Many of you have noticed that I've been sharing more personal portraits, specifically of myself, lately. There area few different reasons for this and I feel is it's really important I talk about it, so here I am!
Moving into documentary photography has really been an eye opener for me. Before, I felt like I was never thin enough, pretty enough, or worthy of having a fancy portrait taken. Yes, surprisingly, I'm a human and have the same emotions as every (almost) woman on this planet. I always put off family portraits. "We'll do them next summer", I'd say. Next summer would come and I would continue pushing it back another season. To be honest, I hate being in front of the camera. Not just because of self esteem issues, but because I hate the entire process. Fake smiles, finding something to wear, posing, I hate it. There nothing "real" about it. I may not have kids, but I have two insane dogs who listen for nothing. I break out in hives just thinking about controlling them for a photographer. We've had one session in the (almost) 8 years we've been married and in that ONE session my dog jumped and almost hit the photographer's $1,000 lens..talk about sweat. To continue to add to my hate for pictures, at that time I was really sick and overweight. Looking at those pictures makes me so uncomfortable because I WAS uncomfortable. So, I've managed to avoid photographing myself for 8 years.
When I found documentary photography, I was blown away. There are some AMAZING lifestyle/documentary photographers out there. Originally, I was only thinking you guys and the meaningful work I could give you. Other documentary photographers did beautiful self portraits, but usually going through their daily routines with their children. I don't have children so this really wasn't on my radar at all. Who wants to see my life? I don't have cute kids running around to document. Then, I started a survey about documentary photography and began reading your fears. So many of you poured your hearts into your survey questions (thank you) and told me you were worried about your appearance, your weight, your clothes, etc. Ah, you got me right in the feels. Then, a lightbulb went off. Who am I to preach to you about documentary photography when I won't even get in front of the camera myself? So, I began pushing myself to do this for you, for me. Oh, it was hard, so freaking hard. At first I would take 100 pictures just to get one I liked, but slowly I got more and more comfortable.
Soon after starting this self portrait/documentary journey, I became acutely aware of how fast my dog, Ali, was aging. I'm not sure if it was because I was now so much more aware of day to day life in general or if she really was aging faster, but it was/is painfully obvious. She's sleeping more, playing less, aching, refusing to eat some days, and has more bumps showing up. One day it hit me, her time is quickly getting shorter. While she may be, "just a dog" to some people, she's very much like a child to me because I don't have children. We've had her since a few days after our wedding, she's always been a part of our family. It's become extremely important to me over the last month to make sure I photograph not only her, but us with her. Once a week I push myself to get in a picture with her, even if it's just sitting with her in her bed, it's something. I can't bear the thought of her passing and only having a few cheesy posed portraits with her (which one of them undoubtedly ruined, haha). I want to document her ridiculous personality, her sweetness, and I want to really remember her senior years. Had I not decided to throw myself into my portraits, I wouldn't have these pictures with her.
So now, let's talk about you. I want you to imagine something absolutely horrible, something you don't want to even think of, but it's totally possible. What if you pass before your children are grown? What if your partners passes or someone else who means the world to you? What if you pass before your baby can really remember your smile, your laugh, or the way you look at them? Do you have any portraits documenting that? Not just posed portraits, but REAL laughs, smiles, and love. Doubtful. Think of your own family members that have passed. Do YOU have portraits like this of them? The REAL them? Wouldn't you want that over posed portraits? To have genuine moments you can look at whenever you want to remember them?
You see, society has brainwashed us to think we aren't worthy unless we look a certain way. Like we're somehow less important as a human if we don't weigh the perfect weight or have the perfect skin. So, because you don't look this way you're less important to this world, your children, your family. It's all bull, to put it bluntly. You will NEVER look like that girl on the magazine (she doesn't even look like that). You will never have her perfect skin, perfect hair, or perfect body. Why? Because it doesn't exist. It's not real. You're not her, you don't REALLY want to be her, you've just been brainwashed to think that way. I know, you have that evil voice in your head telling you you'll never be pretty enough, skinny enough, happy enough. Tell that voice to shut up. What kind of boring world would this be if we all looked and acted perfect, exactly the same? Holy boring. So, while you're waiting for the day you wake up to perfection, you're missing out on beautiful opportunities to join in with your children, your partner, your mom, your dad, your dog, your cat, your whatever. You're missing out on LIFE and you're missing out on documenting LIFE.
I'm working to give my family real pictures of me. Me loving on my animals, hiking, couch sitting, doing what I actually do, because that's exactly how they think of me. So, (god forbid) if something happens to me tomorrow, you guys have real portraits of me, not the posed uncomfortable me.
Besides appearance, most of you struggle because you're the one taking the pictures.
Two words: Tripod + Timer
You don't need a fancy camera to document your life. Set up your phone on a mini tripod or prop it up somewhere, then turn on that timer! Do this when you're doing something completely normal. Hanging out in bed, cooking, cleaning, lounging on the couch, playing board games, whatever it is that you do in your real life. Just a couple of shots with you living life with your family + friends. Put it in a folder in multiple places (technology fails, folks) or even better, print them. There are a million apps that allow you to load your phone directly to them and they print them for you (ahem, Artifact Uprising)! No work! Now, your children, your partner, your family, your friends, they'll have actual evidence of your awesome existence in this world.
I encourage you to book a documentary session once a year. If it's not in your budget, get a quote now and SAVE. Life changes quickly, scary quickly. You deserve to have quality portraits of your family genuinely loving each other and being in the moment. If you still can't get around your self esteem issues, don't do this for you, do it for your children and family. THEY deserve to have portraits of you because they love you, even if you can't love yourself right now. <3
One last thing...
You are beautiful.
You are worthy.
You are loved.
You are absolutely perfect.