Deep thoughts from a weekend of photoshoots

A few years ago, my best friend moved out of New York, leaving her apt empty for the remaining two weeks of the month. To grieve her departure, I turned her apartment into a studio for a weekend to test out new lighting set ups and a medium format camera on loan from another friend. I invited people from the school of Improvolution to come by and be my model in exchange for a photo. Each person was slated for a 15-20 minute session and as I knew some people would come early, or a session may run long I wanted to make waiting more interesting. There just happened to be sheets of packing paper lying around just asking to be used for a creative project.

On the top of one sheet of packing paper I wrote:

What’s your definition of success? Have you achieved it? What do you have to do to achieve it?

Brendan ©Katarina Kojic

Elaine ©Katarina Kojic

Ken ©Katarina Kojic

Jen ©Katarina Kojic

Vicki ©Katarina Kojic

Meredith ©Katarina Kojic

What’s your definition of success? Have you achieved it? What do you have to do to achieve it?

These are their answers in a random order.

1. Being Happy with yourself and the world around you. I have my “successful” moments. Still not complete. Looking at “the glass half-full” is something I have to do.

2. That you come up with a very distinct version of yourself. Getting there but a lot of diversions and distractions & people always want to bend you to their will.

3. Being happy. Do I look happy? The less I define it, the more I achieve it–I ask for what I want–when I let the universe play its part, it’s given me success beyond my wildest dreams.

4. Being true to myself allows me a level of success beyond my wildest dreams. And I’m getting there -it’s been a rough journey– but I’m making progress-baby steps.

5. I used to think it was money, then I found myself with none and found happiness, fulfillment and confidence instead. Success is being able o do what you want, when you want and not care what anyone has to say about it.

6. My Oscar! But living everyday in truth and using every minute wisely. Making a contribution to the world. And on my death-bed being able to say “I at least tried.”

7. Success has many variations… Re: personal life, health, money…etc! Success is being honest with myself, staying in the moment and working towards goals. It’s a process.

8. There is not one single definition, guess being successful is when you feel like you have a purpose and you have or are in the process of serving that purpose.

9. If what you do brings you joy. Even more so if it brings joy to others as well.

10. To find work that does not feel like an effort. Not yet. Search. Commit. Fail. Get back up. Search. Commit…

On the top of the second piece of paper I wrote:

“What’s the one piece of advice you got that has been put to use in your life the most?”

Joy ©Katarina Kojic

Miguel ©Katarina Kojic

Brock ©Katarina Kojic

John ©Katarina Kojic

“What’s the one piece of advice you got that has been put to use in your life the most?”

1. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Go after what you want even if it takes time.

2. You’ll be dead long enough. And nobody, nobody, nobody wants to hear your “if onlys”

3. Take you shoes with you when you go.

4. Be on the lookout for the spirit snipers, trying to steal your light.

5. Stay positive-surround yourself with positive people for they will push you to achieve.

6. Knowledge is power 🙂 (And have fun!)

7. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

8. It’s not just what you know but who you know. Relationships are everything.

9. When you’re on your deathbed looking back on your life, what will be the things that you cherish? ie. don’t worry about the small stuff.

10. Be realistic, not afraid.

And on the top of the third page:

Seems it may have been a hot and rainy kind of day.

30 Days of Love will be returning shortly.

Day 19 of Love

I met Vernard and Bradley around the corner from the Producer’s Club, during my 15 minute break between warm up and last night’s improv show. As I was choosing a spot (in front of Chipotle on 9th and 44th), these two guys walked by. Full of joy and clear affection for each other, I stopped them and asked if they would take part in my 30 days of Love.

Both Dancers and Choreographers, they met at Alvin Ailey. ©Katarina Kojic

Name: Vernard / Bradley
Age: 36 / 32
Profession: Dancer slash Choreographer / Dancer slash Choreographer
Nationality / Origin: Native African American (Grandfather was Cherokee) / South African -Greek, Dutch and British

Relationship to each other: Very close friends and getting closer
How / where did you meet: At Alvin Ailey when I (Vernard) hit on him. And I (Bradley) let him.
When did you meet: 1998
How long have you been together: Since then
What is your favorite thing about Bradley: Wonderful spirit, always joyful and optimistic
What is your favorite thing about your Vernard: His Smile. Actually just everything.
I really love it when… Bradley smiles
I really love it when… Vernard holds my hand.
Why is Bradley important to you: It’s very rare you find good people and he’s just a good person.
Why is Vernard important to you: He keeps me balanced.
What does love mean to you Vernard? Love is… Love.
What does love mean to you Bradley? Love is… Everything.


Day 18 of Love

Love of Travel

Many years ago, Nina and Darryl went on a trip around the world, on a shoe string budget. Around the world for $4000. About 3 months into the trip, they were in a rickshaw in front of the Taj Mahal, and with the moonlight shining down, Darryl asked Nina to marry him. She said yes.

