I used to take a lot of pictures. And I mean, A LOT. It wouldn't surprise those that were closest to me if I took 100 pictures a day. I simply couldn't get enough. Pushing the shutter button was my release. I had the opportunity to freeze a moment in time. A moment that was beautiful and unique, pure and simple. Each moment was raw and unstaged. My daughter, Sophia, brought this passion out from my soul the moment I held her. Her first breath was my first breath into a new life, a new beginning. My camera came along for the ride.
As Sophia's photo albums filled, I realized just how much I loved the art. Friends and family commented that they loved seeing my pictures. I guess I just believed that maybe I had an eye. Soon enough, it became my obsession. I couldn't miss a moment. I couldn't miss a smile, a feeding or bath time. My camera was attached to my body. An artificial limb! Everywhere I went, I snapped photos of who she was with and where she was. I loved looking back on the photos I took and reliving those memories.
This hobby of mine quickly started to become more. I upgraded my camera. I started creating digital photo albums. I had extra copies of prints to pass out to friends and family. I needed the whole world to see this baby of mine. I needed everyone to see her happiness, her innocence her wonder. I needed to see it and feel it and believe it.
My second little lovey came into the world 2 years later and I needed to upgrade my camera again. I had convinced my husband that I simply needed it. Sophia was getting bigger now and I needed something that could take pictures faster and crisper. I needed to capture Miss Molly's first days in the best way I could. It was my first interchangeable lens camera.
Taking pictures wasn't enough any longer. I needed more. I needed to create art, to manipulate my settings in order to capture the moment and mood I wanted. Sitting at my computer for hours, I taught myself how to shoot in manual. I went outside and would practice. I would drill myself over and over about ISO, aperture and shutter speed. I took a lot of bad pictures. Giving up wasn't a possibility. I had finally found something to call my own and something that I yearned for. I took more bad pictures. Then some good ones. Friends and family started complimenting me on my work more. This boosted my self confidence.
Here I am now. I have met some incredible families, some incredible people. Clients have become friends. I have the dream job. For once in my life, I am truly content with what my hands can create. But more than that, I wanted to give to other people moments in time that would have otherwise been forgotten. Too often we overlook tiny little details. Wrinkly newborn skin. Missing teeth. A sleeping child. A walking toddler. Young love. I could go on and on. You see, I look for imperfect moments. Moments that sometimes we would like to airbrush. Those moments to me are the ones to forever cherish. They will make you smile when life has led you to forget them.
For almost four years now, I have been searching. I have been trying to understand what it is about pictures that inspire me. I have been trying to understand why I am brought to tears when editing a client's session. Why I have the desire to capture my children's hands, nose, goofy smiles and serious faces. Why I snap away when they just wake up or when they are covered in food from head to toe. Why I am giddy with excitement when I catch them running in the grass or blowing bubbles. And it all comes down to capturing.
I look back on my childhood photos and they flood me with a past I have been trying to run from for 29 years. I see a little girl who so desperately wants to be happy, to be free. I see moments that seem relatively happy on the surface, but scare the living daylights out of me in reality. My father was a monster. He tried taking away my spirit and for many years, he did. He abused me emotionally, mentally and sexually. He crushed my character and manipulated my pride. He thought he had won. I thought he had won. There were days when I just wanted to give up the fight. My family turned on me. I was stripped of my role as an aunty to my sweet niece and nephew. I was broken, scarred and unraveled. For a while, I lost the good fight. I was confused. There was not one memory that I wanted to preserve. There were no pictures taken. I simply lived in a world where identities were masked. I followed suit.
For four years, I have actively worked on my spirit. This journey has been grueling. Terrifying. It has forced me to face my past and all of those nasty skeletons in my childhood closet. It has forced me to take hold of my life. To believe in me. To know that I am wonderful. To know that I am beautiful. To know that I am whole.
My father passed away almost 3 years ago. I hadn't spoken to him for 2 years before he died. He had suffered a stroke and was in a coma. After being handicapped for 20 years, this took a toll on him. This was my chance to bring closure to my past. I went to the hospital and confronted this lifeless man. There he was in his hospital bed, defenseless. He was no longer this terrifying monster that could hurt me. I never cried so much in my life. Part of me loved him and part of me hated him. I screamed at him. His blood pressure went up. I screamed some more. It didn't help. It didn't solve a damn thing.
Since I professionally started my photography career, my healing has exponentially increased. I now have the ability to almost relive my childhood through my girls. I don't like staged pictures. I embrace whatever is in front of my camera and I look for that emotion, that raw and vulnerable feeling of love, of joy, of hope, of wonder. I try and preserve character. I photograph souls. I don't have to look at pictures any more and cringe at what they represent, because they represent all of the wonderful attributes that life so desperately needs.
I'm quirky and crazy. I sometimes look like a lunatic during a shoot. I get excited and I have no qualms about showing it to you. Most of the time, I do not keep track of how long a session is going. My passion simply soars. I'm not perfect, nor am I the best photographer around. I guess I don't have the desire to make a perfect picture. I have the desire to freeze a moment in time for you to forever enjoy. I want a photo to tell a story and bring you back to that place and time.
I'd like to end this crazy long rant with this thought. The 'you' in photographs doesn't have to be perfect. Your hair or skin or makeup or clothing or weight don't have to be perfect. Bring your soul to your session. Embrace the 'you' that you are now. We all have pasts that define us and propel us forward. We are all so lovely in our own ways and our uniqueness makes the perfect photo. Love yourself and see the awesome qualities about you that everyone else does. Start accepting who you are and where you are. We only have so many moments in this lifetime. This is your moment.
This is me today. I have a sassy side that for too long I have kept under wraps. I am guilty of beating myself up for all my imperfections. But tonight, I faced the camera head on and took the challenge. I like who I see. I love who I see. She is a beautiful woman. She is whole.
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