Why have a professional portrait session?
A fair question, and for me a very personal one to answer, especially today.
We all have self image issues, we can all look in the mirror every day and see what bothers us about ourselves without seeing who we are. We say to ourselves my bum is too big, my thighs are too big, I don’t like the shape of my face/chin/nose, my tummy’s too big/saggy etc. but you know what? We are all beautiful, our imperfections are what make us beautiful and unique. We see our own imperfections, but others don’t.
Others look at us and see our unique personality, our strength, and from that our inner beauty shines through, and that outweighs all our physical attributes that we are totally focusing on.
Very few people look like the super models and stars we see, and aspire to look like, plastered all over the TV, in movies, magazines etc., ‘normal’ people come in all different shapes, sizes and colours, and as a result we should celebrate the way we look.
I’ve had the need to reassess how I look at myself personally.
I was no different, I would think that my thighs were too big, my overall weight was too high, my nose was too big…but then four years ago I got told I had the dreaded C, I had cancer and that floored me. My looks were about to be changed forever as the cancer was in my jaw. I had to have the cancer removed and that meant that my face would change, and I would end up with scars that were visible for all to see.
The problem with your face is that you can’t hide it, other parts of your body - your legs, your arms, your torso are either not on show, or can be covered up, but your face is exposed for the world to see. Over the following months I became more and more self conscious about my looks, I wouldn’t leave the house without having a huge scarf around my neck and pulled up as far over my mouth as I could manage without looking even more weird, but a different, creepy kind of weird, to cover the scars I’d now got, now I wasn’t focusing on my different body parts that I used to be concerned with, now I obsessed, and was ashamed, about how my face and neck looked.
I used to look at my wedding photo’s from 2 years before and saw the person I was then - a beautiful person - I looked good and remember feeling amazing for the whole day. But looking at it made me feel like everything had been taken away from me, that people stare at me because of my scars, because I’m damaged goods.
I refused to go in front of the camera - even with my family! I knew I needed to shift my view of me as it was affecting every aspect of my life, my self confidence was at an all time low.
So when hubby and I went on holiday in 2015, I made a point of goofing around in front of the camera wherever we went, and I realised that not only did I not break the camera, I was still a whole person, I still have a zest for life, I may not look the way I did before, but I was still loved, and I could still do everything I could do before. I told myself over and over again ‘I should be grateful as it could have ended in a very different way’.
So I started to try and have a more positive outlook about myself and my abilities. It’s hard to do I’m not going to lie, I’ve found it hard to change my mind-set, especially when people around me had no idea what was going on internally, as far as they were concerned, I was, and had been ‘fine’.
Then last year, 3 years after my first diagnosis, I got hit a second time with the same cancer, in the same location. This time it was bigger, which meant I was going to have to go through the whole process again, and it was going to be a bigger scar, more scars, with more side-effects to live with and additional treatment to go through.
Suddenly I realised that the way I looked wasn’t as bad as I thought, and to prove that to myself I went to a photographer friend of mine and had a portrait session. We had a great time, and when I saw the images she’d produced I broke down and cried, I cried so hard because those images showed me what I hadn’t seen, through photography she’d made me realise that what I’d thought about my looks wasn’t true.
When I looked in the mirror all I could see were the scars and what had changed, but in reality what other saw was a person, and for the first time I saw that. I got it. Yet here I was on the edge of the cliff again, about to have my looks altered yet again, just at the time I’d finally accepted my ‘new’ look.
Now 10 months after surgery, I’m having to re-learn how to appreciate myself, how to love the way I look, my face is still changing, it takes time for everything to settle down after major surgery, but I am still here, I am still able to do all the things I did before, some take me a little longer than before, but that’s OK, life is not a race.
Because of the acceptance I found before my surgery last year, I have been able to start accepting the new changes in my looks a lot sooner than I did before. I’m no longer rushing to hide my face & neck from the world, hoping no one will look at me.
Now I stand tall and proud. Proud I have battle scars - they show I am a fighter. That I survived. They tell a story. They raise awareness. They start conversations.
It took me having a professional portrait session for me to see what others see when they looked at me, and it can help you too, it has the power to build confidence in a way that words alone can not, it helps you to see your own beauty, a beauty that everyone else around you can see when they look at you.
That is the power of photography, that is the power of your own portrait session.