The black and white and sepia toned images were sometimes blurry, edges torn after years of being handled. The faces stared at me, and I stared back…fascinated to see my ancestors through my grandmother’s eyes. She would point to each person and tell a story about the day the photo was taken which led to stories about the people – where they grew up, where they met their spouses, how they earned a living. And I would sit quietly by her side, fascinated by what a simple photograph could say.
I started begging for a camera long before Christmas of my 14th year, and that year was the best ever when I saw the OPEN ME FIRST package under the tree! Ripping the paper off, trembling as I opened the box, picking up the small rectangle black camera and running my hands over the rough surface and then loading the film (hey, the cartridge just drops in!) and popping a cube on top then starting to drive my family crazy with flashes in their faces. I had a lot to learn, but my love for photography had already begun.
In middle school, our class trip was to our capitol of Raleigh, North Carolina, my beloved camera also made the trip. I remember that I had a mild panic attack when I realized I had used all my film. With only enough money for lunch or film, I had a choice to make. I chose to buy more film, and I think that was my defining moment of what I was intended to do. I loved taking photographs of people. I wanted to show them for who they were at that very moment…a moment that would never be repeated but could be remembered always just by looking at the photograph I took.
Through the years I owned a variety of “point and shoot” cameras and continued to play around with portraits as well as nature and urban scenery.
In my 20s, I got my first “real” camera, an SLR – a Nikon F2, fully manual camera. I learned how to load film (no cartridge!) and then I went into the darkroom and learned how to process my film and print my own photographs. Hours in the darkroom taught me patience and how to look at my photographs with a critical eye. I started studying the works of other photographers, studying images in magazines, and books. Learning not only how to operate my camera but also how to find the right light, background, and posing. And my family and friends continued to stand in front of me, smiling, and hoping I would be finished soon! This is a photo of that camera with my very favorite 135 mm lens – my portrait lens of choice.
After marriage and two children, I didn’t make the time for working with my camera until both kids were in school. Handtinting black and white photographs was the “thing”–everyone and I mean everyone wanted a handtinted portrait of their kids. I took over 100 hours of handtinting and photography classes and now have some beautiful images of my children hanging on my walls. Others saw my photographs and asked me to do it for their children, and pretty soon I was working from home. I cannot tell you how powerful it was for me to hand color a portrait. I felt as though I was leaving a part of me with each and every one. Indeed, I still feel that way with every portrait that leaves my studio. I pour my heart into creating beautiful images that one day will be cherished far more than they are today. That’s the funny thing about photographs, they become more valuable with time.
This is a portrait of my daughter and me which I handtinted – it has been hanging in our hallway since 2002. I look at it every single day and cherish the closeness this image portrays.
And now I am here… in my studio of 11 years in Helena, Alabama, with a new priority — women! As women, after we’ve had kids or our 40th birthdays, we tend to shy away from being in front of the camera. We think we just want photographs of the kids – not us! We say we need to lose weight, or gain weight, downplay our wrinkles, or get to the hair stylist, or… some other justification.
At our age — we avoid seeing ourselves in pictures because we never look as good as we think we should.
What are we telling our children? Without realizing it, we’re passing down the mindset of having a negative body image to our kids and our next generation. According to recent research, less than 5% of the female population in the world thinks she is beautiful.
But we can change that, starting with you …and me.
I’d be honored to capture you – the real and beautiful you. Ladies, let’s come together to change this statistic and remind our kids and grandkids that we should see ourselves as we are – wonderful, unique women who care about our friends, families… and about ourselves!
We’re not promised tomorrow. Get in touch today. Call me at 205.999.3531.