year in review

2018

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I keep thinking of how to reflect on 2018 and the longer I wait, the less I have to say. I don’t know if it’s capitalism or comparison (or both) but somehow I’ve come out of another hectic year feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything.

This isn’t true, of course. I had more range in assignments than I’ve ever had. And as a photographer that hasn’t committed to one specific genre, it’s made me reflect on the privilege I have to even bear witness to these stories. From reporting on food insecurity in rural Oregon to shooting an entire cookbook filled with delicious (and sometimes expensive) seafood galore, flying last minute across the world to covering poverty in my new home state, how do I balance this spectrum of stories?

I hope I can always tell them with an honest lens.

I felt frantic most of this year, but the wake of what’s happened still feels right. I see it as a year having already found my voice, then learning what else it could do (forever striving for Mariah octaves figuratively and literally tbh).

My spirits soared in the most unexpected moments (BBC! Obama Foundation! cookbooks!), but my heart broke in a way that still devastates me.

I’ve grown to fear less when speaking up, or I’ve become numb to it. Advocacy will never not be exhausting, but it will always be necessary. I’ll continue to say no to unpaid labor, and speak up even though the system was made to silence us. And I’ll keep going, because I can’t bear the idea that it might never get better.

I spent a lot of this year angry. Which, to be fair, isn’t unusual for me (there is a lot to be angry about!), but the anger itself was from something new. I thought about all the time marginalized artists spend needing to be extra careful, extra good, extra everything to perform extra labor. To have the difficult conversations, and navigate a society and industry that was built by excluding them. But still creating, and still persisting. Because we can’t not, and these conversations are critical to both our art and our being.

And then I tried to imagine a world where the extra wasn’t needed. Where we could put our full hearts and equally distributed resources toward what we care about the most. Thinking outside any need to fight or contextualize oppression, and just create. Just be.

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The Los Angeles Arboretum.

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Outside Bonnie Slotnick’s.

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My first ever solo exhibit at UNA Gallery, featuring Portland in Color. By Vy Hong Pham.

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Making a home, and our first snow together.

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Marshall Johnson sitting for a tattoo by Alice Kendall for the Audobon Society.

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Da Vinci middle schoolers protest during March for Our Lives, a nationwide student-organized protest calling for gun reform.

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Part of the Racist Sandwich team at the La Cocina Conference in San Francisco, California.

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DeRay McKesson for Street Roots.

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Abdulah Polovina, imam of a mosque at the Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization in Portland, Oregon for Street Roots.

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Young girls in low income housing in Ontario, Oregon as reported for part of the Housing Rural Oregon series for Street Roots.

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DJ and activist Cay Horiuchi for Portland in Color.

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Michelle and Alex along the California coast in their van, Bobby.

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Food writer and host of A Hungry Society, Korsha Wilson.

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Angela Flying Eagle at First Christian Church food pantry in Ontario, Oregon; on assignment for Street Roots.

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Molly Woodstock, host of Gender Reval podcast, photographed for Portland in Color.

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Leaving Orcas Island.

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Halawa Valley, Molokai.

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The sand bar, Oahu.

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Penny Rawlins Martin, the first and youngest woman to sail between Tahiti and Hawai'i on the inaugural Hokulea voyage, for Misadventures Magazine.

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A poke picnic on Oahu.

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Across the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. We started in Barra and made our way north to Harris and Lewis.

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Behind the scenes for Yana Gilbuena's upcoming book, No Forks Given, due out September 2019.

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Morning in San Jose del Cabo.

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Summer in Portland and Stockholm.

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The oyster beds at Chelsea Farms in Olympia, Washington for the upcoming book Pacific Northwest Seafood by Naomi Tomky.

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Scenes from Calabria— Chianalea, Scilla, Tropea, and Civita— on assignment for Airbnb.

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Mama's first time in France, Villefranche-sur-Mer.

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Paris with my sisters, on film.

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Ma enjoying a moment on a tiny balcony in Nice— not only the highlight of my year but a forever highlight in my heart.


My days have blurred together, but I’m trudging forward, hoping that every little bit is adding up somewhere. Hoping that someone is keeping count.

Here’s to another year of doing our best.

In light and solidarity,
Celeste

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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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

2015

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Little babies | Portland, Oregon (35mm) 

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My favorite weekend of us | Gualala, California (35mm)

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Joanna's | Portland, Oregon

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Savannah | San Francisco, California

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Ariela foraging for nettles | Portland, Oregon

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Shooting carbonara with Jenni | Portland, Oregon

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The freelance life | Brooklyn, New York

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Adventures with Katherine | Asbury Park, New Jersey

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Just before my cross country road trip | Washington, DC by Laura

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Laura in the sun | Washington, DC

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My BFF, Zuzu | Provincetown, Massachusetts

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I wish I'd went in | Provincetown, Massachusetts

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Lake Scranton with Jess | Scranton, Pennsylvania

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When my heart burst | Scranton, Pennsylvania

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Someday I'll come back with Raiza | Niagara Falls, New York

