I have been promising that I am going to write about the Lonely Places Series (The set can be found here).  I don’t know if this suffices, but if I keep waiting until I have enough time to feel like I am doing it justice, this may never happen.  Such is the life of a perfectionist, unfortunately.  Before I dive into a tangent as is my habit, let me tell you how this concept came to life.  I have noticed that how much variation there is among the people I know – well, mostly my friends, as we tend not to confide in non-friends about being lonely – in terms of whether they like being alone, whether they see being alone resulting in positive outcomes – like reflecting on life, freedom in action & in thought, and so on – and whether they see being alone as being lonely.  For me, the two are significantly different.  I have been lonely among people, and I have been alone without being lonely.  Nevertheless, I started thinking about what kinds of places reflect loneliness, and what we can get from that feeling.  I certainly don’t believe that being lonely is necessarily nor consistently a negative space. Nor do I think it is positively so.  It depends on what you need at that moment, and where your head is.

Today’s photograph came from my realizing that often one feels lonely because one feels trapped – and more often than not, our traps are self-made. We create our own cages and our own traps. Which means it is only ourselves who will free us and bring about freedom.  It reminds me of this line from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden: “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.”


Outfit: Zibska, Aoide; Horns: RO, Baphomet; Skin: Glam Affair, Zara; Hair: Shi, Blown; Pose: e9&heavyT, Baby2

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I am not a big fan of quotes; mostly because it seems like people are attached to them without actually applying them in their lives, or considering them deeply in terms of their consequences.  Nevertheless, I want to open this piece by a quote from Maya Angelou – not just because her loss is tremendous to the literary scene, but also because this month’s guest is one that fits this quote beautifully: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

I was introduced to Sina’s work a little over a year ago.  In one of my late night explorations of Flickr, I saw a portrait of this amazing avatar.  As I have said over and over before, artists tend to have avatars that stand out, and are not simply a beautiful doll.  The portrait I saw certainly had those qualities – just an amazing creation.  I tried to find her, and once I did it all made sense.  Her artwork stand out as she does.  First, the work seems exceptionally mature for someone so young.  Typically, an artist starts in this young untrained voice where sometimes it is even hard for them to distinguish a work that has been refined and polished from one that is just emotional vomit.  To have developed the skill to create thoughtful expressions of emotion takes time and maturity.  Secondly, her artistic creation really took flight in SL, which is a topic that is of particular interest to me but I will leave the details of why and how to my next rambling.  

As you know, I often ask my guests to take a picture of us.  And, unless they refuse (yes one or two have), we end up with a picture of us which I always treasure.  Sina was one of those who were kind enough to find time to let me visit her studio and partake in a photo shoot with her.

Leda Carter: It is great to see you again, Sina. And, I have to say it again – you have one of the coolest avatars around.
Sina Souza: Oh, thank you very much *smiles* Great to see you too.

Leda: Thank you for letting me visit your studio.
Sina:  Welcome.  This is my empty art box! *laughs*  Here I create all of my images.

Leda: Then this is a perfect place to talk about the creative process.  Usually, do you already have in mind the image you are seeking to create?
Sina: Yes, mostly I have the concept in my mind, the rough look of the Image. Then, I  search for the perfect pose, objects and windlight for the location.  I buy my props because I am not the best builder. *laughs*  The search for things can be pretty hard and claims a lot of my time.  Then, the rest of the work I  do in Photoshop.  Sometimes, the end result is different from the concept I had at the beginning.  It’s like a happy accident then.

Remember MeRemember Me by Sina Souza 

Leda: I am curious if you are an artist in RL as well?
Sina: Yes, because I think that all artists in Second Life are also artists in Real Life.  Second Life is only our platform, our tool to create our Works of Art.  Just because a painter uses a brush or a musician plays an instrument, that does not mean we are not a RL artist, because we use a digital medium. Our brush is just the computer mouse!

Leda: I understand the similarity in conceptual terms.  But, I was wondering if what you do in RL related to your SL life at all, and whether SL opened a door for you to free your creativity?
Sina:  In RL, I  work in the medical field.  It’s totally different to my creativity in SL.  It’s a pretty tough job, exhausting and stressful.  With my SL Work, I can calm down and relax.

