“Come gather ’round people wherever you roam
Admit that the waters around you have grown” Bob Dylan
Admission: The waters have grown. But I’m not drowning. I’m frolicking in them. I’m leaping up above them and letting them show me a new way to play.
It’s been a little over 5½ years since I joyfully left corporate America to pursue the passion in my life: photography. I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to look like so I tried to develop it two-fold. I shared an art gallery with other artists showcasing the body of work I had accumulated over the 5 or so previous years; and, I took on any type of commissioned session offered to me: weddings, portrait sessions of all types, even product photos for websites. That has gradually narrowed down over the years to more personal one on one settings.
For the past year or so, however, I’ve felt a stirring in my soul… waters growing, if you will. I have had a huge passion to make a difference with my photography… even over building a money-making enterprise. Also, I have had a desire to “create”. I learned in a fine art workshop I recently attended that photography is a language, and if it’s good, it communicates as well as the spoken word does. I haven’t had time to do much of my own creating because I have been so busy helping others achieve their own vision with their portraits. It has been a very rewarding season, and I have been so very enriched by the connections I have made thru this type of work! But… the times they are a changin’
On the “creation” side, I am now in the process of working on a creative body of work that I hope one day will be a series that either an art gallery or publisher might find worthy. But more about that later. That is still in its early stages….
What is NOW… is a HUGE desire that my photography make a difference in people’s lives. That has always been my passion, but I didn’t give it very much attention in favor of a slew of $250 sessions that kept me too busy. Not that it hasn’t always been my desire for those sessions to make a difference in people’s lives too, but now, I want to make a difference to people who may not be able to afford a session, but whose lives have amazing stories and might be changed by telling them through the language of photography.
Project one. My friends Dar and her daughter, Shontelle. Shontelle has Down’s Syndrome and is 18-years old. She is not well. In fact, very recently, she was in ICU for quite some time fighting what at the time seemed like a losing battle for her life. It was serious. Shontelle fought hard and was released to much relief of those who love her. But she still fights hard and has to be on oxygen 24/7. Dar is also disabled, having raised Shontelle as a single mom in a wheelchair all of Shontelle’s life. She is THE most amazing, devoted mom any child on this earth could have. She amazes me!
We had been wanting to do “glamour” photos for Shontelle for a couple of years, but it never worked out. It was either because I was trying to get caught up to where I could, Dar was sick, Shontelle was sick. It was always something. When she almost died, I was devastated that we hadn’t done it. So was Dar. So as SOON as Shontelle was better enough, I went to their house with my camera and a small backdrop, and we told Shontelle’s story thru the language of photography.
Language is difficult for Shontelle. When I first got there, she was shy. Afraid. She hid. I prayed, “Uh-oh… Help us, God….” He did. She shyly came out, and we began telling stories and relating to each other, but tho she did some giggling and smiling, she was still shy and uncomfortable. Then, it became apparent why. She whispered to her mom that my eyes looked similar to the eyes of someone in her life who hurt her deeply, and she admitted it made her nervous. Another prayer, “Help us, God!” Then, she came over to me and looked ever… EVER so deeply into my eyes and studied them intensely for what seemed like an eternity, but I suspect it was only a few moments. Then… the most melting experience I may have had in photography: she wrapped her arms around me as tightly as she could and said in her Shontelle way, “I wuh ooo Sa-eee!” and she gave me a kiss. I was not that bad person in her life. I was me, and she could feel my love for her. The rest of the day it was regular hugs and kisses and laughter. She felt beautiful, and she delighted in anything we asked her to do. I was making a difference, and it was healing and soul filling.
At another moment, Dar began sharing. Dar, who is ALWAYS positive! She ALWAYS expects the best, speaks the best, notices the best in others, and refuses to let “sad” enter her existence. That Dar. But she shared with me the terror she felt as her daughter lay dying in her hospital bed. She got just a little emotional. INSTANTLY, I was “not in the room”, as Shontelle rushed over to her mother to share this emotional moment with her and comfort her. I had been pretty much clicking the camera the entire time, so it wasn’t awkward, but I realized when I got home and looked at the photos that I had captured a falling tear as Dar and Shontelle shared that emotional experience together. I still get emotional thinking of the power of that moment.
It was an amazing day with amazing people, and I knew: “THIS is what I was created to do!” And it felt so good! I will do much more of this type of work. I’m sure it will take many forms. As I have tried to do for the past 5½ years, I will listen to the nudgings in my spirit that I feel are from God, and I will use my language to speak in a way that hopefully… prayerfully makes a difference.
I created a video of our day together. I chose this song because Dar played it for me that day, and as she played it, she became emotional with how much the song meant to her. It worked for Shontelle’s photos beautifully. After I sent it to Dar, she sent me a video of Shontelle watching it, complete with her stopping in the middle to get a Kleenex to wipe her tears away. It made a difference! To a beautiful little soul that most definitely made a HUGE difference in MY life! I will never forget our day together… and the turning point it created in my life. Thanks to my friends more than I can say!