Kelly Brown and Bryce Daniel share their grit and a little bit of love!
Hello Bryce & Kelly!! How is autumn treating you?
K: It feels refreshing. I have had a really busy and hectic summer and am enjoying the change of pace that the fall has brought. I’m staying in bed a little longer, drinking lots of tea, trying to stay cozy and stay in rhythm with the changing season. The past couple years I have been in Southern California, the land of one season. I’m a total sun fiend so I had little to complain about but it began to feel like a time warp. To notice your bodies response to the change of season and be able to cater to what it needs feels really good.
B: Autumn has set a feast before me. A table full of blue skies, short rains, and pastel leaves. The candles are lit, and many chairs gather against the cold of Winter that’s on it’s way.
Autumn has me running around getting things prepared while the ground is dry.
Autumn has grounded me from the Summer high.
Autumn is treating me as it should.
Full of grace, and gratitude, and good.
How did you and Bryce meet?
K: If you asked Bryce this question, he would probably write you a novel. We always laugh when people ask us this because he loves to tell the story. Me, I give the readers digest version. For you, I’ll meet somewhere in the middle. It was Christmas day, 2011. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and needed a break from the city. I’ve never been very into Christmas… some would say I’m a grinch, I would just say I’m sick of the expectations from consumerism culture. So, I planned to take a little trip to Slab City and Joshua Tree National Park and go camping for a couple days. My parents weren’t too thrilled by the whole thing, a young woman camping by herself in the middle of the desert but this was definitely not my first solo adventure and they were getting more and more use to it. I packed up my car with all my camping gear, my camera, a banjo and a bottle of whisky.
I had heard a lot a things about Slab City. That is was a strange place, a dangerous place, a place of freedom and a place to escape. When I pulled into the Slabs, I quickly made friends with a couple of guys who showed me around and invited me to have Christmas dinner at the Karma Kitchen. (which was a soup kitchen run by a woman named Angel) During the dinner, I noticed Bryce and his friends off to the side playing music. I immediately felt drawn to him, it was beyond attraction, it was more like, you need to go talk to this person. So, I grabbed my camera, walked up to him and asked if I could take his portrait.
We’ve been together ever since.
Click here for Kelly’s photo essay on Slab City!
What was your first impression of Kelly?
B: Love at first sight.
I knew there was something different. I could feel it right away.. her heart was beating the same way, she was seeking the same thing. I think subconsciously I felt it coming for a while, and then there she was.. in Angel’s Karma Kitchen, Slab City, California, on the backside of Salvation Mountain.
She pulled up in a pearly car with a fresh coat of dust, and two dusty characters for passengers. Amidst the love dust that coated my eyes I noted that they seemed to be an odd group, and she stood out even more. She made her way over to our odd group, and never left.
I found out later that she had come on her own to photograph the Mountain, and the dusty characters were guiding her into the slabs (an easy place to get lost). She was brave, beautiful, adventurous, and a culmination of all the things I had loved and feared.
Kelly, once you knew this was the real deal, were you nervous leaving the US to build a life in Canada?
K: Yes and no. Bryce and I knew that one of us would need to leave our home in order to create a home together. Our relationship has been the most powerful thing that has happened to me in my life thus far and it was a sacrifice worth making for me. There were lots of reasons we decided on Canada (healthcare might have been one of them) and I couldn’t be happier living in Victoria. The hardest part is being away from my family and as I get older, I know that will only get harder.
When did you begin natural building?
B: To me natural building begins with awareness. Awareness of your self, of the environment, of all living and non-“living” things. From there you learn how to build upon that awareness so that all things are taken into consideration. That awareness begins when you are born, and is either honed, or suppressed.
I began to hone my natural building abilities without realizing it when I was in my teenage years, simply by gaining awareness, and paying attention to what the world was telling me. I then furthered that awareness about 6 summers ago on Mayne Island, BC with Patrick Hennebery of Cobworks, and many others who also gathered to learn and teach natural building. Which to me encompasses much more than just the physical creation of structures and dwellings made from natural materials.
What is Dreamweavers Collective?
B: Dreamweavers Collective is a way for us and others to connect with each other, and share our dreams and passions. It weaves a platform upon which we can offer natural building, art, community, permaculture, sustainable technologies, and threads to things that make a strong, resilient web in the wide world.
Kelly, you spoke about photographing weddings and overcoming nerves. Do you still get nervous before a shoot?
K: Usually. And for different reasons. Like most things in my life, I get nervous about situations that are out of my control. Will it rain, will the lighting be good, will I have a camera malfunction? I’m usually nervous right before I start and then once I get going, I get into a creative mind space and then just have fun. I love meeting new people and interacting with them and I am constantly doing that with my job. The funny thing is, I think I get more nervous the longer I do it. I have created a high expectation for myself and my work and I really want my clients to love their photographs.
Do you spend a lot of time working together?
B: This past year we’ve both been really busy with personal projects separate from each other, but we still work together on different levels. Especially when we’re at home. We ask each others opinion a lot, even if we’re not working on something together directly.
