This post is long overdue. But I am one who functions on feeling and energy and the universe's directions, and the universe hadn't directed me to do it until now. This shoot happened at the end of August in Connecticut with my amazingly creative and inspirational sister-in-law, Ally Davis. Ally is a graduate of the New School in New York City. She studied dance, and is currently in the process of building her very own dance company, Visceral Movement. I asked Ally if she wanted to do this shoot with me, as I had been developing an idea for a photography project called 'The Beautiful Woman Project' which is a project focused on exposing the raw, undecorated beauty of women by photographing them without makeup on. I had this whole beautiful end of summer scenario in mind, and her being a dancer just added to the wild, imaginative, dream-like surrealism of the story; what happens when two creative mommies who have such limited time to themselves, leave the house at 7 am on a sunday morning to get into a field as the sun is rising with flowy dresses and dew drops on the grass??? Well, magic of course. I mean, it couldn't have been a more perfect shoot for launching my project.
But then what you ask? Well, life. A major lack of personal time. Finding out that our home was contaminated with mold and we had to move out. It has now been over 6 months and we are still not back.. (although we will be able to get back in within the next couple of weeks!! woo hoooo!). So I was waiting. I was waiting for the perfect time, the perfect moment, the perfect platform to share this project that is very very dear to my heart. The thing is though, sometimes that perfect time we are waiting for doesn't come.
I have always had the intention of sharing these beautiful images, but it wasn't until this past week when Ally shared one of them on her instagram, that she and I started talking about our next collaboration and I remembered how incredibly liberating and creatively invigorating that morning was this past August with her. We were free as birds, wild children.. not another soul in sight. It was just her and me and my camera and the warm warm sunrise. I remember her thanking me after we finished, because she had been feeling a lack of inspiration recently and she just felt so good afterwards. And of course, I thanked her because I was feeling the very same way.
I was asked recently by my friend, Allie O'Conner(co-blogger at Little Red's Well), my thoughts on creativity, as they are in the process of doing a 50 day creativity challenge (#scratchfor50). This thing that we are all blessed with, creativity, it's a gift. It's a delicate gift that needs to be acknowledged, nurtured, and respected. And when we give it these things, what it gives back to us is nothing short of magic.
So, I have been waiting to post these images to my blog talking about the beautiful woman project, but in the last twenty-four hours, I have realized that instead, I want to share them as what they are to me today, which is a reminder of what can happen if you let the magic in.
We were laughing hysterically during this shoot. I mean, tears pouring from our eyes. It was an hour of pure silliness, joy, and soul-therapy. There is something to be said for just letting go.. re-connecting with our inner-child, making silly fish faces just because it makes us laugh! Since having children, I have found myself able to do this more easily. A child can bring this out of almost anyone. But to be able to do this, as just two grown women in a park with a camera, not a single child in sight, well... I think that is special.
Amber is a beautiful old friend of mine whom I have always found to be a happy, glowing person with a contagious smile and laugh. As I was working on this set of images, I was literally transported back to that afternoon in Elizabeth Park; laughing out loud at the sheer silliness, smiling at the joy, and breath-taken by the beauty of this woman.
Amber is a Holistic Health Coach, Registered Nurse, and founder of Whole and Vibrant Living.
I first met Marie-Claude over four years ago, the same weekend I came to Quebec to visit Mathieu for the first time. She was dating a friend of his, and the four of us had met out for dinner at a bring your own wine restaurant in Quebec City. My french was pretty much non-existent then, and Marie was a bit shy in English, but with the guys as our translators and the wine as our confidence, we got along just perfectly. The next time I saw Marie, she told us that she was pregnant. Ironically, about a month or so later, I found out that I was pregnant as well. We talked over facebook quite a bit about our pregnancies, keeping track of one another, making little comparisons here and there, being that it was the first time the both of us were going through this. Mathieu and I didn't want to know the sex of our baby, but Marie-Claude had discovered that they were having a boy. They named him Charles-Antoine. She was beyond excited, she was a beautiful, proud mommy.
I was still living in Brooklyn when we got the devastating news. After some complications with her pregnancy, at about 23 weeks gestation, baby Charles-Antoine was born, and passed away. I was in shock. My heart ached for them. It was so unfair.
The next time I saw Marie-Claude, I was about 7 1/2 months pregnant. I was nervous to see her, afraid that her seeing me would bring on so many unimaginable emotions for her. I remember thinking that I wouldn't have been strong enough to do it. But she was. And I admired her for it.
When Marie-Claude messaged me to ask for me to photograph her, I was so honored. She told me that she wanted some photos to commemorate a new beginning for herself. I was nervous.. I wanted so badly to be able to give her these images to help to re-enforce that strength that she has within her, that I ever-so clearly saw in her, and for her to recall the beauty that not only exists on the outside, but inside of her as well.
She emailed me after she first looked through all of her images. Her message filled me with so much joy, tears welled up in my eyes.
"Honnêtement je viens de regarder les photos et j'ai les larmes aux yeux ! Ton travail est INCROYABLE et tu as su capter toute ma force et ma vulnérabilité ! J'ai l'impression de me "voir" pour la première fois comme les personnes qui tiennent à moi me voient !
Le petit mot que tu m'as écrit m'a ému. Tu es une fille, une femme et une mère qui a un talent artistique hors du commun !
Ta mission est accomplie puisque je vais regarder ces photos dans 10-20-30 ans avec une émotion différente chaque fois, mais toujours avec le sentiment d'avoir immortalisé mes 30 ans de la meilleur façon que l'on puisse le faire !
Merci pour ce moment, merci a toi et ta famille de faire partie de ma vie et n'oublie jamais, toi aussi, à quel point tu es belle et extraordinaire !"
"Honestly, I just looked through all of the photos and I have tears in my eyes! Your work is INCREDIBLE and you have captured all of my strength and my vulnerability. I feel like I am "seeing" myself for the first time in the way that others who find me attractive see me!
The little note that you wrote to me moved me as well. You are a girl, a woman, and a mother who has an artistic talent that you don't see often.
Mission accomplished. I will look at these photos in 10-20-30 years with a different emotion each time, but always with the feeling of having lived my 30 years in the best way I could.
Thank you for this moment, thank you to you and your family for being a part of my life, and don't ever forgot that you too are beautiful and extraordinary."
This is why I want to do this. This is what I hope that my images can do for people. These are the memories that we will have for years and years and years to come. And perhaps, some day, when Marie is not feeling at her strongest, she can look at these images and be reminded of the incredible woman that she is.