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How A Dancer Turned Her Creativity Into A Career In Photography With Shannel Resto | Ep #98

August 29, 2023

How A Dancer Turned Her Creativity Into A Career In Photography With Shannel Resto | Ep #98 Shannel Resto began her career as a professional dancer in New York City, but she had always had a love for photography as well. Shannel launched SJR Photography as a “side hustle” taking photos around the city, while […]

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How A Dancer Turned Her Creativity Into A Career In Photography With Shannel Resto | Ep #98

Shannel Resto began her career as a professional dancer in New York City, but she had always had a love for photography as well. Shannel launched SJR Photography as a “side hustle” taking photos around the city, while she rehearsed for performances and tried to pay the bills. Shannel began photographing performances and fashion events capturing artists from the point of view of being an artist herself. She pivoted to design a new career for herself and she shares her story of second act success on Episode 98 of the Second Act Success Career Podcast.


Contact Shannel Resto:

Instagram- @s.j.rphotography


Author of Capture The Colors Book

Related episodes: 

Episode 15- Professional Dancer To Executive Producer with Diane Mizota

Episode 92- From A Side Hustle Job To A Fulltime Photography Business with Photographer Christina Greenberg

Shannel Resto, SJR Photography

Shannel Resto, Artist, Photographer, Dancer, Author







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Second Act Success Career Podcast
Season 1 - How A Dancer Turned Her Creativity Into A Career In Photography
Episode - #98
Host: Shannon Russell
Guest: Shannel Resto
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)

[00:00:00] Shannon Russell: guess what we are close to our 100th episode of the show and to celebrate, I am going to be playing some messages from you, the listeners. So, if you would like to leave a message about what you like about the podcast, or maybe an aha moment of something that you have taken away from one of the episodes. You can go over to I look forward to listening to your messages and possibly sharing them here on our 100th episode. Thanks so much.

[00:00:34] Shannel Resto: when I was in New York, I was dancing. I was in a company, and so I was fulfilling that. Dream that my three year old self had.

But once I got to Atlanta, I was mourning dance because I was breaking up with it. And now I'm to a point where, no, I'm not breaking up with dance.

I can still dance I'm not dancing for applause. I don't need the applause anymore. It's just for myself,

[00:00:55] Shannon Russell: . Hey you. Are you feeling stuck, desperate for a career [00:01:00] change or thinking of starting a business but you're just not sure how to make your first move? I'm television producer, turn Career coach Shannon Russell, and this is the Second Act Success Career podcast. This is where you will not only get the career advice you've been craving, but you'll get tips from career and business.

Experts along with inspiration from others who have made a career transition to find Second Act Success. Let's get started.

[00:01:28] Shannon Russell: It is time for an all new episode of the Second Act Success Career Podcast. I am so happy. You're here. On this episode, I will be joined by professional dancer, turned photographer, Shannel Resto. Shannel danced, professionally in New York city. While also taking photographs on the side to pay the bills. She loved both jobs and she really struggled to figure out which passion she should turn into her full time career. Guess what Shannel realized that she could do [00:02:00] both.

Let's dive into my interview with Shannel Resto of SJR Photography.

[00:02:07] Shannon Russell: Welcome to Second Act Success. I'm here with Shannel Resto. Shannel, I'm so happy to have you here.

[00:02:13] Shannel Resto: Hi everyone, and thank you so much for having me.

[00:02:16] Shannon Russell: We were introduced by a mutual friend and your story is just so perfect for the show and so inspirational.

So let's kick it off. Why don't you tell us where your journey, your career journey began?

[00:02:29] Shannel Resto: I started off as a professional dancer. I've been dancing since I was three years old, and when I got to high school, I decided I wanted to go to a performing arts high school. So I went to Boston Arts Academy, and from there I was like, okay, I'm gonna be a dance major.

I had my whole life planned out from Thet. My mom would joke that, you know, I. Come back from home at the age of seven, and be [00:03:00] like, I can't do that. My reputation and my mom's like, your reputation. You're in first grade. What is wrong with you? I'm like, well, when I go to high school and then I go to college, I have to make sure this is, this is this.

