Tag Archives: a beautiful mess

A Beautiful Mess Photo Challenge: Take Photos of Your Home

Here’s another series of photos inspired by A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book. The ladies at A Beautiful Mess blog are way into home decor, so they often share photos of their homes and others. I live in a duplex with two other twentysomethings, so I wouldn’t exactly call our house “photo shoot ready.” But I love it all the same. For this challenge I decided to take photos of my two favorite places at home.

The first is our backyard. My old apartment had basically no usable yard, so I was excited to take advantage of the outdoor space. This spring my roommate Katie and I bought these lawn chairs at Target. It was quite an ordeal getting them in and out of my car, but I’m so glad we made the purchase. Sitting outside with a book is one of my favorite activities. Our backyard also gets a lot of shade, which is perfect for me.

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The second is my desk. It belonged to my grandpa who passed away in 2009. I love this little corner of my bedroom next to the window, especially since I hung photos (with the help of another Target purchase). I plan to always keep this desk, even if I don’t always use it as my primary work space. Right now it’s where most of my writing happens, blog posts and otherwise.

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A Beautiful Mess Photo Challenge: Photograph a Collection

My favorite crafty ladies over at A Beautiful Mess blog have released a photo idea book. Since their photography is probably my favorite thing about the blog, I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy. This book does not focused on technical skills. It’s more a collection of ideas meant to inspire readers, and that’s exactly what it’s done for me. As I try out ideas from the book, I want to share them on my own blog. Hopefully this post will be the first of a series.

One idea that jumped out at me was “photograph a collection.” My largest collection is obviously my books, but I wanted to try something different. In the past two years, I have also gathered quite a collection of dresses. They’re my favorite for work or a night out. Or really, almost anytime. I love bright colors, stripes, and patterns, and somehow that translates to a lot of pink dresses. I decided to focus on those instead of tackling the whole collection.

Here’s an ode to pink, patterns, and creative cropping.

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Gettin’ Crafty With It

The urge to be crafty does not always bring results. In fact, I would say that the majority of the time, I never get past the imagining stage. This week that changed, in a very small way. Perhaps it’s all that time spent reading A Beautiful Mess, but when I moved into my new apartment, I wanted to decorate it with some do-it-yourself projects.

While moving out of my old place, I found some glass jars in various sizes. A little voice in my head said, “Courtney, you can make these cute.”

I love polka dots — probably bordering on an unhealthy obsession. Inspired by other projects I had seen, I quickly developed a plan. All I needed was cheap black paint from the craft store. I also purchased a pack of sponges for the kitchen, and one was sacrificed on the altar of craftiness.

I cut out makeshift circle stamps in two sizes to match the different jars. Fifteen minutes later, I had some cute home decor. Right now the finished products are living on top of my black bookcase in the dining room.

Hopefully this will be the first of many DIY projects. The new apartment feels like a clean slate, and I want to make it beautiful.

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The Self-Portrait Challenge

In last week’s Photo Friday, I mentioned doing a self-portrait challenge during the month of May. Within the photography community, there’s something called Project 365, which is a resolution to take at least one photo every day for year. I considered doing Project 365 in 2012, but couldn’t quite commit. A few months later, I read this post about how Elsie Larson over at A Beautiful Mess did Project 365 with self-portraits.

Now, I couldn’t imagine taking a photo of myself every day for an entire year. Still, I liked the idea of a self-portrait challenge with a shorter duration. Photographers are notorious for never being in pictures themselves. Even with my complete amateur status, I notice that I’m usually photographing an event rather than being included in the photos. I also suffer from Disliking Pictures of Myself Syndrome. A month-long self-portrait project seemed like the perfect remedy to these problems.

After almost forgetting on the very first day, I really got into the spirit of the challenge. I took my camera on every single walk. Outdoor photography has always felt more comfortable to me, and pleasing backdrops are easier to come by if I leave my apartment. I sometimes felt, well, ridiculous. But I guess that’s the challenge in any kind of art: taking what you do seriously, even though other people might look at you funny. Almost all of my favorite self-portraits were taken in public, so I’m glad that I didn’t let self-consciousness get the better of me.