The Laws of NatureThe Laws of Nature by Sina Souza 

You know, joining SL was actually more of a spontaneous decision that emerged from boredom.  Although I had read about SL a little bit, I had not exactly understood what it was. So, I just signed up and explored this foreign world.  I initially tried many things, for example dancer, model, and manager of a club.  But, to create images became my big love here in Second Life!

Leda: How did you discover this great love?  Was it something you actively pursued?
Sina: No, that was not planned. Honestly, at first I had no plan at all * laughs*  I would explore a lot of different sims and thus, I came across some great Galleries.  For example, the Gallery of Anita Witt who blew me literally away with the quality of the images.   From this day on, I wanted to work out to be sometime just as good.

Burning InsideBurning Inside by Sina Souza 

Leda: Have you taken any of your SL art pieces you make to RL?
Sina: I don’t taken any of my art in RL, but you can buy prints of some of my works at Fineartamerica.com. And, my mother bought some of my works there! I thought about an RL exhibition, but when I do it, I will do it only as anonymous person.

I do not like being the center of anything.  I am somewhat retracted in away, and do not want the hustle & bustle around myself.  My paintings are often very personal and it should stay that way without knowing who is behind these images.

Leda: Is your thinking that it adds strength to the impact if the artist is unknown, or is it simply a personal preference to remain anonymous?
Sina: Good question! I do think that it makes the work interesting, because you just do not know much about the artist, about his motives. But, it is also a personal attitude.  Not everyone wants such intimate things to be freely accessible for everyone.

Identity CrisisIdentity Crisis by Sina Souza 

Leda: Do you see any particular relationship between art and technology? For example, one could suggest that technology has made art more accessible to people.
Sina: Absolutely! Second Life is the best example for this. I guess if I had not tried out Second Life, then I would never have become so interested in art.  I often meet people here who are fascinated when I show them the big art scene here in SL.  Before that, they were only in clubs for example – dancing, flirting and that kind of stuff.  Now, they explore exhibitions, art Installations and so on.

Leda: How did you learn the technical aspects of being a digital artist?
Sina: At the beginning, I downloaded Gimp and looked at two or three tutorials on YouTube. After that, I’ve just tried it by myself.  I’ve clicked everything to see what effect it brings to the setting.  After I could deal with Gimp, I bought PhotoShop, and learned it the same way as Gimp.  It was more of a self-study and a lot of invested time.  But it was all worth it. *smiles*

In the Crosshair of a NationIn the Crosshair of A Nation by Sina Souza 

Leda: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Sina: My images are mainly reflections of my mind. Childhood memories, adventures and experiences of my environment.  I lived all my life in a deprived area with a high crime rate and witnessed my father only as an alcoholic.  That was a tough time for me; it is also reflected in my pictures.  Because of that, I see many things with different eyes and from different perspectives.  Also, I’m probably also self-critical, as well as critical of society when it comes to the subjects of my images.  I love to encourage people – with my images – to think, even if it does not always work *winks*

Leda: As I mentioned before, your avatar has such a unique style too. Does your style reflect your personal taste in RL?
Sina: Yes, I absolutely love this style. But, this does not mean that I’m running around in RL as a robot *laugh*  You could realize a lot of themes and ideas with this science-fiction look.  But, in RL, I walk around differently and am rather not so happy experimenting, because otherwise everyone would laugh at me on the street!

It is a Matter of PerspectiveIt’s A Matter of Perspective by Sina Souza 

Leda:  Tell us a little something about the person behind the avatar.
Sina: I think I’m a minimalist, because I am satisfied with the small things in life which, fortunately, are available to me.  But, when it comes to work, I’m a perfectionist and a workaholic.   Otherwise, I am – I think – a very sociable person with whom you can laugh and have fun.   I love summer and hate winter *chuckles* and I feel good when I have the time to hang out with friends, to make a bit of nonsense together. 

