An Uncomfortable Conversation

Hi, My name is Alea and I am a black woman. You might not notice from far away because my skin is perhaps a lighter shade but the roots run deep, I am a black woman. I have other blood lines that run through my family lineage such as a great great grandpa that is from Ireland, a great grandmother that was native American, my grandmother’s father being Sicilian, etc. But everyone else in that mix was from somewhere in Africa. To America, I am a black woman.

I was in a group of people recently  where I had an uncomfortable conversation about race with one person. They said ” Well you’re not all the way black ” as if it was a compliment. It reminded me of the times I was told ” Wow, you’re really pretty…for a black girl.” What does that even mean?  For a black girl?  What does that say to the rest of the world of black women? That they aren’t also beautiful because they a black? It was a weird start of an interaction with someone. ” Not all the way black” is a weird statement in it of itself. The first things we talked about were race because it was the very first identifiable box they could put me in. In America I think that is par for the course, not just with race but other things like job or where you’re from. How many times have you been asked “So what do you do for a living ? ” It’s the way we relate. In this case however, my job was never asked about. We spent about 30 minute talking about my black or non blackness.

I’m not flattered that you see me as someone “not all the way black.” While some people think that may be a compliment, it sure doesn’t sound like one to me. This uncomfortable conversation , in the same breath they said to my husband ” So now you came all the way from Poland and got yourself a black girl, how does it feel? ” So first I wasn’t all the way black but now, I was just a black girl someone came and got 1. Inciting that my husband had some kind of fetish for black women and that was the main factor in deciding to marry me- completely offensive to him, but 2. He got me? Was I some kind of property he was able to acquire? Was it some kind of “experience” to be with a black woman?  Not my brain, or my heart but my race. Stuff like this is why race is very much still an issue in our country.

I kind of hate talking about race. The topic itself for me has led to feelings being hurt and friendships severed. So it’s not something I bring up because I don’t assume people will understand. Some of the world already looks at me as someone ” not all the way black ” so my opinions seem to be diluted from the beginning. And the rest of the world views black people “whining” about being black as something they need to “Get over” . So no one is trying to hear the struggle anyway.

I was talking to someone a few month ago that said ” They [ blacks in america ] just need to move on , black people are completely equal in the country.” I’m sure without even thinking you read this and knew that person wasn’t black.  The term “races wars” was brought up but I found that it was only used when the minority wants to stand up and pursue fairness for themselves. It’s only a “war” when the oppressed says no more. It’s uncomfortable to look at someone else’s painful experiences and acknowledge them. I do understand that part. But when my sister gets followed in stores when she wears her hair more “ethnically”to make sure she isn’t stealing anything, my other sister constantly “randomly checked” by TSA every time she had to go into work as a flight attendant when she wore her little afro but not when she wore it straight, don’t get me started about my uncles ( very tall black men ) who get stopped for driving too nice of a car, it’s hard to ignore it. You’d be shocked at the number of times I’ve been called nigger ( yes with a hard R at the end).Or how often people ask ” Is the check separate?” when my white husband and I are at dinner, or the stares we get from older non-black couples. It’s hard to get over what is still very much happening. It might not be noticeable for most but it’s sure notable when it happens in your own backyard.

In college going to a small christian college where I was one of the 7 black people at a school of 1200, I dealt with a professor that graded me more harshly than my colleagues and almost caused me to lose my scholarship. I had never gotten a D in my life and almost every assignment I turned in was C-/D/D-. I was getting graded full letter grades down because of missing punctuation. Whereas one of my friends had completely misspelled words, even missing assignment completion and still got higher grade than me. this happened for months, so I sought help from counselors at the school, where they verified the bias and he was let go. That taught me something very sad about the world I lived in at 19 years old.  Now 31, As I’ve grown up I’ve learned to be proud of my heritage, and not to try to cover up who I am to make someone else more comfortable. But it’s been tough when situations bring up those tensions of feeling like I’m being treated differently or looked at at certain way because of the way I look before I have a chance to make my own impression with my words.

