The Portrait Project

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The Portrait Project

A photographic experiment in self-perception.

As a professional portrait photographer for nearly a decade, I’ve photographed thousands of people. Every so often, a woman (it’s always a woman) has a peculiar reaction upon seeing her portrait for the first time. Something along the lines of:

“That’s a nice photo, but it doesn’t really look like me.”

“It looks like my sister / aunt / cousin.”

“Something’s not quite right.”

For a while I chalked it up to a form of self-hatred, or dysmorphia, but it happens often enough that I felt like this wasn’t all in their minds. So I set about finding out if I could create an experiment to see objectively what it was they were seeing.

As an analogy, we’ve all experienced the jarring feeling when we hear our own voice recorded and played back. It sounds similar, but not quite right, due to the resonance of the sound in our skulls, and probably some other factors. However, others hearing the recording will say that yes, that’s what we sound like.

What if there’s a visual equivalent of this phenomenon? What if we don’t look the same way to others as we do to ourselves? Is it possible to see the two versions side-by-side and compare them?

It occurred to me that the time that most women really see their own faces is when they’re doing their makeup. Which means they are fairly close to a mirror.

Of course this means that they are seeing a reversed version of themselves. But more than that, they are seeing a very close, reversed version of themselves. The shorter distance is a bigger deal than the backwards image, I think.

So I recruited some friends to let me test this theory. I first set up a mirror in the studio, and asked them to put on eyeliner, mascara, or lipstick, and I observed the distance they were from the mirror. Doubling that distance gave me the apparent distance that they are from their reflection. This worked out to be about 18 inches in most cases.

 On average, women look at themselves from 9” from the mirror, resulting in an apparent distance of 18” face-to-face.

On average, women look at themselves from 9” from the mirror, resulting in an apparent distance of 18” face-to-face.

Perspective changes with distance. The closer a subject is, in general, the less you can see of it. Also, as you get closer to a subject, the more distortion happens… closer parts appear bigger than further away parts. With faces, noses get larger disproportionately to ears, for example. Foreheads get larger, hairlines recede.

Note that these changes are a function of the distance from the subject, not the focal length of the lens (a longer lens will enlarge the image, but the perspective will remain the same).

 The closer the camera is to the subject, the less of the face it can see, and the more apparent distortion and elongation there is. As the camera moves away from the subject, more of the face can be seen, and the perspective becomes flatter and more compressed.

The closer the camera is to the subject, the less of the face it can see, and the more apparent distortion and elongation there is. As the camera moves away from the subject, more of the face can be seen, and the perspective becomes flatter and more compressed.

For the experiment, I would need a pair of photos, side-by-side, taken from two different distances. One would represent the way the subject sees herself when doing her makeup, and the other would show how she is seen by others, at a socially-acceptable distance.

I knew from the start that I needed this to be as scientifically rigorous as possible. I wanted to control as many variables as I could. This meant that lighting, hair, makeup, jewelry, clothing, pose and expression should be consistent between the two photos. I asked subjects to do their hair and makeup in the usual everyday way, and to avoid jewelry. I kept clothing out of the image to avoid distractions, and keep the emphasis on the face.

I also made the decision that there should be no retouching whatsoever. This meant that I needed the most flattering light possible, so that the subjects would look their best in both photos. To achieve this, I surrounded the subjects with four large softboxes, with two additional strip lights behind to add shine to the hair and separation from the background. I used a plain white paper background, which fell off to a neutral light gray.

Duplicating a smile from one photo to another is extremely difficult… so I asked each subject to relax the muscles in her face, and give me a completely neutral, blank expression. This was done for consistency, but it turned out to be a secondary conversation about resting face, and the implications of women not smiling.

From the first experimental session to the gallery opening was 5 months. Ninety-five women participated in one of the six sessions, resulting in nearly 3,000 photos, and requiring a total of 18 hours of shooting and about 24 hours of editing.

