Oct 25, 2014

Capturing the True Woman: Tori Ava Photography

Victoria Pavlatos is a presvytera, mother and professional portrait photographer in Portland, Oregon, USA. Prevytera Victoria specializes in giving women, especially mothers, confidence and proper self-esteem through photography.

I never intended on being a working mom nor ever could have imagined owning my own business.  We live a fairly conservative life and I homeschooled our children for 10 years.  It wasn't until the last few years that we began to realize that we needed to make some changes in order to financially survive.  Father already had a Masters in Pastoral counseling so he decided to go back and get his license in Marriage & Family therapy so he could counsel at a private practice in addition to being a parish priest.  I never finished my degree because we started a family right away.  I didn't know what I was going to do.  A retail job wouldn't work with our family and church schedule.  I had always loved photography as my hobby and it seemed logical that I should explore that avenue.  Father bought me a nice DSLR camera and registered me for some digital photography classes at the local community college.  I contacted a local photographer that I greatly admired and she agreed to have me intern with her for a year.  I learned so much from her in regards to running a studio, how to handle clients and definitely improved my shooting skills.

We were transferred to Oregon in 2010 and I started my business, Tori Ava Photography.  It was a huge learning curve for me and a time of great adjustment.  Managing 9 children and being a Presvytrea was already a full time job...now I was trying to start a business in a new state, while still managing my family life. Initially I started shooting everyone and everything basically for free.  I needed to build a portfolio and really improve on my shooting.  I found myself burnt out from shooting families and I also noticed that I always was focused on the Mommy.  I wanted the mommy to shine and create a beautiful portrait for her children to cherish.  I also was getting consistent feedback from women about their photos and how beautiful I made them look and feel. When I showed women the back of the camera they would be moved to tears and all say the same thing "is that really me????"   This is where my heart was being moved.   I wanted to work with women.  I wanted to photograph mothers, sisters, grandmothers etc.  I wanted to give them back whatever it was that they had seem to lose sight of.  I wanted to make them feel like a princess for one day.

I also felt a bit conflicted.  How could I help women feel beautiful and yet still promote modesty and humility?  It took much prayer and many conversations with my spiritual father and other pious people for me to realize that God is the creator of beauty.  I think beauty has become something very distorted in today's day and age...but I also don't think that being frumpy is the definition "Godly" beauty.  There had to be a balance.  So many of the young moms that I had talked with over the years had lost their sense of womanhood.  They had been caught up in the idea that in order to be a pious Orthodox woman, they couldn't possess any earthly beauty.  They had stopped taking care of themselves because they were now mommies and didn't have time for such things.  I didn't agree.  I felt like our children should see feminine beauty in their mothers...women should be lovely...not supermodels but lovely.  Our husbands are off all day at work surrounded by the world’s bombardment of distorted beauty. What happens then when they come home to their wife who is in sweat pants, an old t-shirt, hair in a mess piled on top of her head.  The other issue was that the women I knew were no longer wanting their pictures taken.  They were avoiding the camera like the plague. Most had a very low sense of self-worth because they didn't feel like they were beautiful anymore...they had gained too much weight...they had too many wrinkles...they were too grey...too old ....etc etc.  I knew I was just as guilty.   I also knew it was imperative that as women that we exist in photographs for our children.   Before my mother passed away from cancer 10 years ago, she booked a photographer to have family portraits done. These photographs are treasures to me and my whole family.  I thank God that my mom understood the importance of existing in photographs for us.  

I knew this is where I wanted to put my focus.  I had modeled throughout my youth and never liked the actual modeling aspect of the industry.  During those years I did love watching the photographers and crew.  I was fascinated at all the behind the scenes of what was taking place to create a final image.  I learned many things about hair and makeup, posing and lighting.  I wanted to merge those worlds and help everyday normal women feel more beautiful than she could ever imagine....just for a day.  I know that any woman can look like a "supermodel" with the right hair styling, makeup and proper posing.  I didn't however want to create the taboo "glamour shots".  

