What is it that you need? I asked myself. Hand pressed to the mirror, searching my own eyes for answers. To find myself again. The only way I know to find myself is to go deep. So I picked up the phone and sent a message. Our conversation went a little like this:
Me: I think we should do a photo session soon. I need to be seen.
Jess: Yes. I do too.
Me: I don’t like where I am. I don’t like what I see, or what I feel, so I need to witness myself through someone else’s eyes.
Jess: It’s always so easy to see someone else’s beauty. Why is it hard for us to see that in ourselves?
It grew from there. This idea that we needed to dig down and explore all these hard things, document the process of moving through difficult emotions, and really honor it. Because there is no joy without pain. There is no light without dark. Each of us is a wonderful, holy contradiction, and we can choose how we live that. We can choose to hide from our pain, to dull it. Or we can choose to walk through fire and feel it because there’s something amazing on the other side.
Our project is still somewhat evolving, but for now we will be exploring these things together with collaborative portrait sessions, using whatever tools we feel moved to play with. Sometimes that’s our big fancy cameras, sometimes it’s the camera on our phones. The important thing is to capture the essence of whatever words we choose to build the sessions around. We will also occasionally use self portraits if our schedules don’t allow us to set aside the time for the collaborative sessions. We are sharing all of the images from each session with each other, and it will be a surprise to each of us which images the other chooses to use. Each session will be built around a theme of two contrasting words which we hope to represent both visually, and with words.
Making our project public isn’t easy. Allowing someone to witness you and photograph you when you are raw and vulnerable is hard. Spending time with those photos, looking into your own soul… it’s hard. Putting them out into the world for anyone to see? Hard. Already, it’s been so interesting to go through all of the images of her and myself and notice how different I feel about them both. Like Jess said, it is easy to see someone else’s beauty, but extending that same grace to ourselves can be really difficult. Maybe the further we get into this project, the further into our own healing we get, the easier it will all become. That’s my hope anyway.
You can view Jessamyn’s introductory post here.