I gained a lot from the experience, most of it not even specific to self-portraits. The challenge motivated me to fit photography into my daily life. Some days I would have plenty of time to take a walk and find cool locations. Other days I would forget until right before bed, which forced me to get creative with the Hasty Bedroom Portrait. Some days were full of activity, so the camera would get thrown in my purse for self-portraits on the fly. Because the challenge required me to be flexible, the resulting photos feel like a genuine reflection of my life.

Taking photos every day also inspired me to become better acquainted with my camera. Although it has a wide variety of settings, there’s only a few that I use on a regular basis. This project gave me a chance to experiment without feeling rushed. By photographing myself, I learned about light and angles without the pressure of an audience. I especially loved playing with my camera’s timer, using the crooks of trees, stumps, and park benches as a tripod.

These photos are some of the less in-my-face examples. You can see other results of the project here and here. The last photo in this post will look suspiciously familiar because it became the new header for the blog. (I try to keep things fresh for you, Hypothetical Reader.) I would encourage anyone who wants to improve their photography to try a month-long challenge. It’s a manageable commitment, and you can learn a lot in 31 days!


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Here Comes the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Recently I became aware of a character type: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She can be found in movies, TV, and even literature. Many sources converged to make me aware of this phenomenon at approximately the same time. First it was this post on John Green’s Tumblr. That led to the TV Tropes article on the subject. And finally, TV Tropes referred me to a Feminist Frequency video.

I should pause here to tell you exactly what a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is. TV Tropes defines the MPDG as a quirky female character who breezes into the hero’s life and breaks him out of his humdrum existence. The trope is often linked to characters played by Zooey Deschanel. I was intrigued to find that many of my favorite movies have examples of Manic Pixie Dream Girl characters: Clementine (Kate Winslet) in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) in Almost Famous, and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) in (500) Days of Summer.

To make it clear that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl definition is still up for grabs, there are arguments for all three of these characters being imperfect or subverted examples of the MPDG. Still, when three of my favorite movies are mentioned in discussions of the same character type, I start to ask questions. Apparently this is an idea that I find appealing, however subconsciously. Does that mean that I aspire to be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Or do I desire to date some male equivalent?

You may wonder why I find this a bit troubling. Well, Feminist Frequency is happy to explain. From a feminist standpoint, the MPDG has some problematic implications for women. Most notably, the MPDG is rarely the central focus of the story. Instead she serves as a catalyst for the male protagonist’s growth. It’s “woman as muse,” and I think we can all agree that women have more to offer to the world than just inspiration for men. Additionally, the MPDG’s quirks are often disguising a very two-dimensional character.

One night my friend Jenny and I were discussing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. By some coincidence of the universe, we had both become aware of it in the preceding week. On this same evening, I also showed her a blog that I like called A Beautiful Mess. The blog features a lot of cute fashion and do-it-yourself projects. Jenny’s first comment was “This is basically the Manic Pixie Dream Girl blog.” I hadn’t made the connection until then, but she was absolutely right! Yet another example of my subconscious Manic Pixie Dream Girl fixation!

I found this photo on A Beautiful Mess that I think sums up MPDG in a single image:

That’s Elsie Larson, the creator of the blog, and her husband. Observe his stoic but amused attitude toward her. Observe her colored tights and quirky umbrella. Even her pose says, “I am here to bring whimsy into your life!”

But here’s the thing. Elsie Larson may don the MPDG persona, but she’s also an intensely creative and successful businesswoman. In short, she’s a three-dimensional human being. And so am I, as it turns out.

Tropes are not inherently bad; they help us tell stories. Even when storytellers utilize tropes, they must tweak them to fit the needs of their story. That’s why none of the three characters I mentioned can perfectly fit the MPDG definition. They meet some of the criteria but not all. Arguing over definitions is much less interesting, I think, than considering why a trope exists. What purpose does it serve in our collective imagination? And what does it say about us as people?


Filed under Movies, TV