I prayed for God to show me what to do with all that was going on in my mind.  I wanted to bless others, I wanted to provide for my family all for the glory of God.  He answered my prayer and has opened doors that I could not have dreamt of.   I was blessed to meet one of the most renowned portrait photographers in all the world Miss Sue Bryce.   She was someone I had admired...ok idolized for years.  Her work is known for its beauty of capturing the grace that pours forth from all women.  Not only did I get to meet her, I got to be photographed by her...then my daughter...then I began being mentored by her.   She has taught me just about everything I know in regards to photographing women and how to run a business.  I have now hired 2 makeup artists and have trained my daughter to do hair & makeup as well.  I have also built my own studio this year and hired a design team to revamp my brand and website.  God willing my blog will be up and running before the end of the year. 

I still shoot families and occasionally wedding's for friends...but my focus is primarily on women. A typical session runs about 3 hours.  You come in with no hair or makeup on and you are pampered from the time you walk in until the time you leave.  My incredible beauty team and I will go through the clothing they have brought as well as my collection of couture clothes to pick outfits for the session.  Then you will have your makeover tailored to your taste.  We have lots of fun during this time, enjoying appetizers and getting to know each other.  Once we start shooting the torture begins...just teasing, but it is definitely a workout. 

99.9% of women HATE having their pictures taken.  One of the main reasons is that they don't know what to do in front of the camera.  Unless you are a professional model...no one knows what to do...that's my job!  I pose every client down to their hand position.  I know what looks good for every body type and I pride myself on making women look their best by posing not by photo-shopping the heck out of them.  I always show my client the back of the camera to show how absolutely beautiful they look...this is where most women breakdown.  Then we have to stop and touch up makeup because all of us are usually crying!  During the last 20 minutes of the shoot we invite the hubby and kiddos to come for one beautiful portrait.  And typically they go out for a date because mama is looking absolutely beautiful!  It's very rewarding for me to give women a little piece of something that they thought was gone or maybe they believed it was never even there to begin with.  I'm not advocating that women need to put curlers in everyday and wear false eyelashes...this is a special day…a special experience...that results in an heirloom portrait for their children & family to have forever.

It has been a very overwhelming road...but it's also been full of growth and blessings. I have had to completely surrender myself into God's hands.  He is my only strength.  There is no way I could be doing any of what I am doing on my own.  My schedule is insane. I do most of my editing and business work from midnight to 2am and then were up and 6am to make breakfast and lunches for the kids to leave for school by 7 am.  God has been so good to me and my family and I am so thankful for this crazy, beautiful chaotic life that He has given me!

To see Presvytera Victoria’s work or to inquiry about a photo session, click logo

Tori Ava Photography is also on Facebook


Oct 23, 2014

MELBOURNE: Snapshots of a Sinfonietta with Anastasia Pahos

Up-and-coming Orthodox composer, Anastasia Pahos, will be performing her latest work, Eliksiir, in her first Melbourne concert. A lively and energetic score inspired by the sentiments of Hieromonk Damascene on Mt Athos: "Our thoughts are not ourselves...we are immortal spirits."

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Come on a journey with the innovative Melbourne Metropolitan Sinfonietta in their exciting debut concert at the Abbotsford Convent.

Featuring 6 new works from some of Australia's finest emerging composers, the Sinfonietta is proud to present just a taste of things to come. Alongside these premieres are arrangements of selections from Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, Mahler's 1st Symphony and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Conducted by Michael Bakrnčev and Sascha Kelly, 'The Melbourne Met' hopes you will join us and hear us yourself in our inaugural performance - Snapshots of a Sinfonietta.

WHEN: Wednesday 5th Nov 2014
WHERE: Oratory Room, Abbotsford Convent

TIME: 7:30pm
ADDRESS: 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford, VIC
COST: Adults $15 - Child/Concession $10
TICKETS: available at the door or online

How to get there?
Car: Parking is available at the Convent from $6.