So I've always been very like, very direct with what I wanted to do. From going to high school as a dance major, I then automatically was like, I'm gonna be a dance major in college. So I went to Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts. Through there I danced and then I realized, okay, I have to make some money

I'm really big believer on doing things that make you happy. That's kind of what success is to me. So I decided to do photography.

I had been photographing my whole life as well. My parents are super young, so my mom, she had me when she was a teenager, and so as we kind of grew up, I would take all her photos with like disposable cameras and she always had me kind of with her. She was also into the [00:04:00] broadcasting and film kind of world when she went to college.

So I was always around that. So I was like, okay, I'm gonna do like, Side hustle, $50, portrait shoots, head shots. Started doing that. I moved to London my junior year for a year and I danced at Trinity Laban Conservatory. while I was there I was like, I want to try something new.

So I did an internship with photography instead of dance. And I took a chance for myself. When I moved back, the next step in my book of, my whole life that I planned was to move to New York City.

I was doing in New York City Hustle, I mean from being a bartender, being, a barista, having three internships. Doing odd jobs. I did all of it and then I had a mentor who was like, what do you want to do? And I was like, well, I wanna be a dancer and I wanna photograph, I wanna be both.

And she was like, that's possible, but you have to then focus on those [00:05:00] things. And so I decided to quit everything that didn't. Go towards that goal. Stop bartending, stop doing all of those other things. And I took a risk on myself and I was photographing for events, performances, head shots, anything that would allow me

and I also was in a dance company at the same time with N Dance Theater. I became the rehearsal director and then with all of that was going so well. I was able to get connections and clients

[00:05:32] Shannon Russell: Were you kind of feeling that pull from one to the other or were they both equal loves of yours at that time?

[00:05:39] Shannel Resto: For sure. In high school, it was like, I'm gonna do dance. Yeah. In college, that's when it started to become a toss up. It was a very push and pull, With dance, you can have a love hate relationship, to be honest. What sucks about the dance community, I think, is that we're really underfunded. And so there's a lot of [00:06:00] opportunities that are missed for dances, choreographers to really express themselves as artists. Especially in New York City.

There are a lot of grants and things that you can do, but at the end of the day, it's such a big. Pond for dancers. , there's injuries that come into play. There's a lot of self-reflection with your body that also comes into play that I think a lot of. Dancer have talked about, but you kind of start questioning like, okay, first of all, my body's not gonna be young forever.

I have bursitis, tendonitis in my hips, I have nerve damage in my neck. I have like so many things. Caused from dance that now that I'm older, I'm not even that old. I'm like 27. Yeah. Um, Now that I'm older though, I feel a lot older because of those effects. And so you start to think, okay, am I gonna do this for the rest of my life?

What other avenues can I go to to continue being an artist? So I always [00:07:00] had that in the back of my head. My father is definitely the practical side of everything, and my mom is the dreamer. So I kind of try to balance between the both

again, I'm so much of a planner, but I did not plan going into photography as full throttle it's been a wild journey. I learned a lot from just. Going to Barnes and Noble and getting books of learning photography cuz I didn't go to photography school. I've been in a lot of spaces where it's been a white male and that is most of the spaces, especially New York City for photographers.

There's not that many Latinas. Young women photographing. And when we do find each other, we're like, Hey.

[00:07:46] Shannon Russell: And dance. I think it's sounding to me like you're in New York and you're realizing, mm-hmm. I'm not getting paid to dance the way I should.

Yeah. And I have to do all these other hustles of bartending and waitressing and baristing. [00:08:00] And that probably became a little bit of a red flag of okay, is it always going to be this way? What examples were you seeing of women that were older than you dancing for a living?

[00:08:11] Shannel Resto: I mean, they definitely become like choreographers. You're right. Or they'll have their own company. That was one of the goals that like was in that plan that I had, but I didn't really. See older, I mean you can dance until you're like probably 50 and even longer.

But the possibility of you getting injured is really high. And I also think that if there were more possibilities where dancers can get paid what they are worth, mm-hmm. Then a lot of dancers wouldn't have this tug of war of okay, now I have to try to do something else within the arts. Yeah.

Now there are dancers that do get paid, but those are very rare in we're just so underfunded, right. So, It's like this cycle that keeps happening.

I was like, New York [00:09:00] City was not my vibe anymore.

