Photo Journal: Meeting LC in Laguna Beach

If I told you I was obsessed with Kohls, the beach, florals & dresses and once dreamed of being a fashion designer/attending FIDM, would that remind you of a famous Orange County girl? How bout if I add that one of my life goals is to run my own lifestyle site and brand?

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I may be late to the Lauren Conrad party (I started watching “Laguna Beach” in 2012), but I’ve never left. Lauren is such an inspiration to me in so many ways, especially also being from Orange County. Once I was bitten by the LC bug, I was jealous of all the girls in my high school who had gone to book signings and met her.

When I heard she was doing a signing for “Celebrate,” her new book guide to entertaining, I jumped at the chance to buy a ticket.

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Where better to meet LC than in the city that made her famous? Several hundred of her dedicated fans turned out in the blazing OC sun on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate the release of her latest book. Before the event, I re-read the instructions and directions roughly a million times. I must have checked the date five times in the week leading up to the signing. I was so terrified that I was going to miss it. In retrospect, I probably should have focused more on making sure I brought water to balance out all the coffee I drank and battle against that intense sun. It probably would have helped the stomach ache I got but live and learn, right?

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I waited in line for almost two hours in the heat, which was definitely not fun. I made the time pass by taking pictures of basically everything and, of course, people watching.

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When it was finally my turn to take my place in the short line inside the store to meet Lauren, I was freaking out. I always say that there’s something about television stars that cause people to feel like they know them. When someone’s in your living room week after week, you begin to feel a personal connection to them. That only gets worse when someone is a reality TV star.

This was LC from “Laguna Beach” who fought with Kristen over Stephen. This was Lauren from “The Hills” who interned at Teen Vogue and lost Heidi to Spencer. This was Lauren whose face adorned one of my favorite fashion guides and was on the back cover of two of my favorite young adult books series. Seeing her in real life was so completely surreal.

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Now I know what you all are wondering. Has all that fame gone to LC’s head? Is she really as sweet as she seems on TV?

Well, I can tell you this: She did have a diva moment when I was in the store. Yep. A woman held her phone up to Lauren’s face instead of handing it to the store attendant as instructed. Did Lauren yell or freak out or refuse to sign the woman’s book? Nope. She calmly held up her hand and got the attendant’s attention, who then took the phone. Lauren apologetically explained that she has had a cell phone flash go off in her face one too many times, hence the rule about the attendant taking the pictures. That was it. No temper tantrum. No display of anger. No high-strung diva moment, just a little bit of insistence on the rules.

When it was my turn to talk to Lauren, I thanked her for teaching me that I didn’t have to sacrifice my girliness in order to be a girl boss. She thought that was so cool. I then added that it was extra cool for me because I was also from Orange County. We chatted about that a bit. She asked if I still lived in the OC and when I explained I mostly come down on weekends, she said she does the same. All in all a really great experience and the book was great too! Cannot wait to throw my very own LC-style brunch this summer.

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So for any of you Lauren Conrad fans out there, if you ever have an opportunity to visit a book tour in the future, do it! It’s a great experience and will help you appreciate the LC brand just a little bit more.

Until next time…

XO, CB

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YOU are beautiful

Trying something new! Check out this video & then take a look at the blog… xo, C

 

5 of my Favorite Pictures (5 Beautiful Ladies)

Alice teacup.jpgI was surprised when Katie agreed to be my Alice for this Alice in Wonderland inspired shoot, but she was even more surprised when she actually enjoyed herself! I think she makes the absolutely perfect modern Alice.

Alexis drinks teaAlexis claimed to be “not photogenic” but I think the pictures of her as the White Rabbit came out absolutely amazing. I love the darkness in her eyes.

DSCN2759_e2Who knew my sister looked so great in purple hair? In this Disney’s Descendants inspired shoot, she made the perfect Mal (Maleficient’s daughter) and a surprisingly amazing model.

DSCN2824_b&wWhen I directed Joyce during her part of the Descendants shoot, she told me that she wasn’t “good at this.” I encouraged her that my tips were only to make her look even better and she loosened up. I absolutely love how genuine her smile is in this shot.

DSCN4608_eIt took years for Lizzie to let me take photos of her but I love the art that we’ve been able to create together. This photo came out of such a genuine moment of her being her.