Bus: Routes 200 and 207 travel to the corner of Clarke St and Johnson St. Abbotsford Convent is a short walk from the bus stop.

Train: The nearest train station is Victoria Park Station. Abbotsford Convent is approximately 1km walk from the station. Alternatively, the 200 and 207 buses stop near the station.

Check out


Oct 22, 2014

Know the lingo?

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In this era of globalisation and international trade, CA Lingua-Nexus – Language & Translation Services offers you the highest quality translation and localisation services, private foreign language lessons & tutoring support, liaison interpreting, consecutive interpreting, consulting, proofreading and editing services with fast turnaround times and affordable pricing.

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Based in Europe, CA Lingua-Nexus offers clients first-hand experience in the ST (source text) and TT (target text) EU (European Union) countries and an up-to-date methodical approach towards the achievement of the highest quality translation product or language service.

Aside from servicing numerous companies across Europe i.e. Germany, Italy and UK and even in Australia, production process efficiency is constantly monitored to improve the ways in which we guarantee high quality products with a minimum response time. This is why one of our focuses is that of new translation technologies like the recently-released SDL Trados Studio 2014.

Translation is available in the following language directions:
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CA Lingua-Nexus specialises in the following areas of translation:
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About CA
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, CA Lingua-Nexus Director, Christiana Aloneftis grew up in a bilingual household speaking English and Greek. Inspired by her mother who was a professional Italian Proofreader, Christiana studied both Italian and Greek throughout her primary and secondary education graduating with her Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in 2009 with a high score of 99.75 and the highest mark in the State for Italian & English studies.

After winning numerous awards including the prestigious Australian Student Prize, Christiana commenced a BMus (Performance: Classical Voice) and DipLang (Adv. Italian) at The University of Melbourne. During that time she continued to excel winning the Lin Martin Melbourne Global Scholarship and the Melbourne Global Language Scholarship for study-abroad program excellence.

She began postgraduate study at Monash University after accepting a CSP (Commonwealth Supported Place) position in the Master of Interpreting & Translation Studies (Italian-English) course. Christiana graduated from this course in 2014.

More recently, Christiana won the DAS Overseas Career Scholarship and The Italian Government Scholarship which has enabled her to move to Europe and start-up her business and consulting service. Based in south-west Germany, Christiana splits her time between Milan, Italy and Deutschland working on various projects.

In Australia, Christiana has worked for Opera Australia, in the TALS (Transcultural & Language Services Department) at Northern Health, On-Call Interpreters & Translators, MOLS (Monash Oakleigh Legal Service) and the FLAPS (Family Law Assistance Program). Christiana is an accredited member of AUSIT (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators).

Allow CA Lingua-Nexus to look after all your international communication needs. Do not feel blocked by distance or time. Lessons and consulting can be conducted either in-person or online (Skype). Send us an email and we will organise a plan that fulfils your needs and accommodates your schedule.

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Oct 16, 2014

Granting Dignity to Overlooked Angels: Eliot Rausch

Eliot Rausch is an Orthodox filmmaker from Los Angeles, California. In this article, Matthew Aughtry discusses the uniqueness and spiritual power of Eliot’s work.

By Matthew Aughtry 
Date: October 01, 2014
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My best friend first introduced me to Eliot Rausch while we were both working as videographers for a large church in Arkansas. Our jobs primarily consisted of capturing testimonies and creating promotional videos for upcoming sermon series, but every once in a while we were given the chance to make something more cinematic and creative. These were always our favorite projects to do because although making videos paid the bills, making films was our passion. One day, while he was scouring the Internet for inspiration for one of our creative ideas, my friend came across a video that has stuck with me ever since; it was called “Sermon on the Mound,” and its director was a guy named Eliot Rausch. 