Leda: What keeps you coming back to SL?
Sina: The work on my images and the creativity of the people in SL.  It’s fantastic what the community creates. All the great sims, installations, exhibitions, sculptures, images, or SL concerts. It’s always fun to explore this large wingspan of creative results and to meet all these people of different cultures and nations.

In SL, I most of all I enjoy working on my pictures though. For me, this is a perfect counterbalance to calm down from the daily stress.  I can thereby turn off all my worries of RL, and can do something with my creativity.  It is definitely a way to feel better.

Leda: Does anything in SL relate to your RL?
Sina: I keep my real life mostly from SL, because I want to be evaluated only on the basis of my work.  I do not want minus or plus points of others, just because of my personality or my look.  Apart from that, I take the creativity of SL into RL, and SL is also a very good opportunity to keep your English up-to-date!

Leda: It has been such a pleasure to visit with you. And, thank you for this wonderful picture of us.  I love it!

Shooting with Leda

For those of you interested in exploring more of Sina’s work, in addition to her Flickr stream, she has contributed work to the Arts in Hats Exhibition, which just started today!  Also, there is an exhibition in conjunction with the fabulous Bryn Oh – called Technology – which is at the Station Skywalk Gallery.  Finally, you can visit Sina’s own gallery called Mind Factory.



Recently, I had the great pleasure of meeting a very special SL photographer, Marcopol Oh.  I have been following his work for a few years, and I have watched his evolution from being a good artist to a great one. If my swiss-cheese memory is cooperating, the very first of his photographs that held my attention, and made me think “hm, now this is interesting” was this photograph of a Kunglers dress done for Modavia Fashion Directory.  Over that year and the next, his photographs repeatedly stood out to me.  This was not only due to his sense of style but also his technical skills.  The combination of the two in Marco’s work stops you in your tracks.  He can turn your avatar into something that is real enough to make it feel genuine without its losing the sense of being a creation of your own. If you have not seen any of his work, I strongly recommend that you take a peek and be in awe of his art.

Selfie_FB_small.pngMarco is not just a photographer.  He also designs and creates clothing and skins.  In fact, I struggled a bit when I was deciding whether he would best fit in our Meet SL Photographer series, or Fashion Design series.  These are the challenges of having uber talented guests!  Speaking of talent, I remember a particular comment on Marco’s work when he started making clothes. He had posted a picture of a dress he had just made (his very first one) and was asking if it looked good enough (needless to say that people were willing to buy it immediately off the rack).  A friend commented: “stop being so talented!”  I am happy to report here that he has not stopped.  

It is artists like Marco who refuse to stop, and be satisfied, that move art and culture forward.  Actually, this is true in all aspects of our lives, such as science and technology, as well as art.  A while ago, I read this great quote by Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  It is the presence and the drive of people who think beyond the faster horses and think of what could be that move us forward and prevent the world from going stale.  I bring this up because there are a number of points in Marco’s stream where you would think that many people would have simply stopped at that point, because the work looked really good.  But, not our Marco.  He keeps pushing the edge to see where he can go with his talent and art.  

As always, when I meet artists, I am curious to know whether their SL art is carried over from RL, or whether it is a new door that was opened only in SL.  Naturally, that’s where I started my chat with Marco.

Leda Carter: Marco, it is wonderful to finally meet you in-world. Do you happen to also be an artist in RL, and have the same sense of style?

Marcopol Oh: Absolutely. I have the same style in both worlds.

I used to work in the fashion industry as a makeup artist. But, I stepped away from doing that 2 years ago, as the fashion industry has changed a lot lately – rates decreased when competition increased, and I started to get bored. I still accept some jobs, only when good friends ask me to collaborate on a special shoot.


Leda: How did you join the SL community in the first place?

Marco: Back in January of 2007, I was watching TV news and the journalist spoke about this ‘virtual world named second life’. This caught my attention and piqued my curiosity.  The following day, I logged in and instantly realized that it could be an amazing way to express creativity.

Leda: How did your photography evolve and take shape?

Marco: I first started to create furniture for my own use, as I couldn’t find what I wanted.  My friends suggested that I open a store to be able to sell my creations.

