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Mariangela Abeo

00:03 all right 00:03 mariangela abeo so happy to have you on 00:06 the everyday enthusiast you 00:08 are a mental health advocate and 00:09 photographer 00:11 you're the founder of the faces of 00:13 fortitude movement 00:14 tell me a little well first of all i'm 00:16 just so happy to have you thank you for 00:17 coming on 00:18 thanks for having me i'm happy to be 00:20 here so tell me a little bit 00:22 about what inspired uh your founding of 00:24 the faces of fortitude 00:26 you know uh brian i was a i'm a trained 00:29 producer 00:30 by trade and so i worked for a company 00:32 that many of 00:33 your viewers probably will know of 00:35 creative live 00:37 for uh several years and so i was 00:40 connected to a lot of photographers but 00:41 i actually wasn't a photographer um five 00:44 years ago if you would tell me i was 00:46 would be a professional photographer i'd 00:47 laugh at you uh and 00:49 but i produced many shoots and i was 00:51 part of it um 00:52 and we had uh 00:56 photo week which is the big week uh when 00:59 creative live was 00:59 it was in the height of its uh fun and 01:03 uh we had 01:03 a photographer come by the name of 01:06 stacey pursel and she's a 01:08 wounded war vet that has a photo project 01:10 called the veterans portrait project 01:12 and she did a whole lecture on how 01:15 to take something that touches you 01:18 deeply and create a project around it 01:20 and i 01:21 lost my brother to suicide 13 years ago 01:23 and i had kind of spiraled for several 01:25 years trying 01:26 to figure out how i was gonna handle 01:28 that grief and how i was gonna handle 01:29 that and 01:30 um you know production was fine but you 01:33 know in the movie production world it's 01:35 a lot of work and it's a lot of overhead 01:37 and i had a 10 year old nikon which i 01:40 still use to this day by the way i 01:42 shout out to nikon for good products um 01:45 that was in my closet that my 01:47 father-in-law gifted me he was a 01:49 uh sports photographer and he said i've 01:51 got this old camera if you want it and i 01:52 stuck it in the closet 01:53 and i pulled it out and i ran with the 01:57 idea 01:57 of doing a project and i didn't think 02:01 anything of it i honestly thought i'm 02:03 gonna take a class at creativelive i 02:05 took one class online 02:09 to learn how to light with one light 02:11 shout out to christopher knight for the 02:13 one light class 02:14 and um i didn't even know settings i was 02:17 such a fake in the beginning and i still 02:19 am not a technical photographer i 02:21 remember in the very beginning of my 02:23 project i did an interview with the slr 02:25 lounge and 02:26 they asked me all these tech details and 02:29 i was like let me make something very 02:30 clear 02:31 i'm not a technical photographer and i 02:34 was i felt like such a fraud for so long 02:36 because i'm an emotional photographer 02:38 and the ceo of creative live chase 02:40 jarvis who's a brilliant photographer 02:43 and a friend sat me down and he said 02:45 listen you don't have to know all that 02:48 you have to listen to yourself you have 02:50 to look at your subject you have to play 02:51 with your light 02:52 and you have to make it make a photo 02:56 that 02:56 makes you feel and i think that's what i 03:00 did from that moment on and uh when i 03:03 put my photo 03:04 out there it exploded and i had no idea 03:06 that was gonna happen because it was my 03:08 portrait but it was also the story of 03:10 the loss of my brother my own suicide 03:12 attempt at 17 03:14 and people strangers started coming into 03:16 my inbox saying tell my story take my 03:18 photo and i was like 03:20 i'm not good enough to take your photo 03:22 like i don't know what i'm doing so i 03:24 quickly taught myself because i had this 03:27 passion this kind of drive all of a 03:29 sudden that i was like oh 03:30 maybe this is something i need to do and 03:33 still to this day use that 10 year old 03:35 nikon 03:37 and i will piece together i'm like the 03:39 macgyver of photography really 03:41 i i piece together whatever gear i can 03:44 find whatever 03:45 whatever gear i have and i just make it 03:47 work in whatever city i'm in 03:48 oh i love it isn't it funny how just 03:51 those small 03:52 moments of chance you know you said i 03:54 think you said it was your stepfather 03:56 gifting you a camera just leads you down 03:58 a completely new road in life 04:00 i mean it's uh it's just crazy how those 04:03 little moments can just change 04:04 everything 04:05 it's like it's incredible because 04:08 you know i think it does so many things 04:11 it was my father-in-law 04:12 and so it's incredible in so many ways 04:14 because 04:15 