In my mother’s china cabinet, next to the fancy plates we use for Easter dinner, is a portrait in an oval frame of a young woman with long, smooth hair and bright eyes wearing a sweater of robin’s egg blue. Even as a young girl, I would gaze at that photo in awe of the beautiful face in that frame. My mother would tell me about how she actually wore a sweater of a different color on the day the photo was taken, but she had the sweater in the portrait hand-painted the blue after the fact because she liked it better, because the color made her eyes even brighter.
She loved to tell me about that portrait, taken in her late teens.
When I grew older, I would glance at it on the way out the door after struggling to get my crazy frizzy hair to lay flat and wonder if my hair would ever be as smooth as my mom’s. The striking gaze, her long neck, slender features. My mama was beautiful.
Do you ever feel like we’ve gotten so used to moving so fast through life that we emulate that speed even as we capture our memories? I know I can’t be the only one who has 5,000 photos on my phone with a few selfies and shots with my kids scattered here and there, but with very very few actually printed and displayed. Sure, we have family photos of our crazy crew, but I certainly didn’t have anything even remotely like that portrait of my mother.
Our grandmothers sat for portraits, as did our great-grandmothers before them. They didn’t have front-facing cameras on their iPhones with the VSCO app to rely on so they had to actually be intentional about taking the time to have the portrait taken, preserved and passed on to the next generation. But for us, for this generation of mothers, we feel like we have to do it all. We have to have the successful career and simultaneously be the ever-present perfect mom, though our motherhood can’t infringe upon said successful career with any calls from school, childcare cancellations or after-school activities. We need to lose the baby weight immediately but also need to be willing to rock the “Mom Bod.” We share photos with #authenticmotherhood to share our real struggles but we are careful not to reveal too much because there comes a point where if people knew THAT, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me or they’d find out I’m really quite scared. And that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.
I feel like we are so scared of coming across as selfish that we are terrified to do anything for ourselves, including taking and printing photos.
I know I struggle with this. Like, something fierce. Half the time, I feel guilty for spending money on a haircut. When a member of our MKE Moms Blog Contributor Team nominated me for a personal portrait photo shoot with Jennifer Brindley on International Women’s Day, she did so by writing a moving paragraph about me and I immediately felt guilty. I mean, it was so sweet she was saying those things about me and I was truly honored, but of all the deserving women in the Milwaukee area, why on earth would she think to nominate me?
As I walked up the stairs to Jennifer’s studio for our initial consultation, I could feel the anxiety rise into my throat. I was in leggings and an oversized sweater and I certainly didn’t feel glamorous or special or like this was even remotely a sane idea.
Jennifer’s bright smile and gentle demeanor immediately puts her clients at ease, even those how are really struggling with the very idea of taking the portraits.
Jennifer asked, “What makes you feel the prettiest?” And I said, “Uhhhhh…….”
She asked, “Okay, what is your favorite outfit that you feel the most confident in?” And I said, “Uhhhhh……”
Laughing, she attempted, “Alright, what do you wear to a wedding??” And I said, “Probably a maxi skirt and a t-shirt?”
We then talked for at least an hour about my history with body image issues, my insecurities, the overwhelming feeling of guilt I was experiencing by even being there, and the fears I had that these portraits would look like I was a little girl playing dress-up who had gone to the mall for Glamour Shots. (Remember those?)
She listened. She reassured me. She promised me that the photos from this session would be a timeless heirloom that I would be proud to pass down to my children and the generations to come because she is “very good at what I do” and would ensure that the portraits reflected ME — my style, my personality, my comfort level.
Photo Shoot Day
I seriously emailed Jennifer at about 11:30 pm the night before the shirt because I was panicking about my bra. So she took extra measures to make sure I felt at ease (i.e. mimosas) when I arrived the next morning for the shoot. After hair and makeup were complete, I got into my first outfit, sat in the pose Jennifer instructed me and then burst into tears.
Overwhelmed. It was overwhelming to be all decked out, false eyelashes and all, with a gorgeous dress and a team of people there just for me. All that fear hit me all of a sudden and Jennifer was so sweet and kind with reassuring me that the portraits were going to be beautiful.
So I dried my eyes and we got to work. She coached me on every. single. thing. Down to where to put my hands, how to position my body, how to elongate my neck, what to do with my face, you name it. All I had to do was follow instructions and enjoy! We rocked out to music, laughed and by the end of the session, I was already giving her “giraffe neck” without even being told!
It was seriously the coolest experience. After the initial anxiety wore off, I felt like a star.
The Grand Reveal
Words are my thing. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that seeing the final images from my shoot with Jennifer left me grasping for words. The wall was filled with beautiful images of a woman who I recognized and yet didn’t and I stared at each one of them just in awe of the transformation that had taken place through Jennifer’s lens.
Instead of a self-conscious, fearful woman, I saw a confident, powerful woman with a striking gaze. She was BEAUTIFUL.
I spent a long time picking up each image and deciding which ones I wanted to keep in my folio box. Once I had it narrowed down to a dozen photos, those prints went into a beautiful linen box along with a jump drive with the digital files. I took the box home and proudly handed it to my husband, who opened it to the top photo and gasped.
Leaving a Legacy
Yeah, having some pretty pictures of you is nice. Definitely, make a point of handing your iPhone to someone else and get in the photo with your kids more often. Snap a few more selfies. But there is something that is timeless about portraits like the ones Jennifer creates. In an era of Fast Photos, these take time. Effort. Skill. Artistry. Intentionality.
Jennifer doesn’t just create photos. She creates heirlooms.
One day, my sons will be grown and maybe….just maybe….they have families of their own. And maybe, they have little girls who grow up to be young women who, like me, struggle with seeing their beauty, recognizing their worth.
And I imagine them pulling out this photo and showing it to their daughters, saying, “Look, sweetie. This is your grandmother. This is how I remember her, with wild curly hair, dark brown eyes, and a look that could communicate the deepest love but in an instant switch and instill fear in my brothers in I that made us get our act together. We loved her so much….and I see her in you. You have her eyes/nose/hair/smile/attitude. And your grandmother? She was BEAUTIFUL. And you surpass her by leagues.”
I keep staring at this photo because in it, I see something that transcends generations. It is a rare gift that I do not take for granted. I am truly grateful. I am so thankful to finally have an image printed out that not only captures me as a woman and mother, but creates a legacy that will be passed down to my family after I am gone.
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$100 OFF YOUR PORTRAIT SESSION
We are thrilled to offer our readers a deal of $100 off your photo session with Jennifer Brindley Portrait! Your luxury portrait session includes:
- Wardrobe Styling Consultation
- Professional Hair & Makeup
- Fully Guided Photo Shoot
- Portrait Reveal & Order Session
- Full Retouching Included
- Beautiful, Private Studio Location
- Portrait Payment Plan Options
- Satisfaction Guarantee
Just mention MKE Moms Blog when booking your session HERE, or through the button to the left, to claim your deal.
Check out more of Jennifer Brindley’s stunning before and after photos and other portraits HERE.
*Though not compensated for writing this post, the author does receive referral credit for new clients. All opinions and experiences shared are 100% genuine!