Beginning Again

Anxiety, New Press, Phase II and the curse of Secret Garden

Beginning Again

I am going to be writing this entry in four parts:

Anxiety & Phase II

I don't even know where to begin. I want to be able to write these a little bit more from the heart like I do with my personal diary and travel posts. I feel like I constantly talk about the things that inspired the shoots rather then the deepness of feeling that the entire series bubbles up for me. It's hard to talk about it but last year was a bit harder then normal for me. I know everyone goes through their ups and downs but I was really feeling like dare I say, I failed. I was feeling like I pretty much failed at everything. Like photography and art were just a childs dream. I have been coping with severly bad anxiety since I was sixteen. In my adult years I have tried to pretend it doesn't exist and avoid certain situations. Though the average person probably would have no idea that I was panicking because I can hide it so well. However, I began to realize just how bad I was falling into the cracks of anxiety and my husband kept ugring me to get help for it. I think it takes forever to admit something to yourself. Especially when you have been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks since you were sixteen. I found my own ways of breathing and calming myself down. I have leaped and jumped over obstacles and have done things anxiety would have stopped me from doing were it not for photography.

Taking photos is a therapy for me. It forces me out of my 'safe' zone because the will to take the image is stronger then any axiety. A good friend finally referred an anxiety clinic to me and I was scared shitless but I made an appointment with my doctor. It's time to get this thing sorted. As I mentioned I do want to do a video where I talk a bit about anxiety and photography. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.

I guess last year was a struggle with myself to admit that getting it sorted was something I really needed to do. Besides that I had plunged head first into fashion photography and plans for the future of my creative work. It was a smart move. Fashion allows me to get better skills and only focusing on it helped to not have to deal with the pressures of having client work. Yet still there was something missing as I feel there always is.

I had taken a break from Secret Garden for about a year. Mainly, I was travelling a lot so I wouldn't have the time to create as many costumes and props as I wanted to. The attic was piling up with boxes and the set was becomming crammed. There was a point where I could barely see the floral backdrop peeking out at me. Yet it did. It starred at me waiting. "Yes, yes soon" I would say as I ripped through boxes looking for garments for other shoots. I felt kind of like I was cheating on the series. It wanted me to complete it. I knew I had to start it up again I just didn't feel excited to do so.

I know there will never be a 'right' time to do something. I have to just choose to get up in the morning and start at it. Getting back from a few months of crazy travel messed me up. Though I never ever take for granted how lucky I am to get to travel the world and see so many beautiful places, it can sometimes take away from the beauty of home. Home is where an idea starts. It's where I hot glue my fingers together accidentally as I am making flower armor. Without it I just have cloudy dreams of fairytales in my attic.

I started planting the seeds of phase II of the series a few months back. Gearing up and pumping myself up for the next stretch. This time I know what I have to do. The series has become something now. Something people tell me they are inspired by, something that others want to share and interview me about. It's become something kind of emotional for me. I think it's because, to me it feels like that one thing that I really made work. I have had so many ideas and I have gone out into the world and shot them. Though they are beautiful imagery (and yes ofcourse there are many images I have taken that make me proud) something about Secret Garden goes a bit deeper for me. It comes together. The series tells a cohesive story. It's an idea that is unique to myself and many others have told me so as well. To shoot this little world in my attic. My crammed, dusty, rusty nails in the wall attic. There's barely enough window light for me to see whilst working on the sets. Yet somehow it happens. Somehow models want to be a part of it with nothing in return but a crazy experience and a few images. Somehow creative teams burst with ideas and want to work with me. Part of me knows it's because I have worked so tirelessly hard to extablish relationships and have connections with those who'd want to work with me. Other times I sit back and wonder how the hell anyone would take me seriously when I tell them my wild ideas.

I like that there are other wild people out there. I owe it all to the teams I work with and their wild creativity. I still get nervous asking for models. I always feel like one day everyone will just have enough of me and not care to shoot with me. It's a weird back and fourth this artist/photographer thing. We really aren't kind to ourselves.

The garden has become another world for me. When you open the door to my attic beams of light from the window hit the stairs. It's like it welcomes me everytime. It's like it asks me if I am ready. It's like Alice in Wonderland and the stairs are my rabbit hole. Or the closet of coats and through the back is my Narnia. The stairs to the attic lead to the garden. When I am up there I feel unstopable. My hands begins to create and it all makes sense. I know then and there what I am supossed to do. What I was made for. I guess that's why I feel so deeply about the series now. It's hard to want something to work and try time and time again but never really feel that click. The secret garden is finally that click for me.

The Curse of the Secret Garden

This kind of humours me to be honest. I say the curse because of how many things have gone wrong since gearing up for part 2. I really shouldn't jinx myself though nor should I really be complaining because I know things could get worse and be worse. However, it's part of the story and I don't want people thinking that everything just runs smoothly for me and my photographic escapades because it really doesn't. It pretty much never does and if it does it's an anomaly.

In less then two weeks we will be shooting the newest installment in the series. I had finished the latest costume piece a few weeks back and felt as though I was ahead. A week ago I recieve an e-mail from CBC news they want to call me and interview me about my series. I am so ecstatic but terribly nervous. Remember, I mentioned my anxiety before. Well yeah! It kept my stomach in knots for days as I waited for the reporter to call me. I was bursting at the seams with excitement yet I was so painfully nervous afraid I would say something stupid.

