One of the aspects I love about being a photographer is that there is always something new to learn or a skill to improve on. And in working through those new skills I always learn something new about myself. This summer I am taking an online photography workshop with one of my favorite photographers, Stacey Ilyse Craft. What has been so great about this class and her teaching style is that she pushes all of us, her students, out of our comfort zones. And while that may be uncomfortable, in the end it truly is a growing experience. A few weeks ago we had an assignment to make 3 portraits in our home. So this should be easy for any photographer, right? But when your kids are grown, your husband doesn't come home from work until the sun sets, and even the dog runs for cover when the camera comes out, who will your subject be?
Stacey encouraged me to be my own subject. Talk about pushing out of my comfort zone! I prefer to be the person behind the lens, not in front of it. But, with no subject in front of me, and the deadline for our assignment looming, I decided to go for it. It was worth a try, at the very least. I took about 50 photos before I found three that I decided were acceptable. Did I love them? Nope. I could criticize them in 100 ways easily, both from a technical perspective and from a personal one. My eye immediately went to all the parts of me that I don't like. And the negative thoughts came out in a flurry - my body looked unflattering, the lines in my face showed my age, I look morose, I look sad, I look angry, why did I choose an outfit that was so ordinary and unglamorous. I think this is natural, especially with women. But what was interesting were the comments made by my instructor and my classmates. They didn't pick up on the parts of the images that I was critical of. So through their eyes I was able to step back from the photos and see them from the perspective of others. I was able to look deeper into the images, and one in particular caught my eye because of how the light and the mood reflected my stage of life right now - a woman getting older, discovering that a life not revolving around her children every waking moment is actually ok, and not only that, but nothing to feel guilty about. Life is moving forward - my body shows those signs, and reflects the changes in my life, and there is no reason to be self-critical or ashamed. I may not be able to say I am at peace with the changes in my life, but I am learning to live them, and working on finding that peace.
So, I hope you all will take the leap and put yourself in front of the lens. Not for the perfect smiling photo, but for a photo or photos that reveal something about who you are right now, what your story is today. Some day you will look back, and you will certainly like what you see since often times we have a greater appreciation for things after some time has passed. And your kids will treasure those photos of you, because let's all remember that you, mom, are very much a part of your family's story.