so the end of the year is here and for the first time i have completed a photo project. and a year long photo project at that. actually a photo + journaling project all wrapped up in one. a little thing called project life. (have i mentioned before how much i love, love, love this project?) so now i can pause and reflect a bit on my journey through this year as i turn the pages of my albums. our family story in photos + words.
before i started project life, a little thought kept creeping into my head that said i was not in enough photos - with my boys, with my husband, with my family or even just me alone. and even though that voice was right, i ignored it. you see, ever since quinn was born, i have absolutely loathed how i look in photos. you know, extra baby weight that just wouldn't magically disappear from my body and face. so i did what many other moms do. i deleted pretty much every single photo of myself because i didn't like what i saw. so i ended up with few, if any, photos of me and my son. or husband. or family. how will quinn ever see how much happiness (and crazy chaos) he brought into my world? i might have a few photos of us buried on an external hard drive somewhere in my raw files. but they will most likely never be seen by anyone. and this being absent from photos thing continued on for about 4 years.
in december of 2011, i heard about this simple way of documenting your family in photos + words. it was called project life. ali edwards and cathy zielske posted about it on their blogs as they prepared for project life 2012. it sounded interesting. and i had always wanted to somehow record in a very tangible way the story of my family. so i decided to go for it and start a project life album.
around the same time that i started project life, i realized that i would need to be in a photo here and there. but the problem was that i still cringed when i looked in the mirror. it had been two years since my second son was born and i still had not lost the baby weight. (can you really even call it baby weight 2 years after being pregnant?) one phone call with a good friend and one last step on the scale that ended in tears caused something to click in my head. for real this time. up until now, all of my background in nutrition (yep, i have a master's degree in nutrition and was a registered dietitian for years) couldn't make me do what i knew i should do. but when i was ready, like i was on january 3, 2011, i was able to commit to an eating plan that helped me lose weight for the first time in years. and that weight loss also helped me to gain back some of the confidence i had lost. now i'm not saying that i'm a size 4 and down to my dream weight. but i'm feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin these days.
so as 2012 progressed, i found myself in more photos. not a whole heck of a lot of photos, but i popped up in photos here and there. that was a good start. and quite a few of those photos ended up printed and in the pages of my project life album.
it was clear to me why i wanted to be in more photos, even though at times it felt a bit self-indulgent and narcissistic. you see, i want there to be documentation of me. that i was here. that i existed. that i mattered. that i have a story. that i loved my children more than life. and that i am here now.
back in february, my uncle passed away. he was only 51 years old. just 11 years older than me. before his memorial service, i helped my aunt put together a slideshow of his life. and she brought over boxes of photos of their life. i mean boxes. my aunt did an amazing job of taking tons of photos of them from ski vacations to everyday photos of them driving to work together. it was such a gift to have all of these images of my uncle to hold in my hands. and see what a full life he had. you could see him and his personality shine through in these photos. little glimpses of his story.
so i asked myself, what would there be of me for my boys to look at if i was gone? and the sad reality is that there would be very little of me from the past few years. some of the most important years because these are the years in which our family came to be. oh yes, i photographed every single minute of the boy's lives. but little, if any, of mine. there are plenty of photos of my husband and the boys. but not many of me and the boys. and i did this. because i was unhappy and uncomfortable with myself. great reasons, huh?
2012 was the beginning of a change for me. a change in how i see myself. in how i take care of myself. in how i talk to myself. and it all started with wanting to document my family with project life. you see, i realized that it is not just the story of quinn and tate. project life is the story of our whole family. and that includes me (the storyteller) and my husband too. so how could i possibly tell a complete story without including us too?
as i started to prepare for project life 2013, i wrote down the things i want to do differently in this coming year. and one of those things is to include more of me. i want there to me more of my story, my photos and even my handwriting (but that hot mess is a whole different story!). and my husband too. there are so many pieces of a family. i want to document them all.
taking photos of myself has not been my favorite thing to do. i have spent plenty of time holding my big camera (my dslr) out in front of me with one hand and trying to get myself in the frame. and usually not liking anything on the full 8 gb memory card. and oh how i hesitate to look at the images of myself on my big 24 inch imac screen.
but that needs to change. i want to be in more photos. and to learn about myself. to push myself through this very uncomfortable act of taking my own photo. and what i know for sure is that the best way to get better at something is to practice it. a lot. that is how you can push yourself to get better, to learn and to grow. that is how i taught myself the art of photography. by practicing all.the.time. i photographed anyone and anything that i could. and i got better. and more comfortable with my camera. so why not apply that same thought process to the art of taking photos of myself? perhaps i might even be able to relax when a camera is pointed at me instead of the little lip quivering twitchy thing that usually happens as i force a smile and try to hold my chin out.
with this self photo thing, i want to be real. raw. authentic. and the reality is that i don't smile pretty all day long. i get tired and cranky and moody and mellow and chatty and even silly sometimes. that is the real me. and i want to learn to relax and be okay with documenting myself with my camera. i want to get creative with the photos i take of myself. not just my face. perhaps my hands. the ones that look more and more like my mom's hands. or me wearing the necklace that i have had on almost every day since mark gave it to me a few years ago. i want to play with how i edit the photos. a bit of a moody black & white conversion. or a deeper color contrast. there are so many apps, photoshop actions and lightroom presets to play with. i want to explore the possibilities.
so i am going to do this self photo thing. to be more aware and mindful of me. i will probably take most of these photos with my iphone 5 (and it's amazing camera that i just adore), but i'm sure i'll drag out the big camera and my wireless remote from time to time. i will post some of these photos on instagram (#selfiesoft) and some i might just keep for me.
i am ready to see what i learn about me. where i am and who i am these days. and where i go as the new year progresses. i think the best part of documenting is the ability to look back on the path that brought you to right were you are.
join me in this project and see what you see when you see yourself. make it your own. do it however works best for you. take lots of photos or just a few. post or don't post your photos. but most of all, just keep practicing. push yourself. just when it starts to get uncomfortable - that is when the real learning begins.
share your photos on instagram with the hashtag #thisselfphotothing.