I am often asked about my experience with Artifact Uprising and River Story™, so I thought I'd take a few moments to share, from my heart, how I see the whole experience now that time has passed.
I remember when I was first coming up with the idea for the Kickstarter and felt absolutely terrified. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find another book that featured a single photographic series interwoven with the intensely vulnerable inner-workings of the photographer herself. I’d drive from bookstore to bookstore, and soon realized, it is almost impossible to just find a female photographer’s voice in the vast ocean of male titles on the art shelves, let alone a specific pocket of specialization. I remember one particular afternoon, sitting cross legged on the floor, feverishly, and tearfully, texting a friend, “In this entire giant store, there are only two, TWO books featuring women photographers. And one is a bunch of babies with cabbages on their heads shoved into watering cans. And the other is, of course, Sally Mann.”
Day after day I was riddled with doubt. There were no guideposts, no previous mistakes to learn from, no women I could roadtrip to and politely ask for advice over tea in a local dusty cafe. The traditional publishing world, with it’s fierce boy’s club aphorisms, was not an option for my prose, and yet I knew this was something I needed to do. So, I set off in my little camper, a ship immediately lost at sea with not a lighthouse in sight, determined to find my way (spoiler alert: I am still finding my way).
Early in the planning stages, a small startup company called Artifact Uprising crossed my path and after a few phone calls with the sister owners, I soon realized it was a match made in heaven. Through the many, many months (years!) of working together, Artifact became the force that both kept me rooted to my goals, and also, in even the stormiest of times when it seemed all was destined to be reduced to nothing more than a pile of splinters, remained steadfast in their support. If my husband and children served as my compass throughout this entire process, it can be argued that Artifact Uprising was my anchor.
I am always super hesitant to offer too much praise at the risk of sounding like an after-bedtime infomercial, but the truth is what it is. I am a relatively unknown, opinionated, unapologetic female photographer and writer. And while I, and my work, may not fit the mold of the artists they typically feature and celebrate, these unavoidable truths are what made Artifact Uprising such a welcome piece of the River Story puzzle.
They have created a magical space of “and” that allows for creative freedom like few others. I could photograph and write. I could publish and have creative control. I could be my ridiculous, unabbreviated self and be taken seriously.
And that’s sort of what River Story has always celebrated. The center of the pendulum swing. A resting place where I, they, we, can be stripped of the rules and expectations so heavily placed on women, and just sink into the unwavering nucleus of it all. That is where empowerment, and radiance, and courage truly reside. Harvard scholars and bankers and zealots and hippies and gay and old and lost and found. It doesn’t matter. And that’s the point.
I mean really it all comes down to this: every woman deserves to feel whole and the entirety that I was seeking I couldn't find so I created it, and Artifact Uprising granted me the permission and outlet to do so. I didn't invent water images. I didn't invent flower crowns. I didn't invent any of it. All I did was grant myself permission to make a list of what made me, Michelle, feel the most beautifully undiluted, and then I put those elements together and waited to see if other women felt it, too. It turns out, I'm not alone. Which has been the most comforting awareness. It turns out, there are other women who feel their strongest, most confident selves with muddy feet, sweaty brows, and hair tangled with wild ferns and flowers. And, it turns out, there are other women who feel their own internal, primal divinity rise up when then sink down into life-giving river waters.
So if this book stands for nothing else, my hope is that it stands as evidence. Evidence that us wild hearted, sure footed women are not alone, and we, with our diverse and hopelessly gorgeous and complex narratives, do not have to remain silent and suppressed any longer.
There is always a way when we follow our most divine callings. Always. And while the process isn't always easy, if you stand true to what is good and fair and honest, in the end, it will be so gorgeously worth it.
To order a copy of River Story™ click here.