This blog post is meant to help you all know a little more about me. So I suppose this question is
the first one for me to answer.
The easy, visible answers are that I am a mother to three boys, a wife, and a photographer.
The unseen answers are this:
I am an overthinker. I’m an achiever. I am furiously stubborn and loyal. I am a swirling mess of raw emotions on the inside. I can be fragile. I am told I come off as intimidating. I am fiercely independent. I don’t like mixing and mingling but I really love and am pretty damn good at public speaking. I struggle daily as a mother to feel like I am doing my best. I wish I had more patience.
I have had a camera in my hands since I was 7. My mother’s Brownie film camera. She showed me how to use it and that was it. I saw my world through a completely different perspective and I fell in love.
I have a background in dance. I was accepted to the University of New Hampshire as a vocal performance major and spent a semester attending school there before realizing that it wasn’t the right place for me.
I have a bachelor’s degree in English/Creative Writing and have been writing poetry and essays for as long as I can remember.
I have a masters degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education. I worked in that field for 10+ years. First, in Residence Life and then later, I was the Director of Student Conduct for a small private institution. In 2015, I decided to leave my job, my career, and become a stay at home mom with a lofty dream of launching her own photography business.
It has taken me 4 years to feel confident enough to say that when someone asks me what I do for work. I have struggled with imposter syndrome when it comes to my work as a photographer since the first day I took on a client. I kept waiting. To have more clients. To make a little more money. To get published. To make Click Pro. To Teach.
And then all of those things happened. And still, I found myself choking out the words, saying them softly, almost as an afterthought and I realized it had nothing to do with the things that I had accomplished.
It had to do with not being confident in myself.
I had to give myself permission to embrace the fact that I walked away from a stable life and way of earning a living to travel down a path that was uncertain but that was so much more fulfilling. A path that has allowed me to be present and available with my family, my children, in a way I hadn’t been able to be in my other career. A path that excites me and challenges me and frustrates me. It has given me the ability to do something that not many others can do – to freeze a moment in time. To capture a moment that will never happen again. So I and my clients can hold onto it. Forever.
After the end of the first year of being at home with my children, I looked back over the pictures I had taken and realized that while I had captured their lives in a way I felt proud of and happy with, I was nowhere to be seen. Here I was. Having made this decision to be at home so I could be more present, to be with my children, and there was no visible memory of it for them or I to look back on.
I wanted to change that. So I made a decision to get in the frame with my children. At the same time, I learned of a sub-group of Dear Photographer that was starting the new year of 2017 with the same focus, a group called P52 Radness. The focus of the group was to get in the frame either with your children or alone once a week for the year. I joined that group even though I knew almost no one at the time to help keep myself accountable.
I started my first 365 day project on January 1, 2017.
I took my first self portrait for that project on January 4, 2017
It was me. By myself. In my pajamas. Sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee. You can’t see my whole face. That was both intentional and a by-product of balancing my camera on the arm of the couch. I wasn’t comfortable being in the frame alone.
I took my first self portrait with two of my three children on January 9, 2017.
I knew the first time I decided to get in the frame with my kids that I didn’t want it to be a posed portrait. I wanted it to be us, in the moment. I wanted it to be what a photographer would capture if they were with us. So it’s a picture of me with my twins, sitting and playing on the couch.
I found my voice as a photographer during this 365 project. I let go of everything I “thought” I should be doing as a photographer and focused on what moved me. I quickly learned that I didn’t want to force my kids to be in pictures, posing and smiling. I wanted to remember them as they are. Wild. Covered in dirt. Skinned knees. Running blurs.
I wanted to capture their spirits, their personalities. It forced me to learn and grow and understand how to use my camera. How to read the light and how to get creative with composition and perspective. It forced me outside of my comfort zone. I ended up with images of my children that captured them perfectly. The way I wanted to remember them. It was during this year that I decided to completely change the way I worked with my clients. I applied all the things I had learned capturing my own family in my client sessions and finally, I had images that I and my clients loved.
I did my best to continue getting in the frame with my kids. And every time I did, it was done with the intention of being in the moment with them at the same time. The first time I decided to attempt a formal portrait with my boys was as a gift for myself for Mother’s Day in May 2018. Every other picture was taken to capture us, being together, invested in each other.
I’d love to say that I was successful in completing a self-portrait every week, but I wasn’t. And that’s okay. I have more images of me with my children from that year than any other year since they were born. And even now, 2.5 years later, I have continued to get in the frame with my boys. It’s harder now, with them all in school to find the time (and cooperation from them) to do it, but I still try. And I still love every picture I have with them.
There was an unexpected side effect. A new love affair that developed.
I started getting in the frame more. Alone. And I started to channel the emotions I was feeling into my self-portraits. Sadness. Loneliness. Not feeling good enough. Feeling freaking awesome. Celebrating. Frustration. Experimenting.
And it became my outlet. Where I found myself again. Where I would retreat to re-connect. To have a freaking moment of peace and quiet. To remember who I was under all the titles I bear. There’s a woman inside of me that needs to be recognized. To be allowed the see the light of day. To be celebrated and acknowledged.
It has been a transformative experience. It has allowed me to be at peace with myself. To stop the negative self-talk happening in my head. To embrace my body for what it is, all it has done, what it’s capable of. It has shown me that perfection is not important.
I know that some of this being comfortable in my own skin has also come with age and experience, but I truly feel my self-portrait journey, both with my children and alone, has helped provide me a perspective on my own life that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I wanted others to have that same type of transformative experience. So I put all that I had learned, all that I wanted to share, my thoughts, my emotions, my heart and soul into my course “I Was There Too.” I want you to have memories of these years with your children. For them to have pictures to look back on. For you to be able to be present and in the moment with them and have that to hold onto.
I want you to be able to embrace yourself for who you are.
All the gifts you have. To be proud of your journey. Your growth. To be excited for what lies ahead of you. To be kind to yourself.
I don’t think that my course is the key to all of that being able to happen, I’m not that full of myself. But I do think that learning to look at yourself and love yourself the way you will see your children look at you and the love they have for you reflected in the images you take with them is the first step.
I am still growing and still learning. About myself. About who I am as an artist. It’s a journey that continues every day. Some days it’s not a win. And that’s okay. Some days I don’t feel inspired. And that’s okay.
Some days I think I have no idea what I’m doing, and not enough talent to continue. That’s when I move to pick up my camera. To get in the frame alone or with my people. Because that’s the core of why I’m a photographer. It’s for them. Because of them. And if at the end of the day, if at the end of this journey all I’m left with is memories of my family, my children, that’s more than enough for me.
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