In case you missed it, the latest Style Kingdom was released on January 29th and my writing appeared in it! Soon my model self will too, but I wanted to share my Style Kingdom writing debut with you all!
Thank you for reading,
The Visionaries of VISIONAIRE
by Prisilla S. Avro
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
– C.G. Jung
The new year often brings new adventures and new projects. 2014 in Second Life® is no different. Nariko Okawa and WrenNoir Cerise, both well known and talented photographers in SL, have joined forces to create VISIONAIRE and the VISIONAIRE Institute.
When asked what inspired them to create VISIONAIRE Cerise replied “It all stemmed from a discussion with Nariko where we expressed how we felt rather ‘alone’ as professional photographers. There was no method that we knew of where professional photographers could come together and inspire one another, maybe share tips and information, and generally support one another. Artists have always worked with other artists in RL (think of painters and writers and musicians who all frequent each other to keep their art fresh and exciting). Artists and their art thrives on such connections. It is not to duplicate, but rather to improve oneself and one’s vision.”
Okawa elaborated on Cerise’s thoughts. “We first came up with the idea of VISIONAIRE being a learning hub for and ran by photographers to give seminars and exchange photographic techniques with one another. We wanted an enriching creative environment and for photographers to gather and converse with one another, instead of working individually behind their computer screens and silently clicking on ‘Follow’ on Flickrs. Instead, we envision an active community where photographers learn new techniques and better processes to improve their work flow and interacting with people from different industries to keep their creative flow constantly overflowing with new ideas.”
Her comments naturally turned to VISIONAIRE Institute where she explained the difference in the two entities. “VISIONAIRE Institute was only born after the creation of the VISIONAIRE community. It is where new budding SL photographers can attend a certification course which spans about 3 months that is conducted by myself, WrenNoir Cerise and Melusina Parkin.”
Cerise continued, “VISIONAIRE Institute is what we want to give back to the community at large. So many people want desperately to know to to take better photos in SL. They may need them for contests, blogs, personal use, or maybe they want to be more creative or possibly start their own photography business. They can gain this knowledge from watching YouTube videos or other tutorials. But some people don’t learn best that way. They need a person to guide them a little while, a group within which to ask questions, or need the push of a homework assignment to really stretch their wings. In a group setting, you also get feedback which cannot be found in YouTube videos. The feedback, of course, would be supportive and constructive. Artists are pretty bad at thriving in an environment that is too tough or critical.”
Both Okawa and Cerise have interesting stories as to what brought them to SL and what keeps them here. Okawa remarked “I wanted to play God. I wanted to be in control of an avatar. And in turn, I was taught that the meaning of life and purpose has to be sought after both in SL and RL. I love the community it brings along with it that is always supportive.” Cerise shared, “I was inspired by the limitless possibilities to explore artistic creativity. Honestly. I mean, make your own skin, shape, furniture, clothes, and crazy body parts?! That is totally awesome! Sign me up! I wanted to see what imagination, an artistic bent, and the exuberance of a meerkat pup could conjure up. What keeps me here is the very same thing. Every day I see the jaw-dropping creativity and talent that people have and I am constantly in awe. Everyone here inspires me to push myself to be my very best.”
Their starts in SL photography are just as unique as they are. Cerise shared her accidental beginning. “One day I managed to put together my avatar in a way that really pleased me (I think I might have had 2 hairs and 3 hats on, or something like that). This was in the days before we had ‘Outfits’ that could be saved, so I wanted to remember what I had done and took a few photos trying to get one that would help me recreate the outfit later. The photo stirred something in me, but it didn’t fully take hold until I went shopping. Yup, that’s right, shopping. I went to Enzo Champagne’s Champagne! Sparkling Couture as I totally love impressive costumes. He had a notice for his monthly photography contest and I thought: “Well, I’m artistic and I just figured out how to take a photo. I love his outfits and don’t have much money. Winning his contest would get me a few of his things for free!” So, I styled an outfit and submitted my photo. You have no idea how shocked and surprised I was at winning that contest. My first ever! Enzo Champagne has no idea what he did for me and my confidence. I was a nobody, yet he saw something in my photo. I am forever grateful to him and I bet after all this time he probably does not remember me. I don’t care. He will always be the biggest initial push toward all my future photography endeavors and I am thankful to him every single day.”
