"There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen." Rumi
It's been since April of last year that I have shared anything in this space.
I've found myself sharing new work via Instagram or through my new portfolios on the new website, but unable to share a collection of images I felt especially connected to. Tired of schlepping off the guilt of not sharing any new bodies of work and feeling it necessary to honor the how's and why's of this lack of engagement, I questioned if there was perhaps an issue of loss of inspiration spurring a loss of connection in what I was creating.
And there was.
With almost 10 years of documenting couples primarily, I wondered if I could find intimate connectivity capturing new subjects. Maybe I needed a subject matter reset.
Turns out I did.
Turns out I needed a life reset.
On April 1st of this year I began quite an obscure yet utterly serendipitous journey of self discovery. Every goal I had set, all the dreams I'd been fawning over, every issue I'd been sputtering around and in... well, together they were gathered into a pool of opportunity and change and I immediately jumped into this new space of life and started swimming. Newly discovered determination taught me how to take long, slow, balanced breaths of gumption and submission, and it was this synchronicity that gracefully started revealing where I and my lens needed to go.
June 26th was approaching (the anniversary of my Mother's passing away) and it became almost divinely evident how I was meant to spend part of that hallowed weekend: beginning a new project. It turns out that not only did I need a new subject matter, but I too needed a new medium.
This year, for this weekend of remembrance, I wanted to create some portraits on film of mothers that have been especially inspiring and influential and crucial to my success of working through the process of losing Her, and also had helped me in my own journey of being unable to become a mother myself.
Leading up to the 26th was different for me this year then it has been in the past. You see, after that day on April 1st, I quit crying everyday from missing my Mother. Did I still miss her everyday? Yes. Did I still think of her everyday? Very much so. But I finally learned how to acknowledge and accept the pain and intentionally translate it into healthy feelings/thoughts/memories. This year I wasn't sunk by weighted flashbacks, no, I was propelled into her dimpled smiles and fingers running through my hair.
It can be difficult and discouraging to set intentions and then either fail in honestly giving of yourself completely in working towards them and/or simply falling short in part or in totality. I set an intention to choose faith and to choose positivity and to choose to see the possibility for conditioning through vulnerability.
Applying this intention, I reached out to two women, two mothers that had already been pivotal to helping me find "a voice that doesn't use words" (Rumi) and that were about to propel me deep into a new body of inspiration.
The first of these women is Lisa.
I first heard of Lisa when my mom was ill and one of our mutual artist friends said to me, "You know, Lisa and her Mom and her family are just a few months ahead of you on nearly the exact same journey. It may be so helpful for you two to meet." After immediately going down a social media/blog rabbit hole of Lisa's life, I quickly discovered that she indeed was just a few steps ahead of me on a path almost identical to my own.
Long story short, Lisa and I's lives aligned with total happenstance, and we now have a connection unique to possibly any other I not only have but could ever have with anyone else, and I knew that she was the first woman I wanted to make portraits of for this project.
I've already alluded to a quote of Rumi's, but here is the entire thought:
"There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen."
Starting this new project I wanted to experiment with not listening to the typical criticisms or creative inspirations my mind is normally whispering to me while I'm shooting. I wanted to let who I am shooting lead the conversation, my lens listening to something other then myself.
Immediately upon walking into Lisa's house I was drawn to her window seat in the front living room and asked how she felt about sitting in that space. "This is my favorite part in the entire house. It's where I love to sit alone or sit watching my family or sit with my boys. It's the perfect spot for us to shoot in."
The new camera I was working with (Contax 645 with waist finder) was being entirely fickle and kidding of not working for me. In this nervous time of us wondering if this was a sign that maybe timing wasn't right or this wasn't meant to be, we ended up discovering through conversation that we both are swimming in pools of exciting change and opportunity mind/body/soul/creatively/overall life wise. In fact, she is feeling drawn to really pursuing making more photographs. In this moment, she decided to go grab an old camera she has that was her Mother's. As soon as she brings it downstairs and to our little window corner and she's sitting in front of me with it, my camera miraculously starts working.
Invigorated by this change of energy, I encouraged Lisa to simply be; get comfortable, do/act/say whatever was feeling right in the moment. She played with her hair a bit before curling into the corner of the widow seat.
Her arms were holding herself. Her hair was falling into her face exposing peeks at an exquisitely strong backbone; shoulders just the same that have been holding her world magnificently.
My lens would not leave these spaces and so I asked her what her favorite physical connection was with her Mother. She said, "She would hold my head, touch my hair, drape her arms around me in a strong hug, rub my neck."
When I told her this is the only place the camera wanted to be, she took a breath and started to cry...
and this is the last frame you see above.
Grief can be a wonderfully mesmerizing power if we can let it be just that.
April 1st taught me how to truly let this transformation of attitudes begin.
Lisa showed myself and her own self that the mightiness of grief can be used for good and for beauty.
And I am so thankful to be in a place now where my own grief of losing my Mother is connecting me with women who together are willing to listen to those "voices that don't use words" and create with me something I can be inspired by, comforted by, connected to, and very much excited to share.