Being Seen

What does it mean to “be seen”? Fairly often I reference the time in my youth where I was photographed and how it changed the trajectory of my life because it wasn’t a surprise that I was being seen as “beautiful”. Because it did. In fact, it changed everything. I have built my entire career based off of that experience, even though I hadn’t made that connection until recently. I wish I had those images now.

The concept shows up differently within each chapter of my life too and I could study the process and psychology of it forever. Truly, I could. With each new iteration of who I AM, the experience shifts. As a teen, I discovered the power of confidence, in feeling beautiful. I had never experienced the feeling or the validation that came with someone ELSE seeing it before.

If you read about my experience being photographed by Lauren on the Team page, it was more about experiencing the process from the perspective of the client: preparing, nerves, addressing self image body issues, and the list goes on. I was lucky in my choice of photographer too. She saw the woman I hoped people saw when they looked at me. That was in 2016. More recently, I’ve been photographed officially by Saray Taylor-Roman and Michelle Taylor-Jones. Saray created some artful imagery for me in 2017, and Michelle branding just this September AND a few more intimate pieces and WOW! All of these different facets of me has been quite a whirlwind.

The deeper I delve into Photography as an art I am very much enjoying the perspectives that the Photographers bring to the table in their imagery. The projection of the Photographer TO how they direct, photograph, and edit the subject is fascinating to me! Some are very controlled and others are very minimally….invasive? Is that the right word? Some see the light and sculpt the subject with only that and allow them to position as they may. Others pose from head to toe. In my own studio portraiture with my clients, I LOVE that I am able to bring my own expertise to the table in posing and direction so that my clients can feel confident in looking amazing in their imagery however, I am learning to be less controlling of my subjects specifically for more emotive work.

I do find that kind of funny too. That in allowing my subject to show up as they will with the only personal direction in emotion and composition, and by controlling the environment, styling, and micro-movements the results are quite different from my normal work of controlling posing from the top down. I’m very curious to see where the results take me. In the meantime I find myself showing up VERY differently in my own life.

cat fc gold dress branding saray taylor roman.jpg

I’m finding that I am more bold than I have been in recent years. It’s nice to see her again. I find that I am being seen as well. Some of this attention is welcome, as it is nice to be noticed and then I also find that there is the voice in the back of my head that also says things like “but what if they notice (insert random hangup here) about you? THEN what?” I’m trying to hold space for that aspect of me through the thought. Not run. When invited, show up anyway. If judgement comes to the table, so be it. That judgement would be there if I chose NOT to show up too so, at least be judged for action that empowers me, right?

And what is happening is this; there is a magnetism in this vulnerability I had not expected. Yes, my confidence is returning (again, welcome) but I’m finding that people’s perception of me is different. Five years ago I had noticed that people’s perception of me had drastically shifted from what I was used to. I’ve always been kind of a bold, badass archetype. It was a part of myself that I had created as my own answer to bullying as a kid. I’d curated this to being part glam, part rock n roll, part woman and she was so much fun! What I’d noticed as my former business closed and I was scrambling to afford even food, let alone a house payment was that I’d let that version of me fade a bit. Age happens, self care was non-existent, and shame was EVERYWHERE. Suddenly I’d noticed that my friends were not seeing that powerful version of me, but a frumpy, washed up, shame-covered…shell. It makes me want to cry that I ever allowed myself to get that far but I suppose it was the consequence of a different time.

cat ford-coated - portrait photographer

Now that I’m choosing to BE seen, that vision is changing. I’m making better choices for me in my life and caring FOR me, I’m trying to take things one piece at a time (which in my world really means 17 but who is counting anyway?), and I’m allowing myself to be more vulnerable. This sometimes works in my favor, and sometimes works against me but how I’m being seen is shifting and I’m grateful for it. What I’m finding is that I am showing up in a different way too; more openly curious, more boldly, and unapologetically so. I’m digging it. I think I’ll keep moving in this direction for a bit.

Now as I determine how I’d like to be seen, its less about “powerful, friendly, creative” and more about “adventurous, dramatic, desired”. We’ll see what that photo shoot looks like down the line. For now I’ll take “present, curious, unabashed”.

Photographer - Jonny Edward

Photographer - Jonny Edward

How would you like to be seen? What imagery do you have to tell the story of who you are? Is it inquisitive, fun, and full of life? Stoic, heartfelt, poised? Whatever that looks like for you, I do hope you’ll ask yourself what you might hope to occur in your life because of the experience and portraiture created within that experience. I hope you ask yourself who you would like to become in the ever-changing landscape that is your life. Photography is powerful and affects us in ways that is sometimes unexpected. I wish for you to embrace that affectation; both good and bad. You will be better and be more because of it however you choose to show up IN that experience.

If I can be a part of that experience for and with you, I welcome the opportunity. Feel free to reach out using the contact form below or call 828-417-7400

Until,

C

PS - HUGE thank you to the amazing photographers along this journey. The ones shown above and the ones who know who they are. Each of you has had an eternal effect on my life and I am grateful for you.

PSS - As an aside, I’ve always had a fascination with the Observer Effect (also known as Hawthorne’s theory). It is defined as when the observer becomes part of the observation and I find that Photography is a beautiful example of this. Even in something as removed as landscape photography, the Photographer is very much present in the final imagery (think Ansel Adams) so when we as Portrait Photographers show up in the moment and expect that we are capturing only the subject, that is insanity. The Photographer is almost as much the subject as the subject herself and when the two come together, it’s damned magical. I LOVE OE, always have.

EDIT - I shouldn’t refer to landscape photography as removed because it isn’t. The correction might be more about the scale of imagery and how the landscape itself as the subject instead of being a supporting cast member to a lead.

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