I need trees. I need mental stability within. Being able to go outside and not see rats coming out of nowhere and like I needed something that was a little bit mentally, in a different avenue. So then I relocated, and so now I'm in Atlanta, Georgia, and I am starting to rebuild again my photography presence as an artist then I felt kind of sad, like I was mourning not being a dancer anymore. When I got to Atlanta, I taught dance for younger children and that's when I realized, okay. You don't ever stop being a dancer or anything that just kind of grows or it comes with you along your journey in life.

Mm-hmm. It doesn't mean you have to do that one thing all the time. To be considered that.

[00:09:52] Shannon Russell: You're an artist, with many different facets. It's, it's really a benefit that you did that internship in London for [00:10:00] photography and that you did have this other love

[00:10:03] Shannel Resto: When I got to New York, I realized my eye, I realized my talent.

I can do this, I can do this with the people that are here. And then I started gaining connections and getting more opportunities to kind of test myself. And through testing myself, I was like, I like this. You know, Something that I love. Especially with dance when I was a dancer was that when I got on stage, it was the rush.

It was the nervousness, it was the fear, it was the not knowing what was gonna happen. And then once you're on stage, it's the euphoric feeling of like there's no one else there and you're just moving through space. I also struggled with I'm a talker, but struggled with expressing my feelings. And that's the way I did that.

And then with photographing, It's been a beautiful way to not only show people things in the world through my perspective, but [00:11:00] also something that makes me so happy is like, especially when I do a portrait shoot with someone showing them something that they didn't see in themselves and bringing out that beauty and that essence of them through a photograph that they can then look back at.

For generations through families and they can look back at that and be like, wow, that was me in that moment. And I remember how I felt. I remember I didn't even know how beautiful I could be. And so that's something I really enjoy doing with people. Or through performance art and through photographing, even fashion.

It's beautiful. It's definitely another feeling cause I actually feel like I'm giving back as well for dance, I felt. For myself, this, I'm not speaking for anyone else, but dance for myself was very selfish for a very long time. It was like I'm dancing for myself and my body and I want people to see how great I am at moving versus dancing for myself.

And now I dance for myself. , I haven't [00:12:00] completely stopped dancing, but I dance for myself now. I'm not dancing for the approval or applause of people now I feel like I'm more of a giving artist through my photography. Yes. Oh, that's so

[00:12:12] Shannon Russell: beautifully said when you , moved to Atlanta, you were teaching dance classes to younger kids.

Mm-hmm. And that's a way to give back through dance as well. Right? You can dance for yourself for fun, you can dance for what makes you happy, but you can help instill that love of dance in these younger children.

[00:12:27] Shannel Resto: for sure. And they're adorable. They get so excited when they do like a little pirouette, which is a turn.

And it's the most beautiful thing to go back to, like the fundamentals of dance. The very basics of dance. And you see the light and joy and you're like, wow. I remember when I felt like that, it was just purely for myself. And so I'm glad that I'm now getting back to that,

[00:12:50] Shannon Russell: And to what you loved about it. Mm-hmm. So tell me about S J R photography and because the photography you do is exquisite. [00:13:00] I thank you, love just looking at your work. First off, I just have to bring up the fact that you do a lot of work in the performing arts like you were in Yes.

Timeout and Playbill and New York Times. Talk to me about like just the range of work you do with photography.

[00:13:16] Shannel Resto: I love, love, love. My favorite thing, it's like literally I could probably do it with my eyes closed, is photographing dance obviously, and photographing performances. I've started photographing, Theater shows I'm getting into more of concert work.

I love photographing anyone who's an artist because I feel like I can really get that essence from them. I am very into fashion. And so I never thought I would get into fashion as a photographer. And I've been lucky enough to photograph, , for all New York fashion shows. For the, all of the seasons, I've been able to do Couture Week in Paris and Alona [00:14:00] in Italy.

I am constantly trying to mesh the two of like performance art with fashion. I did a shoot for Patricia Fields, and so I kind of combine that with dancers. So I've, I've done a lot of kind of like mixing the two of my loves and passions together.

I also. Recently just, published a coloring book, which is a photography coloring book. And that was a journey, it's called Capture the Colors, and it's available on Amazon if anybody ever wants to, color some photographs. It's

[00:14:37] Shannon Russell: so cute.

