This portrait, from a recent photo session that I had, stands out as one of my favorite memories; not because the portrait is anything exemplary in itself, but because the experience is what I was made for as a photographer. I am by no means the best photographer out there. I look at the work of others and am constantly inspired. But that doesn’t mean I was lesser made for this artistic expression. I realized on this photo shoot more vividly than I have in the past, that I was created to bring peace to people in front of my camera. I have had numerous people tell me through the years how comfortable they were in front of my camera. I have had people tell me that they hate getting their photo taken, but during a session with me they felt completely at ease and actually enjoyed the process. All of these things have driven me to continue to give people the best experience with me that I can, because they don’t just walk away with photos in hand, they walk away with the memory of having the photos taken as well.
The Shadowfax corporation contacted me last month and asked if I could do a photo session of one of their clients. I agreed and we discussed the details. The case worker who represented the client who was to have their photo taken, began explaining to me that her client has severe mental development deficiency, so she was concerned about location, timing and many other things that could cause the session to derail. In listening to all of her concerns, one of which was that her client gets too distracted outdoors, so she wanted an indoor session. I felt in my heart that the exact opposite was true. I foresaw a contained indoor location that was unfamiliar to this woman and the added stress of my camera in her face. I knew I couldn’t do my best work in this situation, nor did I want her to have a terrible experience, so I offered another solution. I thought of a great outdoor location that I was comfortable shooting, and that I knew would be quiet and relatively low trafficked at a certain time of day, and offered that as our location. The case worker hesitantly agreed and we set it up.
On location for the shoot, I met both women and we began. I quickly realized this was not an opportunity to take photos; this was an opportunity to love and encourage someone, and while doing that strategically capture images of her on the fly. The woman loved the location and was ecstatic about being outside, looking at the leaves changing. I learned at that time that she loved dogs (more than anyone I have ever met, literally) so we talked about dogs and I watched her light up from the inside out. It was on. I captured every image that I could during our short session together, (short due to attention deficit) and walked away with plenty of images. As I processed through the photos after the session my heart was so full seeing the complete joy on the face of this woman.
We sometimes look at people with mental development deficiency and pity them and their circumstances. I am definitely grateful to have been born with a sound mind. But one thing this woman definitely has more than most of us, is pure joy. Pure like untouched water. Literally straight from the spring, joy, because she doesn’t carry with her the distractions of the garbage in this world that we do.
I received an email the day after the shoot that said, (no name for privacy sake), “My client, had an amazing day yesterday and truly enjoyed herself, that largely had to do with you and your patience and compassion with her. Thank you so much for that! We can’t wait to see the photos.”
I don’t share that to pat myself on the back. I share that because that is exactly who I want to be as a photographer. I want people to step in front of my camera and walk away feeling better about who they are, not better about what they look like. I am the one who is grateful for that photo shoot because it renewed in me the passion to shoot, and opened my eyes to why I was created to do this.