I got to meet Justine when I went out to see Penn State before actually signing my life away to them. So of course I had to give the relatives a report. And it went something like this: Justine is awesome. Justine rocks. Justine is totally cool. Justine is fabulous.
Yes, she was young, but there was something serious in the way she loved my Uncle Paul. She was also a big computer dork like me, and her sister (who I also met on that trip) was a Trek Geek. So there was nothing bad to be said. I was quickly given the nickname 'butthead' as a term of affection, and I visited Paul and Justine quite often while I was in school.
When my mom and aunt came out and got to meet her for the first time, their assessment was the same as mine. She was immediately and without question part of the family. And in my family, that dubious distinction comes with the honor of being harassed and picked on constantly. And she gave as well as she took.
Justine and Paul bought me my first IBM computer. Before that I had a Commodore 128. Oh yeah, big time, baybee!! Justine also introduced me to graphics programs like Corel Draw! and Photoshop. See, Justine is an artist. She paints, and draws and works in other media as well. She's REALLY talented. She draws/paints/photographs their holiday cards every year. My folks have some of her paintings in the house. She's worked in the book industry, she's worked in graphic design... she's a creator, and because of that shares a bond with my dad and I.
Paul and Justine got married in May of 1998. Instead of blowing $5000 on a wedding, they rented five beach houses on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week and invited the entire family down for a week's vacation. It was awesome. They got married in the front yard of the house they were staying in, and the reception was in the back yard. Each of the other houses hosted dinner one night the rest of the week. It was the start of what was to become some pretty good family reunions.
Today I was chatting on line with Justine about Earthquakes, and Hurricanes, and the Tornado she got a picture of in Virginia last week. She asked how I was doing and I gave her my patented reply of "Creatively, California is wonderful. Job wise, not so much." And I pointed her at my photography site just before bouncing off to a meeting. When I got home, I had this waiting in my inbox.
I've been looking at your photos, I started from the back, since those are the most recent. If you want my honest opinion, you really have to get a grip! I think your next investment should be to get some formal training. One class, and get it out of your system, because there is no way in hell that you need it. You intuitively can see the most beautiful aspects of things, you know how to place yourself to get the best shot to tell the story you want to tell. To get the light at the right angle (I love the shots that have water in them with the sun sparkling off of them). The composition, the colors, and definitely the sense of a story, a moment in time. To tell you the truth, I'm painfully jealous. One of the frustrations I have with my photographs is that they seem done. They seem like dozens of photos seen on greeting cards and calendars, boring, and stale. Yours are definitely not. They are definitely you.
I used to do the graphics and layout for the program book for the "The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival" which is a juried art show that draws artists from all over the country. One of the categories is photography. I've seen the artists and their work in this show for several years, and yours are as good as theirs. If you want to pursue making some money from your photographs, you should do some research on where the market is for fine art photography, and how to market yourself in this aspect. I think you should think seriously about it.
Honestly, I feel like sobbing like a beauty pageant winner for a little while. I have many friends who are VERY talented artists, and they've told me similar things... but for some reason this just hits me. Perhaps it's because she took the time to write an email about it. I don't know. But the comments make me feel very good. They're some sort of affirmation of what my friends have been saying. I just need to figure out how to make more out of what I'm doing than I already am.