There are many things that happened in Seattle that I didn't expect
Teaching at Click Away, being assaulted by a Monk Fish, and hanging out with some of my industry favorites (who turned out NOT to be jerks!) like it was NBD were just a few of those.
Then, Monday morning, which was supposed to be one last hoorah with my favorite women, I set my alarm for 5 am to work, instead. Plans changed and I was going to be picked up by a client, driven an hour away to her home, shoot their session, and then catch a shuttle to the airport.
This - normally - would have be in full blown anxiety tears. This is not how I operate. In fact, it was circumstances similar to these that only last year had be cancel a session in another state. Part of being an emotional photographer is having a good read of people. Having great mother effing intuition. NOW, as ANY ONE OF MY FRIENDS CAN TELL YOU - do not, under any circumstance, trust my directional instincts in a new city. Never. If you do, well, you can only blame yourself, because I told you so. But people. I can read them. And when I talked to Tania, something in me was begging me to let go and give in. To "say yes."
There are so many tutorials and "5 ways to..." all about staying "in control" at your session, and while those tools are necessary to keep in your bag, for this session, I kept them zipped up.
I met Tania, bleary-eyed outside my apartment. We drove, and talked, and neither of us pushed ourselves on the other. I laid down my ego, begrudgingly, which gave her permission to leave her's at home too. The sun had yet to break the trees when we pulled up to her home, glowing warm on the inside, so delicately among the blues and blacks of the morning. The invitation called to my shivering bones and I got out my camera. I met her husband, the yin to her yang, with his stiff posture and shy smile, and I giggled as the girls rose from their beds and excitedly showed me all of their treasures. This made me miss my girls in a real way. And then, we just, hung out. I said yes to everything. They let me in their space like few have before. They let me be me, and I let them be them, and we brought out something in each other that is hard for me to articulate.
And sometimes, it's hard for me to share my words, because I know I feel too much, I put too much out there, and sometimes, I fear, and know, that it's one sided. But then, Tania shared some words with me, and I know there was something between us that is now knit together.
Here's what she had to say
"I have been documenting my girls for a while now, and I had made many many promises for myself to be conducting more self portraits, being in the photos with my children. You know how that goes,… I am also WAY more comfortable behind the scenes, something I am working on! I have been waiting for so long to invite a photographer into my home but had a hard time finding connection with someone who understood what were the little things that were so important to have documented. I was quite picky! Seeing your work and finding out that you would be in Seattle was my moment to commit - and what kismet that you happened to be one to photograph my family. From the moment I met you, I felt like you were a sibling, or family member that flew into town, you flowed into our morning rituals seamlessly, you connected with my girls, and your peaceful soothing presence and documentation style put me at ease and helped my crazy artist self to know I was in good hands, something very hard for many photographers to do ;) I felt blessed to have you come into my space with such respect and to share a morning walk and meal with us, I felt a genuine kinship in your approach. I have wholeheartedly LOVED having my family moments documented with you. For me to ‘exist’ in photographs with them is a rarity, and for you to do it so beautifully is something I hold dear to my heart. I love those raw moments, the real fleeting milestones in childhood that we forget so easily.
Of course you ask me the hardest yet one of the most often asked questions (i ask of myself)! What have these girls taught me? I think the benefit of having such different children are the gifts each offer to us, and to each other. Motherhood, parenting is this cliche quagmire of ‘hard work’ that is said so often but set aside so easily. It can be flinchingly unnerving when one innocently says, “oh so you’re just a mom right now”. As a strong, stubborn woman who has had experiences I love and craved once I became a mother, comments like that pushed me to the edge. I think our society don’t give the credit being a parent (men and women) deserves. Doing it “right" take so much of you and yet you have to find the balance so that you can continue to give, and give and give. It is the lesson of selflessness, compassion and humility that I owe to them. My girls have taught me forgiveness, acceptance, love, joy, raw emotion, unabashed feelings, and impermanence. I only can hope that I can serve that back up to them with a side of infinite appreciation. In all honesty, I focus on empathy, I focus on respect, I focus on communication. I think of the tools that are required for us to be solid human beings, solid adults who know boundaries, who are self assured, who are empathetic, who are confident and can communicate how they feel to themselves and each other, to self regulate and self care. I hope that these tools not only help them, but to advocate for others who need that support. To be an active participant in their communities, to value what it means to be humans with each other and the connections we share on this earth. As a yoga educator, social worker, mother, and photographer I find those tools essential in all the capacities I fulfill. Above all, forgiveness for the ‘mistakes’ we do day to day, and to start each brand new day again with that humility when that inner child comes out and tackles us and can be self defeating and self deprecating that makes parenting impossible. I am so long winded!
I now have children that are no longer in the toddler years, no babies in diapers, no nursing babes in arms, no baby wearing shelves full of beautiful wraps, and achey backs from co-sleeping (well, this isn’t technically over)… and I am slightly grieving as I have been nursing for 6 consecutive years. I am also really growing into my next stage of motherhood, with more personal and professional freedoms that I have missed and grieved even, and trying to make sense of this new role. What people don’t tell you when you become a mother is this identity shift, even though a good one, isn’t always the best experience. With my first child, I had moved frequently with my husband’s work in the military and I felt estranged, isolated and without community, I had such difficulty transitioning and was constantly self critical of my shortcomings…. I built a community of mothers around me wherever I moved but when I look back at that time I shudder, and wish that I could have told that new mama that it would get better, that I would get to a point in which I can make some sense of what I am in all of this mama stuff, and how I reconcile those identities of being a partner, a mother, and me. Women are so strong. We are such a magical force if we only knew how resilient and full of power we contain… I am looking forward to combining much of my career and how it folds into my home life. Being a mother is above all so important for me, that everything has always taken second place and I am not ashamed one bit HOWEVER, I am endlessly grateful for the privilege to be able to be home with them most of the time because I know that this is not a reality for many parents. "
Thank you, Tania and Nick. I can't wait to do this again sometime <3
This weekend I head to Fort Worth, and then I end this year's travels in Austin. Thank you, each and every one of you, who allow me into your homes to do what I love the most.