The video (or should I say “film?”) is just over two and a half minutes, but its length in no way limits its powerful effect. In fact, it’s part of the beauty of the piece. The film begins with a man sitting in his car, lighting what I can only assume is a crack pipe. He then looks at the camera and says something about putting his life back together but that he can’t do it in a place like this. Actually he uses a word to describe this place that many people find offensive but which carries a punch that a phrase like “messed up” just doesn’t. After the man finishes speaking there’s no more dialogue. The sound fades out, and music fades up, accompanied by a voiceover quoting the words of Jesus commonly known as “the Beatitudes.”

As the camera makes its way across an ugly urban landscape, we are shown a myriad of individuals that occupy this space. As we listen to this famous passage from Matthew’s gospel, we see glimpses of men and women in situations that seem to embody these words.  Here is where the brevity of the film becomes one of its greatest strengths. In these momentary glances into the lives of individuals, we’re given the chance to create our own story for them. We’re able to see ourselves in the momentary sketches of despair. As we look out of the car window and see people that many of us would likely ignore, we find our own indifference met with the power of that one word: “blessed.”

Years later, after making my way out to the West Coast, I came to recognize the landscape of Eliot’s movies as none other than Los Angeles. Having grown up on a steady stream of popular American films, I haven’t been conditioned to see L.A. the way that Eliot chooses to show it. On television, it’s all beaches and Beverly Hills but not in Eliot’s work. I don’t know how he does it but the sky in his movies always seems grey and full of clouds. This isn’t the land of fun, sun, and excess; it’s the land of the broken, the forgotten, and the rejected. Yet, as the film cries out, it’s also the land of the blessed. As we drive by the people of Los Angeles, the angels that call this city home, we do something that is a foreign concept for most of us to live here; we look at the people. We take notice of the man pushing his bike across the bridge and the woman holding flowers to sell on the side of the road. We see the others around us as human beings instead of obstacles, inconveniences, or dangers to be avoided. We see them as blessed.

When we contacted Eliot about coming to Fuller for a night of dialogue around his films, I was unsure of what his response would be. After all, he’s a busy guy. His email back made me smile. Not only did he say that he’d love to come, he said he’s even given thought to becoming a pastor and that Fuller would be his school of choice since so many of the spiritual mentors who have affected his life personally are graduates of Fuller Seminary. When I heard Eliot talk about his desire to be pastor, I decided to reach out to him and see if we could meet up. After all, my whole life has been a battle between filmmaking and the pastorate. We met up one evening for dinner and talked for almost two hours.  I was a little nervous at first, but after a few minutes in I knew that I had no reason to be. Eliot was not the lofty artist who demanded reverence but was instead a humble friend who offered acceptance. He listened more than he spoke, and he smiled a lot.

As we talked, I told Eliot that he may very well be called to be a pastor in the traditional sense, but I also told him that I felt he was, in fact, already pastoring through his work. The kinds of places he shows through his lens are places that many Christians in America avoid. The people he shows are those most of us would deem as too dangerous to acknowledge. The stories he tells are not ones most of us hear in our churches every Sunday.

Yet, the places he shows are the places where I have no doubt Jesus would go. More than that, I believe that they are the places where Jesus is. Some may say that Eliot gives a dignity to his subjects that they don’t often receive in the media or in life, but I think it’s more true to say that his films simply show the dignity that is already there, a dignity that is overwhelming for those of us who ignore such people on a daily basis. The stories he tells aren’t ones most of us hear in church on Sunday, but they’re ones that we need to hear. Eliot told me that sometimes churches will ask to use his videos but often request that he edit out some of the bits that make them uncomfortable (cursing, drug use, etc.). He always refuses these requests. 

I’m sure that there were many people who liked Jesus’ parables, minus one or two bits that made them squirm. Yet, if we allow ourselves to edit stories and people who make us uncomfortable then we make no room for God. If everything is nice and clean, if the world is basically all right, then there is no need for the cross. If we alter the parts of the story that seem disagreeable then we lose the message of grace, the very thing that makes the Christian story so beautiful. I’m glad that Eliot refuses such changes. In a church culture that asks us to clean up before being welcomed, Eliot shows us a world where God’s grace pervades the worst parts of the world. More than that, his work seems to suggest that God is more active, more present, and more at home in the people and places at the fringes of our society. That may seem like a crazy idea, but it doesn’t take a bible scholar to know that this is at the heart of the Gospel. 

