To be seen. Really seen.

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This family.  I’ve been following them for awhile, from their engagement into the realm of parenthood and then from Kellen’s newborn days to this shoot close to MacKayla’s first birthday.

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When I think of families I hope we emulate I think of this one immediately.  There’s a trust they have in me that I am beyond grateful for and I don’t even know how it works: on the one hand its like I’m not even there and on the other its like I’m part of everything, just hanging out with friends I’ve known forever.  I can’t figure out how they do that.

In her TED talk titled “The Power of Vulnerability”, researcher Brene Brown says, “in order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be seen.  Really seen.”  She describes a group of people she calls “the whole hearted”, a group of individuals who feel worthy and live in their worthiness.  She analyzed interviews with this group to try and find out what they had in common.  She found that they have the courage to be imperfect, compassion for themselves first and then to others as well the ability to form connections as a result of authenticity.  Which means letting go of who they think they ought to be in favor of who they really are.  The last thing this group of people had in common was that they fully embraced vulnerability.  “They believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.”  Its not the same as being comfortable with it, by definition vulnerability is not comfortable.  But it is necessary.

I don’t do research on this subject but if I had to guess I would say that Jessica and Kim fall into the category of the whole hearted and the children they are raising will too.  I think that’s how and why our sessions work as they do, where I can be both invisible and incredibly present all at the same time.  Their vulnerability allows them to shine as partners and parents and it frees me to do nothing but see them, I conduct nothing.  I know that we all have the potential to be whole hearted, to live as they do.  I am frustrated when I realize that our culture doesn’t embrace whole hearted living.  Our jobs depend on our competence and ability to perform: imperfection is hardly considered charming and shame is an ever present fear.

I recently complimented a photographer friend on a photo she took because I found it incredibly powerful.  She said that when she looked at it all she could see was how the color didn’t turn out the way she wanted.  I didn’t see a color problem at all, I just felt the power of the moment and details put together.  I edit my own photos so highly and tightly that I am beginning to wonder how much beauty is lost to my own sense of pride and fear of shame: if the camera work isn’t up to my standards I fear that I won’t be hired again so I hide these photos.  What if I am hiding my most beautiful work?

So if you think I’m sharing one too many photos of this session here maybe I am.  And if you find my camera work sloppy or the moment imperfect, the smile crooked or the background displeasing, that might also be true.  Or maybe you won’t.  Having made this connection, I want to meet this family on their level and match their vulnerability with my own because I don’t want you to miss beauty lost to my fear.  So here it is in all its glorious imperfection in the hopes that I connect with you in the same way they have connected with me all these years.

Jessica and Kim, thanks for always being among my biggest fans and promoters.  You are incredible parents and humans beings and I want you to know that I’m taking notes and always humbled to have you before my lens.

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