I am going to reveal to you how much of a nerd I am by opening this blog up with a Dune quote: “Fear is a mind killer.”

I want you to come along with me for a moment to a place of complete honesty. This is just between you and YOU, but I want you to consider what is being unpacked here. Have you ever missed an opportunity to do something that would have been really good for you because you were too afraid? Keep this in the back of your mind. It doesn’t matter how big or small. Fear of any kind, as mentioned earlier is a mind killer. 

It comes in many disguises. For me, it often comes guised as intellect and authority. Usually by way of a voice telling me “you can’t,” “you’re not good enough,” “you’ll fail and everyone will know how bad you are,” and, the most convincing of them all, “you have no right to.” 

Usually the voice is enough to make me grieve before I have anything to grieve about. I’ve already failed in my mind. But grief is a funny thing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the fear of dealing with my own grief in the first place that has created this so-called voice of negative resistance in my mind. Any experience with the potential to push me towards a place where I felt hurt was an experience I would try and talk myself out of.

I believe this is single-handedly the one thing that kept me from achieving my dreams of having a successful and meaningful photography career. 

As I was seeking to create and capture moments of meaning, resistance was a roadblock I needed to overcome. I didn’t know this for a long time. I didn’t know how closed off my heart was and how that was preventing me from finding true and raw meaning in my work: 

Let me give you an example and explain how opening my heart led to some of the most fulfilling experiences in my career so far.

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The Struggle Within

As a portrait photographer, I found myself increasingly pulled towards landscape, yearning for something deeper and more aligned with what I'd like to loosely label here as "soul work." Requests for boudoir shoots, while I will never judge people or other photographers for their craft as I hope they won’t do to me, just didn't resonate with me on a spirital level. As a Christian and as a stepmother of a young girl not much younger than the girls asking for the shoots, I felt a real conflict in my heart. I couldn’t articulate this at the time, but something didn’t settle right and part of that I believe was the allure of artistic freedom and financial stability that I saw potential in gaining if I just compromised a little, not just my morals, but on the reasons why I wanted to be a photographer and do photography in the first place. Again, I am not judging my fellow photographers who are successful in this career choice. Some of my very good friends do these types of shoots, but for me I just knew it was the wrong path.

Regardless of this fact, I was hesitant to let go and that’s what scared me the most because I knew it was self-serving. The only opportunities I seemed to be getting were in this sector. It wasn't older women secure in their bodies doing shoots for their husbands, but young women who had been overrun by instagram culture. In my heart I knew that these young girls should love themselves and love their bodies and I wanted to be the photographer who could shoe them a different path to achieve this.

I may be showing my age here, but I feel a great need to reach for something real. No more filters. No more contribution to the VERY large canon of over sexualization on social platforms or normalizing these very serious things to young people. This is a darkness God is calling me away from. Yes, I could have made a lot of money, but instead I decided to stop doing portrait photography completely. 

I felt like if I didn’t go that route I would never make it in portrait photography. I told myself I could not do weddings because they were too important and I was afraid of messing up.  I didn’t want to do maternity shoots because I didn’t give birth so “what did I know?” I didn’t want to do babies or children because I didn’t have my own babies so “what right did I have?”

So I left my portrait business behind. For the next two years, I prayed and I focused solely on landscapes, neglecting portraits and questioning my purpose in photography. I turned away countless jobs during this time. I had come to accept my fate. I would never fulfill my dream. It was a small price to pay considering all the incredible blessings I had surrounding me all the time. A beautiful family, the best husband, amazing stepchildren who shower me with love every day, and a nice full time job. We were comfortable for the first time in our lives. 

There was only one problem. My dream remained intact. Quitting alcohol wasn’t so hard. Yet, regardless of this fact, I was unyielding, and I continued to pray to see the way. 


The Turning Point

After a couple of years, a dear friend approached me. She asked to do a maternity session for a colleague, emphasizing, "Please, just this once."

I told her “I hate maternity shoots. I just don’t understand them.”

But she persisted and reluctantly I agreed, but said I would do it as favor to HER and not as a professional photographer, meaning I wasn’t going to charge for the shoot. I figured, if the photos came out awful then at least she wouldn’t ask me again. 

I decided to make light of the situation and bring my stepdaughter along with me. She loved taking adventures with me back then and I loved putting a camera in her hands and reliving my first moments of photography.

When I met the expectant mother, something shifted in me right away. We instantly connected, and I just knew she was a sister in the Faith. It was no coincidence that I was brought to this moment with my stepdaughter by my side. 

This shoot wasn’t a chore anymore, it was a beautiful dance of capturing and celebrating the miracle of life. This Mother was not tired and sickly like I imagined she’d be. She was vibrant and healthy and ready to take on the world. She was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. 

Breaking Through the Resistance

That day, a wave of realization washed over me. How could I, a believer in love and creation, be closed off to such a precious miracle? My resistance stemmed from deeper fears, perhaps even the pang of childlessness in my own life. Yet, instead of sorrow, I felt pure joy for this mother and her soon-to-be child. I watched my stepdaughter taking photos and having a great time and thought how special it was to have her there with me. How blessed I was to have the family I had. Even if I myself wasn’t a Mother, I still had been given an undeniable gift. And there she was taking maternity photos alongside me. She wasn’t a mother, but not once did I think “she has no right.”

I didn’t say that because that was only something that I said to myself to try and protect myself from what I thought would cause me pain. 

I learned that day three very important lessons. First, that blessings are not meant for comparison. Second, that blessings do not all look the same. If we are grieving in not having a blessing here, we are sure to miss our blessing there.  Lastly, the blessings of one should never cause negative emotions in the other. It is wrong to expect a gift. Gifts are given freely by the giver. We do not deserve them and we certainly should not expect them. That’s what makes them gifts. I would never trade my blessings in for another’s now. I know that the blessings I have, I have because they are intended for me as given by the Creator.  That means more to me than anything ever could.

Embracing the Greater Purpose

My eyes were opened wide, and my heart was opened too. I realized that I wanted to photograph the blessings of others so that they could better see them and understand them. Maybe that would help them stay focused and not look away from what they have. My purpose as a photographer began to materialize, though I didn’t know it quite yet.  The purpose: capturing meaningful moments for others, regardless of the subject.

To this day, photographing kids is probably my favorite form of portrait photography. Their precious little smiles, the authenticity of emotions, and a lack of  expectation placed upon them by culturally instilled “insta-photos.” They are just who they are, not who they think they want to be. There's something really satisfying about that. "Soul work" as I'd like to loosely term it. :)

Lessons Learned

Resistance often masks deeper issues. Resistance doesn’t always equate to shouldn’t. Sometimes it is a sign that you need to be honest with yourself, explore the roots of your negativity, and not be afraid to confront them.

Openness leads to unexpected blessings. When you step outside your comfort zone, and find a place of acceptance you will be amazed at what types of experiences await you.

Purpose lies in serving others. My true joy in photography comes not in the form of money, but in serving others. I may never make enough to do this full time (I hope I do someday), but that’s okay, because IT IS ENOUGH. 

How do you know when you found your purpose? You know because it is enough.

PsS I still love landscapes and now I do both!!