After talking to my husband about how I can get the series out there more he suggested that I live stream all of it or atleast as much as I could. I thought it would be a fantastic idea because I love watching how other artists create things and how they work. I thought that the secret garden journey would be something that I could really share with others. They could come along with me on the journey and maybe even get their own ideas out of it. I am very open and love when artists are open with ideas. I was just about ready to start live streaming the next few props I would be making then boom. I get a throat infection. My lymph nodes in my neck were huge. Swelling and painful. The side of my face and jaw was stiff and in pain. It was as if someone was punching me over and over again. I felt tired and awful. I couldn't possibly live stream in the midst of this infection. (that still hasn't gone away).

I decide to get the attic ready for the next concept. I worked on it a bit a few months back. As I mentioned though the attic had become rammed with boxes and was a mess. The set needed to be moved as the ideas are about to become massive and moving the set to the opposite side of the attic made more sense. I spent hours cleaning and organizing. I felt so proud, so ready and so happy that the series was about to come back. I moved the entire wooden flower backdrop by myself. It almost fell on me several times. it's a lot heavier and bigger then it looks. Stepping back I looked at all the things I had accomplished. The next few costumes and props were chosen and put to the side to be worked on in the future. The set was sturdy in it's new spot and the attic was clean. Then I bent down to pick up some garbage and an entire wood splinter lodged itself under my nail.

This is like a curse I thought. The pain was awful and I started to sweat and panic. Was I going to need a tetanus shot or am I just hyperventilating like I always do? I pull out pieces of the wood that are sticking into the skin but I can't get the piece that is under my finger nail. After an hour of pain I am able to cut my nail far back enough and bit by bit pull out pieces of the splinter. So this is how it's going to be I thought. Ontop of that, I have completely misplaced my smoke machine for the shoot.

Stress has taken over to the max. These are the things that challenge you before you even get started. Then while looking through a very old facebook album that I hid from anyone else from seeing I see something that the universe needed me to see.

I was at a low point. I was searching my facebook for old images for a new youtube video I was working on when I found an old album that was compiled of behind the scenes images from around 2009-2011. I kind of laughed at the younger unassuming me. I was trying to take on these big ideas. The heart was there. The creative drive was there but I just don't think I could translate what I had in my head into the camera yet. I scrolled to the bottom of the page and that's where I saw it.......

Something I don't talk about a lot is my amazing mother in law who is terminally ill. I have mentioned her before a few times and dedicated one of my Secret Garden characters to her. She lives in a hospital now and her strength and will to live is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. She has faced death many times and has come out of it everytime. Since day once she has been a second mother to me. At times she would be the only person who understood what I was doing with my art when no one else really got it. She would encourage me and tell me to just go with it. Just like that all of my fears and insecurities would wash away.

At the bottom of the album there was a comment from her. A perfectly timed message. She can't use a computer now as she has no movement in her arms so I have not been able to see a message from her online in years. However, there it was as clear as day. "a lot of work daniela but worth it to see your vision come to life". I cried.

I cried because it was like she was there exactly when I needed her to be there. It was from 2010 and yet it was the most relevant thing I had seen. It will be a lot of work but it will be worth it and it's always worth it to see my vision come to life. The crazy thing was she had said that before I even considered myself to be a decent artist. That's why I believe things come when you need them. I can't wait to tell her how she helped me and she didn't even know it when I see her at the hospital again.x

Latest Press & Features

and lastly, to end things off on a not so emotional note (yet I am sure I will somehow make this emotional) if you managed to get this far in this post I applaud you.

Secret Garden was featured on Bored Panda for the second time and started to make it's rounds again. I don't think it will ever get as 'viral' as it did the first time the article was released but it was great to see it being shared again and the timing couldn't have been better. The series started to get shared on other viral sites and then to my surprise the official Adobe Photoshop facebook page shared an image from the series!!! It was crazy!

A few days later CBC news picked up my story and my facebook and inbox blew up. So many local people were sharing my story and it was nice to see the local support and kindness. I was also interviewed for new art magazine Artemisa and even made cover! I have something else in the works with a local news paper. It's a bit different and I can't really share just yet nor do I want to jinx this but I am crossing my fingers my infection goes away soon so I can continue with this new opporotunity.

It's been a whirlwind for sure and the series hasn't even come back yet. The good news is I will be live streaming sometime this week. (to be announced). I have a snow making machine in the post and it should be arriving tomorrow. I have stocked up on my smoke bombs, I have my next few models in line and I am totally aching to shoot. Every bone in my body is ready to take on the huge challenges of the series.

Begining Again

I have said so much in this post. Going a bit deeper then I normally do. I feel like it's important now to share those things. I know so many people will be seeing my challenges, failures and accomplishments now that I will be live streaming almost every aspect of the series.

I have done quite a lot of reading lately about other artists experiences. How they focus on a series. It's not easy to stay attached to something and now it's been three years. I started the series at the end of 2013. Feels like forever ago. The best advice I was managing to find was to look at my past work critically. That's what I started to do. I dissected the images from each concept in secret garden and pulled out what I thought was strong and what I could have done better. I pulled out the elements I thought were impactful. I began to talk to my husband about it. It was all about going big or going home. Now the ideas are in my head for the upcoming concepts and I will sink in a murky pond before I give up on making those ideas come to life.

I also found that the advice out there was all about refocusing and creating good, strong art that means something to you. This isn't just "I'm doing a series in my attic I hope it works". This is guns blazing I am all in. I am chin deep in this garden now and ready to create those memorable images that mean something to me.


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