As we spoke, Eliot asked me for my opinion on the popularity of his videos. What draws millions of people to watch these short films? I told him that I didn’t know for sure, but I could venture a guess. Perhaps, I said, it has something to do with Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he says, “We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Clay pots are not very strong. In fact, that’s the point. The vessel itself is so fragile, so thin, that the power of God shines through more clearly. When we hear addicts, homeless people, and ex-convicts speaking about the gospel, we know that they believe it. More than that, we can hear that they are wholly reliant upon it because they have no illusion of self-sufficiency. Unlike so many church members who do their best to pretend that everything in their life is really okay, these people remind us of our daily need for God. When we hear them speak we know that we should sound more like them. Blessed are the poor in spirit, indeed. I often hide behind my education, my savings account, and my marketable skills, but people like this show me that I’m not just trying to cover up my flaws or insecurities, I’m hiding the power of God that is at work within me. Eliot’s films are not only encouraging, they are convicting.

After meeting Eliot in person, I came to see that he not only makes films about people like this, he is one of these people. Being around someone who is so honest about his own fears and shortcomings is shocking at first, uncomfortable even. But after a few moments it has this crazy effect: it makes you honest about these things, too. I sat and talked for hours with Eliot about his struggle with an addiction to success, about being wholly reliant on Christ in the midst of an industry that rewards ego and self-reliance, and about making movies out of an overflow of joy from God instead of a need to be filled up with praise of people. It was honestly one of the best conversations I’ve had in years, and I don’t just mean about filmmaking. I had come to meet this artist that I admired, and I left encouraged not to go and be a better artist myself but to be a better person, a better Christian.

While working at the church, my friend and I made many films that were inspired in no small part by Eliot’s movies; we even flat-out stole a few of his shots. I didn’t know the guy behind these movies, but his talent blew me away. I thought that Eliot’s greatest gifts were the films he made and the talent he used to make them. As I’ve gradually come to know Eliot, though, it’s become clear to me that real gift is Eliot himself. He’s a filmmaker who uses his gifts to show us a world and a people that the church ignores too readily but which is the key to its existence. He’s a pastor who uses a camera to give us a new way of hearing Jesus’ words about those who are blessed. He’s a dear brother in Christ who desperately doesn’t want to be known for his own efforts but for the power of God at work in his weakness.

So I’m so excited that Eliot is coming to Fuller Theological Seminary. Not because of the great conversations that the event is sure to generate or the power of his films which are sure to inspire us but because Eliot Rausch lives his life as a tool in the hands of another artist. Because as he works hard telling the stories of people that are disregarded, he’s simultaneously telling another story. This story takes up his whole life, his work and words exude with its joy, and it is, according to him and so many who came before him, the greatest story ever told.

Check out Eliot’s work, click the icons


Oct 15, 2014

Making the cut

Stephan Robinson – an Orthodox Christian from Australia, now living in England – has made the long-list for The Pitch short-film pitching contest, but he needs to get votes to progress to the short-list.

The film is a sci-fic take on the story of the Three Wise Men.

The winning pitch will win a £25,000 budget to have the film made. It would be awesome for an ORTHODOX FILMMAKER to win, so please VOTE!

SHARE this post with your friends and help Stephan make it into the next stage. 

Be sure to check out Stephan’s YouTube channel & subscribe.


Oct 13, 2014

Divine rhythm: composer Anastasia Pahos

The music I write embodies the faith I aspire to experience every second of my life. Whilst relatively short, the life I have lived has been filled with an intensity of joys, challenges, soul-stripping, and truth-seeking that has granted me with the maturity and, dare I say, insight of a life much longer lived. To get to where I am today – musically, emotionally, spiritually – I needed to reach a point where my faith was all that I had left to cling on to in life. I have not done the factual, theological, and historical research into Orthodoxy to the extent that many converts to the faith have so bravely (and thankfully) pursued. My experience – the change that truly made and continues to make the biggest difference – comes from the heart or, perhaps more accurately, the nous that has rightfully placed my mind within my heart.