I asked if he had planned it before the trip. Nope. “Yeah right,” says Nina. After spending so much time together, day and night for months and months, and still wanting to be around each other… well he knew he had found the right person.

Nina asked if he wanted to tell what happened the next morning. “No,” replied Darryl. The next morning, he offered that they didn’t have to tell anyone yet, in case by the end of the trip, they changed their minds. Seems he was a little rattled by his spontaneous question.

They obviously didn’t change their minds and after 37 years, you can see they still adore each other.

Darryl and Nina tell me the story of the morning after their engagement. ©Katarina Kojic

Name: Darryl / Nina
Age: 70 / 67
Profession: Retired High School Social Studies Teacher / Retired School District Librarian (aka. Media Specialist)
Nationality / Origin: Born in Delaware -Mother German, Dad Polish / Italian born in NYC

Relationship to each other: Husband and Wife
How / where did you meet: Working in the same school district
When did you meet: 1969
How long have you been together: Married for 37 years.
What is your favorite thing about Nina: She is good at everything she attempts and is full of surprises
What is your favorite thing about your Darryl: He’s a WONDERFUL father. (and as a husband) He loves me despite all of my faults.
I really love it when… she stands up for herself, (which is frequently)- She does not suffer fools lightly.
I really love it when… he tries to tell a joke.
Why is Nina important to you: She is like my guiding star. She’s very supportive and has total faith in me, I think.
Why is Darryl important to you: Because he’s my soul.
What does love mean to you Darryl? Love is… Pain upon separation.
What does love mean to you Nina? Love is… Having no bounds. Unconditional love.


Day 17 of Love

Sitting on in the park near the courthouse in lower Manhattan. ©Katarina Kojic

Name: Sabir
Profession: Garment / Textile Importer and former cigarette and soap model.
Nationality / Origin: Indian

Are you in a relationship? Yes I have a wife.
How did you meet her? At a party, my friend took me to a party. She was starting med school. After seeing her for 7-8 years, with the permission of our parents, we got married in 1987.

Let’s go back to the party when you met her, the first time that you saw her. Do you remember what she was wearing? “Yes she was wearing an Indian dress in light green color. And that light green color is very favorite to me. She was beautiful when I saw her. Right now she’s not that… But at that time she was most beautiful woman.”

So what was your first date? Did you have a first date? “No we don’t do dates, we don’t do that in India, you know that. We always met thru somebody, in somebody’s house in a party or something like that. And after 6- 7 years, we get close, close, close and then I wrote my parents, that I have a girl, been seeing a girl. And she also wrote her parents. Then I go and met her father, mother and after that both the parents met together and said ok.”

What is your favorite thing about her: She’s a very care-taking person. For me, my kids, my daughter, my son, she always take care of everybody. And one more thing. She’s an extraordinary clean lady.

I really love it when… she smiles.
Why is she important to you? Because she’s my second half. In Indian culture we have a different concept. Once we get married. Our life divided in two parts. One part is wife. One part is husband. Same for her also. We both share half of our soul, half of our body together. We never ever think about getting divorced or anything like that in our life. Different culture. You must know about India. In my case at least I saw my wife and dated her for 7-6 years. All my brothers and sisters they never even saw their wife before they got married. And you know the divorce ratio in India is .001. Not even 1 percent. 100 times not even 1 person. That’s the way we grow up.

What does love mean to you? Love is… How can I explain love. In my opinion, love is everything but soul. Everything is love except the soul. (Can you explain more?) In your real life, everybody, whether me or somebody else, only love one person in their whole life. THe other all you can say, you can name anything, but you have anybody have only attraction, affection, great richness, everything is just for one person, that is called love. My opinion right there. I don’t know about anybody else.

Day 16 of Love

Love of Adventure.

I spotted Shawn and his son Otto in Union Square. They were an adorable pair!

Otto was a little shy at first. ©Katarina Kojic

I asked who his favorite superhero was. Batman! Can you stand with your dad like Batman? Otto took this to heart and took off in his best imitation of a flying / running Batman thru the park. Sorry Shawn.

Otto how old are you? ©Katarina Kojic

Name: Shawn / Otto
Age: 46 / 3 1/2
Profession: Private Chef / Car racer
Nationality / Origin: Dutch & Italian / Dutch & Italian, mom is half Japanese.

Relationship to each other: Dad & Son
What is your favorite thing about Otto: Right now it’s his energy and excitement. Everyday is a new adventure. He’s a very social kid.
What is your favorite thing about your dad: We go on adventures
I really love it when… Otto grabs my hand and puts it on my chest.
I really love it when… (my Dad) fixes tvs.
Why is Otto important to you: He’s changed my life in more ways than I can count. He made me become a man.
Why is your dad important to you: Because he fixes things.
What does love mean to you Shawn? Love is…Family
What does love mean to you Otto? Love is…That you’re daddy.