When putting the pairs of photos together, I had do make a decision as to how to line them up. After some trial and error, it was all about the eyes. I aligned the pupils on the same place in every photo, which meant head size varied slightly.

I printed 95 pairs of images, at 24” wide by 16” high, resulting in a slightly-larger-than-lifesize image. The final gallery show ended up with three rows high to fit every participant into the show. The gallery opening took place at CityArts Factory on Thursday, Nov. 15.

In the examples below, the image on the left is close and reversed (how the subject sees herself), and the image on the right is from a distance and not reversed (how others see her).

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, criticisms, and suggestions for improvement. Please post your questions below, and I’ll answer them if I can.



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The First Time I Saw Haiti

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The First Time I Saw Haiti

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Hi all! It's Jamie here. 

On my first day of work, Jim asked me if I'd go to Haiti to capture images for Rebuild Globally. He stated that it's an odd request and that he couldn't make me go but I quickly responded, "I want to." With six days left in my twenty sixth year, I had my camera and snacks in my lap as we descended into Haiti and the mountains came in view.

Jim has been partnering with Rebuild since they started in 2010, right after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. They are a nonprofit that provides education and work training programs for Haitians, empowering them to take charge of their future and end the cycle of poverty. With that in mind, I hopped off the plane with eyes wide ready to take in all that I could in just three short days.

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I rode in the back of a pickup truck with some of the team as we headed to the workshop on the bumpy backroad that avoided traffic and overloaded my senses. Every building covered with the richest colors you can think of, the sounds of horns and motorcycles zooming by, and games of dominoes happening beneath the shade of the trees on the side of the road next to piles of trash. The harsh reality of the developing country hit me. Such beauty and such poverty all in one place. But there they all were, looking so content sitting down, or strolling by on their way to live another day.

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The island breeze blew as Marco opened the gate and we pulled into the workshop. It felt like a hidden oasis. Every tree creating a bright, green canopy over this place that felt like a safe haven for all who entered. Smiles were on every face as Julie, the founder, and the team hopped out of the car and into the arms of the people that they've provided hope and employment for. We spent our whole time here interviewing and capturing images of the life of Rebuild. Whether we were capturing the artisans making products in the Deux Mains workshop or being a fly on the wall in the Work Training Program, it was beautiful to see hope in their smiles and hear it in their interviews. 

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I would step foot into the workshop, the sounds of the sewing machine mixed with laughter and music greeted me. Deux Mains is the sustainable fashion company that Rebuild has developed. Each person working with their two hands on a different part of the shoes, bags, earrings and more that Deux Mains creates. Talent filled the room and these hardworking individuals were inspiring me with each stitch sown and sandal made. 

 

I can't remember this boy's name but he made a moment for all of us during lunch. He loves math and says he'll be a doctor one day. His favorite song played as he stole everyone's attention with each of his smooth dance moves. All those surrounding were filled with joy, laughter and a desire to move right along with him. Nothing else mattered in that moment and it'll stick with me for quite some time. It was an honor to work alongside Rebuild and capture the little moments that make up the dreams they are developing in these children and adults. I only wish I knew French or Creole so I could have done more than point at my camera when they wanted photos.

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On our last day at Rebuild, the students came in for their Education Training Program. As they were taking notes during their tutoring session, this girl looked up at me and asked if taking photos was my passion. Shocked that she knew English, I paused before saying that I love capturing moments. She laughed and said, "It's all you seem to do." I quickly agreed. Filled with curiosity, I could see her desire to seek out her passion and follow her dreams with every question she continued to ask. 

 If I learned anything in my short time in Haiti, it's that you can make a comeback. This country has struggled through so much, but I believe that with the help of companies like Rebuild Globally, their comeback is happening now. 

Thanks for recapping my trip with me! I hope that you're inspired to keep dreaming and keep doing. If you'd like to support Rebuild Globally head on over to their site to learn how you can help end poverty.

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A Dog Blog

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A Dog Blog

 Not every Tuesday is this furry.

