Twice a year, I get to sit down with the Living Treasures committee to read personal, heart-felt letters, rich articles, extensive resumes and sort through archival photos from an amazing pool of Santa Fe Living Treasure nominees. Typically, by secret ballot, the three honorees are voted into the Living Treasures community almost unanimously – they just rise to the surface, and leave us all glowing with a renewed belief in humanity. A life devoted to the public good is such an amazing thing to celebrate and come together for in gratitude.

This summer we honored Consuelo Hernandez, Dave Warren and Judge Patricio M. Serna. And, with another selection meeting on the calendar today, there with more Treasures honored in the Fall. Join us October 27th, at the next public event.

Consuelo “Connie” Hernandez
If you’ve ever been to Santa Fe, you’ve surely passed by and hopefully gone in, the Old Santa Fe Trail Gift Shop. It is filled with religious folk art, and something, undoubtedly, just for you. Connie will find that perfect something for you and also share story after story of miracles, answered prayers, healings, and transformations that she has experienced and witnessed. She is a believer and that energy pulsates and uplifts generation after generation. She keeps the faith and stories alive by caring for and teaching traditions.

Dave Warren is a historian, professor and community history organizer. Personally, I love that last title, a community history organizer. Dave has worked tirelessly with his own Native American communities to record oral traditions so that they might write their own tribal histories, instead of having others do it for them.

Patricio M. Serna went from “poor little country boy to Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court. What some people just shrug off as words and folly, Serna took to heart, “With positive focus, determination and self-confidence, you can be anything you want”. And, what grace and kindness he showed as I received a personal tour of the NM Supreme Court chambers.

How am I contributing to my community, committing to my hearts’ path? How am I honoring those who are? Well, the Santa Fe Living Treasures is a great model, one that is a joy to be a part of.

Please visit the Santa Fe Living Treasures website for more information.

Late last November I drove due west to Flagstaff, Arizona and arrived around sunset to the smile and colorful, light-filled studio space of Anna LaBenz Photography on the old Route 66. Anna’s life is seeped in family and art. Bringing those two passions together, she brings a unique talent and sensitivity to her wedding and portrait photography clients. I had the honor of spending two days with her, watching and capturing how she works, and talking about the inspiration behind her work for this promotional video for her website.

What I admired about her work, from start to finish, is the internal spark that carries through – from the creative ideas that bubble up as she prepares for a shoot, to the interaction with the kids, families and couples while photographing, to the joy and excitement of the edit as images pop up on the computer screen to the final delivery of a beautiful art piece to her client. Her work is infused with joy, beauty and the preciousness of the present moment.

To learn more about Anna LaBenz or hire her as your portrait photographer, visit her website.

Anna is also the founder of the JLB Project, a group that offers assistance with grief counseling, online resources and financial assistance for those who are grieving the loss of their baby.

I ask “Why?” a lot when I am interviewing artists, non-profit directors and staff, social entrepreneurs. “Why?” peels back the internal layers more than What? or How?. Why gets to the heart, causes a pause, sometimes pain, and typically reveals a personal mission and belief. And, it’s the “Why?” in life that really keeps us going, centers us in times of chaos, re-energizes when on the brink of exhaustion. At least for me, Why is what inspires.

Surprisingly, “Why?” is sometimes the hardest question to answer. It gets lost in the What and How? When? For Whom? How Much?

At least it’s made me stumble a bit when asked lately, which encourages me to return to my photo roots in High School with Janet Moore-Coll as my teacher (she is still inspiring young photographers today). Magically photography connected me to my community and myself in a way I hadn’t felt connected before. Instead of just blindly going along, I started questioning: What is this (Easter egg hunt)? Who are these (fox-hunter’s)? What’s really happening here (the HS party/ drink fest), and Why? I’m not sure I found the answers, but I learned to ask the questions. And, it was fascinating to undulate back in forth from a participant in the action, to an observer, from an insider to an outsider.

After High School, I put the camera down until my junior year of college when I went to Nepal for a semester abroad. Of course, the camera came back out – I knew I needed to sketch what I was seeing so that I could research, explain, and share it later. I used photography in my senior thesis in college, to capture community supported agriculture in Virginia. I gave the images to a nonprofit organization educating the state’s farmers about organic and biodynamic farming and CSAs. Photography gave me a way to participate in and advocate for what I believed in, and be of service to a cause. (Wish I could get my hands on all of these photos I am referring to to post…, that’s a box opening, scanning project for another rainy day!)

These are still the key components to my work and my why:
Photography connects me to myself and my community, and I need to feel connected.
Photography is a research tool, for my own life-long learning, and I need to be inspired and keep learning and growing.
Photography allows me to participate and observe, question and document, and helps me feel alive, present, engaged.
Photography gives me a voice and is a way to be seen, and I also need to feel valued and heard.
Photography allows me to participate in and advocate for what I believe in, and there are many things I believe in.
Photography allows me to be of service, and I need to contribute and give back.
Photography helps me to remember and share my story and experiences, and I need to know the importance of my own story and share it.

