If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I was given this amazing opportunity to be photographed by world-renowned portrait photographer, Sue Bryce. Many have asked how this came about and how I even know about her. So, I suppose I should start there:
I found out about Sue via a Pinterest post that had a link to one of her blog posts on how to pose curvy women. I instantly repinned it, thinking I needed to learn a thing or two about posing, so I wouldn’t look 10-ft wide in photographs. I then started reading Sue’s blog and learned that she taught classes on CreativeLive. If you don’t know about CreativeLive, it’s a fantastic site where they get experts in many creative realms to teach 1-3 day classes that are broadcast live on the web. You can watch for free if it’s live or pay to have anytime access to the classes. The classes themselves are incredibly well-done, and if you are a life-long learner like me, it is such a cool way to be educated.
As someone who does photography on the side, I was completely intrigued to learn how to be better at it…and who better to learn from than a famous photographer who has mastered it? I bought and watched all of Sue’s classes and got so much out them….so much that about a year ago, I wrote her an e-mail to tell her just that, that she was quite inspirational and that it would be amazing to be photographed by her. I never thought it would actually happen and seriously doubted that I’d even get a response. But, her assistant did write back, thanking me for the email but told me that they weren’t taking any new clients (expected). Fast forward one year later, and I received another e-mail asking if I was still interested. I read it at least 10 times to make sure it was real….I just couldn’t believe it!!
People have asked me if this was for a special ad campaign or something for her business, and the answer is no. I was on a wait list (little to my knowledge), and I paid for this experience. On one hand, the decision to do the shoot was easy…I would have this amazing opportunity with full hair and makeup (a girly girl’s dream!) and get to meet one of my idols to boot. On the other hand, I struggled with wondering if I was really worthy of it.
The truth is, I haven’t been photographed professionally since my wedding 9 years ago, on a day when I probably felt the most beautiful I ever have in my life. Most of the time, these days, I’m on the other side of the camera. And even if I’m not, I usually only allow someone to take a head/shoulders shot of me, or I crop it to that later. Why? Because, I, like most women don’t like the way I look. I want thinner legs and arms and a smaller nose. Most recently, I’ve put on weight due to a thyroid issue and have struggled for the last 5 years to lose the extra pounds.
The funny thing is that even when I had smaller legs and arms (the nose I can’t do much about and don’t dislike it enough to try) and weighed much less than I do now, I still thought I needed smaller arms and legs. Looking back now, what in the world was wrong with me? Now that I’m a bit wiser, I realize that it’s not the weight or even the thyroid issue; it’s self-hate….something that I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember. My whole life, I’ve been trying to prove to others and myself that I’m worthwhile. And, I know I’m not alone in this. That being said, I look at people who are completely comfortable in their own skin and just marvel at them. I can’t even comprehend how they do it, and yet, I long to be like them.
In Sue’s CreativeLive classes and on her blog, she talks a lot about self-hate because she herself has dealt with it. She wasn’t photographed by anyone for an 8-year span because she hated herself so much. But, now, she has started a whole movement, and that is that people need to exist in photographs. YOU need to exist in photographs…for the people who love you and for yourself. Some of my most cherished possessions are these gorgeous photographs of my grandmother…and, no, they weren’t just head/shoulders pictures. They were, however, professional photographs, and they were done in a time when being photographed was an event. I think because photography is so accessible now (everyone has a camera phone, etc.), as a society, we have lost a bit of value in being posed and photographed by a professional. Think about the times in your life when you are professionally photographed: your high school senior pictures, your wedding, perhaps with your children. But, how many of us are photographed by ourselves after our wedding day or our senior pictures? And if you never get married or don’t have children, does that mean that you shouldn’t be? The answer is a resounding NO! Everyone deserves to have beautiful photographs of themselves throughout their lives.
The whole concept of existing in photographs just strikes such a big chord with me. How many times do people lose someone tragically, and they don’t have many photos to choose from for their funeral, let alone any decent photographs? Sue talks about how she wants to give women the most incredible photograph they’ve ever seen of themselves and show them their true beauty…like looking through the eyes of others and seeing how they see you. And she goes on to say that if she did that every year of your life, through all of the weight gains and losses and other changes, you wouldn’t have the chance to think you are anything less than beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to be photographed by someone with that mission?
I think what finally swayed me to move forward with the photos is that William said to me, “Well, I would like to have some photographs of you.” That simple statement made something click for me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to do this. I needed to do this as a first step towards driving away the self-hate. I needed to be vulnerable and allow someone to help me feel beautiful. And what better time to do it than right now? If I waited until I lost weight, I would never do it.
Was it amazing? Yes. Was it everything I had hoped? Yes and more. Was it hard? YES! Posing, if done properly, isn’t easy! I felt so pampered, but if I’m being totally honest, most of the time, I was overwhelmed. A lot of very focused attention was on me for several hours, and oh my gosh, what if I got all fan-girl and said something stupid in front of my idol? I felt like I wanted to vomit, which ended quickly once the shoot was over. I think it was a big combo of nerves and excitement and all of the emotions I had built up. After we were done with the shoot, we had a long talk. I explained to Sue how I felt about myself and my struggles, and she told me some of her story. She gave me some things to think about and some new perspectives as well as some books to read. One of the most striking things that she said was, “just imagine for a moment that you have gone through all of this struggle with self-hate just so you can help other women learn how to love themselves…maybe through photographing them in this same type of incredible experience. If you had never gone through it yourself, how would you know how to connect with them?” There’s a concept and totally new way of looking at things! If I think about the experience now, I just tear up. There are a lot of things I need to work on within myself, but I think this was a perfect beginning to my journey towards self-love.
It was about the photographs and the hair and makeup, but even more, it was about me learning some pretty big life lessons. It was about starting on the pathway towards loving who I am and my body, no matter how “fat” I think I am or even the number on the scale or the sizes on the tags in my dresses. For me, this is a work in progress, and I still have a long way to go. But, I can’t thank Sue Bryce enough for helping me on my journey through this amazing experience. It was life-changing and worth every cent (and probably more) that I paid to do it.
And now for what you really want to see, the amazing photographs! This is just a small sampling of my favorites, but in the interest of not making this blog post so large, it won’t download for anyone, I had to limit it. It was hard to choose because they were all so incredible! I look at these, and I have a hard time taking the photographer hat off, where I’m just appreciating a beautiful photograph, and realizing, wait, that’s ME in that picture! Wow, do I really look like that?