Okawa’s beginning in SL photography was also centered around events inworld. “I think everyone from my era basically played with photography by taking snapshots of ourselves in our inventory – P.S. those images are horrendous! The turning point has got to be the creation of my Flickr account and putting my work out there for everyone to see and comment on. The involvement with two big events – Relay for Life in 2013 and the AVENUE A/W Fashion Week in 2013 gained a lot of support from both of the organizing parties and then I started my SL photography work professionally – eventually leaving my RL lecturing job to concentrate on other areas that needed attention in my life – eg. ENJOYMENT!”
Both women have had many accomplishments over their SL careers. When asked to share some highlights, Cerise commented that being able to make an SL living off of her work was a thrill. She went on to share that certain kinds of photo work really bring out the best in her, “… Magazine editorials, I was truly thrilled to be asked to be a photographer for several magazines … store ads … and photography contests that either I win or help others win. All these things reinforce that what I produce has value and that alone makes me feel good!”
When responding to the same question, Okawa corrected it. “I have never seen my achievements as accomplishments, I saw them as milestones. There are many milestones in my career as an SL photographer – employed by some of the best magazines and featured in them is considered one; having my clients appear in my IMs telling me they want to be photographed by me because they appreciate my work is another; having designers come into my email and asking me to apply as their blogger is yet another, but the greatest milestone of all has got to be a certain RL publication recognizing my SL photography works as being works of art. There are too many milestones and I can only thank those who had been appreciative of the work I put out there in SL, and eventually in RL – thanks to Flickr! I am grateful for those who stood by my Flickr and waited for my next post on my blog and those who waited so patiently for their items to be photographed. I thank you all.”
As with all things there is always two sides to a coin. When asked about the things they enjoy and dislike about SL photography Cerise honestly replied, “I like being able to express my creative side the absolute most! What I like least is .. ugh!… asking for money for my work. But I know I must do it or I will end up resenting the requests and then probably quit altogether. Then nobody wins. So, the business end is sucky for me. I hope that the professional group of photographers in VISIONAIRE can help me with that!” Okawa shared something she most enjoys about SL photography, “The ability to bring my ideas in RL to life. It takes a lot of organizing and coordination from many different departments of people in RL to bring a shoot to life. But in SL, I can sit and search for the exact make-up I want, the exact pose, the exact location and bring that imagery in my mind to life – without having to tell my RL make-up artist that her work sucked so bad because red-lips aren’t nude make-up.” She goes on to share what she dislikes “There remains a lot to be discussed in how SL photography can improve because I am a SL photographer that depends heavily on the capabilities of my SL viewer, there are improvements that the SL viewer can definitely bring about – such as accurate algorithms to reflect and refract light from light sources and bounce light from objects.”
In closing both Okawa and Cerise have words of wisdom to those just commencing their journey as SL photographers.
“Practice, Practice, Practice,” Okawa begins, “There is no other way out, just like Math. The more you practice the better you get. Keep abreast with the capabilities of your SL viewer and also always stimulate your creativity by imagining ‘what could it have been’, instead of copying ‘what had already been done’. We innovate, we don’t copy. We move forward, we don’t dwell in history. We learn from mistakes, we improve. We create the future. If Einstein hadn’t imagined a lot of things impossible, there won’t even be Quantum Physics. So your imagination is key.”
Cerise’s words echo those of her counterpart. “Keep practicing your art. Look at the work of other photographers and artists. Don’t copy as that is not genuine, but do search out inspiration in the work of others. Watch or read tutorials if you want to improve in a certain area. Do it because you love it. Art should not be a process like putting car parts together. Good art requires thought, an open soul, and sometimes even a wee bit of luck at being in the right place at the right time. Keep your eyes open!”
Both of these gifted photographers have much to share with those who wish to collaborate as well as learn and are very excited about the positive reactions VISIONAIRE has received thus far. The first batch of Institute students have already been selected and classes have begun. Applications for the next round of VISIONAIRE Institute classes will open in March.
Visit VISIONAIRE inword for notecards and to place yourself on the mailing list for future announcements: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Yorokobi/77/171/2021
Contact VISIONAIRE via email: firstname.lastname@example.org