As I was packing up to head to Charleston on vacation with my family a few months ago, my youngest daughter turned to me and asked, “Are you going to bring your big camera on vacation?”
Honestly, I wasn’t planning to. I’m a portrait artist, but in that moment I was a mom heading out on vacation with my 14 year-old daughter.
I looked at her standing there and said, “Well, I wasn’t planning to. But why do you ask?”
She replied, “Well, I thought maybe you could take some pictures of me in Charleston.”
And that’s when it hit me.
The portraits I create, the work that I do, the business that I’ve built, has an even greater impact.
Getting in front of the camera isn’t easy. We all have insecurities about how we look and those insecurities are magnified when people realize they are going to be stepping in front of the camera. With my clients, I spend time helping to bring out their personalities, coaching them to relax and be themselves, and, most of all, asking them to take deep breaths and just enjoy the moment. The work I do is not just about creating a portrait. It’s about giving my clients the gift of seeing and understanding how uniquely beautiful they are. When they’re comfortable, relaxed, and enjoying the company of those they love, I can see from behind the lens as the insecurities melt away and the beauty begins to radiate.
Standing there looking at my daughter, who was smiling back at me through her braces, I realized the magnitude of giving her the gift of seeing what I see when I look at her. Yes, she may have braces now, but what I see is the smile I fell in love with the moment she came into this world. Yes, she may complain about her hair on those “bad hair days,” but what I see is those locks spinning around as she pirouettes across the dance studio floor. Yes, her friends may be taller than her right now, but what I see is the fiery passion that she stands up to life with.
Standing there watching my daughter as she goes back to packing, I realized the magnitude of giving this gift to the people I create for.
For the senior girl in high school, who is questioning how smart, pretty, and athletic she is, I can give her the gift of seeing herself the way I see her through my lens: passionate, determined, and full of grace. They may refrain from telling her and risking the all too prevalent eye-roll, but they feel it inside.
For the young mom who is questioning if she’s still beautiful as she chases her three year-old and five year-old through the house without a trace of makeup on, I can give her the gift of seeing herself the way her husband and I see her through my lens: selfless, loving, and glowing.
For the mom in her 50s, who is questioning her worth as she watches one-by-one her three children fly the nest, I can give her the gift of seeing herself the way her family and I see her through my lens: wise, devoted, and wholly loved by her family.
And, it’s not just women who desperately need to see and hear that they are accepted and loved.
Giving this gift to young boys and men is just as meaningful and important.
For the senior boy in high school, who is questioning how toned, tall, and man enough he is, I can give him the gift of seeing himself the way I see him through my lens: youthful, energetic, and compassionate.
For the young father, who is watching his dark brown hair turn grey and is questioning his attractiveness and youth, I can give him the gift of seeing himself the way I see him through my lens: charming, resilient, and hardworking.
For the father in his 50s, who is no longer able to keep up with his sons on the trail and field and is questioning how his age is going to keep him from enjoying the little time he gets to spend with his grown children, I can give him the gift of seeing himself the way I see him through my lens: devoted, strong, and family-focused.
As I sat down and turned on my camera, I began to click through the images to see how much space I had on the particular card in my camera, in which to capture my daughter. Previous sessions appeared on the screen, and image after image, I couldn’t help but smile. Each family, each person I’ve had in front of my camera lens is indeed wonderfully made and so worthy of being captured.