Molly Zacher's Portfolio

I Went Home

I have been so hesitant to share that I traveled home during this uncertain time — that I left the “epicenter of the pandemic” and broke stay-at-home rules, as I got on a plane to escape the city that I love so much.
A part of me felt defeated, like I was giving up, going home, running away to the safety of a small town, with my parents, and the comfort of someone else to look after me.
In the beginning, staying in new york felt like a non-question. I was still working five days a week, and had no problem spending the majority of the time alone, in my room, with ample time to myself. 
Although, after I was furloughed from my job last week, and faced the uncertainty of unemployment for the foreseeable future, as well as the mounting pressure in the city to stay inside, to isolate, protect yourself and others at all costs, and the dystopian/great depression-like grocery store lines and closed businesses, I felt like I needed to escape. 

While everyone on social media has been preaching “self care” and mental health, as usual, I realized that staying in the city under the current circumstances, was no longer in my best interest. I had spent almost a month straight in my apartment, only leaving a handful of times to exercise or get groceries. As time went on, more and more people reached out, to check in, asking how things were in “the big city”, and I’d joke that I didn’t know, all I saw was the four walls of my apartment. But with every check-in and worried text, I remembered the escalating chaos in the world. I remembered what a massive affect this will have, even after each country’s “peak” has passed, and I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. I would do just about anything to distract myself from this reality, and being in nyc, watching the numbers climb, and the hospitals fill, and the makeshift tent hospitals and morgues go up, it felt relentless. 

So I went home.

I got a plane ticket, packed my bags, put on my mask, and did what I could to follow the social distancing protocol to the best of my ability. I had weighed the pros and cons of staying, thinking of being one less person who could potentially add to the overwhelmed hospitals, but also potentially being a carrier and bringing something home that could unknowingly infect my family, who are essential workers and still going to their jobs.  Eventually, I made the, ultimately selfish and privileged decision to leave, and I have felt significantly more peace here in the past few days. I can sleep through the night without having nightmares or waking up to the endless stream of sirens. I can go about the monotonous, and often pointless feeling, daily tasks without feeling like I want to run away. 

I try not to think of what this will all mean for our futures.
I try to avoid the anxious-planner thoughts that try to map out every possible scenario and mentally prepare for any and all outcomes.
I try to stay positive and thankful for the privilege that I have.
Hopefully, sooner than later we will get through this.
While it hasn’t impacted everyone in the same ways or to the same capacity, we are all in it together.


New year, another new years blog post…

I realized when I opened this page to start writing, that I only wrote three posts last year, one of which was never shared. This is connected to the fact that shoots were few and far between, especially compared to 2018, and when they did happen, they were spontaneous and lacking much meaning. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it too much, because I was working on a lot of other areas of my life… I traveled to see so many friends and family, and had so many people come to visit me. I found stability in a city that seems to be constantly unstable. I made lifelong friendships with girls who have been there for me for all the highs and lows. I colored my hair multiple times (pink, magenta, purple, and silver-ish). I found more mental clarity and a nice emotional neutral (which sounds about as boring as it is, but is also quite peaceful). I saw three of my favorite artists live, singing and dancing to Betty Who, Banks, and Maggie Rogers. I ran a lot of miles, including two half marathons and the full new york city marathon, which was something I never thought I'd be able to do, and when it was all said and done, I signed up for the Chicago marathon in October 2020. I got a promotion at my job, started freelancing as a retoucher, and learned a lot about how to manage finances and budgeting as a real human adult that has a steady income.

All of that was so wonderful, and I truly have no complaints about this year. I am so grateful for every person and opportunity in my life. However, I didn't come to New York to be comfortable and stagnant. I have a lot of dreams and goals to achieve here, and 2020 is going to be the year that I truly start going after them. A lot of the plans I have are scary to think about. It's going to be challenging and I'm going to face a lot of uncertainty. Things will (hopefully) be very different than they were in 2019, and (hopefully) in a good way. I'm typically not the one for New Year's Resolutions, or the New Year's Mentality in general, but I've been thinking about making these changes for a while and there's no time like the New Year to start going after them.

So here we go.

Here's to 2020.

Late Night Reflection

I've always been quiet and soft … outwardly anyways. I didn't often voice my thoughts or opinions, I apologized for things I didn't need to, I tried not to take up too much space, and I thought so much about what would make other people happy, or like me more, that I pushed my own needs/desires/sense of self so far down, and the "softness" became the central part of my personality. But that's not all that I am. 

