Last year I donated more than two feet of hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths. This is a sacrifice for me (and my husband) every time because there is so much about short hair that just doesn't feel right. My hair can look quite a bit different in five months of growing and trimming, and this weekend it was time to update my headshots so people recognize me.
I am a deeply compassionate and empathetic person. Truly seeing people is one of the things that comes naturally to me and I believe it saturates my photography.
I am also known for my enormous laugh and wry sense of humor. It's hard to represent all of these things in a single photograph.
For a long time I've carried the expectation that in order to serve families living with grief I needed to be . . . someone a little different from myself. That part of me who is joyful was getting stuffed away by the part of me who is nurturing and compassionate. The big-hearted, loud version was told to shush by the big-hearted, quiet version.
Today, they shake hands. They will be working together from now on.
This won't change my behavior. My work is to serve families as they need me. I match the energy and the vitality they need to experience in someone, and I am really good at doing that.
This does change the way I see myself, and in this view I feel like I can breathe. I feel like I can be authentically me without apology. I am goofy. I'm also pretty polished about it. I know that in order to be the most connected I can be with my client families, I need to feel that way about myself.
So here I am.
In color, because that's how you'll see me in person. With zero retouching, because that's how you'll see me in person.
In fact, I can see I have a little something stuck on one of my teeth right at the gum line.
I'm gaining more wrinkles by the moment. These are lines of a life well lived. I think it's fantastic that my smile lines from my eyes and mouth overlap at my cheeks because my smiles are so big and so frequent. I am grateful for my grey hair, which is one more sign that I have the privilege of aging and with people I love.
This is a photograph of someone who lives, laughs, loves, cries, and struggles. This is someone who sees beauty in life, until the very last breath.
This is someone who sees you and your family in the best ways. This is someone with whom you can celebrate life and love. I look forward to meeting you and sharing in your story.
In 2016 I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share my work through interviews. Iconic images came up in nearly every conversation.
"What was your favorite moment this year?"
"Is there a picture that has stuck with you long after you took it?"
To honor 2016 I thought I'd share my 2016 Image of the Year, and I'll also publish a small report of the number and types of shoots I did this year. People are so curious about what grief photography looks like, and because I do not share many images online I have limited opportunities to covey what it's really like.
For me, grief is like this.
It feels like too much.
This boy is three years old. You can see he's in the hospital. At this moment, he's been in the hospital for a few days. He doesn't yet have a diagnosis. He is in excruciating and sporadic pain that morphine doesn't help.
He was hardly able to rest because there was no position that was comfortable. His mother was with him during his entire stay, which was ten days long. She snuggled with him in his bed, read books with him, sang songs, and played with cars. She explained each of the procedures he would have for diagnosis and evaluation. All of them hurt and added to his pain.
This is a boy who had had enough. In this moment I saw that.
I saw how his fingernails were holding on to dirt that he played in just a few days prior. I saw him writhe in bed, even while sleeping, because the pain was too great. I saw a little boy who was confined to a bed and wired for evaluation who ordinarily would be outside running and jumping.
This is my son. Over the summer he was in the hospital. This image breaks me a little each time I see it.
That is what photography is meant to do. This picture I took on my humble iPhone camera tells a story in a way words cannot. It connects me with how I felt over those days in July. It renews my gratitude for his health. It evokes emotions I can hardly describe.
This is why I do this work. I have lived these pictures. While I cannot understand every circumstance I experience through the eyes of my client families, I can have heart for them because I can relate to the grief, anxiety, uncertainty, pain, anger, sorrow, and helplessness.
I see you. I want to help you see yourself and your family.
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.