 

Happy, Free, Confused & Lonely – MJ

Ask Mj Younkers at any given time this past semester for his to-do list and he would have rattled off for you the classes he needed to attend, the projects he had to work on, the pictures he had to edit, the homework that he needed to finish, the movies he was going to watch and the below 8 hours of sleep he got the night before. 

I really don’t understand how he fits everything in, but he somehow manages and even agreed to do this interview with me for the blog in the midst of the craziness! I am so grateful to be able to showcase the brilliant talent that is MJ Younkers and can’t wait to what he does next. Check out what he has to say about growing up and his love for photography!

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Age: 22, Current Location: Azusa, CA

What has been most surprising/unexpected about being in your 20s?

I think the most surprising thing about being in my 20s is realizing that it’s kind of real life now and you’re no longer kind of given grace. It’s kind of like you’re an adult now. You need to step up and be responsible for the things that you want to do or the things you want to seek out. You have to take initiative and do those things.

What’s being the best thing about being in your 20s?

The best thing about being in my 20s is getting to be an adult and actually making my own decisions and having the freedom to do so.

What do you wish someone told you about being in your 20s?

I wish someone would have told me before I turned 20 how difficult it is to keep track of your finances and just to be more responsible with saving and spending.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in your 20s?

The biggest thing I’ve learned in my 20s has been that people will tell you one thing and then do another. It’s very frustrating but you kind of have to learn to be professional about that and say, “Alright, you know what? That’s fine.” And move on.

Mj stars in eyesWhat advice would you give to your teenage self?

I would tell my teenage self to kind of chill out and not be so worried about what the future holds. God provides so much just every day and getting to relax in that and be more calm about what the future might hold would have definitely helped me in my teen years.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever received about life is from my dad. He told me, pertaining to going to college, “Go and major in something that you’re gonna love for the rest of your life. Don’t go do something that you think, ‘Oh, it’ll gonna make me money’ or whatever.” He just said, “Go with what you love and stick with that and work at it every day and you’ll get better and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

How would you describe where you’re at now as a 20-odd versus how you’re were as a kid or a teenager? How have you changed?

I’m a lot more independent now than I was as a kid. I think that I can–well, I can–make my own decisions now and logically think through decisions that are trying or difficult, and arrive at a conclusion that I act on and think, “Yeah, this is the right decision to make” now.

First Job? Current job?

Growing up, I was responsible for mowing the lawn every single weekend but my first real job was I worked at a golf course as a caddy in eighth grade. I got minimal pay and very little respect and that was hard, but it taught me a lot. Currently, I’m kind of self-employed as photographer and videographer and I sell my production services through my own media production company.

Where do you see yourself by 30?

Gosh… I have no idea. And I think that having that kind of no idea mindset really helps me in that I can kind of choose whatever I want to do and if my career ends up being something different than what I’ve planned or expected it to be, then that’s okay and I’ll move on with that in mind.

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What are some things that have inspired/are inspiring you?

I’m really inspired by both the expressionism and realism painting movements. They really are inspiring in terms of composition and lighting. As a cinematographer I feel that learning from the old classics and just masterpiece paintings, I learn a lot about what an image should look like and I use that to kind of decide how to frame up shots.

Do you have a life motto or quote you try to live your life by?

Kind of the phrase that has been pivotal in the last couple months has been “Why not?” And that kind of speaks to the idea of not limiting yourself and just being like, “You know what, why not? Let’s go and do this. Let’s go and find something interesting to do and do it.”

You mentioned earlier that you do both still photography and video photography. Can you talk a little bit about kind of what inspired you to get into it and how you feel about them separately?

Sure. When I was in my Sophomore year of high school, I started teaching myself photography. I took an art class and I took a drawing class and started learning about composition and balance and framing and just the classical rules of art. I wanted to take a film photography class but I never was able to because I found that my classes didn’t really allow for that to fit in. So I just kind of learned through friends and teaching myself online. Then my senior year, I bought my first DSLR and went out and just went crazy and took pictures of everything and there were like three that were good. But learning to kind of slog through the hundreds of pictures I took and finding out which ones were good, why they worked and then learning from that and moving on, that was really pivotal.

