Shelly, Austyn + Emiko
shelly, 56

“I am a nurse, mother, grandmother and wife with a strong and loud personality (this a self-description as well as how others who know me well describe me.) Being a nurse is not just a career but also a description of who I am at my core, one who looks to help and empower others daily hoping that the lives I touch are better because I was in it, even for a short time. I am not one who tolerates or enables weakness or laziness in myself or in others. I have often been described as intimidating which confounds me as I have always carried a sense of self-doubt which has lead me throughout my adult life to explore and examine who I am, learn ways to heal and reframe past experiences and develop ways to grow in confidence, strength and acceptance. This is an ever-morphing process as life always presents challenges and changes, yet I feel good about where I am in this journey of self-awareness.

Why I chose to do the shoot? A few reasons really, Trish’s photos and the project captured my attention as she was capturing woman as they are unaltered.  It felt right to push myself to be photographed without makeup something I am never with out, I hardly know what I look like without at least eye makeup.  This was a personal challenge in my journey to be more self-accepting.  It really stems back to a challenge I made to myself when I turned 50. I was having dinner with a friend celebrating entering a new decade when I realized in every phase of my life I always wished I was…thinner, had more tone, less wrinkles, straighter teeth…the things society tells us we should be. When I looked back on my life I realized when I was 40 I wished I looked as good as I did when I was 30, when I was 30 I wished I looked as good as I did when I was 20 but the kicker was when I was that age I did not appreciate how good I looked at the time.  I decided then to start appreciating who I am today and how I look today,  I realized that as time moves forward, and age takes its place on my body I will never look as good as I do today, so I needed to start appreciating today instead of looking back and seeing what I could of appreciated today. 

Fast forward to now…my daughter decided to do the “For Real” shoot and I was hooked by the simply gorgeous pictures Trisha took of her.  Natural, unfiltered and showing the strong happy woman I have always seen in her but she had not always seen in herself. Trisha’s project had now become a new challenge in my quest to grow in self-confidence with who I am now, unfiltered, no makeup, no styled hair, untouched photos. It felt risky to challenge my self-view bare of the makeup that bolsters my presentation of myself to others and be naked to a lens that will not tweak. As much as this was a personal challenge, it was also a chance to capture the natural beauty and journey of two woman I feel fortunate to love and have in my world, my daughter Austyn and daughter in law, Emiko. I hoped to capture a group photo to feature the natural beauty within us, the relationship we share and send a message not only to ourselves but to my granddaughters that beauty is naturally reflected in the smile & eyes of every woman and we should aspire to be that with or without the external aids we may use.  I want to take away the perspective that it is “natural” to find fault with ourselves or measure ourselves to a society or perspective we think others have of us

Taking the photos was so much fun, I forgot I didn’t have makeup on or that my hair was not the way I style it, I lived in the moment of being in front of Trish’s camera and her sassy personality put me at ease.  I loved the opportunity to be doing this with woman I love and capturing the realness of the moment and I could not help but smile ALL the time, Trish would ask us to relax our face…what? How do I do that? I just wanted to smile and that’s almost all I did.

So…then to the moment of the Reveal and unknowingly to me the real challenge begins…

My reaction was not what I had expected of myself. I did not see, as others have said, the model inside me, instead I stuttered in my challenge to view myself with the same kindness I view others. I found no fault with the pictures of the gorgeous woman in the pictures with me but I was looking at myself and finding faults, feeling uncomfortable. My daughter stated, “Mom, stop! You would never allow anyone to say to you what you are saying to yourself” and Damnit she was right!  

I regrouped, reframed and looked again…this time I saw the woman I am, the happiness, the strength and the realness behind the makeup, the smile that tells the story of the love I have for life, the eyes that speak volumes of the happiness my heart holds, the strength I have even when I falter for a moment.  I LOVE these pictures!  I stuttered in my challenge for a moment but like many moments in my life, with time and perspective of strong woman around me I regained my focus and stepped away from the person who always looked back to see my beauty and I appreciated today.  I bought all the pictures and I could not be happier.  I intend to print a grouping of them to remind myself of the challenge and my growth and celebrate the woman I am as well as the beautiful woman surrounding me.”