My friend Dana McCranie of Love, Louise Photography has been photographing me for well over five years. Any picture that looks like I didn’t take with my cell phone, she probably took. Our first session was a birthday present to me.
I had only been photographed twice before that I can remember and the experiences left me feeling, well, self conscious. I felt “o.k.” during the sessions but I was horrified when I saw the pictures. Instead of seeing the beauty in myself, I felt the weight of all of the negative words that had been spoken over me, the words I had been accepting all of this time. While my sessions with Dana were often discussions about this very thing and I was more relaxed and there are probably more shots of me laughing because of conversations, I still struggled.
I cried during these mirror shots. I remembered it distinctly. I had a hard time looking at myself. I had a hard time with Dana telling me I was beautiful. I felt beautiful. I loved that yellow dress. When I looked in the mirror, I heard all of those words from my past. I nearly crumbled. I know people say you should grow out of it. Well, I was still hearing those words and I hadn’t learned to yank it at the roots and pull it completely from my head and heart.
When Dana asked me to write a few words to share with some children who would be photographing each other, appreciating each other’s beauty, understanding kindness, respect and the impact of our words and about what it feels like to be photographed, I tried to think of what to say. I had no words. I went to my millions of pictures and went through them slowly……
It feels like telling your friends all of your secrets and hoping they will still be your friend.
If you learn to relax, it’s like extra hours of recess. Your friend chases you while you swing super high on the swing on run as fast as you can or do cartwheels. It’s like looking up at the sky and telling God all of your dreams. It’s like writing a story without having to use a pencil and drawing pictures without crayons. It’s like thinking of the things people have said to hurt you and looking into the camera and flying your wings and saying, “I’m happy to be me and this is how I look and feel and think!” It’s like planting a seed in your yard, knowing one day you will grow and you can see all of your changes and when you are that big tree, the ground won’t seem like such a big deal.
But you have to be brave. Really brave.
You don’t have to smile. You don’t have to fake happy. You have to be you.
When I look back on these pictures, I remember every story of my life. I remember the times we took pictures because I felt fierce and the pictures we took because I was falling apart and needing healing. But you can’t tell the difference. 😊
When we are looking at ourselves through a truth lens and not just a lens to get really good shots for social media (and I have a bunch of those too), we can face the things that hurt us and speak love over ourselves and, if you have a photographer like Dana, have the person behind the lens speak love over you too. It’s not just taking pictures for an audience. For me, it was taking my life back. I’m still snatching at the root but at least I’m in the process.