This past weekend, while on a trip to North Carolina for a cousin's wedding, I connected with two of my beautiful cousins (one from Florida and the other from California) in ways I never even imagined I would as a kid. The title of this post, while representing themes in my cousins' stories, also speaks very deeply to me and my experience this weekend. For the first time, my cousins and I were incredibly vulnerable with each other and re-connected on a much deeper level, a level I'm sure we haven't been to since we were younger with less walls or fabricated expectations of how extended family interacts. I feel light and loved and supported knowing I have family (not just friends), willing to open themselves up, not only for their spirits, but mine as well. These two (along with my mom, cousin Erica, and cousins who participate in the future) have helped me realize how blessed I truly am, and I'm beyond grateful.
We secretly dipped from the wedding reception to a cabin in which one of my cousins was staying to quickly grab these images, without lights or a backdrop, simply an attached flash. We did the best we could with the time allotted and the space/equipment we had, but we shared more with each other in those fifteen-twenty minutes than we had in a long time.
Here are their beautiful stories and images:
"My disassociation with my body began when I was younger. I 'matured' much earlier than any of my friends. I felt awkward and out of place. All the time. As I aged, I began to feel very out of place with myself and my body. I wouldn't put much time or energy into my appearance. I barely recognized myself in the mirror or pictures. I was a person who had a body, but I did not see it as the body of a person. Does that make sense? Maybe only in my head...
Then came college; I was twenty-one years old, reading an issue of Cosmo (what a bad idea). There was an article on 'beauty tips for each decade', or something like that. The advice for women in their twenties had to do with wrinkle prevention. They said the key was to start in your twenties with eye creams. And that thought struck me. Did I have wrinkles? Would I get them? I checked in the mirror. I looked at my face. Really looked; for the first time I could remember I studied what I looked like. This was the beginning of my re-connection.
A few years later, I was pregnant with my first child. She brought about in me a complete awareness of my body. What I was capable of, what I could do; it was an amazing new experience that brought me back into myself. All the while, as I was growing a person and feeling her move, roll, and hiccup, my body was being stretched, scarred, and changed in ways that I would never be able to go back from. I became very angry with myself for never loving the body I had and now I've got this.
And then came The Body Project. When this opportunity first arose, I had to think long and hard about what I was willing to have photographed and how far I was willing to push myself. (I thought: complete acceptance? hah!) After a lot of reflection, I had decided: my kangaroo pouch. That is how I refer to my tummy full of stretch mark scars. But what would I write on my tummy for this image? And it hit me in full force. Again. Again, and again, and again. Would I do it over? Would I give up my flat tummy and hourglass figure if given a choice this time around? Would I do it again? Yes, I would. And again after that. And again and again and again. There is not one thing I would change about my body. It is the house of my soul. And, for a short while, it also housed my children. That is a powerful temple.
So then, why did I not photograph my tummy? Well, that all goes back to the beginning. I am turning thirty in two weeks time. Time for the next decade of beauty tips. I was thinking back on that article and how I never did anything in my twenties to prevent wrinkles. But, looking back, would I want to? I want my 'crows feet' to stand as a testament that I've laughed, loved, and had a life well lived. Again, and again, and again."
"I am forty-one, single, and never married. Romantic relationships have always been challenging for me and a big part of my spiritual journey to self-love and acceptance.
I made a new friend recently who called me out on what my main blockage has been - and that is to allow myself to be vulnerable. I feel that is the last major step for me to allow myself to be 100% fully seen and accepted for everything I am. This has not been the easiest journey for me through various difficulties so far and not having found safe places to be fully in my own self along the way.
My declaration now is about taking the step to allow myself to be vulnerable (both in seriousness and in silliness) and not care what anyone thinks or says. Those who love me will continue to love me, and the vibration I will attract in new people will continue to mirror my new image of myself."
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