As a photographer, I have an interesting (and humbling) opportunity to get a brief glimpse into my client's vulnerable places. My camera has found itself capturing incredible people, some of whom have lost children, battled illness, lived in extreme poverty, experienced abuse, gone through divorce, journeyed through infertility, or fought an eating disorder. I'm often amazed how disarming the camera can become and I've been honored to learn bits about my client's lives. I never ask them specifically, but I think there is something about the intimacy of photographing a soul that often compels my subject to share a little about themselves along the way. I consider it sacred and special - and I treat it with the utmost care and gratitude.
I know there are a lot of "selfie" obsessed people out there, but they never seem to find their way to me. Hands down, the most common thread among my clients (particularly among women) is that they do not feel beautiful in front of the camera. My clients often confess this to me out loud in our consults and then again when we begin to shoot.
They feel too fat, too un-stylish, too old or too acne prone. They worry their wedding gown doesn't look good enough and they don't look like the brides they see on Pinterest, so they try to shrink behind their bouquet. They arrive to family sessions tired and nervous - already believing that the shoot will be a sham either because they aren't good enough or their kids won't comply or their husbands are going to have a terrible time. They've changed outfits several times before leaving the house and eventually shrug in front of the mirror and think, "I guess this is as good as it gets." They've shamed themselves for so many years and believed lies for so long that they believe my camera will show them what they've always worried was true : that they simply aren't worthy or loved.
That is such a tragedy.
So let's spend a little time with the truth this morning - while I have your brief attention in this tiny corner among the host of media you will experience today. Sharing my personal beliefs isn't something I do much on my blog or social sites, because I think that's better suited for a face to face with ample time to chat (there is WAY too much flippancy and fighting on FB, etc). For good measure today, here's what I believe.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful,I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from youwhen I was made in the secret place,when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your bookbefore one of them came to be. -Psalm 139: 13-17
I know, full well, the pain of feeling afraid and unworthy. I wasted so much of my life to darkness and depression due to such beliefs, and still struggle every day to stay rooted in the truth that I was created, just as I am, with love. I still have trouble relaxing on camera and don't always like what I see, but I'm growing.
I want to encourage you, human reading this, that you are worthy. When you allow me or another photographer to create photographs of you, and you share them with your loved ones; you create heirlooms. You create a tradition that is handed down to your children, or your nieces and nephews or your friends. You are creating a story that is precious and matters...that people will cherish. Recently I found a photo of my Great-Great Grandmother, standing amongst roses looking fierce and strong - a scarf wrapped around her head, her high cheekbones gleaming in the sun. I thought to myself, "I know nothing about this woman but now I want to! What a force of nature!"
Can you imagine someone thinking that about you when they find your photo someday? Listen, the media's idea of beauty is wrong and messed up and blah blah blah (we hear this all the time). But know what it is mostly? BORING. It's so boring, I mean, aren't you bored? What if we were beautiful because of our hands that dig in the dirt, our legs that take us on adventures and our jobs that we work hard at. Did you push a baby out of your body? That is simply incredible to me. Did you open your home to somebody in need...did you surprise somebody with a genuine greeting card (remember those?), do you play the accordion? That is so much more interesting! These things were given to you and put in you and they make you gorgeous.
I run the risk of standing on a soapbox at this point, but I hope you can finish out your day and take it easy on yourself. I'm not asking you to be selfie obsessed (that is just THE WORST), I'm asking you to cut yourself some slack and gather up every bit of confidence you can muster and go about your day walking in that perspective. You only have this one life, and you can only be who you were created to be. Every other effort is to labor in vain. Next time a camera pops out, I hope you can delight in the opportunity to create a memory with those you love most. I'll do my best to do the same, and live in that same courage....not only can we do it, but we must.
Today I am honored to say the film images from this Cannon Beach portrait session are featured on Belle Lumiére, which is a gorgeous lifestyle print magazine + online journal. I was able to share just a bit of vulnerability in the feature, which I'm really grateful to Belle Lumiére for including in the post.
Mamiya 645AF | 80mm Lens | Fuji400H Film | Scans by PhotoVision
Debbie Sue Young - Model
Belle Lumiere - Publication
Ken Kupelian - Assistant
PhotoVision - Film Scans