I think it is fair to say that composers are troubled souls; especially those who yearn for a spiritual dimension within their music. Whether I’m composing a symphony, chamber music, or music for voices, it is my way of reaching out passionately to Heaven – for comfort, enlightenment, peace, forgiveness, strength, love; the list goes on. With each piece that I compose, it is almost as if what I’ve written on the page is an embodiment of my spiritual progress thus far; tangible descriptive evidence of the struggles I’ve faced on my journey toward God…and a reminder of the path I pray to keep following. Before I embark on composing a piece, I endure days of self-inflicted inner turmoil through doubting my ability, through lingering on the knowledge of the time, effort, and exhaustion that come with writing sacred or spiritually-inspired music...and fear. Thinking about writing music is frightening. Frightening because I must meet and converse with my deepest thoughts and emotions, and because I don’t know where the music comes from; how it comes about. And sadly, it is only until I go through this stressful momentum, time and time again, where I reach this point of acknowledging the unknown that I am able to recognise the need to let go of relying on myself. I realise that my ability is not my own. It is a gift. And I have once more been foolish enough to attempt to use this gift without treading down the path and using the method provided for me by my faith: prayer.

Before embarking on composing a sacred work, I need to dedicate a few days to prayer, contemplation, and reading material by spiritual fathers, monastics, or other Orthodox Christian laypeople. A compositional concept itself may be inspired by something as simple as a hand gesture or a thought, an emotion or even an inanimate object, however my music is generally brought to life through prayer and contemplation. Yes, composition and prayer…they’re quite inseparable, really. Composition is my expression of divine experience and, at the same time, that yearning for such an experience.

Being blessed with the gift of composing music has brought me success after success. Part of this, I think, is due to the unique sound-world my music creates. Being infused with or inspired by Christian Orthodoxy, as well as my Eastern European musical heritage, my compositions that are grounded in Western harmonic practice are given a dimension very rarely heard in both the past and current Western musical landscapes. Epic yet at the same time achieving an almost painful intimacy with its listeners, my music is also influenced by the Australian natural landscape and composers Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, and Ross Edwards.

As my website – www.anastasiapahos.com – shows, my focus is on classical rather than electroacoustic composition, having written several works for orchestra, choir, as well as a wide variety of other chamber ensembles. I do encourage you to peruse this website, which contains information regarding my musical training, professional activity, achievements, list of compositions, audio samples of my work, list of performances, and contact details.

With or without faith, a composer’s life may indeed be bittersweet. With the Faith, however, a composer’s life has the potential to be a foretaste of Heaven. To be near Our Heavenly Father; to possibly bring others close to Him also…well, what greater motivation to compose music is there than that?

To visit Anastasia’s site, click photo


Oct 12, 2014

Angela Doll Carlson book signing

Parnassus Books is thrilled to welcome Angela Doll Carlson for a discussion and signing of her new book, Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition.

From Catholic schoolgirl to punk rocker to emergent church planter, Angela Doll Carlson traveled a spiritual path that in many ways mirrors that of a whole generation. She takes us with her on a deep and revealing exploration of the forces that drove her toward Orthodoxy and the challenges that long kept her from fully entering in.

Angela Doll Carlson is a poet and essayist best known for her work as Mrs. Metaphor found on her blog at Mrsmetaphor.com She connects the dots of daily life in an attempt to humbly reach the deep "a-ha" we all seek. Angela began to write as Mrs. Metaphor in 2006 and has maintained a modest but dedicated following ever since. Angela currently lives in Chicago, IL with her husband, David and her 4 outrageously spirited yet remarkably likable children. 

Date: Thursday, 16th Oct
Time: 6:30pm
Where: Parnassus Books
Address: 3900 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37215, USA