Each one of these individual stories through this larger project has been hard to introduce within each solo blog. Each story is unique, challenging in it’s own way, and none of them are complete – as they never will be. What’s even more close to my heart are most of these sessions are past or future clients of mine.
The beautiful thing about photographing these intimate details of our lives; both good and bad, is it expands my ability to tell a full story. I have, sadly, had brides be apart of my deeper sexual assault series for my fine-art galleries, where I got to learn about their pasts, their triumphs, their families and support systems, and their traumas. In this grief series, I am learning about some really hard details that people I represent have gone through, and are still continuously going through and healing from. I also get to flip it around and photograph them on some of the most special days of their lives, really showcasing this up and down emotional rollercoaster that this life provides.
Jessica is a future bride of mine – a lover of my best friend’s brother – a mom to a beautiful daughter. I should add, the daughter loves Taylor Swift as much as I do, so we have some future bonding moments to be had [lol]. Jess sent me her story a few months back and I didn’t even know where to begin with representing her. When I brainstorm these series, I try to focus on one component, but recently I have figured out that these stories simply cannot be summarized in one image that contain a few symbolisms – so each series has been growing in representation, style and imagery.
But one thing has been consistent within brainstorming this specific series for Jessica: through the dark moments, through the storm, through the pressure and despair – Jess has come out on top because she had to – for her daughter.
Jessica wanted to add some words of her own after going through this process – she found the strength to compose things she hadn’t had the ability to word – and that has to be one of the most incredible things in this series for me. So these next few paragraphs are her own words.
“One moment it’s flowers at work and spontaneous dinner dates, time fast forwards and things slowly fall apart. First it’s the small insults, then lengthy apologies and being showered with gifts. One day, it escalates and those small verbal insults become physical, but only slightly. Small enough to make excuses for, small enough never to bruise more than your ego.
Before you know it, those small physical insults turn more violent and you’re left putting the pieces together each day wondering how and when you arrived here… My childhood dog became anxious, and his anxiousness turned to possession. He began lashing out, and for his safety I had to make the choice to euthanize him. A decision I’ve held heavy regret for, even though I know it was best. I remember one day the cat door was blocked, and our cat had an accident in the house. It became a monumental argument, a frantic hunt for the cat by both parties. He found him before I could and I remember the fear I felt in that moment. I tried taking the cat, swearing I’d go take it somewhere, I’d drop it off even, anything just to spare it’s life.
My concern for his life was considered a betrayal. I was more concerned about a “useless” cat than my sleeping baby inside. I’d had a bow and arrow pointed directly at me, an enticement to abandon my cause. I was later held down as I watched the now injured cat, be murdered by our own dogs. Days later, another incident occurred, this time I was held down and beaten, drug by my limbs away from the bedside of my sleeping child, because good wives sleep next to their husbands.
So many of us become blindsided by someone who we once held so much love for and we try desperately to hold onto that love. What we must remember is that one good day, is not worth the rest of our lives spent in anticipation of the next incident. I was lucky, for me my daughter was my driving force. I knew I had to leave for her, and there was no other option. Most spend their lives dreaming of better days, unable to escape their continuous cycle of grief and heartache, but I couldn’t let this reality overshadow her life. Her purity and innocence didn’t ask for this life, she deserved to live a life free of fear and anger. I couldn’t shelter her from the rest of the world, but I could create a shelter, a home, full of love and light and positivity. Divorce was hard. I remember having to save so much when there was nothing to save, teaching myself how to advocate for myself and my daughter. Learning how to initiate and complete my own divorce start to finish. I couldn’t stop to process my own emotions, “avoidant” is the word my therapist now uses. I had to keep pushing through.
A new chapter began and life was supposed to be uneventful. Things were moving in the right direction, I’d met someone. A new friend. She had been through almost just as much, if not more than I had. We understood one another. Our experiences had given our friendship a special bond, one that some days became toxic and unhealthy. We had a disagreement, the biggest one we’d ever had. We went almost 2 years without speaking. The next time I saw her face, it was on her obituary. Her and her daughter had passed away in a tragic accident. Not only did I lose a loved one, but so did my daughter.
Our previous fight left open ended and unresolved with no option for resolution. Recently, I was able to find a coat of hers. I’d had portions taken out, to sew into my wedding dress. A piece of her to keep close on a day we dreamed about for both of us.
We never imagined either of us would get to the top of that mountain, celebrating that didn’t feel right without her. The lingering questions that remain– hurt, even though the relationship had some toxicity within it – it doesn’t stop the pain and grief– Someday, while I know the grief will linger, it will become just a bit dimmer as time passes, though time doesn’t seem to pass as fast as it did before. I will hold onto our memories, I will honor and cherish the good things, I will keep her close at heart, my burning fire to continue pushing through as life changes and I’m able to celebrate those milestones of healing we once longed for together.
With every heartache, comes a storm, but after every storm there is light and somewhere a rainbow to reflect the beauty of making it through the storm. Through participating in this project, I’ve found a feeling of healing I never knew was possible. I’ve been able to truly appreciate the journey I’ve endured as a whole. When we are living through it piece by piece, we appreciate the smaller milestones as we jump to the next, never really admiring the full picture. This has allowed me to admire the full picture. It’s healed portions of my mental health that I didn’t know were buried beneath the surface. For that and so much more I am grateful. I went into this project with Paige anticipating one thing… And being blindside in the best way, by something entirely different…”
Besides going down the road of the bad or lost of the relationships in the past, I did want to elevate the moments and growing of good in Jessica’s life. This series really does explain the reason I started this project in the first place. Through these hard, challenging moments of grief and frustration – what are the things that keep us going? Jess embodies that answer.
You are the reason.
Jessica’s [now husband for legal purposes, but soon to be wedding celebration] husband chose to marry Jessica early to adopt her daughter. Jared has been there for Jessica through a lot of this growth in healing.
Although this wasn’t a glorified family session that I went to her house for – it taught me so much on a deeper level about their relationship. My goals for this session was to show the strength in the rain, the light of her daughter, but this session turned into something more beautiful than I imagined, and will only further the beauty of their wedding images and representation of their story in June.
For these images I was thinking about Jessica going through the dirt, mud, shit [if you will] while protecting her daughter from any of it – but as we got out to the field her daughter began to play in the mud – and I started to think about this from a deeper level — I began to realize, you literally cannot protect them from this trauma or pain – but you can do your best to give them the good experiences to help ease the bad… but you will go through this together.
Through the hard times, the good times, the dark times, and the times that blind us with light – her daughter will be there. As she ages, she will make up her mind about harder questions Jess has, and Jess will be there to guide her through them. And until then the moments of laughter, chaos in a good way, and the small victories that happen along the way, are the things that overcome the darkness in the past and become the light for the future.