We both have different skill sets, which is great in some circumstances such as gardening, and farming, as well as with natural building. Kelly has an amazing eye, and is incredibly skilled, which helps a lot when it comes to details, design, plastering, and finishing work. I can carry the load, and keep things moving, and we work together really well that way. I’ve also “helped” with a few photo projects now, usually limited to carrying things, and posing when she’s scouting for the perfect spots, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I had only used a camera very few times before meeting Kelly, and have a gained appreciation for what she is capable of. She enables my work in the physical world through what she can do in the digital world.
What do you think is key in making your relationship work?
K: I think being able to keep a sense of independence is really important for any couple, and definitely for us. I know the times that I have felt the most depressed in my life were times when I wasn’t engaging myself in personal growth. I wasn’t being creative, I didn’t feel purposeful, I wasn’t setting goals. I am a firm believer that if you are happy and love yourself, then all of your other relationships will be stronger. Besides that, lots of laughing and a shared moral compass.
You both spend time away from the city for work, was being a part from one another something you had to work on?
B: We’re usually only apart for a week at most, which is ok. It’s a good opportunity to reset, and check in with yourself. Anything longer than that, and I realize how much I appreciate having her around, and what we mean to each other. It can be hard to be away from that. I feel like it’s been that way since we met. We hardly spent more than a week apart for the first year and a half, and lived together since day one.
When times do come where we are apart for prolonged periods, I just remind myself of the unconditional love that exists between us, and in the world, and it makes missing someone a little easier knowing that they’re where they need to be, as are you.
K: Like I had mentioned earlier, being apart from each other allows us both to feel independent and proud of the work we are doing. Thats not to say that we don’t miss each other but sometimes its really nice to miss someone. It makes the time you do have together that much better
What do you miss most about Kelly when she’s away?
B: Her sweetness. It can be unbearable sometimes, but when she’s gone I miss how sweet she is. She see’s the world with child-like amazement, and reminds me of the magic of things. The life of a salmon, the glow of phosphorescence, the wisdom of old growth trees, transformation.
Can you sketch a portrait of Kelly for me?
Do you two have a song?
K: Stop for Her, by Peasant. We listened to it together, each with one earphone in, while laying on a concrete slab in a sleeping bag in Slab City, the second day after meeting one another. It’s a little cheesy but it melts me every time.
Where would you like to see yourselves in the next five years?
B: I would like to see myself lying down in a garden full of all the things i love. Kelly, our future children, and our friends. A dog. All the wild things, and the kept. Staring up at the magic of the sky, resting from the hard, but fulfilling work of having built a home, and community. I would like to be building a relationship with a place, and be working on helping others do the same. I would like to see myself living in a world where people are aware of the effects of their actions, and where they are able to make a choice that improves the well-being of all things.
K: Bryce is a natural builder and we have big hopes to one day build a small home for us and our little family. We want to live in community, sharing resources and hopefully growing food, teaching alternative and meaningful ways to seek shelter and enjoying our time together as a family. I will definitely still be photographing but also hope to be completely engaged in motherhood.
Can you share your favourite photo of Bryce?
What has been the greatest thing Bryce has taught you about yourself?
K: Bryce has shown me what it means to hold myself accountable. It is one thing to vocalize good intentions and other thing to live them. Through example, he has taught me the power I have in making good decisions, staying positive through trying moments and remaining grateful for everything that life brings to me.
How do you stay positive when thinking about the future?
B: It can be hard to stay positive when there are so many things about the future that are unstable due to the nature of the present, as well as the present state of human impact on the biosphere. I remind myself that i have been given a life to share, experience, and create. I am grateful for that, and so regardless of what the future brings, or what has happened in the past, i am here to share, experience, and create to the best of my ability in regards to the world that is being created in and around me.
I draw a lot of inspiration from nature, it’s wonder and ability to regenerate, and express myself creatively through music, poetry, writing, and natural building.
Like the salmon, i’ll keep swimming upstream.
If you could photograph one person, who ever walked the earth, who would it be?
K: Probably my grandfather on my dads side. He died when my dad was 7 and I know very little about him. There is only one image I have seen of him that my dad and aunts have framed in their homes and it is such an amazing portrait. He is in these lace up boots with his pants tucked into them, leaning against a fence and looking off into the distance. I couldn’t be sure that any portrait I would take of him would be better than that one but I would love to try. Plus, I would love to get a glimpse of who he was and how that has shaped my father and myself. It would be amazing to see how taking someones portrait could do that.
How does Bryce demonstrate “grit” in his life?
K: When I first met Bryce, I thought there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. He could build a house, convert our car to run on vegetable oil, he was resourceful beyond belief and always so confident. Despite all these “masculine” attributes, he also showed me how fragile he could be, how deeply he cared about the world, and the issues he struggles with. It is so beautiful to watch him be openly vulnerable, which is where I think true grit resides.
A motto you live by?
B: The river may change
But the path remains the same
K: Just so, I am what I am. To look for reasons is beside the point. – Joan Didion
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