The Energy of Art & Politics

As a portrait photographer, the deliberate use of energy can make or break a photo shoot. The care and handling of energy will determine the mood of your client and how they will be perceived by their audience. We can have all the expert technique in the world, but if the energy isn’t right, we may be clicking the shutter, and missing a masterpiece.

Sandy O. and Pat Humphries. Talented women of EMMA’S REVOLUTION. 

If anything proves the power of energy, it is our 2016 presidential election. Make no mistake, the GOP nominee knew exactly how to shape energy for his benefit. He knew the power of chanting could turn twisted falsehoods into believable sound-bites. He knew that repetition was mesmerizing. And he knew that theatrics would leave a lasting impression more than straight talk of hard work, loving kindness, and fairness to all. The GOP candidate was exceptionally well-versed in the art of negative manipulation and mind-control. Heads up. There is more to come. The ability to inspire positively is not his forte. When asked by 60 Minute’s Lesley Stahl to speak to the hate crimes unleashed by this election, he showed his impotence by looking into the camera and mustering up only two words. “Stop it.”

As much of our country weeps, and citizens of the world either shake their heads or shake in their boots, the need to consciously shape-shift our emotional response to the magnitude of this election is essential. The negative punch in the gut, the back tracking of our civil rights and liberties, the fear of intensified terrorism as a result of cabinet choices of the president-elect, and his continued personal economic involvement around the world, could keep us in a state of fear and depression. This election has rightfully stirred up our anger, kept us from sleeping soundly, and potentially put a long-term hold on feeling and expressing joy. Even reading this paragraph has the potential to shift the reader’s energy. So, what can we do about it?

Post Election Radical Self-Care

To face this dragon, and endure this heartbreak, I found it essential to dive into a radical self-care mode where I can train to become my most potent self. We must consider our lives now as bootcamp for bettering our bodies and our emotions. We are not all young and tough, but we are strong-minded. We must care for ourselves so we have more to give our friends and our communities. The stronger we are individually, the stronger we will be together.

Deliberately and Carefully Make Choices

I finally began to deliberately and carefully choose how much I read and watch on television. This is different for each of us, so finding the right personal balance is key. Fatalistic information is distressing, and stress can make us sick and weak. We need to be whatever level warrior we can be, and I will do this by remembering all the positive emotions that construct my personal political views. There are very powerful reasons we believe in equality, civil rights, and open-heartedness. Amplifying the positives, filling the sound waves with our loving convictions, drowning out the false and fear-based rants and chants of those who oppose fairness can be clear tactics toward mid-term victory in two years. Are we angry? Of course! We are legitimately livid! The hijacking of our liberties is close at hand. And each of us can create our own personal strategy for channeling our anger. If we are unable to physically go to a protest demonstration, we can inform and educate and speak about positive events at least more than we name the negative actions of our rivals.

Rethinking the Strategy of Name-Calling

I know it can be a tempting, knee-jerk reaction, but perhaps we might re-evaluate the strategy behind calling someone a stupid ass-hole. Being a portrait photographer, I guess I have been self-schooled to ask where my words might lead. If I don’t foresee a desired result, I rethink my strategy. My college years were spent as editor-in-chief of the West Georgia University newspaper where a young Newt Gingrich was professor and the advisor to the student government. As memorable as it was to be a local adversary of his in the early 70‘s, more memorable was a professor named Dr. David Higgins, the unconventional chair of the philosophy department. He didn’t teach about the Socratic Method, he used the Socratic Method, which employs the method of constant questioning, in lieu of lecturing. He energetically trapped us in a space where we were forced to think. We would ponder and argue until we eventually came to conclusions and insights that he already knew well. He persisted, not necessarily patiently, and he was very hard on us. He believed in the possibility of personal insight.

So, I caution myself about the arrogance of believing in incurable ignorance. If George Wallace can have an epiphany, maybe someone else can, too. The actions of a young Wallace were inhumane and despicable, but I would rather have him apologize and whisper, “I love you” to black Alabamians than continue a life-long sermon on the evils of integration. Incidentally, Wallace’s daughter is a Democrat who gave early support to Obama in 2008.

Personally, I do not want to deem forever all opposition voters as enemies and haters. I want to be open to at least the potential of some kind of transformation or meeting of minds. We know that the president-elect is not the answer. Some of his supporters –the ones who are not “haters” will need a place to migrate. Am I angry that people voted for a fictional president? I am outraged that they believed  a bunch of malarky –to quote our current vice president.

