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March 8, 2011

Blogs are supposed to show the reader who someone is right? Get to know a person- share what’s on the writer’s mind, the things they like, and what they do — sort of like a public journal. If you are reading this post, please follow through until the end as there is a light at the end of the journey and a purpose for the negativity that ensues.

There is a spot inside me that’s deep and dark. Not the light and fluffy Rena that most people know and love. The Rena with the shy and contagious smile, and squeaky laugh.. with that occasional little snort. That exhilarating high of bouncy excitement and laughter has to come down sometimes – and when I crash, I crash hard. Sometimes I feel like I’m two souls sharing one body. Walking some crazy demented tight rope.

Well, I’m tired of being censored. By myself, my friends, my co-workers, and my family. Not a single person in this universe is a perfect being. Everyone has a dark part in their soul that comes out occasionally. Most people hide it really well – others not so much. This has nothing to do with what is “right and wrong”, because I fully agree with following rules, laws, and being kind to everyone. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I strongly believe in Karma. (and I’m not saying attention-loving repetitious whining is right either). This deals with the true feelings that dwell within all of us. The ability to be allowed to show raw emotion no matter what – even when things are deep in an emotional roller coaster, without fear of judgment.

What artist in history has been perfect? As far as I know, pretty much all the top historical artists were somewhat “crazy”. I think that’s what makes us artists. I think it’s because we allow ourselves to expose a piece of our soul in our work – that “crazy” so to call it… and people see truth within that. They empathize with that part of us because they too are afraid to show it in themselves. Fear that others won’t accept them– but they respect the artist for being able to.

Musicians do it every day — showing their pain and suffering through their music… People eat up the lyrics – dancing till their feet can’t handle it anymore when things are good – and listening and crying – screaming at the top of their lungs when things are bad. They connect from an emotional level to the Musicians lyrics – the ones that walk the line – a line I walk.

I don’t see why the artistic photographer girl shouldn’t be able to be like the Musician. I’m a Photographer. I’m a Clothing Designer. A Makeup Artist, a Writer, a Dancer, a Singer, and an Actress. I am an artist. Pure, Simple, and Unadulterated. I express myself through many mediums. The good, the bad. The happy, and the sad. Maybe I don’t have a thick enough skin to handle the conflict when people don’t understand. The people that don’t connect with me or are too closed minded to identify with the fire burning inside.

I’ve been censoring myself for a long time. Afraid of what my acquaintances, co-workers, clients, and fans would think if I showed anything but the good and positive side of myself. I want to be a role model showing people the positives that have come out of my life… Afraid if I showed anything else, it would tarnish the image that I’ve been trying to show people about the beauty in everyone. But human pain can be a beautiful thing as well. It’s what makes us who we are -the good, and the bad. If it wasn’t for the bad in my life, I wouldn’t be the fun loving, crazy person I am today.

It really hit me on New Years when Dave and I broke up – and again after spending all of Imaging USA with him. Most people didn’t even realize we had broken up. I swallowed all my pain and turned on the happy face to post about all the great new things going on in my business (which mind you, they are), but I was broken. Vulnerable. My heart was tattered and torn. I needed to be strong- and I was. The only person I had to talk to was my best friend who didn’t know what to do or what to say. I cried because I had no one else I could be myself with. I was tired of putting up this facade that had pigeon holed me into being able to do no wrong. Sometimes I would feel as though I was no longer a human being. Just a bunch of safely placed thought out words on the internet.

Even this entry. I will probably sit on for days staring at — wondering whether or not I should post it. This, along with all the others I’ve deleted… Wondering how it would change people’s perspective of me. But this is me – not the entirety of me, but a real part of myself. The artist that my family, friends, and Dave know and get to see. The me who while isn’t perfect, has a wide range of personality- From the love and fun in my heart to the dark, quiet corner. (Edit: So I did sit on it for a few weeks. Sorry guys for the lack of posting!)

I used to not care. When was that 16 year old artist smothered? The one that picked up her camera and decided to create art out of passion. That girl that graduated high school after years of torment from people that didn’t understand only to be told, “Don’t ever change who you are” by those same people.

