First of all- I am sorry I have not been posting consistently or often these past few months.
Second of all- buckle up.
The truth is, I have been wrestling lately with what I want to present. With what my “brand” is, as you savvy Instagramers / Facebookers / bloggers would say.
And the truth is, I was a little stuck with how to proceed with social media platforms.
When I first started photographing, I was concerned with one thing, and one thing only: posting what I found to be beautiful. It wasn’t so much a concern as my reason for becoming a photographer. When I saw things that were beautiful, I would absolutely ache. The way sun slanting through a cafe window hit his crows feet. The way green storm clouds brought out her eyes. The weathered skin of a carpenter’s hands, caught through a passing rain-streaked window. The world around me made me ache with its beauty.
And I simply had to let you see what I was seeing.
At first, social media was the perfect-imperfect way to do this. With the click of a button, I could let you in.
My only perimeter for what I posted? Is this beautiful.
The transition to wedding and lifestyle photography was seamless. While I started out on sets in Los Angeles (giant, ten thousand dollar lighting set-ups, five creatives fussing over the curl of a strand of hair or a hiccup in a t-shirt), I keenly longed to capture people that were real. Flawed, glorious, pimpled, glowing, flesh-and-bone human beings, doing the things they do. Like get married. Like have a baby. Like start a business. Being there with a giant camera to document felt as holy and natural and uncomplicated as breathing.
And I enjoyed following others in my field doing the same.
A lot has changed since I started in this line of work five years ago, and I have struggled to verbalize what it is. I think I finally have a word for it, and I think I’m finally ready to share these thoughts with you.
It’s the perfectifying of everyday life. *
*Alright: big old opening asterisk. I am not speaking of my brave, brilliant, creative, strong friends who are stylists, fashion-designers, fashionistas, models, designers. Whose knowledge of color, texture, space, composition, and fabric make the word unendingly pleasurable. You make every space brighter with your art, your study and elevation of the human form. You were gifted with eyes, and by god, keep making the world more beautiful by using them.
I am speaking of everyday people being erased in favor of a certain aesthetic popular in wedding and lifestyle photography.
Basically: If you are not mostly young, white, and thin, good luck finding yourself.
When I first started following wedding photographers and blogs half a decade ago, I was blown away by the artistry, creativity, and sheer photographic talent displayed within. It lit a fire in my belly to take jaw-dropping, timeless images. It inspired me to chase better light, better compositions, better language to make my couples release their inhibitions and connect with their inner god / goddess.
Today, as I scroll through these blogs, I see an endless steam of young, hot, fit, able-bodied, hetero, and predominately white couples with thousands of dollars of trappings upon and surrounding them.
Listen. If you are any of the above things, by god, LOVE that body! Celebrate your form. You are born into the body you are born into. YOU are beautiful and perfect, just the way your are. Spend those sweet dollar bills on your glorious cliffside wedding that would make any photographer weep with joy. This message is not for you.
This message is for the legion of wedding photographers, wedding blogs, and wedding professionals who only publish people like you.
Because there are a whole lot of other people out there who are equally beautiful. And aren’t seeing themselves or their likeness anywhere in the wedding and lifestyle industry.
A few years ago, during a consult with a successful wedding photographer who I looked up to, he made an off-hand comment about, “Not all the couples we book can be beautiful!” I remember being shocked and horrified and queasy on the inside (what, exactly, did this white, young, handsome man think of boyishly, short, frizzy, hairy, slightly pungent, silly me?) but, to my deep regret and continued shame, I smiled awkwardly and nodded along.
What I should have said is: what do you mean?
This would have forced the inherit ugliness in his comment back on him.
What do you mean, beautiful? Do you mean young? Thin? A certain type of skin or skin tone? A certain income level? What?
But I am saddened and sorry and sickened to say that somewhere in my subconscious, his comment stuck.
I suddenly became conscious of what I was posting.
Is this image [insert asinine metric here] enough?
Every time I went to post, it was not an exercise in showcasing that which was beautiful, vivacious, real, messy, sun-struck, raw. It was a narrow weighing of what was *worthy* of being showcased. Perhaps his comment hit some dormant nerve in my own psyche. (Lord knows we’ve all got a few of them). Perhaps I wanted to suddenly play the game by someone else’s rules.
Whatever it was, it sucked. And it constricted.
I’m ready to be me again.
I’m ready to honor beauty–in its millions of nuanced forms–again.
While I have never been a voracious poster, I am re-dedicating myself to showcasing YOU. I will not play into a lie that your living room or wedding hair or face or waistline need to look a certain way for you to be worthy of “likes.” I will not play into the lie that beauty is a box that by god, you better be stuffing yourself into. A box I, myself, have never and–as my hair greys and my teeth brown and my thighs happily grow–will never fit into.
I’m ready to see light hitting a carpenter’s weathered hands through a rain-streaked window and saying that is slice of beauty is worthy of sharing.
You are worthy. Thank you for trusting me with your divine-meets-earthly forms these many years.
This wonderful kiddo, pictured above?
May she never grow up trying to fit inside a box too small to contain her.