Now I have multiple cameras. I’ve learned 35 millimeter film and learned how to develop film and do the chemical darkroom processes and that’s been really great for my photography as an art form.

As far as cinematography goes, I kind of picked up on the beauty of a moving image in my senior year of high school as well and that sort of inspired me to become a cinematographer and a film major.

Who makes up your support system and/or do you feel like that part of your life is lacking?

Man, I honestly have been so blessed to transfer to a new school and to make the friends that I’ve had. I feel that my roommates… I room with four other guys. There are five of us total in a four person apartment so we have a great time. They are always there for me, more than happy to sit down and watch and movie or struggling through my explaining some, like, French New Wave movement in film or cinema. They’re always validating and that’s been a huge blessing.

Something you can’t live without

Well, definitely cannot live without my camera. It goes with me everywhere. I feel like, if I didn’t have my camera, there’d be times I would really miss it. But that’s interesting because I’ve learned to– there was a quote I read recently and it was about, as a photographer, there will definitely be times where you wish, “Man, I just wish I had my camera with me right now” and the important thing is to remember that in those instances where you don’t have a camera, instead of saying, “Oh, I wish I had this with me. I would love to take this so other people can see it,” relish that moment and enjoy it and live in that moment and say, “Okay, this is something that only I get to see right now” and drink it in. It’s beautiful and it has been created just for you to see so enjoy it.

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One fun fact about you

I did improv theater all through high school and tried out on a whim freshmen year. If that’s not improv, I don’t know what is, so…

Favorite emoji

For the sake of the [interview], my favorite emoji is the lightning bolt.

Taylor Swift used the four words “happy, free, confused and lonely” to describe being in your early 20s. What are four words that you would use to describe where you’re at?

Independent, Inspired, Limitless Creativity (I know that’s two words) and Friendship… getting to know people is awesome and getting to understand what makes them work is even better.

What’s next?

That is the question… I just graduated from APU. I’m heading to Hawaii for the next 8 months. Returning in Spring [to LA] for my Masters in Cinematography.

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Photography credits: Cassondra Barnes and MJ Younkers

Beach Shoots & Manifestos

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I went to the beach earlier this week. During my few hour stay, I witnessed three different photo shoots. They all involved barely dressed girls posing for men.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against girls wearing whatever they want to wear for a photo shoot. But when I look at girls being told to stand on their toes in the sand to imitate the way high heels make their legs and butt look, it makes me wonder… Would that picture change if it was a woman behind the camera trying to make the model feel beautiful and sexy instead of a man trying to make the model look “hot”?

Now, I am certainly not saying that every male photographer out there that day was disregarding the model’s feelings or objectifying the women. But it makes me wonder why we so often as women are being viewed through the male gaze. Why weren’t some of those girls being photographed by women? Why wasn’t anyone shooting shirtless males in swim trunks flexing their biceps? And why do beach shoots tend to automatically result in either one of those one-dimensional and sexist portrayals of human sensuality?

While mulling all of this over on the beach, I was inspired to start writing a manifesto for my own photography and film making. Part of it reads, “The goal of my photography is to make women (& men) feel beautiful and empowered. The point is to showcase a different side of someone, not to cover up what makes them shine. I believe in making someone feel like the best version of themselves.”

I tell you guys this not to toot my own horn but to first of all, ask you all to keep me accountable, to put it out there publicly as a standard to hold myself to. I also want to challenge all of you guys to be intentional about the way that we treat other people. It is so easy, especially in the entertainment industry, to treat people as currency and a means to an end. I have been challenged lately to be more intentional about the way I conduct myself in relationships. Sometimes this means reaching out, sometimes it just means making the extra effort to be polite and courteous, and sometimes it means choosing not to go out if I know that I cannot give the best of myself to the people I’m with.

I also want to use the power that I currently have to change the world as I see it. “Be the change you want to see,” right? I want to use my photography, my films, my art as a whole to challenge the way that women and men are being portrayed. I want to try to let them feel beautiful, powerful and sexy from the inside out not the other way around. I want to allow beauty to come from both strength and weakness. I want to get away from portraying women as victims and object of lust. I want to create multi-dimensional male characters who are able to show emotion without it being a weakness.

Excited for the journey ahead and the passions God is stirring up in my heart as I draw closer to Him. Will keep y’all posted…

xoxo, CMB