“The things that go wrong for you have a lot of potential to become part of your gift to the world.”
I’m so glad you can’t see me right now. I haven’t even finished the second sentence to this intro and my hands are already drenched in sweat, my eyes filled to the brim with tears that I’m trying desperately to hold back because, eyeliner.
Two things you’ll come to realize about me: 1 – I’m extremely sensitive. 2 – I’m unwaveringly honest. Almost to a fault. So sharing this story brings back a lot of memories for me and I get really emotional going back to that place, where this boudoir thing began for me.
But the experience saved my life.
And helped others to save parts of themselves as well.
It’s become my purpose. So I will never stop telling it.
Let me set the scene: It’s 2013. I’m on my mom’s couch crying, aching, slipping further and further down into the darkness that is depression. My one year old son is sleeping in the other room. Most likely I was hungover. And my partner is…who knows. At that time I didn’t care. I’m at rock bottom – I don’t have a job, I have no talent or passion, my relationship sucks, I’m drinking way more then I should and on top of my lifelong battle with anxiety & depression I am now suffering from Post-Partum Depression. I’m in a dark place, to say the least. And the people in my life are telling me things like, “cheer up” and “think positive”. AND IT’S MAKING IT WORSE.
I know depression. I know how it works, I know all of the tools to deal with it, and most of all, I know that it just has to take it’s course. So it’s actually kind pissing me off that no one understands that although this season in my life is brutal…it’s necessary. I NEED this darkness in order to look at my life and make the changes I have been avoiding.
Because after the depression, and after the darkness, there is light. And clarity. And healing. And calm.
I’m writing about all of this in a note on my phone while on that couch and suddenly I have this vision in my head. It’s a photo. A portrait actually. And I’m the subject. I’m standing on this busy street corner with people quickly walking past me all around. I’m standing there looking forward…and I’m crying. But here’s the thing: it’s fine. No one is staring at me. No one’s trying to cheer me up or wipe my tears. Everyone is just allowing me to cry, to feel.
And I thought, “Damn. I love that. They’re just letting me LIVE the dark parts of my life.”! Immidiately followed by, “I wonder if someone else would let me take a photo of them like that, sharing their darkness?”
I was still fairly new to Instagram at that time and I pretty much only used it to share pictures of my sweet boy, but I posted something anyways. It was pretty vague but I just said that I had written out some thoughts that were related to a photo series I was thinking of starting and I wanted to see if anyone was interested in reading it. The response was overwhelming. Not only did a couple dozen ladies respond…but they did something that I never expected:
They told me their stories.
Their most tragic stories. Their heartbreaks. Their fears. Their insecurities. Their failures. Their darkness.
I was blown away. Other people felt like me? They hurt like me? I quickly scheduled a handful of shoots. The women I worked with and the experiences we had changed the course of my life. Each of them had lived very different lives and had extremely different stories to share. But the common denominator’s in each were about love, their bodies, and their mental health.
I had each girl choose a location and that was the extent of what I had planned for each shoot. Basically, I had no clue what I was doing. But what I did know is that something special was happening, and I was in no position to walk away from the situation.
One of the girls, J, has been kind enough to let me share her my version of her story here:
I’d known J for a couple years through different mutual friends so I was already pretty comfortable around her which I think helped both of us to relax a little (the beer probably helped a little too..). On the way to the river J broke down her story for me: there was this guy, we’ll call him X, and no matter what J did she just could not get over X. They’d been broken up for over a year but there was just so much of their relationship lingering inside her. It wasn’t that she really even wanted X back, she just didn’t want him to (unknowingly) have this control over her, her heart or her life any more.
We split her story up into three parts. The first images are of J when she was in love – happy, carefree, content. The second set of photos we took were of J as she currently was – confused, anxious, and melancholy. After we shot that second part we painted some white dots in a pattern around J’s eyes…we called it war paint. I let J walk ahead of me as we made our way down through the brush and into the river bed. That’s where we were going to shoot the final part of the story, the part where J let’s go of X.
What I didn’t expect when I walked around the large tree that I had just watched J walked through in my camera’s view finder, was how powerful this moment was. I still get chills from it. The sun was now setting, the river was calm and there was a slight breeze blowing both her hair and her dress ever so gently. I stood there for a second just staring, and as I started to take more photos something miraculous happened…I could SEE J again. She was right there. She was back. And she wasn’t carrying anyone anymore, especially X. It was like the water and the wind and the sun had carried him away. It was just J, finally.
Six months later J sent me an email. She was in love. IN. LOVE. PEOPLE.
And she said that our time together had made that possible for her. Expressing her darkness and then allowing herself to let go of it, it healed her.
And I thought, “Fuck yeah. This is what I want to do. I want to HELP people.”
And that’s how the ‘Let the Dark In” series began. It has since evolved but the sentiment has and will always remain the same. You should never feel ashamed of your darkness -your flaws, your past, your secrets. They’re a part of you. And they’re just as important as anything else about you.
Boudoir should represent, honor and celebrate ALL OF YOU.
So, let the dark in.