After 2 years of building and selling furniture, I had the idea of creating jewelry.  One day, someone who was already known as a blogger IMed me, asking for a custom work. We became friends and he’s the one who helped me discover Flickr & led me to take some pictures of my creations to advertise them.


These days. I focus on making clothing and skins. I also make some poses for my own use, and put them in my store only when I find them to be good enough to be sold.  I enjoy making clothes (La Penderie de Nicole), as much as I enjoy making skins (Clef de Peau).  I can switch when I get bored, or when there is a lack of inspiration for one of these.  So, I think I can consider myself as lucky, because I am never bored, and can always find something to entertain myself.

Anyhow, creating photographs of my designs was the very first step.  I don’t think there is just one recipe for being a “good” SL photographer.  Personally, I always try to find a pose that matches the clothes and hair that my avatar wears, and then I play with the wind-light tool until I find the right light. Then, I save my photos in png files .


I know tutorials are very helpful, but they can become boring after a while.  Personally, I never watched any tutorials concerning PS.  I know this will sound silly, but when I started to use photoshop I had no clue that I could find tutorials on Youtube. *laughs*  Lately, I’ve been watching tutorials about Maya, because 3D softwares are much more complex and difficult to learn. It’s a long process, and patience is the key as soon as you decide to learn how to use a software properly.


Leda: What are some of the challenges of being an amazing SL photographer?

Marco:  The first challenge was to learn how to use photoshop. I remember, the first day, I had no idea how it worked, but I was so excited and pressed every buttons to see what happens.

Five years later, I still learn how to use the software and I try to get better each time I edit a picture.  This is a long process: I add many layers, draw over the raw picture, add some shadows here and there to give it more depth, and play with the light effects until I get something that is close to realism.


Leda: How to do you spend your time in SL when not doing photography projects?

Marco:  I create skins and clothing for both genders. I spend a lot of time working, and I enjoy it.  But, I also need to take breaks sometimes. Photography is a way to relax for me as I consider it a hobby. I like to go shopping with my friends too.  I also go to private parties when they are given by my closest friends.

Leda:  Tell us a little something about the person behind the avatar.  Who is Marco’s typist?

Marco:  I consider myself very lucky because I share my time between Paris and the countryside, so I have two different sources of inspiration, city environment and nature, which is a great balance.


Leda: So, you are French?

Marco: I am French, but I was born in Morocco & my parents moved back to France when I was 14.  We first moved to the French Riviera, in Antibes.  Then, we moved to Paris after I finished high school.  I went to the Louvres Museum School, and studied History of Art – Egyptology and Symbolism in the 19th century paintings.  But, I didn’t get my diploma because I was discovered, on the subway, by a modeling agency scout, and worked as a model for a few years.  This led me to start doing makeup, because I always liked to draw since I was a child. My youth spent in Morocco, in terms of colors, lights, and architecture impressed me a lot.

Leda: I love Paris. How do you like living there?

Marco: Paris is a wonderful city.  I love walking in the small streets, and discover old buildings.  There are so many hidden treasures, and so many art galleries and exhibitions that it is impossible to get bored when you live in Paris.

Leda: It sounds like a wonderful SL and RL life, Marco.  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, and for this gorgeous creation. I love this picture.



As many of you know, I spend a fair amount of time on flickr looking at various artists’  work and following their evolution, and their favorite works.  The main reason for this is that our photography series (Meet SL Photographer) started with the mission to introduce artists that make the world look amazing – either in the pictures or in-world – and to bring to you faces to watch for in the coming years.

Recently, in one of my flickr paths, I landed on a page that held my attention.  The artist did not have a super popular page, like those where every picture has hundreds of faves and fifty-nine comments.  She looked fairly new to the field.  I continued looking at the work she displayed for another few weeks, and decided she is definitely an artist to watch.  NicBor has a fun sense of style, good sense of composition, and an acute sense of lighting.  As I kept enjoying every time she posted a new picture, I finally called her up to meet and have a chat.