I have added a few skills to the visual storytelling toolkit since high school, most notably the addition of audio and video to my work. The WHY behind audio and video is really important to me too. I realized that with still photography I was still imposing my judgement and personal filters on the story. And, when other people looked at the images, they brought theirs. So, I wanted to give my subject the power to tell their own stories in their own voice, from their own perspective, culture, accent, and heart. I believe that when we listen, we connect on a much deeper level. I have experienced it every time I have sat down to ask questions, and then didn’t interrupt and chime in with my opinion or reaction. Listening, being receptive and open to another, is transformative. Listening encourages me to let go of judgement, criticism, the idea of right and wrong.

So my work is now a spiritual practice – a practice that I believe will heal myself and others. Yes, my work and my why is about healing. It’s about peace-making. It’s about optimism and celebrating what’s beautiful in the world. It’s about being connected and feeling connected. It’s about learning to listen and to communicate without judgement or expectation. It’s about letting go of shame and embracing vulnerability. It’s about being present in the moment. It’s about learning and growing, seeking and accepting. And, it keeps evolving. But, it’s what underlies all of my projects. Whether I am successful or not is another story, but I’ll keep trying.

What’s your WHY? I would love to hear it!

photo by Norah Levine Photography

  • Kim Klinkrodt - Beautiful! I love your Whys. I love your answers. I love the journey and the story that you tell. I can picture you all along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing!

  • Ruibna Cohen - So gorgeously written and truly spoken from the heart. I TOO love your why! My why is because I want to, and because I can. My why is because I was put on this Earth to serve and be in service. Why…because I love it, you, them and because I believe in it all! Anyway, that was my way of showing you inspired me and always do!

  • admin - It IS that simple – “I want to and I can”! Ahhh, you are always a breath of fresh air Rubina!

  • Chris Barber - What a wonderful, thoughtful article — and I love the photograph! Your points about “…participate in and advocate for…” and “…allows me to be of service…” are really, really strong. I’m not sure, but I think my “why” might be: it makes me approach people and have a genuine conversation with them; so the photograph I take has something of that reality in it.” I credit you, Genevieve, with teaching me to talk with people before I pick up the camera.

Since I started StoryPortrait Media in 2007, I knew that I wanted to use photography, audio and video to help individuals and organizations who inspire me, share their story, in their own voice, with the world.

My work motivates me in so many ways. First, it’s a constant education – from the technical aspects of using DSLR cameras for motion and the workflow of capturing, downloading, editing, uploading, and archiving this intangible digital media to the people; their stories, experiences, leadership and their effect on the community. I am challenged and in awe daily.

And, second, I believe in optimism. Some may say I live in a bubble, and am not accepting or facing “reality”. I say, I am one of many holding up the torch and hoping to shine a light on all those who defy, in their vision and action, the apathy and fear that dominates the headlines. And, one story at a time, start shifting the energy.

My friends, my family, and my community give me inspiration and hope.
Photography and image-making gives me a means to contribute and be of service.
Business, and the desire to support myself and others with my passion, pushes me outside my comfort zone, and hopefully makes me a better person, living fully, failing and trying again, meeting my edge.

This year, I will continue to explore, play, collaborate, learn, and delve into the well of creativity, to bring hopeful, positive, life-affirming stories to the fore. If you have suggestions for organizations, businesses, artists, or individuals who have a meaningful story and work to share, please let me know!

For now, I invite you to visit the new StoryPortrait Media website. It is a work in progress, as always.

I have to engage in projects that I have a personal connection to because I want my work to inspire and nourish me and also reflect my values. This year, I’ve had the colorful, blissful, delicious opportunity to work with Wendy Borger, Pam Sweeney and Debbie Gadayloo at SPANDARAMA & RASA to create a gallery of images for their new website and print marketing materials. Here is a quick look at the nutritious life force RASA is serving up at 815 Early Street in Santa Fe.

There is a lot on the agenda for 2013 in terms of whole body, mind, spirit wellness… there is even an upcoming holiday dessert making class! I took a living foods class with Debbie a month or so ago, and it completely rocked my world! I eat a lot of vegetables, but admittedly sometimes overcook them. She put the crunch and vitality back into my meal!

Go visit, enjoy a juice, the taste of health, and feel more vibrant, alive, whole and nourished this harvest and holiday season! I will see you there.

  • meg simone - Genevieve – your work is so inspiring! I could spend hours on your blog, site, and vimeo page. Each project you have done has so much heart in it. I love your work and your eye on life. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  • Chris Barber - Genevieve, this work is so amazing — my mouth is watering as I look at the blog! I am so glad that you’re sharing your work after taking a pause from the blog. Hope your time with family will be a complete and total blessing!

  • admin - Thank you Kim! It is a journey! And, I’m happy that our paths are crossing.

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