I wonder sometimes when I look back over the last couple years. My excuse is always the same: “Maturity.” What is maturity? Is it concealing your true personality to fit into society’s “Normal”? If so, how can we ever have real relationships with anyone. True friendships – True lovers.

I was asked yesterday why I quit modeling. Why I didn’t continue when I enjoy it so much. Well…that could be a post of it’s own — but when you really look at the answer to the question in short form, it’s Society. I sat there and thought about it, really thinking as I posted a very controversial music video on my personal FB page, wondering whether or not I should delete it, my heart racing with anxiety because it might be taken as “inappropriate.” The longer I sat there watching it on repeat, I wondered – why? People added my personal page –  not my professional page. It’s not like I posted it on my business’s FB page (although I really don’t see why I couldn’t — The latex outfits throughout the video are amazing! I would photograph them.)

It all started with a bad photo shoot I modeled. When I turned 18 I started doing some nude modeling – I was young and in an art school – modeling for friends that I trusted and amazing fine artists. I was always doing tasteful shoots. I did however have this ridiculous dream of being a playmate at that age. I was almost 20, I think, when I did a photo shoot for the first time getting paid for a nudes. The photographer wanted full frontal glamour nudity… playboy style sort of thing. Their work was beautiful and they were paying $500 — which would get me to Pennsic that year … I figured what the heck and agreed to do it. We did some outdoor nudes which made me really uncomfortable, but I was young and stupid, and I didn’t want to say no since they were paying me what I thought at that time was a ton of money. After the photo shoot they shoved a model release into my hand that I shouldn’t have signed. I felt so guilty with myself and like trash and just absolutely terrible. Mind you the photos they did post are beautiful and tastefully done, but still I offered to buy the images from them just on principle and offered them a lot of money. They went to their lawyer and started a whole bunch of drama with me because they wouldn’t do it. For the first time in my life I felt true anxiety.

Now mind you I was already starting to have a little bit of anxiety over the modeling — I had never cared what anyone thought about me. I dressed the way I wanted, I did what I wanted to do. Being an artist was very important to me. When I started dating Dave, he worried about my image around his family and friends and told me how it was inappropriate for me to be the way I was around other people. He was angry at me when I started doing the nudes (mind you he since is now pushing me to get back into the modeling). My fellow professional colleagues started bringing up the fact I wouldn’t get anywhere in life or have a business if I dressed the way I did. My mom went into the hospital almost having a heart attack and the first thing out of her mouth before the list of things stressing her was “My daughter is doing nudes.” That’s a lot of stress on the back of your mind when the closest people to you are unhappy with you.

I started taking a look at everything in my life.. the way I acted.. the way I spoke.. the things I spoke about; everything had to be appropriate.. diplomatic… professional. I started becoming anxious and having issues with OCD. I couldn’t post whatever I wanted to online, I felt like I couldn’t be myself… I started taking down all the old blog posts from when I was in my angsty teenage years because I was afraid of what people would think about me if they read back that far. They were raw, full of emotion and that teenage rage — but it was real. It was true. It was pain.

So I quit modeling. Then the OCD got worse and I found out about dirty makeup artists, unclean stylists, photographers selling photos to stock websites or pay sites, etc and I became paranoid about them. I didn’t want to sign release forms. It’s like when I got into my first and only car accident. Now, every time I’m in a car with someone and they come to a sudden stop, I get massive anxiety. I feel the airbags hitting me in the face every time. It takes the breath out of me… and every time I pick up a pen to sign a model release form, I start to shake and I can’t do it. I get nauseous and sick to my stomach and I feel like crap. Like im worthless. The same feeling I felt that day I signed that release from that photo shoot I regret ever having done.

It continued like that for years until everyone had convinced me including myself that although I did the modeling, if I didn’t do it anymore that my clients wouldn’t “black list” me for it. Now it all just seems more and more absurd as the days go on because my job is to photograph people and make them look great!

I wrote this back in 2005 as a caption for an emotive photograph I took called Stripped. The words only seem fitting even now.

