Island Life: Is it Really Paradise? For Art's Sake Project Photographer's Challenge

Last week I was blessed to be able to take an almost free trip to the great state of Hawaii with my husband and my daughter. We stayed on Maui and had just an amazing time. There is incredible beauty in the natural environment and the culture that is undeniable. The volcanic base for the entire island is so interesting to me. It is built entirely on a dangerous volatile force of nature... in the middle of the pacific ocean. What does this do to a culture? What does this mean to the people and the environment? There are parts of this island that truly seem like paradise. But we saw many things that really also made us think that there are things about the underlying culture that are masked underneath this guise of paradise...  

We stopped at a small historic town as we drove around the island. I thought it was a cute and colorful little town and just wanted to photograph it. Immediately my husband got a bad feeling from the people and the atmosphere there. My husband is a recovering addict, he has been clean and sober for 11 years and is amazing at reading people and places. I always say his Spiritual Gift is Discerner of Spirits. He immediately said he thought there was some drug problems in that town. He always can tell. A friend of ours that lives there confirmed this for us. She said that there is an undertone of people that think they are suppose to be happy because they are in "paradise" but they are not; maybe they feel isolated, maybe it's the constant stream of people coming and going, maybe it is the extremely high cost of living... Whatever it is seems to be a breeding ground for drugs and theft.


We also drove to Hana and as we stopped at one of the turn outs, had a bit of an altercation with a local that was selling stuff out of his truck. He was yelling at us for not pulling far enough up in the parking lot. Not the kind of laid back island friendliness you would expect. At the airports we continually had trouble with people that worked there being unprofessional and just not very nice. My husband also has been to almost every airport in the world and said the Hawaiian ones were the absolute worst. I got the feeling that the locals are sick of tourists, and who can blame them. Their culture has been turned into a side show for people to come and briefly experience as a novelty, and then leave. This happens all year long, everywhere on the islands. It is certainly understandable. The intrinsic isolation of this culture based in the middle of the ocean, seems to need an outside connection but resent it at the same time. I lived in New Zealand for 6 months once, and got the same feeling there, there is a very high teen suicide rate in New Zealand due to the isolation from the rest of the world.


At the same time it also seems to breed connection and community, not all the Hawaiians are unfriendly drug addicts please don't get me wrong. We met many many warm, creative, beautiful and wonderful people. There is a different set of priorities that are prevalent in the people, that a work-a-holic like me can greatly admire and respect. Just like its volcanic tropical base, it has amazing beauty like you have never seen, and a dark, volatile side to it as well.


My image this week I feel represents this. Even though the fire is more Polynesian, the Luau is a Hawaiian tradition. This image I feel shows the intense, fiery side of the culture as well as the beauty, the passion and the joy. It is a display of their Hawaiian culture, and other Polynesian island cultures for the tourists that is booked solid every night. I am grateful to have experienced this amazing place and people. I am grateful to now be back home here in Franklin, TN too. To me, where I live is my paradise. This rusty worn wood historic town and my home in the forrest is just perfect for me. But I am certainly happy to visit the island life once in awhile... ;)







Week 6 For Art's Sake Professional Photographer's Challenge. Inspiration for Photographers. Imaginative Photography

Week 6 For Art's Sake ~ Professional Photographer's Challenge

After my flea market adventures this month I was inspired by vintage toys and props. I found these old wooden race car toys. Fiona's new preschool  has mostly wooden toys, no plastic. There is something about the feel and texture of wood that I think makes awesome kids toys. And they obviously last!

The landscape is a shot of the desert I took driving cross country and I love the texture of the cracked ground and the drama of the sky as the race is about to begin! Fiona is always coming up with these elaborate situations for games we play, characters, locations and props, and she is not even 3 years old. Yes most of them are pretend which makes it all the more fun for me to try and translate her imagination into an image. I can't wait to see what she becomes, the type of teen, young lady and woman and probably artist she grows into. Although if you ask my husband he will say lets do whatever we can to keep her from growing up and meeting boys! :)

Here, she enthusiastically starts a car race in the desert with her homemade newspaper flag. Use what you have. I spend a total of $15 on this shoot. The rest is props and environments I already had. When creating imaginative images is important to put ourselves back in a child like state, what do they love, what do they dream of, how do they play… I humbly hope my jaded mind has portrayed her amazing world of wonder in the slightest bit. :)

Edited with Magic Mushrooms Photoshop Action from the Fairytale Action Set

Edited with Butternut Photoshop Action from the Memento Set

Want to buy the mini set of these two actions together? CLICK HERE

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Angel of the Forgotten: Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake

Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake

Angels of the Forgotten 

by Meghan Aileen

Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake ~Angels of the Forgotten

This project has sparked a lot in me so far and we are only on week 5. I am rethinking the focus of my time. It has already showed me how much I miss making images, reminding me I can speak through them. It has also showed me I need to make some changes so that creating becomes more of the priority again. This is scary and exciting so stay tuned for some changes coming soon and more about that!

