Contemporary Portraits: Emily


There is so much I want to write about this session. About the subtle connection between Emily and John. About his relaxed style and speckled shirt, and her hip haircut and busy life. But I’ll just share with you how Emily’s struggle with something as simple, and as complex, as being in a frame illustrates beautifully why I do what I do.

I approached Emily at the restaurant where she works in town, one of my family’s favorite spots to grab a bite. She was behind the bar, rushing to get orders in, big-framed glasses masquerading her lively eyes, huge hoops dangling from her ears. I could see a bright, energetic woman and I wanted to get her in front of my lens right there, right then. Shining through the heaviness of her odd-hours job on her shoulders; with the strength of her young years, a strength she doesn’t even know she has. I waited for a moment where she grabbed a sip of water and I extended my card to her. I gave her my speech, smiled, and walked away. I can tell she was surprised, most women are when I tell them I want to photograph them, like if they can’t believe that they are worthy to exist in photos.

When we met for our consultation, I run several scenarios for her: come over with friends, her partner, create a situation that felt safe, non-awkward, which I sensed was necessary for a mind like Emily’s to go forward. But she was excited, and brave, and we scheduled the session with the option of her man joining her at the end. I wasn’t that surprised when she called to cancel a couple of days before we were to meet at the studio. She told me her mind was not in the right place to feel beautiful and enjoy the experience. So I stepped aside, and graciously gave her the space to feel what she was feeling. I let her know I was on board if and when she was. I wanted to show her so desperately what I saw, which she couldn’t see, but I had to give her the time she needed to get there herself. The morning of, she texted: “let’s do this”. Or something to that effect.


Sometimes our minds take over the reality of our precious lives. We are bombarded every day with messages that put us down, tell us we are not worthy, make it sound ridiculous that we would have images of ourselves, images that look back at us and remind us of our beauty, our value, our worth. I am in awe of every woman who steps past the enemy lines and agrees to be herself, to be photographed as she is, to make friends with that moment of doubt.

Emily is one of those women.