I arrived at her house where cute little kitties walk about. They are the replacement for her not being able to care for them in RL due to serious allergies. We had a good laugh about that, before settling down in her living room where she spent a great amount of time not only chatting with me but patiently looking at skins and hairs I was suggesting for our photo session.  Her work turned out beautifully and she did capture the mood I was in as well.

Leda through Nic’s Eyes

Leda Carter: Nic, it is great to meet you. Thank you for your time and letting me visit you in your house.
NicBor: Pleasure.

Leda: From your profile, it doesn’t look like you have been around much. What brought you to SL?
Nic: Well, I’ve been on IMVU for few years and it was one of those days when your closest friends thought it was time to move onto another platform. So, we did and here we are.

Leda: Ah, so that’s how you have landed here.  How would you sum up your experience so far?
Nic: It has been a great start to my virtual journey.  Lots of talented people around, and tons of creativity. I appreciate it a lot.  So, I am enjoying my virtual journey enormously.

“Come Out And Play With Us” by NicBor

Leda: That’s wonderful to hear.  What are some of the things/places/people that give you the most pleasure in SL?
Nic: Sadly, I have not had the time to really explore SL just yet. I have limited time to be online due to my day job, and when I am online I am either taking photos or working on few other job assignments on SL. Having said that, I fully intend to explore places very soon.
Generally, I am almost always taking pics or thinking of different concepts for photos.  Other than that, I go around mostly shopping for interesting props for photos… or feed my cats. *laughs*

Leda: I have to tell you, you are an amazing newbie.  When i was 6 months old, I still was running around with my skirt not fitting right, and was sleeping under bridges.
Nic: *laughs* Thank you.  I think being on IMVU helped me a lot to adjust here.  It wasn’t as if I weren’t familiar with avatars.  And, I have a few friends who were here for many years. It just took a long time for me to get to their invitation.

“Serendipity” by NicBor

Leda: How did you start on your photography path? Did you do that on IMVU as well?
Nic: In IMVU I created furnitures, clothes etc.  I did take pictures there too, and did some edits as well. But, I was mostly a creator there.
I am not quite sure myself how I started taking photos on SL, but I can tell you that I am a real noob if you will. I probably have lots to learn, experience and explore in terms of photography, and just in general on Second Life.  Photography definitely evolved on its own.  I need to be productive in a virtual world or in RL.  I couldn’t just come on here and not do anything like creating or designing.  So, the first thing I did was to play around with the lightings, and then I was hooked.

Leda: I think for most people I have spoken with their SL profession was not a focused mission when they started SL, but often it has its roots in their RL and their passion.  Does this passion for art and photography have its roots in RL for you as well?
Nic: I’ve always been interested in the creative process of any art – paintings, designs, photography, performing arts and so on and so forth. Creating art in your head with an idea or a concept, and then delivering it to your audience for their interpretation is a keen interest to me. So I’d say this is my RL interest as well as SL.

“Conversation With The Gods” by NicBor

Leda: Since you had not planned this from the start, how did you develop your technical skills?
Nic: I must confess, it is pretty difficult to ‘learn’ in SL as in if you don’t have friends who are ‘senior citizens’ (that’s what I call veterans on SL for laughs) to help you.  As a beginner, you have no clue whatsoever, you just need to click around and see where it gets you by trial and error. But, I suppose I got the hang of it by reading lots of tutorials and by making mistakes.

Leda: From these lessons and mistakes, are there any tips you would share with our readers?
Nic: Well, I am no expert.  As I said, I am considerably new to SL so I can only tell you what I’d like to see as a viewer. I appreciate photos that tell stories and provoke my emotions. Needless to say, techniques are as important, but a perfect shot with no soul would be a pity. With a great risk of sounding cliché, I’d say if you sing with your voice or dance with your body, I’ll listen with my ears or watch with my eyes, but if you sing or dance with your soul, it is my emotions that will respond. Same philosophy goes for photos.  After all, it is art.

