As I get older (and wiser, hopefully), I acknowledge my increased attraction to nature topics: environmental sustainability, sustainable interior design and art, eco-friendly communities, growing your own food and inventing natural recipes, botanicals, needing to spend time in nature, my love for flowers and for horses, and of course befriending people who think and feel the same way as I do. I’ve also felt the need to revisit plant taxonomy and revel in the memories of cutting plant stems, litter them with dyes so we could view the magnificence under the microscope in order to identify what species they were.
As you can imagine, I am grateful when people are sent into my life that portray the above in various ways. One of them is Jeanne Schlesinger, the photo-author of Flower Stories. Jeanne grew up in the Midwest of the USA and currently lives on the East Coast. Like me, she has a background in medicine. We also share a common love for travelling and reading. As she says, “I traveled all over the world by reading books.” Fascinated with other cultures, her first trip out of the USA was to Mexico for a medical education conference. It was a very long time ago, but Jeanne remembers. “I have always been drawn to people from other cultures and easily forge friendships with people from other countries. One of them has become like a sister to me, and she has shared her home, family, and hospitality in Turkey on my two recent visits to her country. I had a chance to display my photographs in an art show in a small village where she and her husband go in the summertime. It was pure magic!”
Coming to the specific conversation around flower photography, the moment I witnessed her photography, it awakened the inner chef in me. I found myself moved to write recipes based on what the photograph emulated in me. Sometimes, a merry or somber tune crept out of my voice box and would lead me to write a lyrics to a song. I do not know how Jeanne’s photography will move you, but it’s like walking into different dimensions and unblocking various parts of being the creative that you are.
On November 5, Jeanne is showcasing her work at the Annual Ladies Night in Strange’s Florist and Garden Center in Richmond, VA. More good news comes on November 7, when Jeanne celebrates the opening of her new photography studio, “What is Your Flower Story!”
What’s your Flower Story?
Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know what soul story lurked behind Jeanne’s powerful imagery of flowers. I found out that Jeanne was a hyperactive artist born into a family of logical thinkers. “Being the odd one out is going to be a thorn in your system for the rest of your life. It’s almost like being an alien being in the family of logical thinkers.”
There is another reason why her flower imagery is so powerful. It is an ode to her mother, who she had lost when she was 14 years old. Sadly, they had little to connect them when she was alive, beyond her desperate need for her to love her. There was a certain longing in Jeanne’s heart for her mum to ‘see’ her, but that didn’t happen while her mother was alive. This happened much later when Jeanne had an unusual experience walking through a garden. “Walking through an exquisite rose garden in Portland, Oregon, I chanced on a rose that took my breath away. It almost felt like a lightning bolt go through my heart. For some reason, I was moved and I started to weep. I named the rose ‘Lois’ in memory of her.”
A simple connection with a rose that reminded her of her mother, got Jeanne looking at all her archived images. Nothing came to light. Except, as a matter of synchronicity, “A bouquet of the same roses I’d seen in the Portland rose garden. I was stunned but not surprised at all and smiled knowingly as I brought one of these gorgeous roses home.”
That’s how Jeanne’s My Flower Story came about. For Jeanne, it is strictly through photography that she finds her soul. She says, “It took 49 years to find photography, or rather for photography to find me. It was a love affair with photography from my very first class, but it has taken 17 years since that first class for photography to achieve the prominent place in my life that it now does. I had to start trusting my wise inner artist who so wanted to make a living doing what she loves. This inner artist was buried below a lot of “shoulds” from the external world about having a job that provided security, getting past the myth of “the starving artist” and doubting myself and my abilities.”
When a flower seeks you out…
It’s almost as if the flower of that moment seeks her out, by first speaking to her heart. As with many creatives, this happens when we are doing something else. “Walking my dogs, taking a stroll, being on a journey with a specific destination when some tiny bloom of beauty grabs my attention from wherever my mind was and says, “Notice me!” When this happens and I am able to do this, I go home and get my camera as quickly as possible. I have learned to capture the moment when it happens and not try to wait until later – because the light will be different, the flower may not look the same or the magic might not still be there. When a flower calls to me, I do my very best to answer right then.
