Every photographer eventually finds their way to what they love to shoot or what they simply can’t resist shooting. That subject matter may change over time but at any given moment our craft pulls us in the direction of what we need to shoot. Sometimes that pull makes total sense and leads us somewhere expected but other times we are blindly guided to where we need to be and are internally asked to just take aim and shoot. Photographing women for my project women.simply.beautiful is the result of following such a blind pull…really it has been more of a tug of war.
A few years ago I stumbled onto the realization that I can really see people. Absurd as that might sound for a professional photographer to say, given that seeing people is a what I do for a living, it was true. Something in me clicked and I understood more about what I do when I look at someone through my lens then I had even known before. Although I see your face and am checking the lighting, posing, camera settings, etc a part of me is looking at who you really are, not what you look like but who you are. I believe there is a huge difference but they are so connected. When I am photographing I am being mindful of what makes you, well you. How are you feeling? What emotions rise most quickly to the surface or dominate you? What do you do with them in a moment when there is nowhere to go because I am still shooting? What are you trying to keep hidden? What do you want me to see? Who are you when you stop talking or stop trying to show me a certain version of yourself? What happens to you when you feel that I am looking at you and then maybe really seeing you? When was the last time you were the center of attention and how do you feel when you are? I began photographing women with these questions in mind almost two years ago and I believe there is great power in the experience of being seen. The life changing stories that I hear after these sessions confirm this and I can’t resist shooting more of them.
Many of us believe that what we look like is who we are and so we begin to tell ourselves stories and create beliefs about ourselves based on who we see in the mirror or in photographs. The problem with that is that we look at ourselves through a filter of what we already believe or fear to be true and so we see more of that. Add to that, seeing what you look like through typically lousy snap shots of yourself and now the misinformation of yourself is enormous. My work, as I see it, is to photograph the essence of you, the you that existed the minute you were conceived, the you that speaks to you in quiet moments, the one you may not be sure is even real. Trust me, it is…I know it because I can see it. When I show women the photographs of themselves they gasp because they simultaneously can’t believe it’s them- the images contradict all of the negative beliefs they hold about themselves-and because they knew deep down that they were the beautiful, strong, capable, amazing person that they seeing in the photograph and that inner, truer part of them is celebrating it’s recognition. It’s a home coming of sorts. A much needed experience of coming home to who they were all along.
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