“One day your children will look for photographs of you, what will they have?” – Sue Bryce. When I was first introduced to Sue Bryce’s Exist in Photos Movement, I was an exhausted, overwhelmed momma of an 18-month-old. I took in those words and then filed them away as important. As the unwanted pounds increased and the under-eye bags deepened, I became less and less present in photographs. 6 years later this pattern repeated with my second child. Sadly, I have entire seasons of my life that I chose to be absent photographically. Ultimately, photographs will go on to become an integral part of our legacy; How we communicate our story and our everlasting love to future generations. We must celebrate and share our stories. The ebbs and flows, the ups and downs and everything in between. Our stories, full of resilience, may just go on to become a guiding light for another soul in this crazy thing called life.
I recently lost my beloved grandmother to Alzheimer’s complications at the much too young age of 71. At her memorial, I sat with my 8-year-old son’s little hand folded into mine. We watched a slide show of my beautiful Nana. Every single photo, candid and professional, was truly a treasure. We soaked up each and every one. I reminisced about her soft hands capable of putting me right to sleep, even as an adult. I would lay my head in her lap as she shared family stories in her thick Texan accent. She was a natural nurturer that had a way of making people feel seen, heard and loved. In that moment, I was struck by Sue’s words like a bolt of lightning. How many women are willfully absent from the story of their own lives because they don’t fit society’s standard of “photo worthy”? In that moment I was so incredibly grateful that my Nana wasn’t concerned with having makeup on, what she was wearing, how much extra weight she was carrying… She truly cherished living in the moment. She loved herself and her family so much that she was content to exist in photos simply as is. What a genuinely beautiful gift to her loved ones! I can’t help but wonder what images my children and grandchildren will have that embody who I am and the message I hope to leave behind.
Every year as October approaches, I experience uneasiness. Breast Cancer Awareness month is always an overwhelming reminder of my high risk for breast cancer. The thought of facing a life-threatening disease is of course terrifying. However, I’ve been working to actively, consciously choose to allow that risk factor to act as a motivational silver lining. I must choose to prioritize being present photographically for my children; and for myself. No matter the length of our lives, the time we have with our loved ones is never going to be long enough. Our moments must be documented and preserved so they can be lovingly cherished for years to come.
I had the honor of photographing six incredibly special families. Each of these families has been profoundly impacted by cancer. They have a uniquely wise perspective on weathering some of life’s biggest storms while leaning into their loved ones and their Faith. They are capable of sharing those life lessons with resounding clarity. There is power in seeing a little bit of ourselves reflected in these resilient families. My goal is that they will have the opportunity to speak directly to the hearts of mothers that are fighting their own battles; That we all may gain some much-needed hope in the midst of our own storms. I hope that other women may find peace in knowing that they too can endure and go on to celebrate their own stories of strength and resilience. This astonishing group of women was willing to selflessly bare their vulnerability in hopes of lifting others up. They are powerhouses. Throughout their cancer battles, each gained newfound clarity about the truly important things in life.
Each family’s journey and relationships were celebrated with a custom portrait experience. Each family is a work of art. Designed by God and lovingly, intentionally nurtured by parents that want nothing short of the best for their families. They are a truly masterpiece, worthy of being proudly displayed in their homes.
It was such an honor to help these families celebrate and preserve their legacy. A legacy of love. They are an incredible reminder to other women who struggle with the perpetual waiting game of being photographed. “How much life is lost in waiting?” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. Katie shared that prior to her diagnosis she was always the one behind the camera. After her diagnosis she experienced a monumental shift in how she views her presence in photographs. She now feels very compelled to be photographed and to prioritize regular family portrait sessions. She said “I see now how much can change in a year”. It is a powerful reminder to every woman – to value and celebrate their own beauty and uniqueness even in the midst of life’s battles, big or small. Whether its cancer, mental health, divorce, financial worries, laundry induced anxiety…we all have our battles to overcome. The everyday battle of motherhood is something we can all relate to. Mommas, no matter what season of life you are in… I challenge you to exist in photos.
Don’t wait for a cancer diagnosis. Don’t wait to shed those stubborn pounds. Don’t wait for the elusive golden trifecta of great hair, flawless makeup and the glow-up from the irresistibly inviting yoga pants. Don’t wait hoping that today will be the day that your
significant other photographs you without being poked and prodded into it; only to create “masterpieces” with closed eyes and at least one extra chin (or is that just my husband’s hidden talent???). Don’t wait! Be present now for your children and future generations. Most importantly be active in documenting your own uniquely beautiful story. You are worthy and the time is now!