Our friends at Curley & Pynn came to us with a request for portraits of their team's pets for their holiday card. Their hope for the cards was to share some PAWsitivity with others during this holiday season. We're big fans of puns and paws, so we agreed.

So in walked Brooklyn, Nitro, Jack, Dolce, Sierra and Moo. Normally we get handshakes and sometimes hugs from clients after a shoot, but this time we got lots of kisses too. And with faces like theirs we couldn't turn them down. 

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But wait there's more.

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Years ago at a fundraiser, we photographed Roberta and her 5 Shelties. Last week she emailed us asking for an updated portrait with herself and those same five pups. The oldest is now 14 and Roberta is unsure of how much longer she'll have with all of them. Remembering the photo we took of them years ago, we said yes! She brought the whole crew downtown for a quick shoot. They pups were so friendly, obedient and made for great models too. There's also nothing like riding down the elevator with five furry friends. We definitely saved the best for last.

Moral of the story: some requests are just too cute to decline. 

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Meet our new Studio Apprentice!

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Meet our new Studio Apprentice!

Hey there!

I’m Jamie Thompson, the newest addition to the Macbeth Studio team.

I’m an Orlando native that loves light and capturing moments. I graduated from UCF with a Studio Art degree in 2014 and moved to Atlanta six months later for a major contract job. I was fortunate enough to be paid to work and travel across the country, even into Alaska and Canada. After my year contract in Atlanta was up, I decided to move back home and be close to my family and friends. Orlando is something special and I guess it took me leaving to realize that.

As the Studio Apprentice, I’m given the opportunity to truly be a jill-of-all-trades.

 

I’m excited to dive into multiple areas around the studio, learn new things and have a good time while doing so. It’s a small team and I am grateful for the chance to grow and work alongside some of Orlando’s best.

When I’m not working or being cozy at home with my family, East End Market is to me what Central Perk was to Friends. You can often find me there working on my own personal projects, or just catching up with pals. I love traveling, creating photo magazines, and connecting with the other creatives in this city. It's good to be a part of a team that is so loved by so many and I'm excited to see where the Macbeth road will take me. Thanks for reading a little bit about me, maybe I'll meet you along the way!

Best,

Jamie

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Add Some Sparkle To A Party

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Add Some Sparkle To A Party

Late this past summer, Macbeth Studio was invited to provide a photo booth at The Dinner Party Project's 2-year anniversary party (our booth was sponsored by Yelp Orlando).  The venue was a gorgeous event space on West Church Street, with a ton of natural light. 

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The venue had this great wooden wall already in place, the TDPP team provided the plants/balloons, and we set up our gear for shooting and live-posting.

Dana Marie Roquemore, the owner and operator of TDPP, asked us if we could use some sparklers in our photos. This adds a whole lot of fun for the party-goers, and also a whole lot of complexity for the photographers.

So of course we said yes, and that we'd make it work.

All that natural light in the venue presented a problem, so we waited until after the sun set to break out the sparklers. Then we got to control all the variables, which studio photographers love. The trick is to keep the ambient light to an absolute minimum, so motion-blur isn't too much of a problem. 

The strobe fires, freezing the faces and background, then the shutter stays open (in the dark) for as long as needed to capture the fire-trails. A tripod keeps everything still during the long exposure.

Once we got the camera settings dialed in (see bottom of post for tech details), it was a matter of giving each group a quick how-to lesson on sparkler photography, which we did with mixed results, as you will see.

The ground rules we explained to each group were as follows:

  • Hold all your sparklers together, touching at the tip, so we can get them all lighted at the same time (these were the small ones that only burn for about 30 seconds, or long enough for about 2 photos).
  • Once your sparklers are lit, get into position, and I'll give you a countdown to the start of the shot. The strobe will fire, and that's how you will look for the photo (so smile at the beginning).
  • After the strobe fires, you'll have 5 seconds to draw in the air, which we will count down. At this point, you don't have to keep smiling, as only the sparkler is registering on the sensor.

