I’ve seen my work change a lot over the years, but one thing has stayed the same. I’ve always longed to show joy and genuine connection between family members in my images. No fake smiles here. Not one. I want to give you something real and connected. I want to show you the parts where you’re having fun together and for a moment or two, completely forget I am there. The parts where you’ve let your guard down and you’re 100% focused on each other. The parts where your hair is a little messed up and you’re smiling bigger than you normally would (because otherwise your eyes look too squinty and maybe show too many laugh lines). The parts where you’re moving and flowing and breathing in each other. And it’s taken me a long long while to figure out why.
I knew part of it may have been about de-mystifying “the perfect happy family” because I know everyone is not always happy, and I know that no family, and no person, is perfect. But there was more of a yearning inside of me to photograph laughter and connection that was bigger than that. This need of mine is actually more of an obsession. I can’t NOT photograph these moments. I live to see you in these moments. These moments keep me getting coming back for more, keep me working hard, keep me busting my butt trying to build a successful small business amongst a sea of competition. These snippets of connection, caught forever in a photo, that show how amazing & beautiful your families are, imperfections and all.
But why is it so hard to show sometimes? Why is it so hard to open up in front of a camera? Why do I have such a desire to show this?
After reading Brené Brown’s best seller, The Gifts of Imperfection, I finally realized what I’ve been drawn to and believe in (and obsessed with) and have not been able to put into my own words for many years.
In her book, she talks about vulnerability and shame and connection. It’s eye opening. Our society has an impression that vulnerability is a sign of weakness, but it’s actually the opposite. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is courageous. Most people try to avoid any type of discomfort and shame by not allowing themselves to be vulnerable. But being vulnerable allows you to connect with people.
She goes on further to talk about laughter, dancing, and singing, and how all of these activities encourage vulnerability but foster the connection that we all seek on many different levels. Laughter, in order to truly take place, involves losing control a bit, and letting go of the need for perfection. She says, “Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, and healing: that we are not alone.”
How powerful is that?
Brené goes on to say that a good belly laugh is unquestionably good for the soul; but it is also an exercise in vulnerability. There are many shame triggers around it, including the fear of being awkward, goofy, silly, spastic, uncool, out of control, immature, stupid, and foolish. Wanting to maintain control is a lot about minimizing vulnerability and the need to manage perceptions. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.
All of those shame triggers she talks about is actually EXACTLY how I would describe myself. I am goofy, silly, uncool, and spastic at times. Just ask my husband, kids and friends! No wonder I seek out messy hair, laugh lines, and true connection in my work. These snippets of connection, caught forever in a photo, show how amazing & beautiful your families are, imperfections and all.
Laughing and being vulnerable is so FREEING. It is so FUN. It is so BEAUTIFUL. I promise you. I’d love to show you.
If you’d like to learn more about using vulnerability to build better honest and open relationships, read on. I found this amazing website called Conscioused: A University for Life Skills that explains in a step-by-step process, how to use vulnerability and honesty to foster closer relationships with your kids, with your spouse, parents, and friends. Let me know what you think!