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Warmth awaits | St. Catherine's, Ontario

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Jack and Tanner | Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Chicago, Illinois

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Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Eggcuties | East Grand Forks, Minnesota

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

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Ronan, Montana

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Flathead Lake, Montana

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somewhere in Idaho

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The Washington Coast

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Lucy and Ariela | Ocean Park, Washington

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somewhere between Portland and San Francisco, from an airplane

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San Francisco, California

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Stockholm, Sweden

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Ariela | Malmö, Sweden

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Jutland, Denmark

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Cutest Karina | Copenhagen, Denmark

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Zwolle, Netherlands

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Silvia | Amsterdam, Netherlands

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The Dutch Open Air Museum, Netherlands

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Aude baking Sue's birthday cake | Périgueux, France

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Haven at Hollie's | Edinburgh, Scotland

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Hollie outside of Lovecrumbs | Edinburgh, Scotland

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Baby Mac | Fruin Farm, Scotland

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Rebecca's Victoria sponge | Fruin Farm, Scotland

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The Torridon Highlands, Scotland

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Ben Bouie, Scotland by Audrey and Ian

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My room in The Bookshop | Wigtown, Scotland

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Shaun | Bay of Luce, Scotland

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Captain | The Bookshop, Wigtown, Scotland

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My namesake | The Galloway Sky, Scotland

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The Firth of Clyde, Scotland

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Slow days in the shop | The Bookshop, Wigtown, Scotland

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Ceci glowing | Sevilla, Spain

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Miss Jenna and Miss Sebastian in the air | Cappadocia, Turkey

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Deniz at the market | Istanbul, Turkey

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Anna | Tokapi Palace Harem, Istanbul, Turkey

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Right at home | Berlin, Germany


I looked out into 2015 with big hopes and fears, understanding that nothing goes quite as you plan, but it can a little.

I made a life in a new place. I found myself where I'd always dreamed, then didn't know what to do with it.

I embraced and let go of fear, all at the same time.

I fell in love with literature again.

I broke my own heart.

I spent 10 days in Brooklyn because I wanted to, then I realized I really could do anything I wanted.

I drove a stranger's car from coast to coast.

I practiced film and was thankful for each photo that came out.

I filled my empty home with green life, delighting in their growth and grieving in their death. It felt good and natural to worry over something again.

I met friends and friends of friends and strangers who became friends and couldn't believe how small the world was.

I couldn't believe how big it was, either.

I lost my father.

I felt alone, and I was glad for it.

I volunteered to be a waitress and barista, feeding farm animals in the mornings and evenings.

I dreamt of the Scottish Highlands then got to see them before my very eyes.

I lived in a bookshop and didn't want to leave.

And then I did, and missed it every day.

I came back to the west coast, and everything was the same and different. I was different and the same.

In 2015, the road was home. I couldn't see it, but I could feel myself growing. It was my loneliest and bravest year. I'm so thankful for friends, opportunities, and kind hearts all over the world. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love,
Celeste

2014

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I began composing this post many times throughout this year. In my head, at least. When we lost David's grandmother and I cried and cried because I missed her and my own sweet grandmother, too. When I found myself in Sevilla and felt like the world was attainable if I was patient and let it come to me. Whenever I stepped onto a plane-- all 30+ flights-- and was tired of flying but never tired of being up in the sky. When I failed at safe, and learned that I can never succeed making someone else's dream come true. When I let go. And when I was on the other side of the world again, this time following my own heart. 

Each of these moments, individually and altogether, made for one of my most difficult years. I don't know how I made it. In a previous draft, I'd written with resent and reaffirmed notions of distrust, but that's not how I want to remember the year-- let alone bring in the next.

So in no order in particular, these are moments I treasured and cried over and that helped me make it through. It's the small things, after all, that always do.

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My Uruguayan, French, and Catalán friends introduced me to new parts of my home state. 

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I managed to surprise David for his birthday. It required scheming with his mom and secretly packing some of his things and it was wonderful. At this spot along the 17-mile Drive, we saw dolphins in the distance.

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I got to introduce my family to Portland. Around this time, I'd already been up north for about 90% of the time so it was nice to have a piece of home in the place I'd soon call my own. 

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Friends old and new trusted me to share their stories. It was my greatest pleasure and biggest honor.

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In a time when I felt abandoned and defeated, my friends saved me.

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But for most of the year, I was alone. I learned that in the end, you'll forget what you were angry about and only know that you miss them.

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I took walks and made my own luck. Or tried, at least. 

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I followed my wanderlust and traveled alone. I was nervous about driving alone in a foreign country, technology-less, but it was great and absolutely worth it. Croatia took my breath away.

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I made it back to my second home. I couldn't believe it. Florence, Tuscany, and Italy will always have my heart.

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I couldn't stop looking at the sky.

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And I couldn't be happier to come home.

A dear friend told me, "You are worth it-- don't ever lose sight of that." When she told me, I teared up because it was something I'd stopped believing. It's my mantra from here on out.

In 2014, I learned that this life is mine.

Wishing you all the light and love in this new year.