This week I was inspired by the dilapidated buildings all around me here in Middle Tennessee, by their history and their value to us. I love that there are so many homes, barns, and even city buildings that maybe somewhere else would have torn down and replaced with a shiny new building, but not here. We seem to cherish our rust, our rough wood, and our broken bricks. We hunt for it and value it. It is just awesome. I drive by this house almost every day. When I was shooting this image the old man who owns the land came out to see what I was doing. We stood in the heat and talked awhile. He grew up on this land. His family had been there for almost 200 years. We talked about how the road used to be dirt, and what it was like before the mall in town was put in. He lives up on the hill in a newer house now, but kept all the older buildings on the property as they are and have always been.

I am calling this image: "Angel of the Forgotten". Sometimes it seems to me  like there are Angels protecting these places. These buildings don't seem like they should still be standing but they are. The world around them moves on, becoming what the consumers of today dictate that it should become. These buildings seem to stand still in time, representing something long gone, reminding us that our time is not the only time, that here were generations before us and will be many after. They remind me that I need to treat the world around me accordingly, to preserve it for those to come; to make things that last and to reuse what we already have. The front porch of this home is held up with stacks of precarious bricks. The wood is rotted and boards falling off, but it stands. It houses our history, generations of family life, of community and homesteading. I can document it for those of tomorrow in my own way, with my own vision, and I am grateful for that.


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Week 5 Professional Photographer's Challenge: For Art's Sake

Angels of the Forgotten 

What do you cherish around your local area? What is your favorite thing that you drive by regularly? I think it is part of our responsibility as photographers to document our local areas in the time we are living. It is important for the generations to come to see what it was like now. I hope you find something that inspires you this week in your town and make some art...for art's sake. :)

Hope to see you next week!


Meghan Aileen


Edited with:

Vintage Natural from the Memento Photoshop Action Set

1600 Film from the Nostalgia Textures Set

Light Leak Overlay Set


Week 4: Professional Photographer's Challenge. For Art's Sake: Surreal Children's Photography

For Art's Sake: Surreal Children's Photography

Imagination. Wonder. Adventure. These were my inspiration for this week. Sticking with the surreal I decided to go a different direction with an image of a child. Having a 2 year old has taught me so much about wonder, imagination, and enjoying simple pleasures. The way her mind works is so intriguing. She can spend hours with a blanket or a balloon creating all kinds of games and things to do. We could all learn a little something from that. We need such complex entertainment as we get older and especially in this highly advanced age of technology.

We stopped the car the other day on the way home because there were 3 hot air balloons setting up to take off in a field by our house. Those are the kind of things that can make even us adults revert to a more child-like state of awe. My daughter was so fascinated. All of us were. I like to imagine that something like this image was going on in her head when she got home....


Disclaimer: Kids don't try this at home  ;) marketing for photographers, inspiration for photographers, free photoshop actions

For Art's Sake Photography Challenge: Surreal Children's Photography


This sweet little miss here is getting ready to float off into the sky for an morning adventure. As any good pal would do, she lovingly ties each one of her friends to their own balloon, and off they go. I imagine they tease the squirrels in the trees, someone needs to. I am sure they go down the street to the neighbor's house with the pool and land right in the water. Those furry critters must get hot in the Southern summer heat.

I needed a bit of that contrast I love in there so the overgrown boarded up house contrasts the clean innocence of the child and the animals. I am going to stick with the child based surreal for next week too, there is something I really love about this. It is good for my soul too to have to put myself in the mind of a child. I learn so much from their curiosity and wonder. My jaded old mind is starting to appreciate the simple joy of balloons, turtles, and lightning bugs too.

Hope to see you next week!


