I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bay Area marketing expert Todd Wilms for several years now, and I feel lucky to have made a great friend along the way. You can see the images we created on location in San Francisco for his website here. Recently, we took things in a different direction and did a Martin Schoeller inspired portrait shoot in my Oakland studio. Schoeller is a German born photographer who works in New York. I love his photography, including his celebrity portraits and his conceptual work. He is particularly well know for his detailed close up portraits, shot with a shallow depth of field and a lighting style that results in intense catch lights in the eyes. While I didn’t spend the thousands of dollars it would take to replicate his exact lighting and camera set up, I created a set with my trusty Profotos that yielded results we found quite pleasing. Thank you, Martin, for the inspiration. And thank you, Todd, for being the perfect model!
Do you have a powerful sentence that describes your mission in a nutshell? Here’s one to get you thinking….
“Global community advocate building awareness and connections across cultures step-by-step.”
That’s a mouthful, and a meaningful one. Who does it describe? Meet Stephanie Gee, a recent client who I found absolutely inspiring.
Stephanie is a San Francisco native who has witnessed the city change and grow. While she embraces many of the new developments, she also cares about preserving San Francisco’s identity and advocating for those who are marginalized. After ten years working in Sales at Google, she left the company in early 2016 to travel and to volunteer. Last year, she traveled to sixteen countries throughout Latin America, Asia, and Europe and she’s also been involved in volunteering with various social impact organizations within the Bay Area and abroad.
I thought an interview would be perfect way to share her perspective; read on for some interesting tidbits, and some motivation to find a way to care for others and make the world a better place.
Where were you born? Is there something about that place you carry with you?
I’m a San Francisco native, born and raised. I love the city and its various communities who are willing to stand up and speak out for what they believe in.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Most mornings I’ll take my dog out for a 4-5 mile walk. She needs the exercise to burn off nervous energy, and I use the time to listen to my favorite morning show or podcasts.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
Hmm.. that’s a tough one. I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I prefer to cook recipes that are centered around vegetables. Although, I do have a sweet tooth so I tend to bake more often than cook.
What is your favorite spot in the Bay Area?
My neighborhood, the Mission. There are a number of places where I can meet a friend for a delicious cup of coffee and a tasty treat.
What do you love about tech in the context of social change?
Technology has made sharing and learning about information easier. Individuals can create virtual communities across borders and mobilize action towards supporting causes they believe in more quickly.
I’ve also been fascinated to see how tech has influenced the way people learn and work today. My homeschooled niece dials into a virtual classroom with other homeschooled children living in other states. I once had a manager whose commute was so long that she worked from home a couple of times a week so she could see her children when they were awake. Although some of us may have difficulty drawing a line between work and personal time, the presence of tech allows us more flexibility in our schedules to achieve a better work-life balance.
Fill in the blank. Happiness is _________.
… something that comes from within – it’s all about perspective.
What’s your advice for folks who want to make the world a better place, but don’t know where to start?
I can completely understand that challenge. I suggest that they reflect on which issues move them the most and then start searching for local organizations who are addressing them such as volunteermatch.org and idealist.org.
Who inspires you these days?
My mother is my number one inspiration. Although she passed away from breast cancer 8 years ago, her life left an impression on me because she gave back to the community in multiple ways. She instilled in me the values I still believe in and live by today. When she passed, I started reflecting on what I would care about at the end of my life, and I realized that nurturing relationships and helping others matter the most in terms of a successful and meaningful life.
How did you go from local to global in terms of your advocacy work?
My first introduction to global advocacy was in high school when I participated in mission trips with my church youth group. We had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and Belize where we worked on construction and taught kids vacation bible school. Then in college, I spent a year abroad studying in Vienna. I enjoyed connecting with the individuals I met with from different cultural backgrounds. Finally, in 2016, I decided to make a major shift in my life. After ten years at Google, I left to travel, to learn more about other cultures, and to volunteer with different communities. I was presented with a number of volunteer opportunities locally and abroad, and I signed up for them. My experiences taught me: need is everywhere, focus efforts on supporting a few issues, and it’s important to engage with other communities. The less we view others as “foreign” and “different,” the more time we have for solving problems and making an impact.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve learned too often that life doesn’t work out according to a plan so I haven’t given much thought to the details of my future. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I would leave the security and comforts of Google without another secure job lined up. However, my wish for the future includes remaining connected to international communities and possibly living abroad supporting a global issue I care about.
What are the top three organizations doing great transformational work that we should all support if we can?
I had the great opportunity of working with author and poet, Linda Lancione, earlier this month as the release date of her latest work, The Taste of Blood (Finishing Line Press), quickly approaches.
The experience was both a privilege and an engaging endeavor, as we worked together to cultivate the candor that her work so aptly portrays. I loved the process of getting to an honest image, where the true self came through.
Linda’s work takes on challenging issues, and it was important for her portrait to be just as honest, engaging, and real. Beyond capturing a simple or welcoming smile, we needed to convey a more complex message, one that her work ultimately does; that life is complicated, messy, and that she maintains her ability to be present with all of it and reconcile the extremes.
Linda kindly lent a few words of appreciation about our process working together:
“Having my author photo taken by Nancy Rothstein was a transformative experience for me. I was nervous about looking old in the photos–and, was I wearing the right earrings, the right top?—but she put me at ease and got me talking about my book. Later, when I saw the photos, I saw a woman I liked: animated, thoughtful, complex—the age and beauty questions didn’t matter anymore. The photos seemed to reveal me from the inside—that was enough. That was a gift!”
A bigcongratulations to Linda Lancione on her upcoming title. Thank you, Linda, for giving me the chance to take on the feat of distilling your inspiring, captivating, complexity!
The Taste of Blood is scheduled to be released on March 11, 2016 (available for pre-order through Finishing Line Press after November 16). Can’t wait? You can get a taste of her work on SoftBlow.org.
I love this collection of head shots from recent photo shoots at MyFitnessPal, one of my favorite on going business clients. They have such a great company culture; lovely people working to support folks in their pursuit of health. That works for me!
Having a consistent collection of corporate head shots for a business team really adds to the polish of the website, ultimately empowering the brand. I love the way these images, along with a company group photo and some candids around the office, are used on their jobs page.