“I quickly size up the situation – where the flower is located – high or low, what kind of tripod I might need, what lens would best capture the beauty of this specific flower, where the light is coming from and what quality the light has. I usually do these mental calculations quickly while walking home to get my camera because I want to get back to the flower as soon as possible and have the best chance of capturing what initially drew me to it. I specialize in seeing the tiny sparks of beauty that most people walk past and don’t ever see. It’s as if the flower is calling to me and saying, “Please share my hidden beauty with others so they can see what you see!” I have a litmus test for what is a good picture when I am looking through the camera at a flower and it is this: when what I am seeing literally takes my breath away for a second, when I am awestruck by what I am looking at through my viewfinder, I know I have captured something magical. The other thing that happens is that I lose any sense of time. I enter a state of “flow” where I am totally focused, energized, and completely engaged with my subject.”
Dealing with your limiting beliefs – A lifetime business
Like many artists, Jeanne had to combat many a limiting belief before she could find her true calling. Like many of us, her questions were: “Who are we? What right do we have to allow ourselves to earn a living and thrive as an artist?” By then she had already been showcasing her art for 10 years. “It took mentor to help me realise that what was holding me back was my not believing in myself. Until I accepted my value, I knew that I would never be able to convince others that what I offered had great value. It has taken about three years of working on my mindset and “doing it scared” to acknowledge that my art enhances people’s lives.”
It’s good to start small, I believe, experimenting with what works for us, and then as the limiting beliefs melt away what we find is that we are ready for expansion of our work. Not that there is anything wrong with selling greeting cards (I still sell greeting cards to this day). “I have gone from selling 4” x 6” greeting cards to creating 24” x 36” inch canvases with amazing, beautiful, bold images of flowers sharing their love with the world. I have gone from feeling like what I offered might be good enough to share in a small way to knowing that my art matters and I want to offer it out loud, so that I can bring beauty into people’s lives in the best way possible.”
Following your heart also means letting go of the outcome and the time line for something to be executed. I know this sounds incorrect to logical thinker, and I had fought against this idea for a very long time, till I realised that by letting go of the time line and the outcome, I was allowing myself to be realigned in flow. And this is exactly what Jeanne found when she went looking for a first photography studio, “I had searched for the right space with good light, enough space, and the right kind of energy. Then suddenly, just the right space made itself known and I started renting it on the first of August. It is a huge, beautiful room in a converted elementary school with magical light. I have created an environment in this space that is both professional and elegant but cozy at the same time. Though the official open house takes place in November (November 7 to be exact), people can make individual appointments any time to visit my studio and talk with me about their flower stories.”
Her story does inspire me to continue to work towards having my own arts studio/centre one day.
Are you a Heart Listener?
My last question to Jeanne was, “What is one piece of advice you can give to those who want to live a free life of an artist and a traveler?” She said, “My advice is to listen to your heart – not the negative inner voices that tell you what you can’t do, but the tender, sweet voice underneath all of that longs to create and share beauty in the world. You can access this fragile voice through stillness, meditation, creating your art and listening with kindness. When you travel, open your heart to new ideas, new people, and new places and see the world with the wonder of a small child. You will be changed forever for the better!”
Jeanne remains grateful to her mother. “Thank you, Lois, for giving me life. Thank you for being my mother. I am grateful for our shared love of flowers. And I am grateful for you, Mom!”
Want your own flower power story?
If you are in the US, pop into her new studio. Otherwise, Jeanne can work with you online to create your own, customized flower story that speaks their heart’s truth in images and words. Email her at Jeanne AT jeanneschlesinger DOT com
Here is her website: What is your Flower Story?
And her facebook page: Your Flower Story