When we lost Bella last year I immediately felt strong feelings of loss, anger, misunderstanding, and being alone. On one hand I wanted to run and hide from the world, but on the other I just wanted everyone to understand what I was feeling and experiencing. I had developed an interest in photography when I became pregnant and was dabbling in the craft but after Bella’s loss I took a HUGE amount of comfort with being behind the lens. I was able to use artistic expression to convey my emotions and I began a blog to put some words to those images. Shortly thereafter friends began to ask if I was interested in taking their photos which added a new dimension to my healing. Hiding behind the camera lens allowed me to begin to interact and socialize again. Photography has allowed me to totally redefine my world. It gave me a way to express my range of emotions and sparked an amazing opportunity to explore a new found hidden talent.
For me the inspiration to explore a photography business was loud and clear. My initial interest in photography was sparked with Bella’s pregnancy. I wanted to ensure I’d be able to capture phenomenal photos of her when she arrived. When I was pregnant with Bella I never even dreamed of pursuing photography as a business venture. Her passing screamed out to me to seize the opportunity to take photos in her memory. I was also overwhelmed with the importance of capturing family images and preserving memories ~ because you just never know what twists and turns life will take.
I never thought I’d be able to find the time needed to improve my photography skills and develop a business plan. I talked informally when I was pregnant, about using Bella as a practice subject and maybe one day exploring the option of photography as a business venture, but it was really just a hobby at the time. After the loss, I truly felt she was the angel on my shoulder telling me to go for it ~ pursue my passion ~ and explore something I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to dive into if she was born healthy.
My “inner critic” gets in the way all the time! I think that’s what makes each photo session unique and forces me to improve each time. I come away from every session proud of my images but always see room for improvement.
Very shortly after our loss and after I began my blog, I had someone candidly share with me how impacted they were by my writing and images. This woman had also experienced her own loss almost 25 prior to mine and had never shared her experience with anyone else. She was inspired by my honesty and willingness to share my experience and it helped her not feel so alone in her loss from many years ago. Her stepping forward and sharing her experience with me was humbling and she ended up being one of many women who stepped forward and shared their stories of loss with me over the next several months. Making the choice to start my blog and my photography journey after our loss was all worth it when I knew it was having a positive impact on others and helping several woman not feel so alone in their own loss.
Over time my blog has evolved (much as my grief process as evolved) from a journal of photos and emotional reflection to a more business driven blog of client previews with occasional glimpses into my life after loss. I had to smile recently, when I was working with a new client on reviewing proofs of her 2 year old son and prepping her order. For me, sharing proofs with a client can be one of the most nerve wracking parts of the photo session process. It’s like sharing a part of your soul with someone and hoping they like what you have to give. As she looked through the photos of her little boy and their family she loved them all and shared with me that out of all the photo sessions she had arranged for her son since his birth, my session was the one that managed to capture his personality the best. His little boy expressions, interests, love, and personality were all bundled up and packaged up for years to come via my images. That by far is the best compliment I can receive as a photographer and I have Bella to thank for inspiring me and allowing me to grow in my craft this quickly.
One organization that continues to amaze and inspire me is the “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” photography community. Their mission is to provide free photography to those families suffering from infant loss, stillbirth, etc. The volunteer work of these photographers is an invaluable resource to those who are grieving and their work is helping millions of woman and families find ways to cope and heal. Right now our loss is still to fresh in my mind, but I am hoping to one day have the strength to work with this amazing organization.
An inspirational mantra that I have found helpful is the ‘Kindess Meditation’ (we would recite this in yoga class and it would get me through the tough days). “May you be healthy and happy; may you be peaceful, prosperous and well; may you be free from inner and outer harm; may you overcome difficulty with grace, courage, and determination; may you love and be loved.” ~Author unknown~
The two photos above are self portraits I took during my grief journey, around the start of my business. The first was taken on Bella’s due date, January 23rd, 2010. I lit a candle in her memory and simply spent time in her nursery honoring her.
The second photo was taken a few weeks later as part of a photography assignment where we were to sum up in a self portrait where we were on our life’s journey in one image. I summed up my photo as being full of Ideas: Dreams ~ Possibilities ~ Creativity ~ Emotion ~ Devotion ~ Compassion ~ Drive ~ Desire. Eight months later, I am finally feeling those dreams and possibilities becoming realities. I love having Bella guiding me the whole way. It is invigorating and exciting!
To view more of my work with babies, children and families or to read the archives of my journey of grief and loss feel free to view my website and blog.