There is strength in softness and vulnerability and love … but there is also strength in knowing yourself fully, all of the other/darker/harder parts of yourself, and embracing those as well.

I may still be quiet and soft and introverted and empathetic — but there are other parts of me that are hard and loud and seductive and stubborn and angry. Being on my own has allowed me to look closer at those parts of myself and feel comfortable with allowing other people to see them as well.

Recently, I've found that I don't put up with the bullshit that I would have in the past, I'm not willing to waste my time with personal relationships where people aren't willing to give as much as I am, and I'm done only acting in a way only to make other people feel comfortable.

There's a fine line between selfishness and understanding your own needs and while I'm still working on finding it, I hope that I'm getting closer.

For so long I talked about strength in femininity, or strength in the less obvious sense, and while I think that is still important and true, I don't feel like I've truly allowed myself to be anything else.

So as I typically do, I found myself with my camera in hand, feeling the desire to express myself visually in a way that words couldn't. 

I have been slowly collecting a small arsenal of photo equipment, and I finally purchased light stands for my strobes today (longgg overdue). So when I got home at 9pm, I immediately got to work. Taking the role of not only photographer, but art director, hair and makeup, and model, I started shooting, and almost two hours later I wrapped up, and got to work as the retoucher as well. These photos turned out more glamorous than I originally intended, but my work often centers around soft light, things that are "beautiful" and far from harsh. I wanted to maintain my personal aesthetic, while still communicating something a little different.

Much like the way that I'm still trying to understand myself, this work is also a work in progress… but no matter what, I am just excited to be shooting again after a long hiatus.

Now that it's almost 2:30am … I'm going to stop rambling and hope that this is at least semi coherent ..!

Another Look Back

I realized today that it has been one year since my final shoot for my senior project (Porcelain). I thought, when I began this project in January of 2018, that I knew what it was about; I thought that I knew what I wanted it to be and where I wanted it to go. I had decided on shooting nudes, and started out in a defensive, defying the norm of nude photography mindset, wanting to redefine the female nude, typically shot by a male photographer. 

Of course, this is not how it turned out. This project eventually became a series revolving around my own self discovery and growth. I shot these photos in the middle of a great deal of change in my life. Being on my own after two years of a relationship, that I had spent pouring all of myself into the life of someone else, left me feeling empty and lost, unsure of where to dump all of my affection and attention. Being only months away from graduation and "the rest of my life" was daunting and confusing, but also exciting highly anticipated, and left me feeling like I was floating on the edge of a big step.

As I was shooting and trying to take into consideration the feedback I'd received during in-progress critiques, I found myself losing sight of the original intentions I had set out with. I realized that the photos my professor and classmates wanted me to take, were not what I wanted to shoot, but up until the very last shoot, I wasn't sure I really knew what I did want to shoot.

The fifth round of nudes were photos of two people together (where the first four had been of only one person). At the time, I had fallen back into the arms of the ex I had proclaimed to be "over", and while I knew it was short lived, I realized my strong inability, or unwillingness, to ever let go of the people who mean so much to me. This became a turning point. This series was never going to "redefine" anything, it was a personal story.

Looking back a year later, I see these photos as a moment of evolution. I see how uncomfortable I was starting out 2018. I was forcing myself into moving past something I was still working through, and I ended up falling back into old habits as soon as the opportunity presented itself. As I pieced together photos of myself, I managed to create visuals that represented how I was feeling (whether that was accurately communicated to others or not, I don't think that really mattered to me at the time). 
I had chosen to dump all of my excess attention and affection into myself, learning how to find comfort and self-confidence from within. I chose to let the loneliness and vulnerability I felt fuel my work, and by the end, I felt like I had finally processed what I had been trying to push away. 

Through this series, I have found that I truly treasure photography as a form of emotional expression. I have three of the original photos hanging on the wall in my room as a reminder of this, and the things I learned about myself a year ago. I hope that I can hold onto the person I was in this time as I continue to grow and learn. 


