I am not just a photographer, but a writer and a poet, and I have come to realize how heavily words weigh on me to appropriately describe emotions, experiences, actions, and interpretations. As someone who agonizes for hours over the perfect words to describe the sand-between-teeth texture of horses’ shod hooves grinding against the crushed rock in a breezeless summer night, I’ll be damned if I don’t have a fine-tuned vocabulary for everything in and out of my reach.
I see it take a significant role in how I communicate the seemingly simple emotions; I am not angry, I’m flustered. I’m not nervous, I’m just anxious. Sometimes there is a pencil-thin line separating the two words, and whether it’s right or wrong I’ve come to accept it as a characteristic of my own nature. That effort and energy are what write the lines.
I often hear boudoir photography described as a “brave” act. To embrace yourself and all of your insecurities, and document yourself in the present; not what you want to be, or what you used to be, but what you are now, and to love that. To rise above resistance, and do so boldly, and bravely.
When I see the word brave tagged alongside these photographs of women in their own skin, something inside me hesitates, because I’m not sure that should be the standard of bravery.
As in, we are capable of more.
When I first said I wanted to pursue wildland fire, my aunts and my mother and my friends would lower their voices to say, That’s so tough–but for whatever form of self-preservation, I refused to let that phrase to settle in my mind. At that point in my career, I was just starting my physical training, and a quarter of a pull-up was tough, and I knew there was a hell of a lot more that lay ahead of me. I didn’t want to accept that word yet. I wanted to normalize the feeling of pulling and sweating and gripping until that quarter of a pull-up became a half. And then a quarter again, and then three-quarters, until all of that effort became one. God. Damn. Pull-up. And then two, and then four, and a year later, seven.
You know what I found out is tougher than seven pull-ups? Seven miles of running hills. Seven miles of hiking mountains. Seven miles of hustling seventy-five pounds around those mountains and trading saw tanks for fourteen hours with your partner. Seven days of that, and seven nights sleeping on the ground, and then seven more days, and seven more nights.
If I had allowed the word tough to describe the beginning of my journey in fire, I would have set the bar so low as to what I was capable of doing. I wouldn’t have gotten much farther than that first pull-up. I normalized hard, or tough, because I didn’t want it to define anything I was capable of accomplishing.
What would you tell your friend setting up to attempt a PR? Or overcoming an obstacle of health? Or someone who is about to do something completely out of their comfort zone?
You've got this.
Not, This is a big deal, and it's scary and difficult and possibly the most challenging thing you'll ever do.
YOU'VE GOT THIS, because you're capable of this, and everything that will follow.
If we cater to using the word brave to describe celebrating our bodies and selves, there has to be bigger things on which we're casting shadows.
Normalize bravery. Be it in your everyday life. Be it in your actions, your words, your career, your health, your family, your fitness. Boudoir is a documentation of you, and your strength, and your beauty. It’s a celebration. It’s acceptance. It's laughing in the face of standards. It's a monument to what you've overcome. At the end of the day, it's whatever YOU want it to be. And in my opinion, it’s just the surface of what you’re capable of.
Allow boudoir to inspire you, to motivate you, to commemorate you. But also allow it to be just the next step.