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Ethereal Light in Bushwick: Sarah Jane Shanks Collaboration [Part 2] by Amanda Liew

  This is Part 2 of my collaboration with the life-loving Sarah Jane Shanks! To see Part I please click here.

For Part 2, I'm showing you guys the photos from the incredible rooftop of this apartment we used in Bushwick! The wind was blowing hard and it was a lot colder than it looks, but we laughed our whole way through, played with the breeze as much as possible, and witnessed swatches of colors appear in the sunset behind us. I had so much fun experimenting with light out on the rooftop and in the interior shots in Part 1. It's incredible how just the slightest of movements, the tiniest of blockings, can completely change how a photo comes out. Soft hues versus sharp contrasts are all possible. While normally I would try to be editing the colors of my photos to remove any "unnatural" hues, I actually loved the shades cast on Sarah Jane as the sun set and sought to capture them even more. 20150403_0280_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0311_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0328_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0331_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0339_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0343_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0345_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0351_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0353_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0358_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0366_ALiew_SJShanks Collab20150403_0373_ALiew_SJShanks Collab

Ethereal Light in Bushwick: Sarah Jane Shanks Collaboration [Part 1] by Amanda Liew

Collaborating with other artists has become one of my favorite things to do as a photographer - whether it's working with the members of The Photograph Collective to come up with a new project or working with fashion bloggers, I love the teamwork, new ideas, reflective questions, and joint visions that go into collaborations. So when Sarah Jane Shanks reached out to me ever so sweetly with a request to collaborate for one of her upcoming projects, I jumped at the opportunity. We met up for breakfast early one morning to get to know each other better and how we could match what she wanted with how I preferred to shoot. We used a Pinterest board to brainstorm the looks we were interested in capturing, and it became clear we wanted light to play a large role in all of our photos. She came up with the brilliant idea of getting a space for us at an artist's loft in Bushwick that had unique furniture, plenty of light and an incredible rooftop. Armed with a few flowing outfits, 4 ft flower sticks, and an adventurous spirit, Sarah Jane came ready to turn our vision into a reality.

I can't even begin to describe how much fun I had during this shoot! I snapped a couple of hundred photos, moved furniture around, taped a blanket to a wall, chased the light, watched the sun set in the background, and just had the time of our lives. We tried some things that didn't work, but found other things that worked surprisingly well. I am so happy with how these photos turned out!

Another aspect of this collaboration that was quite interesting was our discussion of payment. I've been thinking about what photography means to me and how to balance the "value" of my photography. On one hand, I feel that the minute I start accepting payments for my photography, I will lose a love for it. I find so much creative refuge in shooting and blogging and don't want to have the stress of having clients & expectations on time frames for delivery. On the other hand, I don't want to devalue my time & effort for photography. For this collaboration alone, I probably spent 12-15 hours total in between meetings, brainstorming, traveling, shooting, editing, formatting, delivering, etc. Fortunately, for this time around, Sarah Jane and I found a beautiful solution that she would donate to my roommate Krista's missions trip in lieu of paying me for my services. I think that this solution addresses both of my concerns so appropriately - I'm not doing it completely for "free," but I am placing a value on my work as well!

Keep your eyes out for Part 2 of my collaboration with Sarah Jane soon!

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Giving Away Money That Isn’t Mine by Amanda Liew

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I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I pretty much popped out of the womb a self-motivated child, and hit the ground running ever since. Add in some casual immigrant we-moved-to-this-country-so-you-could-have-it-all motivation and some school teachings that you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be, and there you have it: a deeply ingrained work ethic and attitude towards accomplishment. And so, I’ve run the race non-stop for 23 years. While by no means have I even come close to the finish line, I’ve crossed quite a few great milestones since I began: a good school, a good job, a good salary. Or really, since A + B = C, it seems like the real milestone is a good salary in the end.

When I view my money as something I earned, due to my oh-so-hard-work in both my education and my career, it becomes something I deserve. And when something is deserved, it’s really quite hard to part with. But here lies the problem, because it goes a little further than that, and it automatically turns giving into a zero-sum game. Every dollar that I give to a charity or someone in need is automatically a dollar less that I have for myself. It’s a pretty basic concept of removing something from my pot and putting it into someone else’s. And let’s be honest, no matter how much we try to be generous and how much we want to give, that’s pretty hard. Charity projects try to spin it in a good light, like “Oh, just give up coffee once a week and make a tiny sacrifice to donate that amount instead!”, but in the end, that’s still taking hard-earned money out of your pot and putting it somewhere else. 

Now imagine this: we time-travel back a couple of weeks, and you’ve just won the $564 million powerball. Someone waves you over from your now insignificant tiny pot and goes “Hey look! This is all yours now!” Surely, surely, surely, in this scenario, every single one of you would share some of those winnings - maybe buy your parents a huge mansion, take your significant other on a crazy vacation, lend a couple mil to your friend’s app startup - and why? Because it’s a whole lot easier to give away money when it didn’t feel like yours to begin with. 

