Wendy’s Flower Wall

#WendysFlowerWall is my recent project where women are given an opportunity to select one word to follow “I am…”  Women volunteer – some after a yoga class, some on a Saturday morning, most without advanced notice, therefore, no make-up application or hair adjustment.

I’m grateful to the women who feel confident in their skin to be in front of my camera, knowing their image would be used on social media and on the internet.

My Flower Wall project started when the winter darkness dragged on and I anticipated spring. I decided to create my own spring with colors out of my comfort zone….and #Wendy’sFlowerWall was born.

It’s my mission to help women see their beauty and their strength through Portraits. Sadly, so many women feel they aren’t good enough, skinny enough, pick-something-enough to have portraits of themselves done.

The thing is, a professional portrait of you today will out-last you. It’s a gift for your children, for your parents, for your girlfriends, for your sisters….for eternity.

My mission continues with my Flower Wall. To provide positive thoughts to women, to remind them…us…that we are strong, confident, remarkable, fearless, inspired, enough….

and beautiful beyond measure.

In the moments when I took these images, I had the opportunity to hear some of the stories behind the word selection. (I provided a variety of words). Some stories were incredible and heartfelt.

Everyone has a unique and powerful story.

What is yours?

How would you like to tell it?

#existinphotographs

A photograph. A lifetime.

“We take photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone”

I’m a photographer.
I see differently. I feel differently.
I kick myself in the rear end almost daily for not using my gifts earlier in my life.
You see, I show people that they are beautiful. That they exist. And, in a photograph they will exist for all time.

So one day years from the day that I deliver the printed images, someone can spend an afternoon studying that image, trying to make their heart whole again, trying to recall a voice forever gone, to rediscover a missing touch,  the image in a portrait will forever be staring back at them. A photograph. Tangible proof that they existed.

Her image is only a snapshot on my cell phone. A memory I want to treasure for all time. The rare moment of connection. She is my mom. The woman who picked me up from my first day of kindergarten in our red Volkswagen Beetle with a sunroof, a surprise waiting on the back seat–a kitten! She was the person who gathered our small family at the round kitchen table for meals. The one who took me to the doctor after my best friend, Mary Beth and I each came down with a fever at the movie theater while watching Mary Poppins. I watched my mom care for her step mother until her death. I watched my mother cry when she held my newborn infants. I watched my mother during my father’s grave side service. I watched her complete the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen.

My mother slips further away each day. A strong, beautiful woman is being replaced by the affects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

iphone selfie

July 9, 2014.  iPhone selfie

One summer day we sat outdoors in the warm sunshine. It was a good day. There were a few moments where she worked out a memory from several of my prompts. It was a flicker. A cell phone selfie moment. I wanted so desperately to remember my mother. I should have been taking photos all along. I should have made her portrait. I should have made her portrait every year to show her how beautiful she was to the world.  It’s truly selfish to admit that I wish I had those memories of my mother to recall her beauty, her joy, her smile, her love.

August 4, 2014 iphone image

August 4, 2014
iphone image

I have only cell phone images of my mother.

My mother who deserved to exist in photographs. Forever.

When the decision was made to sell her home, my childhood home, and I had the very adult job to clean out her memories, the first thing I searched for was my parent’s wedding album. I hadn’t seen it in decades. As a daughter, as a mother myself and as a photographer, I had to locate the album. Eventually I found it, wrapped it carefully and secured it in my carry on luggage. I carried it to my home as if it were gold, a precious gift. It would be years before I had the time and strength, and allowed myself the luxury of turning it’s pages.

Bradford Bachrach 1955

Bradford Bachrach 1955

One day recently, I sat down with the large, white album on my lap. Heavy with black & white prints. Substantial. Important.

Slowly I opened the cover and removed the yellowed velum page. I wanted to savor it’s contents like the perfect cup of coffee yet also anxious to flip the pages quickly in anticipation of seeing my parents again. My parents in love. My parents beginning their lives together, years ago, waiting for me on the album pages.