So I'm gonna link to that in the show notes too. Yes. What a fantastic idea.

[00:14:42] Shannel Resto: Thank you. Yeah, it was, I literally am wrote true believer of like, Putting your craziest ideas, the ideas that you feel that people might judge you on, but those are your dreams. Making a list, putting those dreams out, and then having a second list and then being able to just [00:15:00] like pull from that second list and say, okay, how can I get to my goal?

That's what I did with Capture The Colors and it's basically, educational tips for any photographers or amateur photographers or anyone who's interested in photographing. I wrote 10 tips to capture the shots, and then we also have photographs that were transposed from my actual professional photographs from around the world and.

You get to color them there's not that many photography coloring books cuz trust me, I was looking and so I was like, okay, maybe I can start a market for that. But really it's been amazing. Yeah.

[00:15:40] Shannon Russell: How incredible. I just love that you pull all of the different aspects of your artistic background together.

And I was thinking when you were explaining about taking photographs of performances, because a lot of times as a performer, or I'm thinking back to my theater days, you're on stage, you're in character, you're dancing, whatever it might [00:16:00] be, and you are not seeing what the audience is seeing.

You're the one who's in the spotlight. So to have a photographer with a dancer's eye, to be able to capture that so that you, the performer can then see, wow, that's what I look like up there. That's pretty incredible to be able to

[00:16:19] Shannel Resto: give that to the artist. Thank you so much. Yeah, I know when there's gonna be a jump.

I know when there's gonna be a leap. I know when something's going to look aesthetically pleasing, but when I approach, photographing. Performances. I also am thinking about what the choreographer is thinking about. I get this story. Or if there is no story, that's fine too,

it's all about capturing the essence and plus It's just so beautiful once it all comes together. And I always try to do it in such a different perspective than just straight on, right? Because anyone can just get that straight on and I think archiving is very important.

Archiving work in general so that you can [00:17:00] go back to it, especially with video as well. Super important.

[00:17:33] Shannon Russell: So with your business now, are you really niching down to performance or are you branching out into headshots and portraits and weddings? You kind of do it all right?

[00:17:43] Shannel Resto: Yes, so I did do it all. I'm also photo editor, so I still edit wedding photography. I love editing, but

I'm sticking to performances events. And I love just doing portraiture work and headshots. [00:18:00] I've kind of shifted in the fashion world where I'm people's personal photographer instead of, photographing for an editorial magazine or anything like that.

So that kind of works into also portraiture work because I am. Capturing them in the essence of the fashion world. So those are like my three things. Performance events, and then like personal photographer in fashion.

[00:18:24] Shannon Russell: And that all sounds like it's a lot less pressure too, cuz I've Yes.

Video recorded for television, fashion weeks and all of that. And it's the pressure to get the shot. And I think if you're someone's personal photographer or you're working more on like the creative, artistic aspect, there's a

[00:18:41] Shannel Resto: lot less pressure cuz it's you, you're the boss. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. And it's also, you get this other connection with the person you're photographing. You get to learn a lot more of the insides of the fashion world as well, which is pretty cool. Definitely less pressure. I'm not [00:19:00] there to get that magazine shot. I'm there to.

Archive life. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

[00:19:06] Shannon Russell: You're doing the work for your particular client. Yes. So how is Atlanta, are you finding there's a lot more of an art scene growing

[00:19:14] Shannel Resto: there? Oh, for sure. There is huge art scene. I do think it's a lot of harder to make connections in Atlanta just because a lot of people are driving, whereas new York City, you could be on a subway and you can immediately probably get a job by just talking to someone on the subway. Mm-hmm. Like instantly. And so here it's a little bit harder there's a huge amount of visual arts. I've seen dancers that are incredible that I'm like, oh wow, this is refreshing. Because when you get to New York, everyone starts doing the same thing or trying to up one each other, and so sometimes the actual art gets lost.

[00:19:54] Shannon Russell: With your work too, you get to go back to New York, you get to go to Europe,

[00:19:57] Shannel Resto: constantly traveling. Yes, [00:20:00] definitely. I'm very lucky to be able to travel to all of these different places and that my clients are like the best.