What if that amazing situation is reflective of our current circumstances, though? That sure, I’ve worked hard, but if you take a step back, a lot of my success and well-being comes from circumstances well beyond my control. My parents cared enough to place me in high achieving programs from a young age, I was fortunate enough to go to a good school district where my teachers and classmates challenged me, I endured micro-aggressions but for the most part escaped relatively unscathed in terms of racism or bullying, I got into a great university that was pre-professionally focused, I had multiple friends guide and recommend me towards good internships, and I was fortunate to intern for a firm that had a high return-offer rate which ultimately translated into a well-paying job. Yes, I worked hard and yes, I’m ambitious. But I would be blatantly lying if I said it was just me. Because it’s so much more than hard work that got me here, it’s blessings upon blessings upon blessings. And how can I look at my own money after taking a real look at my past and still say “This is mine and I earned it.”?

A few years ago at Flood Church, I first heard the concept of "radical giving.” Contrary to the standard ten percent tithe that’s often recommended, radical giving challenges this very basic assumption of why we have what we have, and therefore why we give what we give. If I truly believe, as I often say I do, that what I have is not mine, but a gift from God, how much easier is it to give away? On the flip side, how much more selfish does it seem for me to hoard onto it? How much more wrong does it seem to claim God’s money as my own and then to say “But...I worked hard for this gift!” Instead, the worry of the zero-sum game starts to melt away. Not easily, but slowly, as I learn to recognize that God has provided for me in crazy ways up until now, and surely He’ll continue in that same way to provide for me as I continue to live. It doesn't mean that dollar bills will be falling from the sky, but that ultimately my needs will be taken care of. The concept of “sacrifice” might still come into play, but it stings so much less when it stops being about reaching to take from my insignificant little pot and it starts being about sharing together in that gigantic $560 million winning.

God has been challenging me continually over the past few years. It was easy, truth be told, when I was a student and my pot was little. But since I’ve come to associate my own wealth with my own accomplishments, it's become much harder. It will probably become even harder when one day I add in a family or (knock on wood) I get laid off or (extra knock on wood) a medical emergency comes up, but ultimately doesn't God call me to the same? I’ve always been meticulous with my finances (multi-tabbed excel spreadsheets and all), but I’ve come to realize how much I cling to my savings account as my safety blanket. I pat myself on the back because I set aside an amount for donations, but that’s not radical giving. That’s I’m-safe-in-this-controlled-environment-giving. Even as I write this, I'm convicting myself because I totally had a sense of pride when I donated a seemingly large amount today, but really I knew I had enough in my “donation bucket” to do it. So it’s not easy, and I get that. And I’m not advocating throwing your money into the wind, embracing enforced communism, or just laying on the ground waiting for blessings to come. God calls us to be good stewards of our money, to work to glorify Him, and I think with that comes the need for wisdom in which charities we donate to. But maybe, just maybe, if we have a little paradigm shift and view what is in our bank accounts not as ours, but as God's, we can unclench our fists just a little bit and more freely give money that isn’t ours. 

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As some of you might have noticed, the past few weeks my life has been slightly dominated by Cycle for Survival and Tacky Prom. It’s been a whirlwind of leading a team of 16 riders, coordinating multiple fundraising efforts, and trying to reach our $5,000 goal. As I’ve gotten swept away in logistics coordination and getting closer to pulling my hair out, I’ve had the opportunity to re-evaluate why I give to begin with, and beyond that, why I feel so emboldened to ask others to give. Of the many things I've been provided with, I've been provided with a voice - so I ask on behalf of those who have none. If you would in fact like to help us raise money for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering, you can do so at the following link. This year I ride in honor of Janette, a survivor and patient of MSK, and my god mother, Fairy Mom, who passed away from cancer but still managed to shine bright every single day:

http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/Apostlesshenanigans

Beyond that, I recommend the non-profits charity:water, Doctors Without Borders, and First Book. Charity Navigator is also a wonderful resource for finding other reputable non-profit organizations.

A British Thanksgiving (Yet Again!) by Amanda Liew

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Back in 2011, I started a travel blog hilariously titled View the Liew in the Queue about my adventures at King's College London. In a whirlwind, I visited WindsorBrussels, Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Bath, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. And while all of those were beyond amazing, the true treasures were the experiences I shared within the tiny dorms at Stanford Street Apartments. It was there that we all came together - British, American, Italian, and more - to celebrate a Thanksgiving feast. Stephen somehow managed to cook a turkey, I learned how to fry onions for a green bean casserole for the first time, and half of the dishes weren't even remotely close to what would be served at Thanksgiving back in America...and it was all so perfect. We made little pilgrim hats to wear, ate until we wanted to sleep, and made memories that will last a lifetime. Three years later, and my blog has grown up quite a bit. It's shifted to the more mature (and boring) amandaliew.com, but has much better photos if I do say so myself. Beyond that, my friendships from KCL have stayed stronger than I could have imagined - the Brits made an epic both-coast-visit in 2012 where we reunited with the other Americans who were scattered about, Max studied abroad in America in 2013, and Stephen and Sarah came to NYC in 2014. Finally, it was time for things to come full circle with a trip back to London & yet another memorable Thanksgiving. I'm so beyond lucky to have these people in my life - who would have imagined 3 years ago that we would have become so close? Though my trip was short, we managed to jam pack everything possible: Camden Market, South Bank, afternoon tea, and of course just good catch up time. In contrast to my typical vacations where I plan an itinerary for every second of the day, the purpose of this trip was to see my wonderful friends. For Thanksgiving itself, Stephen spent 2 full days cooking and somehow made 18 dishes...for 11 people. It was unbelievable! At one point someone said "I'm so full...but I want to keep eating!" to which I responded with "Welcome to the American way!!" It was truly perfect.

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