I have been thinking about authenticity lately, and how it applies to my photography. I think we are seeing more authenticity from our society in general as time marches forward – moms openly admitting that their kids drive them to drink, celebrities posting pictures of themselves as awkward teenagers, and dadbods are all the rage. I see Americans collectively becoming more turned off by the polished fake personas put forward by public figures (especially politicians!) and moving away from the outdated expectation that we all be a part of a “Leave it to Beaver” style perfect American family.
I think this societal shift is fantastic, personally, because I will never achieve that level of Pinterest-worthy perfection. In that spirit, I want authenticity to be my focus in 2018 – to be my authentic self, and to create images for my clients that are authentic and honest.
I think we hunger for authenticity from others, if for no other reason than to feel like we are not alone in our current state of imperfection.
I hear excuses from too many clients (especially moms, but dads too!) about not being photo-ready for this reason and that. I want to say something to all the not-photo-ready people out there: it’s nonsense! Who says there is only one acceptable body type we must all strive for? Nonsense! Who decided it was unacceptable to have love handles? Nonsense! (In the spirit of honesty, I’ll admit that I happen to adore my husband’s abundant midsection.)
Own who you are now, and relax about it. Stop wasting your life striving endlessly to achieve some narrow definition of attractiveness!
I will admit that I despise photographs of myself. When I took a step back to analyze why I hide from the camera, I realized that it’s because I am unhappy at (and in denial about) my current weight – and I fear that people will look at my picture and judge me the way I judge myself. But screw that. I need to accept myself as I am today so I can be happy today. I need to stop criticizing and judging every flaw of my own in a harsh way I would never direct at another human being. And who cares what others think. I should care more about the opinions of my children, husband, and myself. Forget everybody else, they have their own stuff to deal with.
Another reason why this is so difficult for me: it feels like accepting myself as I am now is giving up on the possibility of improving. But that’s not true.
Accepting yourself now doesn’t mean giving up on yourself, or never working to improve yourself. All it means is offloading all the self-judgment and internal criticism. Who has time for all that negative speak anyway?? I intend to do my best to eat healthier and find more time for exercise. I can accept myself now AND still want to be a healthier version of myself.
And so, in the spirit of authenticity, I am offering up this “naked” picture of myself. By “naked”, I mean no makeup, no hair styling, no photoshopping. This picture was taken in my living room — Annika held the camera, and Evelyn held the reflector. =P Here is the practice shot I used to get my lighting worked out:
Doing this was a terrifying exercise for me, because it meant facing my truth. My truth is eyebrows and eyelashes that are too light and sparse. My truth is sunspots on my skin and red spots from various scars. My truth is asymmetrical. My truth is pale skin and pale lips. My truth is wide streaks of gray hair coming from each temple. My truth is a furrow between my brows. My truth is a soft jaw and a double chin.
I am laying it bare here because I want to free myself from the fear that somebody else will see my truth and be disgusted. By posting this here, I am offering my truth to the world — and I don’t have to be a slave to that fear anymore. I would love if this exercise helped someone else get over that fear as well.
I want to be a photographer who celebrates the beauty in all of us – imperfections and all.
And that doesn’t mean my clients can’t wear makeup, or can’t ask me to photoshop a stray pimple. It just means that I want to capture photographs that are honest. More unscripted, less coached, less staged, less photoshopped. More REAL. It means I am not going to delete the texture of your skin in your portrait. It means I don’t want every subject smiling perfectly into the camera for every picture.
I want to capture something true, something genuine, something unscripted.
My favorite images are never the ones where everyone is looking right at the camera. My favorite pictures are the ones with a genuine emotion. A couple looking at each other and realizing “Holy crap we are really married!” A mother looking at her new baby and feeling so much love well up inside that it moves her to tears. Parents being tackled by boisterous children who are reveling in the added attention of a photographer. A business owner working hard to accomplish something amazing. I’ll leave a few examples below. Contact me if you are interested in this kind of picture for your family/business/significant other/self. 😉