  • Don't put the sparkler between your face and the camera, or you will be blocked by a shower of sparks.
  • Keep the sparkler moving, or you'll get a white-hot dot
  • If you want to write words in the air, remember that you have to write in reverse, so think about how the letters would look in a mirror.
 Don't put the sparklers in front of your face, unless you want to remain anonymous.

Don't put the sparklers in front of your face, unless you want to remain anonymous.

 Timing counts... If you're going to write "MOM," you need to plan enough time for all the M's. Fortunately, MOM reads the same way in the mirror.

Timing counts... If you're going to write "MOM," you need to plan enough time for all the M's. Fortunately, MOM reads the same way in the mirror.

 It's easy to get carried away... 

It's easy to get carried away... 

 "We want to make a triangle."

"We want to make a triangle."

 Again, don't put the sparklers between your face and the camera.

Again, don't put the sparklers between your face and the camera.

 It's difficult to stress this enough.

It's difficult to stress this enough.

 It's ok to move them around a little... just not in front of your face.

It's ok to move them around a little... just not in front of your face.

 Writing backwards in the air is hard, even when the letters look the same both ways. 

Writing backwards in the air is hard, even when the letters look the same both ways. 

 It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.

It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.

 Bonus points for penmanship.

Bonus points for penmanship.

Let us know how you think we — and our subjects — did, and if we can help you with your holiday party shenanigans.

Learn more about our bookable hand-painted and live-posted photo booths here: macbethstudio.com/book-a-booth

TECH DETAILS:  Canon 5DIII, Canon 24-105 f/4, 50mm, 5 seconds at f/16, ISO 400, strobe fires on first shutter curtain open.

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Paws for Peace

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Paws for Peace

Jim and Tommy the Dog took to the park to participate in the 6th Annual Paws for Peace Walk, put together by Harbor House of Central Florida. 

Harbor House is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent and eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida by providing critical life-saving services to survivors, implementing and advancing best practices, and educating and engaging the community in a united front. domestic violence in Central Florida.  They help to empower women and children in these situations by creating safety, security, and shelter.  87% of Harbor House fundraising goes directly to the victims of domestic abuse.

The Paws for Peace walk is an important fundraising event for Harbor House as well as the community because of its stride to raise awareness about domestic abuse and its effects on pets and their owners. 48% of survivors don’t leave their abusive situations because they are fearful that harm will be brought to their pet. The Paws for Peace event donates 100% of its proceeds to the survivors and their pets staying at the Harbor House.  

If you would like to learn more about Harbor House of Central Florida, or just want to know how to get involved with them, you can find all of their information at www.harborhousefl.com.

In the meantime, check out this dogumentary shot by Tommy. Jim strapped a camera (the Tommy Cam™)  to him to capture this adorable video. 

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[Tilt] Shifting Gears

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[Tilt] Shifting Gears

Architectural photography is a peculiar specialty niche. 

The gear is different, the subjects are different, the lighting is different from most other kinds of photography. We recently purchased a new piece of kit for our architectural photography: a Tilt-Shift lens.This is a magical tool that does not one, but two different tricks (tilting and shifting) that the average lens can't.  The shift trick is what I'm going to talk about today (I'll get into the tilting component another time).  'Shifting' refers to the lens moving up/down or left/right, while remaining in the same plane as the sensor.  

 Canon 17mm TS-E f/4.0 L (photo credit: Canon.com)

Canon 17mm TS-E f/4.0 L (photo credit: Canon.com)

 Antique bellows-style camera (photographer unknown)

Antique bellows-style camera (photographer unknown)

The origin of this strange behavior goes back to the early days of photography, when the lens was attached to the film holder (and light kept out) by a "bellows" -- kind of an accordian-shaped black flexible connector.  This allowed the front lens to move independently from the film-holder (but critically, in the same plane as the film).

The advantage of this shifting action becomes clear when you want to photograph a tall building from ground level.  As anyone who's wandered the streets of Manhattan knows, the only way to see (or shoot) the top of a tall building is to tilt your head (and your camera) back and look up. This perspective immediately creates the familiar converging-lines, making a tall, rectangular building look more like a pyramid.  

