I am so INCREDIBLY excited you found me and I am even more excited to share with you my “WHY”, why I am so passionate about working with High school Seniors. 5th grade, Cordova Alaska….that’s were it began!
Standing on the playground talking with classmates when BOOM, in seconds I am on the ground flat on my back, kids laughing and then turning their backs and walking away. Teachers and Principals sitting quietly amongst themselves off to the side while I sat there quietly, tears rolling down my face as the kids kneeling behind me and the kid who pushed me walked away snickering to each other. Sitting in a circle with classmates along the fence line of the gravel playground, with the GIANT covered playground to our backs (I mean we are talking its own building), I was looking at my shoe when I felt the first stone hit my head…a few seconds later another and then another – I looked up and said “whose throwing rocks at me? PLEASE STOP!” Then there was another and another, finally, the bell rang and we went inside.
What was it about me – WHY ME??? – What did I ever do to them???
I struggled with those questions for the next 7 years! 7 years of doubt, shame, humiliation, loneliness, low self-esteem, feeling less than adequate, always trying to “fit in”. I was in the Coast Guard for over 25 years, and so throughout my childhood, I was moving every 2-3 years. At first, it was hard to leave “friends” but all too soon it became an opportunity of hope for me – a chance for a new beginning – maybe this time I would have friends, people would like me, I would fit in, it would just be different. The time frame I remember the most was the High School years, just not how you would think! I could go on and on about the cattiness if teenage girls and the ignorance of teenage boys but that’s not the reason for this message, nor am I looking for “pitty”.
What I want you to know that I GET IT—I’ve been there—I remember all too well what it feels like to be a teenager, struggling with so many different emotions at a time in your life that is exciting and downright scary all at once. I know the effects of struggling with low self-esteem, to look “normal” on the outside, only to be crumbling on the inside. The pressure of today’s society is NO JOKE, I CANNOT even begin to imagine what would have entailed had there been social media during my teenage years, AND I am so saddened by it BUT then I realized that I have a gift could DO something!
As a professional hairstylist of over 20 years, I realized early in my career that the MOST rewarding moments were times when I had ladies who were struggling with divorce, teens who were feeling less than adequate, moms who needed a change look at themselves in the mirror after spinning them for their “finished” look. “I feel so pretty…is that me…thank you for making me feel so good about myself…” I don’t know how many hugs I gave, how many tears were shared but what I can tell you is that there was something amazing happening – I was helping all of these ladies see & feel the beauty/confidence within themselves that others could already see, just in a different light. AND there is no better feeling than knowing you just helped someone change the entire way they think and feel about themselves. When I started my photography journey I did not have one particular genre (families, babies, weddings, etc.) that I wanted to photograph UNTIL Nicole! My experience with Nicole was life-changing for me personally and I would like to share that from my point of view:
“Nicole stepped out from the truck, quiet and shy! As we were walking to our first location, I could sense uncertainty & nervousness. Let’s face it – having your photo taken and to be downright scary! Even the strongest of strong feel unsure in front of the big black box (my ownself & daughter included). As we walked, I talked with Nicole, letting her know that it’s okay to feel nervous in front of the camera – sharing with her that even I get nervous having my own photos taken but that I was there to COACH her the entire time & that I had no doubt she was going to be amazing!⠀
Nicole was doing AMAZING but soon I could see that nerves were getting the best of her…I think at one point she wanted to just throw in the towel and stop altogether, she was worried that she was not “modeling” right. Let me just tell you right now – I DO NOT photograph models and I tell all me seniors (guys and gals) that – I photograph your everyday normal/average high school teen, heck I am no model. I also tell them I do not expect them to be models. However, I just knew with every ounce of my being that if I could just show her, THROUGH THE LENS OF MY CAMERA, the beautiful girl that I was seeing, something magical would happen! Never once did I stop encouraging Nicole, coaching her, guiding her, showing her the back of the camera, laughing with her, talking with her! GUESS WHAT – MAGIC happened! I think her own father would agree that he could see a transformation with his own eyes!!! By the time we were halfway through Nicole’s session, I did not even have to coach her anymore – she was rocking it all on her own – giggling, smiling, twirling, smoldering – CONFIDENCE was there!
When we wrapped up, I was talking with her mom, showing her some of Nicole’s images. That’s when I heard these words “she almost did not come, she was just so nervous and unsure of having her photo taken…” I am so thankful that Nicole showed up that evening…for it was during session that I realized that WHAT I WAS DOING WAS MAKING A DIFFERENCE- being able to create an environment in which young girls (and guy)s can forget about any “molds” that society says we are supposed to fit into…setting aside any negative feelings/insecurities that they may have or be experiencing, an environment and moment where they can relax, have fun and just be THEMSELVES – in turn allowing me to showcase their true inner beauty while bringing out their strong, confident, unique personalities! “
A photographers view is so very different from behind the lens of a camera, I have seen the most, strong, independent beautiful & confident teens suddenly question everything about themselves, especially when it comes to being in front of a camera, not liking themselves in photos. Look, I am just as guilty as charged, BUT every time I step in front of the camera, it’s a reminder to myself of just how much it matters to me to help break down any walls or barriers that young teens may be facing, even if it is for just one small moment in time.
She may not realize it or think about it but I saw Nicole leave a different person that evening – she was smiling, joyful & excited about her portraits! I will have nothing but joy in my heart when I look at her images, knowing that the experience I offer made a difference! Helping teens feel & see the beauty & confidence within themselves that others already see in a world that is filled with too much negativity and stereotypes is just as defining as those moments in my cosmetology career when my clients would hug me with tears rolling down their cheeks whispering to me “thank you for making me feel beautiful”.
THAT is my “WHY” – why I love doing what I do – why I am so passionate about working with High School Seniors!
One of Nicole’s images was featured by @seniorartistry and I know with a doubt that it was Nicole’s inner BEAUTY & CONFIDENCE that made that possible, I was the lucky one to have had the honor to capture it! Thank you, Nicole, for sharing yourself with me you will always hold a special place in my heart! Here are some of my fav’s from Nicole’s session.