Celebrating My Existence
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Portrait Masters photography conference in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the culmination of a three-year dream. The events that led up to being able to go were fortuitous, if not downright miraculous.
Soon after I registered for the conference, I learned that several photographers from around the country would be offering full portrait sessions either before or after the conference. I knew in my heart that this was my chance and that I should not let it slip by.
You see, I reached the 10-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis last year and had wanted to have my own portrait session. I wanted to remember this time of my life before it slipped away.
The truth is, however, that I was scared. For all the same reasons my own clients are fearful: I wanted to lose weight first, I didn't know what to wear, I didn't know who I could entrust with taking my pictures—who could I be that vulnerable with? What about the investment of money? How could I rationalize spending that kind of money on myself?
I knew that this was my time. I scheduled my portrait session for the day following the three-day conference. I changed my air and hotel reservations to accommodate my new plans. I am not going to lie--I almost chickened out! I felt guilty for spending money on myself.
But the reasons for wanting to have my own portrait session were real and compelling:
I wanted to experience what my own clients experience, with all of the accompanying feelings. I knew that if I could not overcome my apprehensions and also open up my own wallet to invest in portraiture for myself, how could I ask someone else to do the same with me?
I wanted to celebrate surviving breast cancer because so many don't. It's a horrible disease.
When my treatment first ended, I was afraid to celebrate. I thought, “What if I get a recurrence next year?” (I still get these feelings, by the way, but I shove them aside as if Satan himself is saying them. “Shut Up! Life is worth celebrating and I'm here now, today, and I will celebrate it!”)
And lastly, I felt deeply compelled. It was kind of surreal, but it was if Someone were gently encouraging me to stop apologizing for myself.
Why am I sharing all of this? Because ladies, I hear you. I know how hard it is to spend money on yourself for “just pictures.” (And also when you think that you aren't the pretty young thing you once were.) I get it.
But let me tell you what I came away with:
The knowledge that I have something I can leave behind for my three beautiful granddaughters. Perhaps one day, one of them will point to one of these pictures and say, “This is my grandma Dana in her sixties.” Maybe they will experience what I did the first time I saw a photo of my grandparents as young marrieds: a sense of connection to them as human beings.
A renewed feeling of confidence. It's crazy, I know. How could doing a portrait session do that for a person? I don't know how or why, but it helped me see myself with different eyes. Yes, I know that I don't look this good in real life—I look like someone on the cover of a magazine. And you know what? NO APOLOGIES! I see the essence of who I am in these images.
Most of all, I see a Dana who isn't afraid to celebrate her existence—someone who is grateful to be alive.
Thank you, Cat, Saray, and Kim with Portrait Unforgettable, for giving me this gift!