“Transition” by NicBor

Leda: I absolutely agree with you. If an artist does not have their own voice, the emotional connection with the audience cannot happen. For you, what inspires your artistic sense?
Nic: Greatness inspire me, the grandeur of one’s intellect or one’s gracious and beautiful movement or one’s humanity, raw talent or wit. Of course in reality you don’t get to witness these qualities everyday, but when I do meet or even briefly cross their path, I feel tremendously inspired in all aspects of my life.

Leda: Since Valentine’s day is around the corner, I was wondering if you take clients in case any of our readers would be interested in offering that as a gift. Some of my friends like to gift a photo-shoot session to their loved ones. And don’t tell anyone, but I love receiving those too. hehe.
Nic: Sure, I would take clients, But I worry whether the client could trust me and let me handle the shoot and the processing in my style. Do you know what I mean?

Leda: Absolutely. You don’t want them to bring in someone else’s work with a completely different sense of style and ask for one just like it.
Nic: Exactly. I would want them to let me handle the whole thing in my style.

“Urban Kyoto” by NicBor

Leda: Speaking of style, do you have the same sense of style in RL?
Nic: My avatar is fearless! She has her hair really short in platinum blonde; she wears extremely low cuts and walks around sims with no problems.  Lacking in guts, of course I wouldn’t be able to that in RL. Although, we are both very keen on simplicity, classics and neutral tones with dash of striking color from time to time.

Leda:  As always, I am curious about about the person behind the avatar.  What can you tell us about her?
Nic: That’s a tough question.  Let’s do this, I am gonna give you ten words that would accurately or loosely describe the person behind my bold avatar. I only say accurately or loosely because we are the worst critique of ourselves.
Disciplined, conservative, confident, anal (Can I say that?), uptight, blunt, fair, generous, creative but mostly I’d like to think that I am a good soul.

“Comme Il Faut” by NicBor

Leda: Do you adhere to this philosophy of keeping RL and SL separate?
Nic: I think in virtual or in reality we are faced with the equal amounts of complexity in terms of human interactions. I treat everyone on SL exactly the way I’d treat them in RL. Friends are friends, analogue or digital.

Leda: Thank you so much for your time, Nic. It was a pleasure to know you.



Zibska: A Fashionable Marriage of Art and Innovation

Collar: Zibska, La Vie En Deux (Hair by Diva; Skin by Glam Affair; Pose by Del May; Build by William Weaver) I have known about Zibska for a couple of years now. I have yet to see a design or an idea that would disappoint.  In fact, I have shown photos of  Zibska creations to [...]

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Leda’s Rambling: Go Ahead, Expose the Skeletons in Your Closet

  2012 releases- outfit: Gizza, Passion and Glory; skin: [PXL], Kate Damned; hair: Vita, Irene; ring: P.C., Polished Stones; @Black Kite If you are about to tell me that you don’t have any skeletons in your closet, I will tell you that you probably have not lived a full life.  I don’t care how conservative [...]

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Leda’s Rambling: Trees Are Made of Me

Dress: Zibska, Corvo; Hair: Zibska, Epoque; Pose: Del May, Exquisite; Location: World’s End Garden My nephew of two and a half years old stands in front of the mirror admiring all of his own 2.5ft covered in a white button-down shirt and jeans. “I am a boy!” he half-screams. “Yes, you are!” I smile back. [...]

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Leda’s Rambling: There Is a Crack in Everything

I doubt that there are any among you who have never seen profiles that make various claims, err disclaims rather, about not wanting drama.  You might have one of these statements in  your profile, in fact.  They range from drama-free zone labels, to elaborate paragraphs on how this avatar avoids all drama, to anything in between.  Inevitably, [...]

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Home is Where the Heart Is

  I will admit that for most of my SLife, I have been homeless.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a pity case.  I usually end up sleeping in some very beautiful places, albeit public, and under gorgeous brick bridges. It does become a problem when you want to sort through your inventory, rummaging [...]

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Meet This Sim: Annwn Willows

Guest Contributor: Finn Aries Amarilum at Annwn Willows, Photo: Leda Carter This week, Finn and I bring to your attention a sim that is exceptional on more than one account.  Some of you might know this sim as Just Visiting, but it recently went through some renovation and is called Annwn Willows.  This sim is [...]

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