Meghan Aileen


The Shoppe Photoshop Actions Used: 

Matte from the In Vogue Actions Collection

Tea Time from the Nostalgia Actions Collection

1600 Film from the Nostalgia Textures Collection


For Art’s Sake Project: A 52 Week Journey ~ Week 2 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

 For Art’s Sake Project: A 52 Week Journey

Week 2 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

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Week 2 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

During week 2 in my professional photographer's challenge, I think I have found a medium and a process I feel inspired by and I think that is helping a lot to create the right environment in my head to find some inspiration. There is so much freedom in not having to have this art have a purpose, or a marketing plan. There is no client that needs to approve of it.  It doesn't have to mean anything if I don't want it to. It seems to be turning out that it does anyway, without intention. This one I feel has the kind of contrast that I have always loved. I used to do this in my wedding work. I would shoot a bride in a dark or even burnt landscape. It has a moodiness and a darkness along with a bit of lightness and innocence. If you look closely you can see a face in the rock.  He has a sadness to him and seems alone in the flat landscape. The little girl that stands on top of him represents youth, innocence and freedom with her umbrella she seems she could just float anywhere she pleases off into the clouds. They are facing away from each other, though they are touching, they do not seem to be really connected. A common problem in our society these days, even in our families.
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 For Art’s Sake Project: A 52 Week Journey

Week 2 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

I think that work has a great deal to do with this disconnection. The cost of living has skyrocketed and the average salaries have not. We don't rest enough, at least here in American culture. We don't value rest, in fact, we tend to look down on it as lazy and unproductive. But if we don't rest, we eventually end up even more unproductive. We become unhealthy and unhappy, and as creatives, we end up uninspired and bitter. I know it is hard to do for some of us. It took me having a child to force me to learn to slow down a bit. Sitting and doing something simple with her made me crazy at first. And yes it still does a bit sometimes :) But I am learning to enjoy life's simple pleasures, that spending time with people and resting is also productive, or at least it is purposeful. This project is only one step in this journey for me. Maybe by the time she is in college I will have this whole work, life, art balance on lock down. I have some time, she is only two years old. ;) I am sure I will need it!
If you are doing this along with me but struggling to find inspiration, it might be the lack of boundaries I talked about last week. This week if you are having trouble, maybe create something that, to you, represents how you feel about your work/life balance. Are you frustrated? How can you show frustration? Do you feel like you are on a journey? Make something that represents your journey, or any journey if that is too specific. We are all on many journeys….
Hope to see you next week for week 3 in a professional photographer's challenge.
Meghan Aileen


For Art’s Sake Project: A 52 Week Journey ~ Week 1 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

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Week 1 In A Professional Photographer’s Challenge

As I sat down to work on this project this week, I of course felt stuck, with no idea where to start.  I knew week one would be the hardest. The first week I wanted complete freedom so that I could see what would happen. But as I go forward I am going to give myself some more guidelines I think, the complete freedom was a bit overwhelming. I had no idea what medium to even use.! Should I draw? Paint? Shoot? I stared at this robot on my desk. I bought him on Ebay for another project and I think he is just fantastic. I love old industrial textures, form and colors. I then took a walk outside to think about what else inspires me. The skies around here in the South, especially during the spring, are amazing. I missed them so much when I lived in Los Angeles. This is significant because I also think that living in Los Angeles is where this disconnection to art began. People love the blue sky all the time there, they move there because of it. I missed the clouds. So with no thoughts in my head of meaning or interpretation, this is what came out of my efforts. I sat back and looked at what I had just created. I started to laugh to myself. As I stared at this robot in the clouds, I noticed that he looked as if he was dreaming of being free. This of course reminded me of my current state of mind, feeling like a robot longing to be free.
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I was struck by the magic of art, and the reason we do it. It is living inside of us even when we are feeling detached from it, or not putting time into it. It is longing to come out, to be expressed. Is this my best work? Not by far. Was I nervous to show this to anyone since it is not my best work? Absolutely. Putting ourselves out there as an artist, especially when we are in times of struggle or self doubt, is one of the hardest things to do. It is a subjective thing to begin with, as well as a highly personal thing. Not a good combination for sensitive folk like us artists. :) But that is part of it, taking the risk to put yourself out there so that you can possibly inspire, help, or bring joy to someone else. Some people won't like this, but that is ok because I made something for art's sake, and I am putting it out there. Hope you will join me and make something this week. Anything. For Art's Sake.
Hope to see you next week for Week 2 In A Professional Photographer's Challenge. If you have stuff you made that you want to share please post them on our Facebook page. We would be honored for you to share then with us!
Meghan Aileen