I love them.

[00:20:06] Shannon Russell: So dancer to photographer and business owner. That's a whole other aspect of it. Do you feel like you are where you're supposed to be,

[00:20:16] Shannel Resto: no, I do not feel like that., there's so much more than I can do. and My mom and I were actually talking about this cuz imposter syndrome is real and you start to feel really, really down on yourself.

I was getting into that kind of funk where I was like, oh, I feel like I'm kind of like on this one line. And that's when I realized I always have to be honest with myself, and people should be honest with themselves when you have to start transitioning and it's okay. And that could be if it's your second act and you're transitioning completely, or that can be just, okay, I've been here on this kind of like one line and now I have to shift so that I can refocus.

So. Yeah, I feel like I could be doing a lot more [00:21:00] now that I've traveled. I'm like, oh, I am nowhere where I could be. So I definitely have more hopes and dreams and goals, but I am very proud of where I am.

Having young parents who were teenagers, a village really was the one who raised me. And, they came from the Bronx. We came from a very different lifestyle than most people did. And so I'm very proud and thankful for where I am though.

[00:21:31] Shannon Russell: You can appreciate where you've grown. You said, no, I'm not happy with where I am. There's more to get to. . So I just wanna give you props for that. I'm sure your parents and your whole family that raised you are just so, so proud of you.

Do you regret leaving dance professionally or do you feel like it's all kind of intertwined now?

[00:21:51] Shannel Resto: It's intertwined now. I think that if I hadn't been a dancer and really dedicated my whole life to dance, I wouldn't be [00:22:00] able to have the eye that I have for capturing performances.

I think dance also with everything that it teaches you. It teaches you commitment. It teaches you to get up and show up even if you are feeling really bad. There's so many things that it teaches you. Behind the scenes. I think also all of my connections to dancers, I would never changed it for anything.

I did have a problem, when I was shifting, especially moving to Atlanta, just because I knew I wasn't going to be dancing as much. So when I was in New York, I was dancing. I was in a company, and so I was fulfilling that. Dream that my three year old self had.

Mm-hmm. But once I got to Atlanta, I was like, oh, okay. I'm teaching dance now and I'm not on stage and I haven't performed in a while. And was like a morning, like I was mourning dance because I was breaking up with it. Right. And now I'm kind of like to a point where, no, I'm not breaking up with dance.

I can still dance and like I said, I'm not dancing for [00:23:00] applause. I don't need the applause anymore. It's just for myself, so, yeah. Yeah.

[00:23:06] Shannon Russell: And you know what, you made that shift. You saw that maybe the future in New York trying to make it as a, paid dancer, wasn't going to. Necessarily be easy and you had this other love, so how lucky are you?

Yes. That you had this other love in photography and you thought to really build that up and transition? Because a lot of people would just say, Nope, this is it. I'm gonna stick with it. And then God forbid there's an injury or mm-hmm. Now they're. 50 and they're realizing I can't dance anymore now what?

Yeah. So I love that you had that forethought of, okay, well I love it, but I also love this. So you gave it a lot of consideration and thought, and were deliberate with your

[00:23:47] Shannel Resto: decision. Yeah, my dad always said, don't have all your eggs in one basket. And he told me that my whole life. And I used to get angry sometimes.

What do you mean? Like this is my dream, I'm gonna [00:24:00] do it. And then I really understood what he meant by that. He was just trying to prepare me for what life really is. You have so many things and aspects that happen in life, that you can't control. So. Don't put it all in one basket, explore your options. And then I also realized there's so many years in life, there's no reason you have to do one thing for the rest of your life. I'm not saying completely change your career. If you went to school and you are good at something that doesn't mean that.

That's what you have to do at every second of every day for the rest of your life. You can start new hobbies and maybe that will transform your life in some way, or you change completely and that's okay because life is also short. You know? Yeah. So, yeah,

[00:24:47] Shannon Russell: you have to give yourself permission to pivot and be fluid, and I love that.

[00:24:59] Shannon Russell: Name one [00:25:00] thing that these different chapters in your life have

[00:25:02] Shannel Resto: taught you. For so many years and moments in our lives that we have. The choice to change anything we want. So kind of going back to what we were just saying.

