist.

Eventually, after separating myself a bit from Fine Art, I’ve come to have fun with fashion and beauty photography. It’s something I enjoy, and am learning to incorporate more of myself into it. It does take a very long time to learn what is you, and what isn’t. Because I have found this new outlet, I have come to peace with my inconsistency with Fine Art, and for some reason, feel more inspired than ever to create pieces. It’s an enigma, a colorful and confounding puzzle. It feels wonderful.

And so, somehow today I decided it would be the day that I collected pieces from my everyday life. And to be ok with people perhaps seeing them as less than artistic, tacky, and maybe even unprofessional. All I know is that finally today, I am more excited about the future and of life than I have been in the past several months. It brings tears to my eyes, and I feel joy because I am finally taking steps to my convalescence. I know that this type of illness will always come and go, but the healing does indeed feel miraculous.

So for my first image, behold, flowers. Not exactly normal flowers, like roses or a lily, but something a bit weird, and a little imperfect. Just like me. And maybe just like you too.

Always,

Reylia

The Red Era

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Some time ago, about two years now, I was at a festival. This particular one I had looked forward to every year. It was here that I had discovered a part of myself that wasn’t scared or anxious. It was during this one day, my brain allowed myself to transform.

It wasn’t until the evening, that a man came up to me. He told me he was a friend of my mother’s. He was friendly, but looked at me intently. We chatted casually about the day, him a drink in hand, and me sober. A state to remember everything. “Oh Reylia.” he said, suddenly changing the topic. He cupped my face in his hand, and then briskly stroked my cheek. “You could be so beautiful…if your skin wasn’t like this.”

Pain and shock erupted in my gut, but left me speechless. Because of this man, the skin trouble I had been dealing with for years might have finally broken me. Every morning, the first thing I would do was to look in the mirror and to see if it was gone. Every night, I would check the mirror again to see if it leveled out through the day. It rarely did, if not get worse with the sun, air, and sweat. Despite all the things I used to try to heal it. And here at the festival where I felt the most confident, I had in front of me all my demons, all my insecurities, in the form of just one man.

In my daily life, once I stepped out of the house, I tried to never mind my skin too much, and to remind myself that there were worse things to worry about than how I looked. In that way, I was confident, and concerned myself with matters that involved my art or my education. Unfortunately makeup had the tendency to hurt my skin more, so it was always me naturally, bare skin to all.

After the words had come out of the man’s mouth and his hand had fallen back to his side, I realized that all my friends were walking ahead back to the station, so I had no time to react properly. I rushed to my group, and was quiet for a while, processing how his comment, his physical gesture, made me feel. I touched my skin gently as the train swayed back and forth, the texture rough to the tips of my fingers.

It was then I realized how much I didn’t care. But that I did want to turn it around and make something through this time of mine. The Red Era. Maybe that’s what it’ll be called. Whatever this time of mine is, I won’t let anyone take away my joy at just living, breathing, and being alive. Here, now, and in my skin.

Always,

Reylia