After more than a year of thinking about and planning for my You Are Beautiful sessions, my first one is finally completed! If you missed the original post that explains what these are and how they were inspired, you can find it HERE! I truly believe everyone is beautiful through my lens and that we (by we, I mean mainly women) need to embrace who we are and what we look like and be as kind and encouraging to ourselves as we are to every other woman we know in our lives and most especially our children!
I was thrilled to have Melonie be my first session. Over a year ago, we met for coffee and, among other things, she helped me think through what these sessions were going to be about and how I wanted to do them. This idea had been percolating around in my head for a couple of years and I was finally ready to get it in motion. And, since she was willing to be photographed, she got to be my inaugural shoot!
I know this word can be overused but I really wanted these sessions to be authentic. I want to photograph women who, more often than not, shy away from the lens of a camera. These aren't meant to be full fashion sessions with a hair and makeup artist, looking different from how you normally do. That doesn't mean you have to look like you just woke up in the morning but it means that these sessions are intended to show the real you, to let your soul shine through. I feel so strongly about being able to accept ourselves, what we think of as "flaws" and all. Those laugh lines? Hard earned and worth every laugh. Wrinkles, they are normal - a part of the privilege of growing older. For me, I'm not 20 anymore and I'm not supposed to look like I am. None of us are - except perhaps those who are actually still in their twenties.
In the submission form, I ask what each woman's happy place is. Where would you go if you had an entire free day to yourself and no other obligations? For me, it would be one of my favorite coffee shops. For Melonie, it was her piano, in her family room. So, that's where we met.
Melonie and I have been friends for a few years. I can't honestly pinpoint exactly how we met but now I kind of feel like we've known each other forever. When we get together, we could talk for hours! As she sat down at her piano and got ready to play for me (BONUS...getting to experience her beautiful voice singing Christmas songs while I happily clicked away), I tested my settings, spotted some in-between moments that I loved, asked her to stay right where she was and finally had her start playing!
Eventually we moved on to chatting about this session and the reason I'm doing them and her thoughts about being photographed. We both agreed that it's shocking how fast time has moved and how did we get to this point in our lives so quickly? As I have more and more conversations with women about aging and how we feel about it, what we all struggle with the most is simply our outward appearance. I don't believe I've chatted with anyone who would trade the knowledge and wisdom their life's journey has brought them so far. As I looked at Melonie, I asked her if she could change anything about herself, what would it be, because I couldn't even take a guess at what she'd say. She mentioned a few things she struggles with, and I get it, because we all have things we'd change. But more often that not, those are things no one else would ever see. I was surprised to learn we are pretty much the same age because I would have guessed she was about 10-12 years younger than me. As I looked through my lens and she showed me who she is, all I see is a woman, with a sparkle in her eyes, who is real and honest, who has an easy laugh and is also beautiful. I'm always far more interested in the person on the inside, rather than what they look like on the outside. I've begun to make a conscious effort to not mention looks first when describing another girl or woman. It's something I really have to think about as we've been conditioned in life to first tell little girls how pretty they are, making everything else secondary, when really, it's the other way around.
As a fun bonus, Melonie had this awesome mug to use for our session. It couldn't have been more perfect. And then, surprise...I got to take it home with me. Such a thoughtful gesture and I love this mug SO MUCH! In fact, I'm drinking out of it right now as I type this blog post!
We wrapped up our session by heading outside for just a few shots. Melonie grabbed a super fun, faux fur coat she recently scored and it was perfect for these final few images.
Thank you for showing me who you are! What a perfect way to spend my afternoon.
Melonie, you truly are beautiful both inside and out!