“Naked, Cold, Crying.
Stripped of every stitch from your body.
That is how life works; stripping you of yourself and desecrating innocence. Everyone is infatuated by that pretty face and cute little body, that appetite for avidity consumes chastity. Childish games are lost behind lustful eyes, turning beauty into some pedophiles new toy. Desensitized – manipulated by the sick contemplation transpiring in some perverse mind. Drowning in sinful iniquities, delusional of it’s demented exposition. So naive in the world. So many things in life are always repressing you and you can’t liberate yourself or don’t want to. You look back on the past and cover your eyes because all you see are the happy times and who you were… or the sad times and realize you never were truly happy. Only that life is one huge illusion. Society rips your soul away from you. It taints your sense of reality from that guiltless ignorance. Condemning emotions to oblivion in a dark world of defiled ambitions. It is all a superficial happiness though- Malignance consumes all. Everyone has their face covered.”
Well this past year I started the transition back. I know who I am now. I’m still that same professional fun loving girl, but I’m also that vulnerable youth, too. I am not as weak of a creature as I once was.  I’ve found that piece of my soul and with that I know how to show others how to be themselves as well. I am a stronger person. A more creative and unique individual. 
They say “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I posted that when Dave and I broke up. We spent a month apart trying to figure out who we were and what we wanted in life. I took a leap of faith when I cornered him at work and kissed him the day we got back together. I couldn’t find the words to say, but I knew what I wanted – and how to express it. Our 5 year anniversary is coming up this month.
I won’t stop or change myself for anyone anymore (except of course dressing professional for all my weddings, hehe). I am an artist – That fun, sexy, confident, yet extremely vulnerable youth that I was. The real me that brought me to where I am today — not the person I’ve been trying to become the last few years that’s thrown up roadblocks and has held me back. 
Remember how I mentioned that the bad experiences in my life are what made me into the person I am today? That bad photo shoot is really what made me experience photography through my clients eyes. The reason I got into Boudoir and Senior photography. They trust me with their lives and how people perceive them when I click the shutter. It made me realize the trust that people give me when they hire me and sign my release form. It made me realize that I have the power to do something good with my life and with that I can change the world. I can make sure that what happened to me, never happens to another person. These negative events gave me the power to build confidence and self esteem in others.

I love my business. I love my job — I love all the people in my life that I have met over the years. Including the ones that at one point had made me question myself. It was all a learning experience and I think I needed to go through it to come back to this point and appreciate it all the more. I love to enjoy life and have fun doing it. I am passionate about everything that I am doing and I think it shows.

  1. Jim Triche says:

    I know you loosely only, and through friends only, I may have met you once or twice. This is insightful, personal, and filled with truth. Your life is yours, you should never have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, nor should you worry about the reaction from others. I’ve seen both your modeling pics (I rather like the pin-up stuff, I’m a big Bettie Page fan too) and your photography, which is quite good. Do what makes you happy, people will either accept it or they won’t, but it’s not their life or their decision. Learn from your past mistakes, everyone makes them, don’t be ashamed. Keep up the fantastic work, as long as it makes you happy. And if it doesn’t, then do something else! Good luck and best wishes.

  2. Dana says:

    Thank you for opening your heart and embracing the darker parts of who we all are. I love seeing how your work has transformed. Though we do not know each other personally it makes me very happy to see you decide to be who you are instead of who everyone else thinks or wants you to be. This will happen a few times in your life and its always easier to go with it instead of sitting in fear of what others will think or say. You only get this one chance don’t wait for others to catch up just go out and do what your heart desires.

  3. Serena, don’t let the bastards grind you down. I met you briefly over lunch at the Ghionis event. And you sure seemed like you have your act together. You just keep doing what feeds your soul. You are super talented and there is no doubt in my mind that great things will happen. Damn the conventions….full speed ahead.

  4. Christy says:

    I, too, am expected to always be my smiley, sweet self, but when I crash, I crash hard. I believe it is a trait of an artist. I think you are extremely strong, incredibly talented, and wise beyond your years.

  5. FoxKat says:

    Thanks for sharing Reenie <3

  6. Dave says:

    It’s an amazing gift when our subjects trust us enough to make images of them, especially the boudoir and nude images. There is no greater compliment to me than trusting me that way. That realization makes me up my game too. I have to come through when given that level of cooperation and trust.
    Great post!

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