Mm-hmm. There are transitions in life, especially within my life, that you have to be honest. And so it's not a form of giving up. I think we have to get away from that notion that we're giving up, but instead we're growing into the person that. We see in the future. So I actually read somewhere that we shouldn't live out of fear, and that was kind of in this chapter of my life, this something that I really learned is that I was doing everything out of fear.

I was very much a fake till you make it, you got this. And like anything that I do that I get scared, I'm gonna do it anyways because what's the worst that can happen? But what I think is beautiful from the quote is that, Instead of living through fear, instead be curious, live through [00:26:00] curiosity.

And so now I believe that, and I think that's what I've learned in this chapter, is that we need to be more curious in this world, in your life, it could be something simple as being more curious with trying new foods. You never know what you're going to like, and then if you don't, now you know you dislike.

Or now, you know, okay. I was not that great at that and that is okay. I don't like how that made me feel. But being more curious and not fearing the curiosities.

[00:26:30] Shannon Russell: That's beautifully said. Thank you. So would you recommend taking a leap into a big life change to your best friend?

[00:26:37] Shannel Resto: A hundred percent.

, I'm pretty sure we talk about this before, my best friends and I, yes, I think always take the risk. Make a big leap in anything you do. Again, you don't know what could be possible, who you can meet. What you can do. So a hundred percent I think, you know, like I said, life is too short and why not take the leap?

What are we [00:27:00] waiting for?

[00:27:00] Shannon Russell: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who is starting their second act today?

[00:27:05] Shannel Resto: First thing is do not compare yourself to others.

Everyone starts in different journeys. Some people could be dancing from the age of three until they're 27, or some people could have started 10 years ago and now they're doing things. Everyone has a different path. And we all have moments where our paths are gonna, where bring us somewhere. .

Mm-hmm. First thing is creating a list of all your goals, and then that second list is basically little goals to get to that big goal. For example, when I was doing my coloring book, I had this idea, okay, I wanna do this coloring book.

So farfetched. I did not know how to publish anything. There's a lot of crying nights. But I then made a list. I researched, I was like, okay, so I need to pick 10 photographs that I want to do. I need to do this, I need to do that.

You can do that with anything. I wanna start a garden. Maybe that's your [00:28:00] dream, so you start your list, okay, I need these seeds. You need those seeds to continue to grow. And so I think those two lists kind of help me, especially when I'm transitioning in life and hopefully that can help other people as

[00:28:12] Shannon Russell: well.

I love that. So what does the next act look like for you? So many possibilities, but what are you thinking that you're gonna focus on

[00:28:20] Shannel Resto: next? I really, really want to open up a studio. For, not just for photography, but for artists in general. I don't want it to be kind of like a gallery type of, studio or like just a studio where people come to shoot photos.

I want it to be more of a nonprofit where people could come and learn and do workshops and collaborate on shows and continue to do that. That's like the big. Big goal. That's my first list goal. And then my second list where I'm prepping to try to get to that.

I am prepping to do another photo book, so not a coloring book, but an actual photo book with,[00:29:00] my photographs, and then I will be featured in Voyages Bold Journey series. Which is, a like Voyage ATL in Atlanta with sharing my stories and doing podcasts and kind of continuing to put myself out there as an artist.

So that's like my second list and that's a perfect way to like show how you keep trying to go for the longer, dream, which is basically to have my own space

[00:29:28] Shannon Russell: You're gonna do it. You're gonna do it all.

[00:29:30] Shannel Resto: I can tell. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, so where

[00:29:33] Shannon Russell: can my audience connect with you?

Where are all of the

[00:29:35] Shannel Resto: places? I am on Instagram and TikTok, @s.j.r.Photography, again, @sjrphotography. And then I have my website where you can see my work, my portfolio about me, any of my articles that I've been in.

And that if you just literally put Shannel Resto SJR Photography, it'll [00:30:00] come up.

[00:30:00] Shannon Russell: Fantastic. Oh, well I'll link to everything in the show notes so everyone can get in touch and see.

Your beautiful work. But Chanel, I just wanna thank you so much for sharing your incredible story and it's been so lovely to chat with

[00:30:13] Shannel Resto: you. Thank you and thank you everyone for listening.


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