Otto’s hand on his dad’s chest. ©Katarina Kojic


Day 15 of Love

I passed Greg reading on his front steps in Long Island City. He was born Jewish, then in ’81 the year he moved to NY, he converted to Islam with his brother-in-law and sister and then in ’91 he joined the Church of Christ in Long Island City. The church is mostly Filipino and considers itself the True Religion. We had a long conversation about religion, mainly I wanted to understand what he was getting out of one religion that he wasn’t getting out of another. What does it bring to his daily life. After quoting and siting many different biblical passages, my only real understanding of what it is for him, is that he believes his religion has more proof of being the true religion than the others.

Name: Greg
Age: 61
Profession: Presently unemployed. Formerly Porter / Doorman
Nationality / Origin: Grew up in Pittsburg, moved to NY in ’81- Grandfather Russian Jew, Mom’s parents Polish.

Are you in a relationship? Yes I’m married.
How/where did you meet? At Church. I’m no longer Jewish. I belong to the Church of Christ, just down the street. (In LIC) You have to marry within the church.
When did you meet? In 2000, we married in 2001
How long have you been together? 12 years
What is your favorite thing about her? She’s a very kind-hearted person.

I really love it when…”She cooks me breakfast. (Oh boy that doesn’t sound very good. We better watch Hope Springs Eternal.)” ©Katarina Kojic

Why is she important to you: She’s my wife, the focus of my life outside of God and Christ.
What does love mean to you? Love is… That’s kind of a cliché question isn’t it? Okay. Not being alone. Which I was for most of my life.


Day 14 of Love

Newlywed Love

Our friends, Heather & Steven, are newlyweds–they just got married a couple of months ago. My husband and I went up to their new house for the weekend to take photos of them and hang out. I couldn’t resist including them in the project with some photos from the weekend.

Smoochin’ in the Flea Market. ©Katarina Kojic

Name: Steven Duque / Heather Lapham Duque
Profession: CEO & Founder, Momba / Financial Monitoring Control Director, North America
Nationality / Origin. US citizen, from Houston, TX / US citizen from Ashby, MA

Relationship to each other: Husband & Wife
How / where did you meet? When did you meet? We met in October 2010 at a party at the Back Bay Hotel to celebrate the opening of the New American wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston. Heather had just moved to Boston a few months earlier from NYC. Steven had gone to school in Cambridge at Harvard and had returned to the city after touring with his band, Mount Auburn, cross-country. Heather went to the MFA party with a couple of friends from London who were visiting, and Steven went to the party to meet up with a friend of his before going on to another event elsewhere in the city. When Steven arrived, his friend was chatting with Heather and her friends.
(Heather: Steven made a huge impression on me that night. He was (and is) a star. He is the most attractive person I’ve ever met in my life. I just wanted to be around him.)
(Steven: Going to that party was one of the most fortuitous events of my life. Truth be told, my friend and I initially intended to go to another event at the same hotel, and happened upon the museum party. As soon I met Heather, it was game over. She was and is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met, inside and out.) 

How long have you been together? We’ve been together since 2010, so that’s coming up on 2 years. We knew that we were going to be together for the long run soon after we met.
What is your favorite thing about Steven? That is an impossible question for me – I don’t have one favorite thing about Steven. I love his energy, sweetness, sensitivity, enthusiasm for life, and integrity… just to name a few things that I love about Steven. Steven IS my favorite thing.
What is your favorite thing about Heather? Her heart. She’s one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met, and her compassion is made even more precious, in my view, by the fact that she’s physically the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. 

Heather & Steven took us to town to check out the local antiques & flea market. ©Katarina Kojic

I really love it when Steven…Dances with me. I’ll dance to anything just to dance with Steven.
I really love it when Heather… Holds me close to her. My heart absolutely melts when I’m close to her. 

Why is Steven important to you? Steven is my soul mate – he is my other half. It took a while for me to finally find him. We had to have a lot of love, faith, and courage, to choose the path we have taken. Our life together is the beginning of a beautiful lifetime journey. I hope that answers the question.
Why is Heather important to you? Because she is who she is and I am who I am. Our paths are inextricably intertwined and only complete when looked at together. 

What does love mean to you? Love is….
Heather: “To love is to be in communion with the other and to discover in the other the spark of God”. During our wedding ceremony, my father read an excerpt from “By the river Piedra I sat down and wept” by Paulo Coelho which included this. I think it is the truest thing I’ve ever read about love.

Steven: I think it’s incredibly difficult to articulate the substance of an ideal or value (especially one as divine as love), but I think I can explain my understanding of what it means to love, from my perspective. To love is to have the courage to believe that there is truth and goodness in the world, that these values supersede all others, and that the partner you’ve chosen is the person who inspires and empowers you to recognize this and continue your pursuit of the ideal. 

With some urging, we got Steven to play some of his songs for us, one he had written especially for Heather. Engin played along on guitar — It was a great night of music and friends! ©Katarina Kojic

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