Bradford Bachrach 1955

Bradford Bachrach 1955

As I slowly devoured the pages, I fell in love the with photographer. How did he see such perfection? The black and white images, captured so beautifully, a wedding of two important people. My mother and my father. And looking on with pride, my grandparents, all of whom I would never  have the opportunity to know. They exist. They exist in photographs in this album. I study the posing in each photograph. The details. My mother’s hands gentle on her father’s arm, her smile and kindness that I often see in my own daughter. I remember the stories of each one of her bridesmaids and their importance in her life. I smile at the candid images. I am moved at the loving glance between my grandmother and my father on his wedding day. I am in awe of the talented photographer, shooting black & white film on an August afternoon in 1955 that he had the remarkable ability to press the shutter at exactly the precise moment.

Bradford Bachrach 1955

Bradford Bachrach 1955

I will admit tears were streaming across my cheeks, caught on my sleeve before dampening the pages of the album, open and heavy on my lap. Each page told me a story of my beginning. This work of art, created over fifty years ago was a gift. A gift to the future. There was no way to have known when this album was created and purchased, that I would be studying each image so intimately so many years later, completely affected. Influenced by it’s existence. Humbled by the weight of history it contains.


Bradford Bachrach 1955

Original album: Bradford Bachrach 1955 Same dress. Same vanity. 1990

As a portrait photographer, my regret is the portrait I didn’t take.

I sat with my mother recently as she tried to piece together a melody. There were many missing parts in her endless humming and the song quickly changed. I’ve read her story, I know her songs and can help fill in some of the parts. There was a pocket-sized moment where she said, “I think I might know you, I love you”.

I think I may know you. I love you. Photo credit Kelsey. iphone

I think I might know you. I love you.
credit Kelsey. iPhone  January 1, 2016

My beautiful mother is just a photo on my iPhone.

How did I not see that I had to make her exist in photographs?

I should at least print these photographs. They will then become real, tangible.

It is life lessons like mine that I try to bring into each session with my portrait clients. I’m so honored to photograph them. They will exist in photographs. Maybe not only as a gift now, but maybe someday, someone will cherish that printed image, gently trace their familiar profile, wanting deep in heart and soul, to remember them for all time.

 

rsvp

expect a miracle

“Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand”.

~Patti Smith

I’m scratching my head, wondering how I missed the signs? How did I not get it? What had I been thinking?

I’m confused.
You see, I thought I was the giver of a gift.
Now I realize I’ve been wrong this whole time. Instead, I have been on the receiving end of a beautiful treasure. There were no streaming ribbons, no pretty gift wrap or colorful tissue paper arranged a certain way, no special delivery.

I should explain. Last week I was given an invitation to photograph a beautiful woman one week before she passed away. She had cancer and was in hospice care. Several years ago as a fledging-photographer-wanna-be, I offered to take her twins’ high school photographs. I was grateful for the experience and provided the rookie “shoot & burn” experience. She loved the photographs and talked about having family portraits taken “some day”.
I learned a lot.

Fast forward a couple years. I received a tear-filled, barely audible phone call about family portraits:

…”are you available this weekend?…the cancer is back…in my spine…everywhere”…

She wanted more than anything to leave a legacy for her kids. She wanted them to remember her, smiling and happy, healthy-looking and laughing.

The gift-giver in me said, ‘yes, of course’.

Two frigid, winter days later, I drove to their apartment with my heart in my throat. I felt such pressure and nerves, hoping I could do an acceptable job for this family. I arrived to find everyone in their boxy white shirts, little available light and a woman with the pain of cancer so bad that she could not manage to sit down.
We shared a lot of special moments that day.

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The good news was she didn’t pass away.

laugh

I learned a lot.

My photography business continued to evolve and on occasion I ran into her in town.
I saw her in March this year and asked if she would help me. I was adding a different style of portraiture, would she bring dress up clothes and would she mind curling her hair…I wanted to practice the posing, natural lighting and more importantly, the connection with the eyes.

She shared with me how good she felt trying on outfits the prior night. Her husband enjoyed her enthusiasm, she said. She was thrilled to dress up and moved into various poses easily, willingly giving me what I asked of her. I asked her to connect with my camera. To connect with me.

