I didn’t expect my very first blog post to be on this topic. Rather, it was going to be an introduction to me; who I am, who and what I love, and why I do what I do. Instead, I’m going to share something very personal, very difficult and very sad for me. Then, I’m going to tell you why I’m so thankful.
Here I am, the photographer who does not like to be in images. It’s so easy to find a reason to put it off: wanting to shave off a few pounds, grow out my hair a bit, wait until I grow a few inches (good luck), that sort of silly excuse. The reality is, I don’t like to be photographed because I don’t see in myself the beauty that I see in every one of my clients.
Ridiculous it may be. It isn’t any less real for me. Perhaps that’s why I can so effortlessly put nervous brides or new mothers at ease. I understand how they feel, and they know that I see their beauty, even when they struggle to.
Now – let’s get real here for a second – very real. We are all only here for a finite time. We all are going to die someday. It doesn’t get more real, or stark than that. I’ve photographed a wedding where the groom passed within weeks. I’ve photographed family images where a parent has passed. I’ve photographed a beautiful, vibrant young woman who passed suddenly and unexpectedly, shortly after the session. Each time, the grieving family contacted me to thank me for the images, for the memories I was able to give them. Your images become so much more precious when someone in them is no longer by your side. Every excuse that you can come up with to stay away from being in those images is going to seem so tragic and senseless if you find yourself in a position to no longer be able to have those images with someone you love.
I experienced loss just this past week, in my own way. Last summer I decided to have a photographer create images for my family. My long suffering husband knew that along with the five of us two leggers in the family, the portraits were also going to include my four legged babies. I almost cancelled the session. The plan was to lose 20 pounds before the portraits. The reality was a two pound loss. I was worried about being heavy in my photos. Then I realized something – my husband has lost some hair. He hates it. Does it matter to me that he doesn’t have a full head of glossy hair? Not at all. It matters to me that he’s in the image with me. It matters that we have this perfect tangible memory of our life together, our legacy, and the fun day we had being photographed. I don’t think my kids are going to look back at our images and say “Man, I wish Mom hadn’t been fat in our pictures”. I think they are going to say “That was the most fun day, we had a great time, and we all look so happy.”
My good friend, an amazing photographer, Darwin Mulligan spent the day with us. He also consented to letting me have my dog and my beloved horses in our images. Darwin knew just how important it was to me to have these photos. I often photograph others with their horses, but had no truly great images of me with mine. Along with family photos of the five of us, we had family photos with the four legged babies.
Last Tuesday, there was a phone call from my daughter, screaming and crying. My heart stopped, sure she’d been in a car accident or some other horrible fate. When I could finally make sense of her words, I realized she was saying “Luna is dead, Luna is dead”. Yes, I am talking about the loss of a horse. It may sound trite, and you may be thinking I compare this loss to the loss of a person. I assure you that I am not, but the grief that my daughter and I feel losing Luna is very real. I am so thankful that I am not writing a post about someone in my life. In no way do I compare this with the overwhelming grief of losing a loved one. However, I am also devastated to be writing it about this sassy little filly that so captured my heart.
Luna was the answer to a lifetime of dreams and prayers for me. I’ve searched forever for a black horse, one who was smart, trusting and willing. I wanted a baby that my children could grow up with, I wanted to watch that love affair blossom and grow. Luna trusted us implicitly, never wavering when we asked her for anything. Never have I had a horse that trusting, which tells me she loved us and counted on us.
My beautiful little black horse, the one who I’ve waited for ever for, the one who so many hopes and dreams were pinned on left us suddenly during the night. We don’t know why, have no answers, only an empty hole in our hearts where she resided.
What I do have left – memories and images. Powerful images that bring back her smell, her silly antics, her love for me. These images are going to be on my walls, in my heart and in my life forever. What really mattered to me on the day of our portrait session were those of my family. What I was happy to have were the images of my horses. These images have taken on a new meaning for me now. I’ve thanked Darwin over and over for taking the time to give me such a perfect gift – these portraits.
I ask this of you: please, get in those photos with your kids. Make those tangible reminders for them but also for you to treasure. It doesn’t matter if you’re in sweats, if your hair is a mess, if you don’t have your makeup on. Get in those photos! Don’t put it off, waiting for the perfect day, the loss of the weight, on and on. Hire a photographer. I’m not trying to scare you, or obligate you – it doesn’t have to be me, (although I’d be honoured it if it was!). What I am asking is this – make those tangible memories! You’ll thank me for it later. I promise. Then, get them out of your desk drawer and up on your walls where you can see them and enjoy them.
Be present, be in the moment, and for Heaven’s sake – BE IN THE PICTURE.
Photo credit: Darwin Mulligan Photography