I HATED having my senior portraits taken!!! Back in 1997, there was only two options in my small hometown, you either paid thousands of dollars to one photographer that only worked in a studio, or just did the photos from the staff photographer who showed up for “picture day”~ well we got back the photos from picture day and they were AWFUL!!! They combed my hair to the side, which made my hair get static, and I had hairs flying everywhere, and I basically looked shell shocked as they told me to smile.
Feeling totally dismayed and self conscious I went to the local portrait photographer and shelled out thousands of dollars to have better pictures taken. I was allowed three wardrobe changes, and she picked the backgrounds. (most of which CLASHED with my brightly colored outfits) sigh. I was never given any wardrobe preparing tips and suggestions. This photo is the only remaining photo that we have from the entire collection that we paid so much money for. It was the only one that I *kinda* liked.
So while I can look at this and not feel horrified visually, I still get stumped and don’t like it. WHY? Because I can still remember how I FELT during this photo session! She made me feel SO uncomfortable~ demanding that I smile with teeth and without teeth, tilt your head this way..no THIS way! I was a totally awkward teenager, who toggled between confidence and insecurity. My face was covered with acne, my hair was thin and wispy and so I’d slather myself in makeup and hair products in order to just “fit in” and feel better about myself. All it did was make me feel worse. My makeup looked cakey, my hair was stiff with gel. YIKES! I look back on this time in my life and don’t even recognize myself.
Fortunately for me, my high school bestie’s mom was an aspiring photographer! She knew I was interested in photography as well and so she took me to the studio at the college where she was doing training. That afternoon, I remember my insecure mind thinking, oh great, here we go again with the bad photos….well, she proved me WRONG!!
There were no awkward smiles, or poses. Just me being ME in front of the camera. Candid as they come! Here are the few that I have still in my memory box.
For the first time EVER, I saw myself as not only beautiful, but actually freaking AMAZING!!! I realized that without makeup and without my hair full of goey chemical products, I actually felt more myself. This was a liberating experience for me, and one that I now carry with me into adulthood. I don’t think I ever shared with Amanda how much she has influenced me and how amazing that experience was for me. (so I am now!) THANK YOU AMANDA!!!
This experience is also in part what led me to pursue a photography degree, start a business celebrating self love through portraiture, and develop the Senior Empowerment Collective Program that I now offer local high school seniors. I don’t want a single high school senior to walk out into the world with their head hung low because of their insecurities. In fact I want the opposite for them. I want them to feel seen for WHO THEY ARE, and know that they are incredible both inside and out. I want them to walk into the world beaming with confidence. I believe that portrait experiences have the power to define how you view yourself, I know it sure turned my self image around when I worked with a photographer who could see me for who I was and not make me feel awkward!
and what was even better? she later took me out into the forest for some pictures….which I have yet to dig out of my memory box. I’ll share those with you another day~ but for now. I want you to think about what your portrait experiences have been like? did you leave feeling empowered and confident? or insecure and uncertain? <3 I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
wow Wow —- Thank You so much Jamie —- I think Julie was along on that shoot, wasn’t she. You have your own way of shining and that is what a photo should capture! The one of you in the black dress, on the right — is such a favorite of mine! So excited that you are now showing so many Seniors & others that they are truly beautiful is every way! —- Kindest regards, Mandy ; )
Yes, she was there! 🙂 Fond memories!! Thank you for all that you’ve done to inspire me over the years~ <3