 (Image: designyourway.net)

(Image: designyourway.net)

However, a shift lens allows you to slide the lens upward, parallel to the plane of the sensor, meaning that the camera is looking up without tilting up -- a little bit like how a periscope works.  This means that the vertical lines remain truly vertical and parallel, and don't converge.  You may recognize this iconic photo of the Flatiron Building (almost certainly shot with a bellows camera), which is an excellent example of this phenomenon.

 (photographer unknown)

(photographer unknown)

We've only had our tilt-shift lens for a few weeks, and we haven't had many assignments yet that can take advantage of this powerful tool.  However, when I went to New York a couple of weeks ago, I had a couple of hours to play.  I was visiting a friend's office in midtown, so I shot a photo of her company's new building, which is across the street from the New York Public Library. 

  Photo: ©MacbethStudio.com

Photo: ©MacbethStudio.com

I also had time to walk a few blocks to the iconic St. Patrick's Cathedral.  The scaffolding had recently come down after a multi-year, $175-million renovation project, so this was a good time to capture it.  I was all the way back against the buildings on the other side of the street to get this shot, and needed every bit of the 17mm wide-angle to get the tops of the spires in the shot. But you can see -- even though the spires come to a point -- how everything remains vertical and non-converging.

 Photo: ©MacbethStudio.com

Photo: ©MacbethStudio.com

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From Club Member to Volunteer

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From Club Member to Volunteer

Learning how to go from club member to volunteer one event at a time. 

Do good day happened for me twice this month with Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida. The first opportunity was my photography class at the Taft Branch. I think the word that sums it up the best is "nervous."  I was nervous, my teens were nervous, we were all nervous.  I have five teens participating in this class, most of whom I have known for many years. They were trying to be respectful but still learning how to see me as a volunteer, and I was trying to lead them while still trying to figure out how to take on this new role.  We ended up going out on a 10 minute “field trip” photographing around the club, inside and out. Sitting in a room is not the way to learn about taking pictures, it's about experience. Giving the teens this opportunity seemed to loosen everyone up, and when we came back, I was able to understand what they wanted learn more about.  I used the time to learn a little bit about Osmo and learn how to take selfies with him like this one.

 I showed Ms. Anna, the Service Director of the Taft Branch the selfie mode on Osmo.

I showed Ms. Anna, the Service Director of the Taft Branch the selfie mode on Osmo.

I’m really happy about how the class went.  It is honestly just really cool to give these teens who have an interest in digital art a place to talk and ask questions about it.  I wish I would have had this as a club member, but during my time at the club there wasn’t a lot of interest in this area yet.  Now times are changing and there is interest, I am glad I can help facilitate it. 

The second event I volunteered at was their annual Celebrate the Children Fundraising Event.  Celebrate is the one time a year everyone gets together, and I mean everyone. You have about 1,000 club kids dressing up and engaging with donors. You have donors, old and new, coming back to this event or coming for the first time. There is a silent auction before the dinner event and entertainment put on by the club members, and the keynote speaker is the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida Youth of the Year. The event is to celebrate the members of this organization and all that they can and will do today and into the future. This was my first year volunteering instead of attending as a club member. My job was to help Ms. Martha, a staff at the Tupperware Branch (who, fun fact, used to be a staff member at my branch when I was six years old) with the green screen Photo Booth-something most of the Macbethians are familiar with, I’m sure. It was a fun time to take what I had learned from Macbeth Studio and apply it to an event I have been familiar with. 

 The calm before the storm.  Setting up for all the donors and club members who will be dinning here tonight.

The calm before the storm.  Setting up for all the donors and club members who will be dinning here tonight.

I’m really thankful to have these opportunities to come back to Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida.  And I can’t wait to do more.  Tah tah for now. Next time I'll be discussing class number two with my teens. 

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Lox Farms

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Lox Farms

Lox Farms is a ten acre organic micro farm located in Loxahatchee, Florida, just outside of West Palm Beach. 

