I had the distinct pleasure and challenge of photographing a writer. Writers are some of my favorite people. Often softer spoken and detail oriented on the outside, they are raging with turmoil and ideas on the inside.
It’s odd to say “inside” and “outside” because we don’t have sides. We’re all one piece, all together, a package deal. But writers do seem to have an outer shell and an inner life more than others. I’m also a writer and see myself this way. There is an inner and outer me and on a good, vibrant, violent days of sun or clouds, I am both at once.
So is Annie Marhefka.
Annie is a writer in Baltimore who does many things at once. One peek at her impressive resume cues you into what kind of person she is: one who values discipline, drive, and curiosity. You can see more on her writing career here.
But my focus for her shoot was to show Annie as the creative writer she is. Currently, she’s working on an intricate, fascinating and thorough memoir unlike any I’ve ever heard about or read.
Whatever schema you’re thinking about "memoir" you have to un-think. Wait for her book to get published and take over bookshelves. Because it will and it will be heartbreaking and poignant and on many "must read" lists.
I will say that it involves letters and you’ll see those represented here in her personal brand photoshoot series.
What I wanted to show in this branding photo shoot was an artist at work in her habitat. Annie works from home. She has a husband and two young children. It was important to me that I include hints of her children in the pictures, hence the baby toys and supplies in some photos. I wanted to step back to see the whole room with her in it, to show her at work amidst the rest of her life.
I wanted to show her at work at the large kitchen table with the requisite pile of papers every family needs to sort through but doesn't.
I wanted to show vignettes of the often messy and organized process of the pieces of a novel together. I know from editing and curating small poetry collections that a book is more like an art installation before it's a finished product.
It’s different for everyone. For some writers, their best work might live on the computer, splitting time between one screen and another.
But Annie is a tactile writer.
When I first snooped around her house searching for light and home details, I learned that she values: art, color, plants, drawings her kids made, nature (giant living room windows give way to leafy woods), travel memorabilia and many, many books. And it felt important for me to include these objects and features.
At one point Annie went upstairs to change into her second look (one of four very cool outfits she changed into in the course of our 2 hour session which I appreciated a ton).
Before heading up the steps she peeled off her heeled strappy sandals and left them at the bottom of the stairs so she could run up more easily.
And that they let me know a lot about Annie - she's someone who leaves a trail; she’s someone who does many things at once without a lot of time.
So I grabbed a shot of her shoes at the bottom of the stairs. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the crux of Annie’s current writing project and this shoot. The memoir she’s working on celebrates her mother’s life. She lost her mom recently and the grief she still feels is palpable.
It’s not in a sad, dark or oppressive way - it’s the kind of grief that makes looking at a beautiful fall leaf hard because you know the person you miss would like it. It’s the kind of grief that makes happiness jagged around the edges because the world without that person in it is almost unbearable.
I talked with Annie before the shoot about her work and what writing meant to her mom. So it was like we had her presence there too. I say that because it’s crucial to acknowledge the people we can’t see.
It’s vital also in these photos for me as a photographer that we see Annie as a writer because, yes, she writes, but also that she is “a writer” which means, at least to me, that she excels in all the triads of being: she excels in thinking, feeling, and intuiting.
I hope you see her here.