now that the project's grown and 200 04:18 faces later and i'm doing talks and 04:20 traveling 04:21 he's so excited so he's like you're 04:24 still using my camera 04:25 and it gives him a newfound excitement 04:28 in his photography and retirement 04:30 and you know it just and it also i feel 04:32 like i have a lot of people that come to 04:33 me and say 04:34 i'm not trained and i don't have a fancy 04:37 fancy camera and i don't have all these 04:38 things and i'm like 04:40 i am proof that you don't need all the 04:42 bells and whistles 04:43 absolute proof and uh that's kind of 04:46 almost an 04:47 embodying that diy spirit as a 04:50 photographer 04:51 would you would you recommend like how 04:53 would you recommend to upcoming 04:54 photographers would you say 04:56 take those classes or just kind of wing 04:58 it and see what feels right for you 05:00 i'd say a little bit of both i think the 05:01 classes helped me i took chris knight's 05:03 um one light class and i took um that's 05:05 on creative live and i took 05:07 um mike kagan is a great diy 05:10 photographer and he can show you how to 05:12 make reflectors and 05:14 backdrops and things from in your house 05:16 he's just brilliant and so i took one of 05:18 his classes and so i think 05:20 that and then learning using youtube 05:23 google 05:24 like teach yourself when you need to 05:25 learn something 05:27 don't automatically open your pocketbook 05:30 don't automatically think that you 05:32 aren't able to do something 05:33 we have so many resources free at our 05:36 fingertips on the internet 05:38 i've learned so much about uh lighting 05:41 just through trial and error you know 05:44 how do i i used to watch lighting 05:47 you know amazing lighting uh artists 05:49 that i'm just like i'm never going to 05:51 learn to do that 05:52 so how did i do it now i have one light 05:54 it's simple but i 05:56 move it and i wait and i just i look in 05:58 the eyes of my subject and i make sure 05:59 that 06:00 the light is where i want it to be in 06:02 their eyes and that it's 06:03 you know if i see a subject starting to 06:05 cry 06:06 i make sure that i have set my light in 06:10 a way 06:10 that it's going to reflect off their 06:12 tears but also in a way that i don't 06:14 have to 06:16 to interrupt them during that moment 06:19 it's already set up before so that my 06:21 camera is not even like i don't i 06:23 very rarely touch it during my sessions 06:25 i will adjust the light every now and 06:27 then but 06:28 the last thing you want is to interrupt 06:30 a moment where you're able to bond 06:31 with somebody over a photo and and that 06:35 bond between photographer and subject is 06:37 so intimate and important and obviously 06:39 very central to your project 06:41 i mean it's so therapeutic i mean 06:43 obviously your inspiration came from the 06:45 veterans portrait project 06:47 um in your experience have you seen that 06:50 kind of transformation emotionally for 06:52 people to as you know they're coping 06:53 with these these losses in their lives 06:56 has your project kind of given them that 06:58 extra you know 06:59 lift to get over that yeah 07:02 i should say no absolutely you know i 07:04 don't think we ever 07:05 move past something like like uh mental 07:08 illness or trauma or 07:10 suicide but i do think that there's a 07:12 form of empowerment 07:14 that is created when we have the courage 07:17 to touch something really painful within 07:19 ourselves 07:20 and show it to someone else and i think 07:22 in that moment and that's why this you 07:24 know i've had a lot of people especially 07:25 on instagram 07:26 um come to me asking me you know you're 07:29 so far 07:30 away i want to create a project like 07:31 this where i live in switzerland or 07:33 whatever and i'm like 07:34 okay sure like i can't control you for 07:38 from not doing that but i can tell you 07:40 that if you're not connected emotionally 07:42 personally 07:43 it's not gonna work because the only 07:46 reason 07:46 i'm able to connect with these people is 07:48 because i have this own pain that i'm 07:50 willing to touch myself 07:52 and i'm willing to dig deep and i'm 07:54 willing to go 07:55 and empower myself enough to be 07:58 vulnerable in front of them 07:59 which gives them the license to be 08:00 vulnerable with me and so what i found 08:03 is 08:03 you know if you picture it like an organ 08:05 in your body because 08:06 viscerally pain kind of most of us feel 08:08 it here 08:10 if you pull that out and put it in a 08:13 space 08:13 where other people are or one person in 08:15 a photo session 08:17 and you put it on the floor that leaves 08:19 a space inside you 08:20 where you can put something positive 08:22 where you can start to grow and