LIFE

2017

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If this 2017 recap feels late it's because it was a harder year to digest. I've always been anxious for a new start, and while the same is still true, this time it was harder to start again with so many lingering loose ends.

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This year I was my most proud when redefining what it meant to be an artist for myself. I spent three months in an artist residency, committed to a weekly portrait series, and dedicated more time than I ever have to personal projects. I shot weddings thousands of miles away, partnered with women to tell their stories, and tried my best every day.

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The privilege of being an artist and the responsibility of using my voice weighed on me heavily. 

But it also became clear that it's unrealistic for me to take on this weight alone. I'm so thankful to my community, especially the communities of color, that teach me the delicate balance of self care and self preservation (especially when the two blur together).

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It's easy for me to look back and tally up what I wish I'd accomplished, but as I think I once read from Bill Wurtz, "I'm working as fast as humanly possible." Because being human means leaving room for weeks of dreaming, the days you never want to see your work again, and the 2ams when you finally hit your stride. It's not just the work in progress, but the also the progress in work.

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As I continue to freelance, I'm becoming more patient with what I expect from myself and more relentless of what I want to see in the world. They feel impossible, but I think they can coexist.

Thank you to everyone who values my work, validates my voice, encourages me to stay angry, and sees me, even when I'm hiding behind the lens.

All my very best,
Celeste

PS - Thank you to everyone who's supported and donated to keep my series, Portland in Color, running. I'm aiming to be back with new features come February.

PPS - I'll leave you with these few links:

Before a broadcast to 11 million people with BBC World Service
Portland in Color featured in local activist newspaper Street Roots
An interview on the privilege of freelance with Freelancer's Union
Commemorating the women who came before me in a piece about financial anxiety for On She Goes
 

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river baes

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I've struggled to share my life the way I used to. I miss being in college and blogging every day; I miss lugging my camera around to remember everything; I miss keeping up this diary of memories.

Today I've been in Portland for just about 3.5 years and realizing I came for things that don't really exist here. It can be lonely, especially as a self-employed artist and woman of color. Sometimes it's suffocating how small and impossible this town feels. But in this loneliness I've found something so much better.

Somehow I've found a community that's surpassed all of my dreams. I'm so glad that we keep growing and learning and loving with each other. And I can't wait til it's 100 degrees so we can do this again.

Thank you to my POC family for sharing space and making this place finally feel like home. 

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the first month

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The last time I was in Wigtown, I'd just lost my father. It was October and the town had begun to slow and quiet post Book Festival, and my quiet days in the bookshop were exactly what I needed.

But this time, it's different. This time I'm learning more about the people that make this town, what it means to prioritize art and culture no matter where you live, and finding a place in the community even if it's just for a little bit.

In the first month since I've been back, my heart still warms every time I come downstairs and walk through the shop-- whether to work down stairs or say hello or just pass on my way out. There's such a comfort in being surrounded by books-- especially when they're basking in low winter light and Captain has just come down the stairs and rubs his side along your leg to say hello.

It's just how I remembered it but also brand new, and exactly where I want to be.

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As I see millennia of discrimination and suffering sink their teeth further into our wounds, I wonder what I'm doing five thousand miles away from home.

I don't know that I'll ever overcome this guilt of being gone when there's so much to do at home, but I'm hoping that in creating art and offering a marginalized perspective, I'm prioritizing and making space for more good in this life.

During my first weekend as Wigtown Artist in Residence, the town hosted Big Bang Weekend-- a lecture series celebrating female scientists and their work. I didn't expect to relate to any of the content but appreciated that this tiny rural town had made space to provide female scientists a platform to share their experiences and findings.

While I wouldn't dare any attempt to reiterate what I'd learned from Dr. Amy Hofmann, Dr. Pippa Goldschmidt, and Dr. Maya Tolstoy in their respective fields of planetary habitability, science fiction writing, and deep sea exploration, the humanity in their perspectives resonated with me the most. During the first panel, all three women gathered on stage to give teasers on their lectures to come.

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When the inevitable subject of science as a male-dominated field came up, former astronomer/fiction writer Pippa elaborated the importance of having different perspectives. Not only for representation (because that should be a given), but because your findings as a scientist can only be improved by having more eyes and backgrounds look at your work. Diversity is key.

Amy spoke of her lifelong love of astrobiology (even before she knew what it was called), how she was discouraged from pursuing the field in high school, and how her love of science eventually won-- all tied to the beauty of studying science for the sake of mere curiosity.

And Maya gave the striking yet not surprising statistic that 25% of female field scientists have reported being assaulted on the field, while 75% have reported being harassed. We can acknowledge and applaud the small steps in progress we're making, but there's still a long road ahead.

So where do we go from here? We continue to make space and prioritize these conversations. We actively seek knowledge from women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled, and other marginalized communities.* We keep going. 

*I am not the first to point out that this panel featured only white women. I whole-heartedly believe we need to hear from other marginalized communities, and applaud the Wigtown Festival for coming this far. That said, this is just the minimum-- there is still a long road ahead and I'm optimistic about their events to come.

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"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." - Carl Sagan

2016 (in film and flowers)

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If 2015 was my loneliest and bravest year, 2016 was the year I hustled into the void. 

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But first it was just a void. I went from feeling my deepest, to nothing at all. So I chipped away at the days moving from bed to bath, bed to bath. 

I only started to feel real again when I began volunteering at In Other Words, a local feminist bookshop, community center, and safe space.

In February I went to Manila to visit my father's grave. I don't know that I'll ever write anything greater than my last and only love letter to him. I went believing I had no family left there, but leaving knowing that wasn't true. 

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Spring felt like a season lost to small moments but in the kindest way. I went on walks, foraged greens, happened upon fields of wildflowers.

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And before I knew it, I dove into my busiest summer. I drove up and down the coast, then up again, and further up, still. The ocean will always be my home.

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"You're burning the candle at both ends," my doctor said when I came back from flying around the world. From San Francisco to Jakarta, Bangkok, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, and back to San Francisco. There wasn't a moment I didn't feel tired and wild.

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late summer and fall


And summer ended, but the rush never left. I was still swamped, frantic, and trying to balance seeing and being everyone, making and doing everything. And I don't think I've stopped just yet, either.

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And I'm stilled tired, but 2016 helped me find my voice. I'll never not be angry about the state of our world and what we've let it become. I won't accept this as our status quo. And I won't apologize for the discomfort. 

But I also felt the most whole and the most heard when I started speaking without apology.

I never felt lost, but I was never quite sure where I'd gone. Creating with purpose, surrounding myself with women, and taking up space with people of color brought me back.

I'm here and I'm ready.

xo,
Celeste

my girls