I chalk it up to ignorance because as an eternal optimist I have a hard time believing that people say this things out of malice. I could be naive but it’s better for my heart to believe “They don’t know no better” than “These people are trying to hurt me” but to say I’m not “all the way black” negates or invalidates my struggles that comes with being black in America.  To say ” You’re pretty for a black girl” is to negate the many beautiful shades of women around the world that are black and says that I’m not just pretty on the full scale, I’m still under whatever other race you deemed as actually beautiful. It’s backhanded compliment.  To say ” They need to move on” is being blind to what’s been hurting us for years. I hesitated to even write this for fear of being deemed as ” angry black woman” or ” making a big deal out of something small” because people don’t like hearing about this stuff.  Slavery is over ( for Americans) but racism is not, even in it’s very small and ignorant ways. I usually don’t speak up but that really bothered me, and it made me wonder how many other people that kind of stuff happens to and they don’t say anything. ” I should probably say something”  A small ignorant conversation over a fire with a stranger like this one, happens more often than you would imagine because… I am a black person in America and stuff like this happens to us. It’s not a race war…it’s our life.



Why no one cares about your boring Instagram

From a self professed Instagram addict,  I have to admit – Instagram is my jam. All those pretty pictures for inspiration I can look at, at the drop of a hat, just really puts a boost in my day. But while I’m addicted to this particular form of social media, I think my profession as a photographer gives me a little leeway for my visual obsession. It took me a while to get used to taking photos with my phone, I was after all a “real” photographer (phone snob). But eventually I relented and the social media app has kind of transformed how I see the world. ” Oooo gurl that would be a great Instagram ” I overheard someone say at a coffee shop. It has singlehandedly developed new subcultures around taking photographs so much so , there are parodies constantly being made about this phenomenon.



Some people however, don’t get how it works. They will post 8 similar photos in a row (unfollow) or never wipe the smudges off their phone lens so everything is…well cloudy looking. Or they are still using out of date filters that look like they are gramming 2010. Some they simply don’t know how to take decent photos or don’t care. If you are interested in this this at all ( which I think you are because you have read this far), I hope I can help. Instagram has become a community where meet ups happen, friends are made, and advertisers sell. The way we take photos has changed because of it.

I don’t have the best Instagram in the world but I know a little something about taking photos after 10 years of doing it professionally. Mine is usually associated with day to day stuff so there’s not really a niche to it, but I enjoy the challenge of making ordinary things look pretty. My husband is annoyed by my food photos, my friends roll their eyes at me when I ask them politely to “take it again but like this…” photos are my world, they have always been. But this social media app as actually encouraged me to DO more things. It’s even changed the way I travel. Suddenly I started appreciating the environment that surrounds me in a way that I wouldn’t have before. Places I wouldn’t feel comfortable whipping out my giant DSLR (to avoid looking like a tourist), I can now capture in seconds with my phone. When I have free time, I think about photos I would like to take that would inspire me. It’s given me a platform to want to take more photos daily. Sometimes that is a photo of my coffee and sometimes it a sunset in Bali. Either way my world become a lot more beautiful.


You don’t have to be a blogger to start creating art. “But Alea, it’s Instagram…it ain’t even that deep…” Trust me, I hear you.20160513_173826-ANIMATION.gif

For the few people that don’t give a damn about making new connections, business, inspiration, or simply sharing their world with the world – this post is not for you. But recently I have been getting asked over and over from a photographers perspective, how people can visually help their instagram feed to attract new followers, engagement or the like. So from what I gather, this is my opinion on why no one cares about your boring Instagram.

1.You have no aesthetic. You forgot about the feed as a whole. Serious Instagrammers live and die by the feed. You kind of take photos of things at random with no rhyme or reason. Some people can do that well because they have chosen a color palette that they stick to , or even just a certain edit that gives their feed a cohesive look. Everything doesn’t have to match but cultivating a style creates a visual voice. Apps like Vsco, afterlight, or snapseed are great go to’s. Choose a look you want and stick with it ( at least 12 posts at a time I say).