heal 08:24 so i've seen so many people on the verge 08:27 of of 08:28 suicide still and and or ideation or 08:31 loss and you know i i i interviewed a 08:34 woman who lost her 08:35 13 year old son to suicide her 08:39 she was absolutely gutted 08:42 but her ab her her abandonment when she 08:47 was able 08:47 to let all of that out in a session now 08:50 she's running a foundation in his name 08:52 like it's it's absolutely 08:56 limitless what you can do with the 08:59 post-traumatic growth which is something 09:00 i learned about kind of 09:02 in the middle of my process what you do 09:04 with that trauma 09:05 it's it's limitless what you can do with 09:07 that is fuel and i've seen so much 09:09 empowerment 09:10 so much progress so much healing from 09:12 people 09:13 in this project and even people that i 09:14 just talked to on the internet or 09:16 in person at exhibits it's amazing and i 09:20 i to think that i did this to heal 09:22 myself 09:23 and in turn now there's this domino 09:25 effect it's been pretty amazing honestly 09:28 and although you know it must be also 09:31 very taxing you know to be so 09:33 emotionally invested in every shoot 09:35 i mean some photographers you know they 09:37 probably shoot the subject you know 09:39 you know they're in they're out and that 09:40 may be it but for you it's you know you 09:42 really 09:42 make that emotional investment into 09:44 those subjects and i mean they just 09:45 relive that experience when they do the 09:47 shoot but you're doing it 09:48 every time it must be very taxing on you 09:51 to just do that every week or however 09:53 often you do them 09:55 yes and no you know i have a lot of 09:57 people say this is heavy 09:59 yeah i had to put in some boundaries 10:02 really fast 10:03 because you know i'm a caretaker and so 10:05 i wanted to take care of everyone i 10:06 wanted to make everybody my best friend 10:08 i wanted everybody to be family 10:10 thankfully i have a therapist who 10:11 is very wonderful and she's been around 10:13 for a while and she was like 10:16 so that's not gonna be sustainable you 10:19 have to have some boundaries here 10:21 and um so all of my faces are family 10:24 they're all part of this community now 10:26 but i can't be family with all of them i 10:28 can't be best friends with all of them 10:30 because i find myself wanting to make 10:32 sure they're all okay 10:34 and i can't you know something i learned 10:36 very quickly after my brother 10:38 died was that i can't save everybody 10:41 but if i can go to sleep at night 10:42 knowing that i have opened myself up 10:44 enough to make somebody feel safe to 10:46 talk about their pain 10:48 then i can sleep that's beautiful um 10:51 were you 10:51 shocked by how far reaching your project 10:54 eventually became were you were you 10:56 shocked by the success 10:58 yeah i mean i think success is uh a 11:01 variable here because a lot of people 11:02 still say that to me and i'm like 11:04 i don't know who knows you know i'm 11:05 still in that it's not an imposter 11:07 syndrome but i don't think i'm exactly 11:09 where i want it to reach yet 11:11 you know covet happened at the brink of 11:13 kind of a few things for me 11:15 and obviously i can't do sessions right 11:17 now however 11:18 i am um i'm cooking up a few virtual 11:22 sessions and i'm going to try to do some 11:24 photography virtually i know several 11:26 photographers are doing it i just 11:27 haven't broached into it 11:29 um but i have been surprised you know i 11:32 go out it's it's 11:33 i go to protest right now at black lives 11:36 matter protests and i get people that 11:38 are like 11:38 your face is a fortitude and i'm like 11:41 wow or even you know people online 11:43 tagging me and things saying oh i know 11:45 her or 11:46 you know this reached switzerland and 11:49 russia and i'm like 11:50 what so i'm still in that phase where i 11:53 don't 11:53 quite believe i have tons of fans in 11:55 brazil i had no idea 11:57 like i because i've never been there 12:00 when i 12:00 hear this it's kind of unbelievable um i 12:03 know 12:03 you know one of my goals for 2020 and 12:05 now it's been pushed to 2021 of course 12:08 has been to travel to all the places 12:10 where i have fans so 12:11 um i hope that happens to kind of make 12:14 it a little more real to me 12:16 well that's also the beauty of 12:17 photography as an art form it's 12:19 it's universal there's no language to it 12:21 so you can be in brazil 12:23 and speak a totally different language 12:24 but still understand and appreciate 12:26 you know the work behind the heart um 12:29 wow so 12:30 internationally wow so it must be very 12:32 uh uh 12:33 shocking to have people come to you on 12:35 the street and recognize you that