Being a photographer means spending a lot of your time with other photographers, talking photos. Current styles, but also photography in the pre-photoshop days. A couple of weeks back, whilst chatting with Sue Black of Sue Black Photography, we went a bit off our usual subject of babies and food, and funny mugs bearing wisdom written using offensive language, and somehow stirred on to a bit more profound subject: our parents.
Sue showed me an old photo of her mum, Kathleen, taken as a newly qualified nurse in 1963. We were talking about something else afterwards, but I just had her image in my head, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. She captivated me with her eyes and she didn’t even know it.
Living on beans on toast, but confident in her abilities, she has just got her degree. Looking back at those years now, she remembers them with great fondness. She is sitting here, with a quiet confidence, not based on her looks, on her fabulous make up and hair blow dried in a shape of Hollywood screen goddesses. She is Kathleen, just Kathleen, and that’s who she wants to be and it is good enough.
Her body language is not cocky, she is not shy either. She is not trying to hide anything. Her shoulders are not sunk in and she is looking straight ahead at the photographer, at life. Her smile doesn’t break into an uncomfortable grimace. She doesn’t feel out of place and uneasy. The understated beauty emanates from within. She knows where she is in life because she got herself there. She doesn’t blame or owe anyone for anything.
Why am I writing about Kathleen? Is it even relevant to photography style that I offer? She wasn’t even a mom then (now a mom of two). Well.. I wanted you to see what I saw.
I get a lot of parents coming for their babies photoshoots, but with the assumption they won’t be in those photos. They haven’t done their make up. They are not feeling amazing. Maybe next time. Next time never happens.
Of course getting yourself into less of a scruffy state prior to the shoot helps. It helps but it will never replicate the beauty from within. It will never replicate the understated confidence in yourself.
You may think “I have no confidence in myself. My friends have their nails and make up done and they have 3 kids. They go to all the baby groups and shop exclusively at Next and Mamas and Papas. I get all the clothes for my kids from the local sale groups and don’t remember the last time I got anything for ME, that didn’t come from eBay. I have no time for myself with my two kids and I am failing as a partner. Life has become overwhelming. Am I doing enough for my kids? I am trying but is it enough?”.
The media has made us into the nervous wrecks we are today. Back in 1963, the only comparison we had was our immediate family and friends and they were mostly in the same boat. You rarely saw the extremes of what life can be like. The uber rich kept themselves to themselves, and you were not bombarded with the super mums via Facebook. Granted, you had your problems, but trying to keep up with the ideal Pinterest model mom was not one of them. Times change. It’s not a better or worse world we live in. It’s different. We have adjusted. What we have lost in the process is the support network of people that our parents had. These days in order to live at an average level, we need both parents at work. We would love to have our kids looked after by our parents, but they most likely still work as the retirement age went up again. We are exhausted.
You are trying to adjust to the new role as a working parent, but the expectation of the old role as a good house wife haven’t evaporated. Those are two full time jobs and you are working both of them with a non existent holiday allocation.
Without sounding cheesy, YOU are a hero. You have everything on your back. Even if things are going smoothly, the pressure is never off. You are constantly trying to catch a breath and catch up with bills, work, cleaning, your child’s development. You are being measured everywhere: work performance, kids school performance. have you even got any energy for any performance in the bedroom, after all the running and chasing is over? Occasionally you consider getting a nice lingerie to spice things up, then you kill that though with an image of your massive (in your head) thighs, arms, belly. You planned that gym visit, but life got in the way. You log out from the Agent Provocateur’s website. “I cannot afford it anyway”.
I want you to look at yourself with my eyes.
You are where you are because of your decisions, which at the time of making them were the best option. You cannot blame yourself for that. At the time when I meet you, you would have made the decision to come for a photography session to document this time in your babies life for them. You may not have tons of money but you decided to spend this cash on their memories and on this experience. You didn’t throw new toys at them, but thought ahead and considered them in the future. You took this time to stop and capture the moment. They are warm, they are fed. They are loved. YOU make them happy. YOU are directly responsible for their future. They look up to you for guidance (they may not always take it), you are the example. They want to know they are in safe, confident hands. They want to know you’ve got this. And you know what? You’ve got it!
Take a deep breath, straighten up. Think about the first time you found out you are expecting a baby. Be what you want them to be. Have the confidence in yourself because they have confidence in you. The rest will follow. With or without the lipstick.