Earning a living as a creative isn’t easy. The heightened sensitivity that allows one access to the elusive and delicate places that any kind of meaningful work arises from doesn’t conveniently stay boxed in a corner somewhere when it’s not needed. No, it’s there also for the day to day business dealings, through client interactions, and worst of all when doubt and self-judgment rears its ugly head. The creative doesn’t experience life mildly but instead profoundly. A wide open heart is much more susceptible to injury than a protected one.
So it seems inevitable that moments of questioning whether it’s worth the trouble will periodically plague the creative. These are the days when taking a job as a toll collector sounds pretty damn good. Sitting in a sheltered box, mindlessly making change, and repeatedly reciting “have a nice day” has got to be easier than this.
What I’ve noticed over the years, though, is that every time I’ve found myself in a really dark place something unexpected happens, something undeniably strong yet tender pulling me up and out. Dare I say miraculous? Dramatic as it sounds, it most definitely has the feel of divine intervention. And I recently experienced it again.
I woke the morning of this session to a weary sense of defeat, the result of a tough blow to my business that I’ve been dealing with. I was meeting at a location I’d never been before with a new client who was visiting the area from California. After I’d programmed the address of the shoot into my navigation and headed down the road I wished the pleasant voice offering what street to turn onto next would instead give me guidance I could really use. I felt irretrievably lost.
I soon realized I'd left the house without the client information. I hadn’t the client's names, a contact number, or anything other than the address with me. I couldn’t even remember how many children there would be or the ages….talk about going into a shoot blind. All I could do was show up and hope to find some people who looked like they wanted portraits made. Upon arriving at the location I was surprised to discover that this wasn’t going to be a family shoot as I’d previously thought, but simply one child, a beautiful only child named Paulina. Her mothers only expectation and instruction to me being to photograph her daughter honestly and in the way she saw childhood conveyed on my website.
Even with permission to just do what I do, the session began awkwardly, with both the child and I initially hesitant and guarded with one another. I was still dealing with a gray mind and a lot of self-doubt, not to mention trying to find some decent light to work with. But this miracle story isn’t about seas parting or water being turned to wine. It’s about opening up when you feel most like closing down, and rising one more time when your legs are shaking and body bruised.
So it went, as it wondrously has many times before, that as I quieted my discursive mind, revealed and welcomed my deep vulnerability as well as the child’s, the photo session stopped being a photo session. I was no longer lost and needing direction. Nor was I seeking answers or reasons why things happen as they do. I was in the midst of a new story, unfolding in this very moment, where all I needed to do was be present, flow with the energy provided, and turn the page.
I’m sharing the above image not because it’s the strongest from the shoot, but because it illustrates best the transformation that occurred on this day, from gray muddled thinking to clear seeing. One of the last shots I made of this bright eyed angel, the photograph followed a morning of dancing and discovery, and to me represents the perfect peace available if one can simply stay the course, and follow their souls calling.