When I went to Justin & Mary’s Sunrise Shoot-Out in Vegas last week they opened the day talking about their “Why.” Basically, all of us photographers know HOW to be photographers, but do we know WHY we are photographers? What drives us? What is our purpose in this industry? Why do we do this for ourselves? Why do we do this for others?
When Justin & Mary asked us to share our “Why’s” I knew mine immediately. I’ve known it for quite a while (without really realizing it was my ‘why’, since I’d never heard it put in those terms). My “why” is this…
I want to document couples and families and give them photos that make them smile – that make them feel good about themselves… make them stop judging themselves for one minute, and just say… I am beautiful…. Our love is beautiful… Our family is beautiful… whatever the case may be, I just want to make my clients feel good about themselves and forget all of the other things society has told them along the way.
When I first started in photography I knew that I had a unique power to change the way my clients feel about themselves simply with the way I speak to and interact with them during their session, and with the images that result from our time together. I have the power to make them feel beautiful…. to feel good about themselves in that moment… to feel good about themselves when they look at the images from that day… and hopefully, if I’ve really done what I hoped to do – to feel good about themselves long after the session is over and they’ve put the photos away … to feel good about themselves all the time.
It is sad, but I think it is a really rare thing in our society to feel good about yourself… To be happy with how you look… To look at a photo someone took of you without judging yourself. I think that it’s incredibly rare. And I know I’m no better than anyone else – I do the same thing – but I really hope we can stop – at least occasionally – if not all the time. You should try it once. When you see a photo of yourself, I challenge you to think of something you like about yourself in that image before making a list of the negatives. Or if your friends start to go on a body-hating tirade where everyone around is expected to join in about what they don’t like about their body (you know the kind, especially if you’re a female and were ever 16) – I challenge you to stop and think before throwing in an “I hate my thighs/butt/stomach/arms” comment. Turn your thoughts around. Turn your conversations around. You’ll be amazed at how much better you and those around you will feel.
I’m sure you’re all wondering where this is all coming from. You’re wondering why this “Why” is SO important to me, and if it stems from something more than simply growing up a female in a highly judgmental society. Those of you that have known me the majority of my life – or at least since freshmen year of college – are already aware of where this is going (I think).
I chose to talk about this all finally because today marks the beginning of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. As someone who fought a pretty severe eating disorder for a good part of my early 20’s – I feel it is SO important to talk about it and get it out in the open. When I was finally recovering from the disease, I realized I wanted to do something to help others who were battling self-esteem and weight-related issues. For a long time I thought I wanted to go into nutrition and counseling (until I realized I just really don’t love science that much). So, thankfully for me, I am able to use my current path to help others even if it is in a less direct way.
My “Why” gives me hope that I can help even just one person to avoid taking the path that I took. That I can help someone avoid wasting years of their life unhappy and pushing their loved ones away. That I can make each and every person that I come in contact with through my photography feel good about themselves. That they can finally see an image of themselves, smile, and say – I am beautiful. (Without being made to feel guilty, conceited, or full of yourself… as society often tells us we should.)
It’s OK to feel beautiful and to own that feeling. Try it sometime. You’ll be amazed at how it affects your day, your week, and your life.