2.Your photos aren’t good. This is a hard one to explain because who determines what a good photo is?  “How dare you criticize my art!” I know. Well bad filters will mess up a good photo right away. These hyper vintage looking filters that just throw up all over your photo are out. People got tired of it and now seem to prefer more clean looking palettes. It’s likely why Instagram changed their classic blue interface to white. It’s cleaner.  Also, you might notice the majority of photos taken of “regular” things are taken from birds eye view (symmetrically above). Visually most people are attracted to balance/symmetry. Flat lays are an integral part of Instagram.  Next is, you’re likely taking a photo with a phone so make sure you can account for good lighting. Natural light is my go to, but I see other people using flash really nicely with a nice filter and making it look cool. But if flash is too advanced, stick with natural light.  Just look up ” How to take a good photo with your phone ” and I’m sure you will find a myriad of blogs to assist with that. Someone is going to hang me for saying this, but everyone can be a good photographer. It just take a little effort.2016-05-24_0002

3.You want people to follow/like you but you don’t do the same. Don’t be an IG snob. This is a community, share the wealth. Go to your favorite hashtag and see all the photos that might inspire you to do better and like them. You get what you give.

4.You don’t know how to tell a story creatively. Ever heard a picture is worth a 1000 words? Photos tell stories. Find a way to style your photo to tell a story.  I was going on a road trip so I thought this ( left photo)  would be a cute way to tell the world I’m going on a trip rather than just shooting a photo of me in the car. One of my best friends and I wanted to make pancakes one morning but I decidedly knew I wanted to make a bunch and stack them on top of each other for this (on the right) photo. Utilizing props are a fun way to spice up your feed. ” Wow Alea, you are such a fake, none of your life is actually real” I hear the haters, but when it comes to styling a photo, you can use props that make sense to tell a story. We ate the pancakes for breakfast so…. it wasn’t fake, we just made something ordinary, extraordinary. Being a wedding photographer , you really think the bride’s shoes and dress just happened to get placed all gorgeously in that window on its own? Hell nah. I put it there to tell a story of the day, and you can do that too. 2016-05-24_0003

5. You don’t share who you are. People want to follow a people not things, so show your face! I’m not saying make your whole feed selfies of you in the car before work (unfollow) but show who you are ! Be a little vulnerable and let us into your life because you also have an unique perspective to give to the world. I know it sounds weird but in a world that has primarily turned to social media for connection, you might as well make the best of it. I started a very vulnerable fitness journey IG (not shared here) to help myself stay accountable in losing weight. And in my vulnerability, I made new encouraging friends that helped me believe in myself and keep me accountable and I have lost 20 lbs! Sometime’s its not about how good the photo is but how much you open up. Sharing is caring. I get the highest amount of engagement from selfies that don’t look like “Yup I’m the shit, look how good I look ” because those are annoying. I typically share selfies when I’m about to share something personal about myself.


6.You don’t post enough or your post too much. 1-3 times a day is enough. But when you post 10 posts in one day ( if you’re traveling I get it, I’m guilty of that)  But 10 posts of your kid or dog or outfit is too much. Or you’re on the other side of the spectrum and you post once a month, you can bet that either people will stop caring or forget about you all together.

7. You’re captions are lame. Get creative or descriptive with what you want to say. Add your own voice/life into it. Don’t just use  someone else’s quote every time you post something. It’s ok once in a while but it gets old fast. People want to know what you think. Clever captions get likes from me every time.2016-05-24_0006

8. YOU are boring. You enjoy comfort too much to get outside of yourself and see the environment around you. This post is not meant to say you need to be inundated with your phone but instead sharing your world around you. Making art out of the experiences that you have  daily and giving beauty to the rest of the world. Who knew a social media app could do that very thing?  Sometimes friends and I leave the house just to “take instagrams”. It might sound dumb but the aspect of creating art on a daily basis has gotten me off my derrière more than a few times to take photos and thus given my life more experiences I wouldn’t have had and thus more excitement.

I hope this post inspired you to do more with not just your instagram but your life! Get out and go make experiences so you don’t have a boring life . Until next time! 20160508_151726-ANIMATION❤ Alea

99% these photo were taken with my phone.