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A Positive Place for Kids

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A Positive Place for Kids

Boys and Girls Club is a nonprofit organization that helps to inspire local at-risk youth between the ages of 6 and 18 by giving them a safe place to do, well... anything. 

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Speed up to slow down.

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Speed up to slow down.

I first discovered this particular technique when I was in high school in 1983, when I saw the video for "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police. 

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The Times, They are A-Changing

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The Times, They are A-Changing

It has been quite an exciting few weeks here at the Macbeth studio.  To recap: Hillery, our studio manager, prepared to leave for her honeymoon, we scrambled to cover her position, finally brought Justine back from the west coast, and now we've hired two new interns!  The Macbeth staff continues to grow both creatively and in numbers - brace yourselves Orlando, we're a force to be reckoned with.  

For those of you who were a part of our very short application and interview window,  we thank you so much.  We were impressed with all your work and blown away by the response we got. You are all truly talented individuals, and we hope to see you again in the future!  Without further ado, we are so excited to announce the two newest members of our team, officially starting March 14th!  We thought we'd let them introduce themselves...

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ELYSE UGALDE: Studio Management Intern

  The reason I chose this photo is because I am smiling and surrounded by friends (they are not actually in the photo). Plus, I'm wearing a wicked leather jacket so everyone can tell right away how cool I am. (Joke!)

The reason I chose this photo is because I am smiling and surrounded by friends (they are not actually in the photo). Plus, I'm wearing a wicked leather jacket so everyone can tell right away how cool I am. (Joke!)

Hello friends!  Jim is allowing me to indulge my narcissism through a short introduction, so here goes nothing: the year was 1987, it was an unseasonably warm November morning - Oh, what’s that? That’s too far back? Ok, fast-forward.

I am a first generation American and I was raised by my sweet mama and my grandparents. I’ve got two brothers, two adorable nephews and one precious niece. I love my family so much that I avoid talking politics with them.  I consider my Cuban heritage to be a major aspect of my identity.  I grew up in Miami, but after moving to Orlando as a teen, I quickly learned that Orlando is a diverse group of awesome people who are working together to elevate our city.  My ultimate goal is to contribute as much as possible to our community.  I am an MBA student focusing in marketing who enjoys coffee, writing, Pho, fantasy novels and watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.  But, mostly I like to surround myself with creative and kind people.  That’s where Macbeth fits in!  I am beyond thrilled to work with such an accomplished team and I am looking forward to learning as much as I possibly can before they realize how annoying I am and ask me to leave.  I might get to meet you, too!  So, please say hi and compliment me on my nails.  Yes, I did just get them done, thank you for noticing!  But enough about me, let’s talk about you.

 

SARAH TATUM:  Photography, Videography, & Editing Intern

It is with great pleasure that I get to introduce myself to you as one of the new additions to the Macbeth team.  My name is Sarah and I am an Orlando Native.  I grew up here, learned to drive here, spent my free time at the local Boys and Girls Club here, and went through my awkward high school phase here.  When I turned 18 I wanted to experience a new place, a new culture, so I applied and was accepted into Florida State University (Go Noles!). I packed my bags and went off to college leaving the beautiful Orlando and my awkward high school phase behind.

I studied Journalism at FSU but have always had a passion for photography and videography.  I was a club photographer for one of the more popular areas in town called the Strip.  It was the place to be your freshman year of college, and I saw many stories unfold before me.  I also had the amazing opportunity to work on the sci-fi web series "Chronos" with IronZoo Productions.  I even got to study abroad in Spain and write articles about the culture I was experiencing.  I loved my time spent in Tallahassee, but as graduation approached it was time to figure out what was next for me in the post-college world, so I came home.  Now I get the amazing opportunity to learn from the Macbeth Team.  I’m incredibly excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to start in March!

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There you have it!  The times certainly are "a-changing" here at Macbeth.  We can't wait to have you ladies on board in a few weeks! 

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