must 12:36 be kind of a jarring feeling 12:38 it is and what i realize is it's my neck 12:41 tattoo because 12:42 it sets me apart because most we're all 12:44 in masks right now and i usually have 12:46 like 12:47 a baseball cap masks sunglasses not that 12:50 i'm trying to be incognito that's just 12:52 how i am when i'm out 12:53 and um the fact that they still 12:55 recognize me i'm always like 12:56 what are you talking to but you're right 12:59 it is me 13:00 but i don't have a problem with it i 13:02 love it when people 13:03 want to connect because it means the 13:06 only people that connect with me over 13:08 this project are people that are touched 13:10 in some way by it 13:11 and so that immediately sets them apart 13:13 for me it immediately makes me want to 13:15 go 13:15 oh i'm sorry that you're connected but 13:18 i'm happy that you're connected 13:19 you know what i mean it's kind of a club 13:21 that none of us want to be part of 13:22 but at the same time we're happy that 13:24 we're not alone 13:26 and your tattoos they're beautiful by 13:28 the way i love them thank you 13:30 and i always feel there's this uh thing 13:33 with people who have tattoos they are 13:34 storytellers their body is their canvas 13:37 and uh obviously you embody that in 13:39 other you know ways in life as a 13:40 photographer 13:41 do you kind of feel that synchronicity 13:43 in your life or you've kind of maybe 13:45 always been 13:45 somebody who tells stories and your 13:48 storyteller visually 13:50 yeah i am i think that the world is such 13:54 a 13:55 fascinating place but i think people and 13:58 their 13:59 their power to overcome 14:02 things the power of the human spirit is 14:05 just 14:06 fascinating to me so to tell those 14:08 stories in photography 14:10 and in my art or in words and in content 14:13 because i'm writing a book like to do 14:15 all of that 14:16 um i think it's such an 14:19 art to be able to draw a picture that 14:21 way you know what i mean 14:23 absolutely and uh you mentioned you know 14:25 obviously we can't be holding sessions 14:27 right now because of cobit but you're 14:28 adapting 14:29 you are launching a podcast has it 14:31 already launched it so it launched 14:33 at the beginning of the of the uh the 14:36 quarantine in march 14:37 um and i did it you know i'll be super 14:40 honest with everybody out there 14:41 i was not a podcast fan in fact you 14:43 could probably say i hated podcasts 14:46 i just i was one of those i know i was 14:48 one of those 14:49 people that thought i'm gonna turn on a 14:51 podcast and give it a try and i would 14:53 immediately fall asleep 14:54 i don't know why people because most 14:55 podcasters have great voices they have 14:58 they're very soothing 14:59 i would just fall asleep it shows that i 15:01 was doing too much and then 15:04 the quarantine happened and i had a lot 15:05 of people reach out to me saying what 15:07 are you gonna do i still need this space 15:09 i depend on it so much 15:11 and i had to create something that was 15:14 bringing people in creating a safe space 15:16 but also still allowing this 15:18 conversation to happen 15:19 and a podcast just made sense and it's 15:22 actually not 15:23 faith it's not faces of fortitude it's 15:25 face to faces which is 15:27 a little different in the way that i 15:28 don't tell stories of suicide 15:31 because that's not necessarily the human 15:34 experience every day 15:35 it's a podcast around the human 15:38 experience and i focus because i'm queer 15:39 i focus on the queer side of things and 15:42 the poc side of things because right now 15:44 i feel like giving 15:45 uh the the poc community especially the 15:48 you know uh qt community a voice 15:52 is very important and talking about 15:54 what's happening in the world right now 15:56 talking about mental health because 15:57 everything that's happening in the world 15:59 right now trickles down to mental 16:02 health it's it affects our mental health 16:04 all of us 16:06 whether it's the viral pandemic the 16:08 racial pandemic 16:09 the up government all of these 16:12 things 16:13 affect our mental health and so that's 16:15 what what we talked about in this 16:16 podcast and then now i am starting to 16:18 trickle in 16:20 um faces uh portrait uh 16:23 sessions and people will get to see what 16:25 a session looks like 16:27 virtually so i'm i'm behind the scenes 16:29 building that i'm 16:30 actually filming my first one next week 16:33 wow 16:33 awesome and did you mention you're 16:35 writing a book i am so i have 16:38 two books in the works i have a portrait 16:40 book 16:41 called faces of fortitude and which is 16:43 um 16:44 the first edition which will be the 16:46 problem is i can't finish it until 16:48 i take