So this year felt more like 3 years… and somehow it still doesn’t feel like it ended ?
I don’t know what else to say to introduce this so I’m just gonna count us off here

5.. 6.. 7.. 8  2018 RECAP
In January I went back to school for the last time. I committed myself to taking more photos and pushing myself. I shot a series nudes (for my senior project) that helped me to process the end of my relationship, and I didn’t know that was why I shot them until I was finished. No one really understood the photos or what they meant to me, but they felt/feel a very certain, special way to me, and I am so thankful for a creative outlet that helps me to process my emotions whether I am aware of it or not.
In February Vada and I spontaneously decided we would take a trip to NYC together, and in March we did it. We explored the city and talked about when we would return together after graduation, but sadly, that’s not what played out (miss u V – @ san fran pls give her back). I treasure the day we spent walking around taking photos, eating food, and getting lost in all different neighborhoods of the city. She’s one my fav travel buddies and I’m so glad we got to fulfill our spring break dreams.
In April I began the onslaught of photoshoots, got hit by a car on my bike (again), took a spontaneous, final road trip to Charleston and after, found true closure (shocking myself).
In May I got a confession that was a long time coming, and eventually the denial I never prepared myself for. I shot even more photos, both collaborations and film (35mm and 120mm !!). I don’t remember much about classes, because everything else was such a whirlwind, and before I knew it graduation was here.
In June my whole family showed up in Savannah, and somehow managed to behave themselves. We sweated our way through two days of graduation (so glad to be done), and I spent my last days in Sav. I said goodbyes to my friends and tried not to think about how long it would be until I saw them again. I drove back to IL with my parents and I anxiously applied to every job I could find… until I finally got a call back.

At the end of June I flew to NYC for a couple of interviews, and despite the raging summer heat, I wandered the city for the first week in July, daydreaming of my life here and feeling subconsciously very good about things.  My Grandfather passed away and the whole family traveled back upstate to say our goodbyes. With loss came new beginnings, and I got a call offering me my first real “adult” job. A week later, I was packing up my suitcase at home, getting ready to move to NYC for real. 
Mid-July I found myself living and working in New York City and nothing felt real. I was sweating all the time, and eventually made the stupid decision to haul a window-unit air conditioner all the way uptown by myself. I got settled in my job and wondered how this all happened in less than a month.
August came and I started looking for a more permanent apartment. I traveled to Brooklyn after work, anxiously looking at less than fancy apartments wondering if I would have to suffer an hour and a half long commute to work at 7am every day. Finally, after two of the most exhausting weeks of apartment searching, I found the perfect fit, just 11 blocks north of my sublease, with two of the sweetest girls I’ve met in a while. Wrapped up the month with a trip to DC to see my favorite sister, her girlfriend Cassady, and my good pal Mike.
September first was moving day, and after packing, hauling, and unpacking all of my belongings for the third time in three months, I was finally starting to feel settled. I also got to see my gal Mandz for the first time in years when she came to visit her boyfriend, which was such a treat.
In October Megan came to visit and we went to our favorite breakfast place, and spontaneously decided to see Leon Bridges at Radio City. I was starting to get a bit lonely, so having her here, even for just two days, was so lovely. 
November rolled around faster than any other month, and I decided it was time I start training for a half marathon again (after deciding twice before, and failing). I ran 10 miles without stopping for the first time ever in my entire life and didn’t die. My parents came to visit and I dragged them all over the city to some of my favorite food spots. We went to the Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium, and somehow ended up back in bed by 9:30, completely exhausted. The following weekend we all traveled to NC for Thanksgiving (except Jegs who was in London – I missed her v much).
Suddenly it was December… I anxiously awaited going home and taking a break from all the craziness. Especially when I got sick and was laid up in bed for three days straight. Took me almost three weeks to fully recover, and by the time I did, it was time for me to pack up my bags and fly back to IL.
I spent Christmas in Geneva with my family, bleached/dyed my hair for the first time ever, spent a lot of time sleeping, rewatched all of the harry potter movies, and cuddled with my dog :)
On New Year’s Eve morning I flew back to NYC, and rang in the new year with three bottles of champagne, chicken tenders, curly fries, Taylor Swift, and my absolutely lovely roommate, Brooke. It was by no means a fancy or elaborate New Years Eve, but I was so happy. I’m so glad/appreciative that Brooke was there with me to ring in the new year, because, to be honest, I was afraid I was going to be alone… and that’s just a little depressing, even for a loner like me…

And now here we are ! 

I’m slowly feeling more like time is a circle than a line, and I don’t feel the need to “start over” so the new year thing has kind of lost its charm (although I’m not sure it ever really had it?).

I guess that’s all I got for now … I don’t really have any exciting photos to share but I feel weird not posting any at all so here’s a photo of me with blonde hair !

cheers 2019 !

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