Why Did Moriarty Win?

We can ponder why all the negative aspects of GOP candidate didn’t hurt his campaign, but clearly, he prepared his supporters early on to follow him no matter what may come. He could “stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and they would still vote for him.” He used the power of positive thought for negative personal gain. Even when all the polls said he would lose, like a Grammy-winning broken record, he repeatedly called himself a winner. Our mantra was “we are not taking anything for granted.” He fell through a crack in our system. Clinton won the popular vote by a good margin, yet he will be the leader of the free world, unless some sort of miracle happens.

The Power of Image

I am a just a photographer, not a political analyst. I am just an observer of energy, not a columnist, a scholar, or strategist. I will leave real analysis to the brilliant minds of others. I just feel that if all we watch and speak about is the direness of this election, we could be in trouble. We have become a culture who values image over content. So, we must be cautious what kind of imagery we perpetuate. If images of hatred dominate our newsfeeds and airwaves, we will live the newsfeed we read about everyday. Of course, I do believe we must call hatred out, but I also believe we should not let it take over the very lives we are trying to save and make better.

The good news is the thousands of peaceful participants in loving protest around the country give us much hope. And what beautiful images they make! Let’s take good care of ourselves so that we can, to the best of our individual ability, come together as a constant reminder of our insistence on equality and justice for all.


The day before the election, I had the pleasure of photographing Joie Seldon, an Emotional Intelligence Consultant, for an upcoming book cover. (Book Cover Design: Carol Ehrlich/Irene Young). Joie and I both had our birthdays on election day. During the shoot we spoke of the importance of being emotionally lucid and balanced. Unknowingly, it was the perfect session to prepare me for what was to come the next day. 

A few days after the election, in spite of deep depression all around, out of town clients and I had no other choice than do a CD cover photo shoot. Like Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart with guitars, Emma’s Revolution is the duo of award-winning activist musicians, Pat Humphries & Sandy O. I thought to myself, “how am I going to capture anything but the emotional distress of this damaging historical event.”

I decided to take the pressure off everyone by dividing the shoot into two days and creating a cozy, yet honest atmosphere. We did not avoid the topic of our sorrow, and neither did we not restrict ourselves to it. We somehow found our way to extreme laughter at the same time we all felt mutual deep grief. It is possible, and advantageous, to feel more than one emotion. 

Like many of you, I often wake in the middle of the night just long enough to feel the reality of our country’s situation. Most of the time, I am able to slip back into the refuge of sleep. If I cannot find my way back to that peace, I listen to Bay Area hypno-therapist, Patricia Sorbye Reynolds ( Patricia’s wise direction and healing energy works for me every time.

Now, more than ever, we each can call on what heals us and keeps us strong. Sing, dance, rap, write, hike, bike, paint, gather, cook, bake, garden, meditate, converse, share, support, listen, donate, protest, campaign. I always remember Grammy winning producer, Narada Michael Walden prepping musicians in the recording studio just before their take by telling them, “Do your thing, do your thing.”

So, let’s get strong, stay vigilant, keep loving. Mid-term elections will be here in two years. Liberty and equality will be running mates, and let’s make no mistake, they will be the winners.

P.S. If you live in the SF Bay Area, and you need to replenish yourself with community, please see Jennifer Berezan’s event, A Song for All Beings.  Join 100 Performers and 2,000 Friends in a Ceremonial Concert on February 26, 2017. Jennifer added this second show because the first show sold out, so get you ticket soon. 

(From the song, The Turning of the Wheel)

There ain’t no certain fortune, but it’s not a wheel of chance
What can damn you in a moment can bless you in a second glance
In the sureness of the turning lies the hope that you can heal
Cause you cannot stop the turning of the wheel
–Jennifer Berezan

(From the song, The Garden of Mysteries)

I’ve been talking with my Angel
till it leaves my side at dawn
and it tells me what is sacrificed
is never really gone
in the garden of mysteries
I will walk in the morn
In the garden
where all new things are born.
–Mark Simos  

About Irene Young
With over 600 CD covers to her credit, Irene Young’s photographs have appeared in worldwide publications such as Oprah Magazine, Us Magazine, The New York Times, The SF Chronicle, The Washington Post, People Magazine, Guitar Player, The Utne Reader, and numerous others. She studied photography at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and energy at The Academy of Intuition Medicine in Northern California.

Post Election Self-Care, The Energy of Art & Politics