my photos in new york i have 16:51 about 35 16:52 faces that are vetted and approved and 16:55 ready 16:56 that are in new york that i have to take 16:57 those photos so those are finishing that 17:00 book so that book is about 17:01 halfway done it's all it's portraits 17:03 it's photographers notes and it's 17:06 poetry on depression and mental illness 17:08 um and that's just more like a coffee 17:10 table book photography book 17:12 and then uh day one of the quarantine i 17:14 started writing my memoir 17:16 which is called the house of m and just 17:18 about the abuse that i experienced as a 17:20 child 17:21 um my journey into becoming a producer 17:24 and photographer and 17:25 now kind of where i am now in this new 17:27 journey so 17:29 um yeah talk about digging deep during 17:31 quarantine that's definitely what i'm 17:33 doing 17:34 there's a happy ending there's a happy 17:35 ending yeah for sure 17:38 for sure and obviously you'll mention in 17:40 the last chapter 17:41 and then i had a great interview with 17:43 the guy from the tundra 17:44 brian brown brian brown blew my mind yes 17:48 thank you thank you all right so 17:50 anything else other than the book what 17:51 else is on the horizon for basis of 17:53 fortitude 17:54 i mean i just the faces of fortitude is 17:57 an 17:57 arm of a full um gamut of things now you 18:01 know i did my tedx talk my first tedx 18:03 talk last year 18:05 and that was in ohio and that was pretty 18:07 it was pretty raw 18:08 and pretty vulnerable but it was also 18:11 probably one of the best experiences 18:13 i've ever had 18:14 and so between that and 18:17 um i had another one scheduled for this 18:19 past april at 18:20 dartmouth university dartmouth college 18:23 um 18:24 which is just postponed until next april 18:26 which is good 18:27 so it's already written and ready um and 18:29 then i just um you've spoken to her on 18:31 email my 18:32 new agent i just finally got an agent 18:35 you know i didn't know how that process 18:37 worked and so i was cold calling agents 18:39 after my ted talk you want me do you 18:41 want me and 18:42 i had to learn really fast that's not 18:43 how it works it's one of those we'll 18:45 call you 18:46 and they finally called me so um i've 18:48 got an agent now 18:49 and um she's working really hard to kind 18:52 of onboard me 18:53 to the world and um so i will be faces 18:56 of fortitude is a just a tier 18:58 of you know between the writing and the 19:00 public speaking 19:01 and then traveling um photo galleries 19:04 my exhibits are really important and 19:07 it's something that i've built 19:08 as an experience for people to face 19:11 their own mental health 19:13 um so i hope to start touring with that 19:15 exhibit uh in the future as well i had 19:17 one built 19:18 again for april that was uh supposed to 19:20 debut here in seattle 19:22 uh in town hall and it was gonna it's 19:24 it's gonna be called the faces of 19:26 fortitude experience and it's pretty 19:28 pretty mind-blowing i'm really excited 19:30 about it and so hopefully that can 19:32 happen 19:33 um or let's just say it will just in the 19:35 future so those are 19:36 a lot of the things um that are planned 19:38 i'm really excited 19:40 2021 you're going to dominate 2021 19:42 you're taking it over 19:44 yes i'm going to hit the ground running 19:45 that's i'm all this is prep so that when 19:48 the world opens back up 19:50 and we'll be there perfect well thank 19:52 you so much for joining me today and 19:54 being so 19:55 vulnerable and opening up your heart and 19:56 to our audience here today thank you 19:59 of course thanks for having me it's been 20:00 lovely all right and we'll 20:02 include links down below to everything 20:04 so everybody can learn more about you 20:05 and faces of fortitude 20:06 all right thank you so much mariangela 20:08 you have a good one of course you too

Mariangela Abeo is a mental health advocate, podcast host, photographer, and the creator of the Faces of Fortitude movement. The movement began as a series of portraits that document the healing of those affected by suicide – providing a safe, stigma-free space both virtually and in person for mental health and suicide to be discussed. Mariangela's latest project is the recently launched podcast "Face to Faces", a conversation series that provides a platform focusing on the LGBTQ+ & POC communities and their allies, in the areas of activism, politics, mental health, arts & entertainment and community, discussing the human experience in our ever changing world. If you're a Photography Enthusiast, follow this link to check out Mariangela's website and learn more about their upcoming projects: https://mariangelaabeo.com/

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