It was a wonderful session.

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I learned a lot.

Her kids wanted to surprise her for a mother’s day photo this year–the surprise was getting two 20 year olds and a 7 year old in the same room! She laughed and enjoyed each frame with her children. I noticed their relationships differed slightly. Her son who towered over her made her laugh easily. His twin sister brought out the honest beauty of her mom, while the 7 year old mostly devoured the hugs. I remember her presence and laughter behind me when I asked her kids to jump on the trampoline that frigid day in May. She loved every second as we created memories. Her final Mother’s Day on earth.

Mother's Day

Photographs make moments freeze in time. Assembling the people and allowing the experience to unfold then capturing it at the right moment is extremely powerful.

August. After a few weeks away from an internet connection, I wrote a blog post…hesitated for one split second then changed the entire thing*. I wanted to add a portrait and chose one of her and wrote about our session. I pressed ‘publish’ then sent her a message….

“hi! check out my new blog post, you’ll recognize a beautiful woman on it!”

Then I looked at her facebook postings. I called her. The cancer was everywhere.

She read my blog post then cried as she read it again. At 48 years old, she told me she finally felt beautiful. She didn’t have to hide behind someone else’s idea of “beauty”. She is beautiful and carries it with her. I was able to show her. She believed it one month before she passed away.

I visited with her in the last days of her life. She thanked me for all the photos over the years and mostly for the words I had written on my blog. She invited me to take more photos of her. I returned the following day to her hospice bed with my camera and a full heart.

She was exhausted, yet looked into my lens with the same invitation to “come in–visit my soul”. I went willingly and respectfully.

Later that night, a sense of urgency flooded me. I realized I had to go thank her for the gift she has given to me.

We hugged. We laughed and cried.

I thanked her from the bottom of my grateful heart.

I felt honored tonight as I left the funeral home. Her portrait – the one where she gave me that connection to her soul, the one I intuitively put on my blog, was enlarged and prominently displayed next to her ashes at her request. Her eyes invited everyone in that room to see her beautiful soul. My words about her were read as a eulogy.

beautiful, happy

My original post: *the invitation, WAVphoto.com, August 14, 2013 http://wp.me/s3rHYI-390

Notes on the napkin

Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.
~Audrey Hepburn

I didn’t understand the depth of a mother’s role until I became one.

I didn’t understand the enormity of the weight of being a mother until I had to make hard decisions.

I didn’t realize I had such power to influence someone else’s life until my kids were a little older and started making decisions on their own, using their own skills & common sense. When I saw how they were kind to the under-dog kid in their class, how they shared their gum, how they cared for small animals how they showed respect for their neighbors, I realized this job is hard!

There’s no owner’s manual for this. Fortunately, I picked up a few of the mother instincts because when I grew up, my mother was there. She made the cupcakes. She made sure we were together for dinner. She wrote notes on the napkin in my lunch bag (that I was embarrassed to take out at lunch for fear of being teased.) I’m sure my kids felt the same way with their napkin notes. It was a little gesture that made me think of my mom in the middle of the day – and now I know, she was thinking about me.

I’d like to pack lunch now for my teenage kids – just to include a note on their napkin. So they’d know I’m thinking about them, wishing that they’re laughing really hard with their friends.

I’d like to unpack my own lunch and have a note from my mom on the napkin. I’d wish my mom would remember me. Perhaps remember that I’m her daughter and that I baked cupcakes, that my kids are good & respect their neighbors, they share, and take care of small animals. They laugh really hard with their friends.

What I didn’t know and could not possibly have known until I became a mother, is that the job description gradually shifts. The enormous weight gradually shifts to joy. Joy in watching my two kids develop into really interesting, fun, creative & enjoyable human beings. I couldn’t have realized that my heart would be full of pride so often, that I could smile so hard because they are happy. I feel hope for the world because they are making good choices, baking their own cakes & moving onto larger animals!

I’m beginning to understand the depth of a mother’s role.
It is endless.
It changes how you love.
It never fades.

Mother’s Day~
Honoring those who share their love, cupcakes & notes on the napkins~

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