A few months ago I wrote a blog post that would touch on some pretty personal topics for me, you can read it HERE. I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a whole new life for me.
Since I am a small business owner, I often attend networking events to get to know other small business owners. I met a woman who hired me to update her headshots. We kept in touch and she invited me to a book launch where she was a contributing author. I had no idea what her story was about but I wanted to support her. I took my daughter with me who was 10 at the time. There was a game to collect points to win a prize and my daughter really wanted to win. To get all of the possible points, we met each author, obtained everyone's autograph and finally got down to the last way to earn points. Enter to be an author in the next volume. My daughter begged me... it was worth 1,000 points, so I reluctantly entered my name. My daughter won a prize.
My entry that night led to me submitting a writing sample and ultimately being selected to be a contributing writer in Ready to Fly, Volume 3. I attended the video meetings and read every email but ultimately procrastinated big time to start writing. I had no idea how to start my chapter or how I would even find the words to share my struggles with my body and how to bring it to a positive ending... I was still struggling to find peace with my body.
During all of this time I was booking new clients and one in particular stood out to me. She was flying from Indiana to shoot with me in Colorado. I picked her up from the airport and we hit it off instantly. At dinner we shared projects we were working on and I shared that I was stuck to start writing my chapter. She was a writer and majored in it in college so I was in good company. She shared an audio book with me that would ultimately give me the courage to find my words.
After she flew home, I sat in the bathtub and just listened to chapter after chapter. I cried with each new chapter and grew stronger in my own voice because if these brave women could tell their stories, so could I.
I sat down the next day and the words began to flow. So did the tears. It was a very emotional week to say the least. I poured my heart and soul out in as much detail as I could and began to see how things fit together... I had never seen my STORY laid out in sequence like that before... it all began to make sense and I began to be able to heal from the emotional trauma. I could finally tell my story and not BE MY STORY. (As of right now, our stories in Ready to Fly, Volume 3 are going to print and we are planning our book launch in early spring of 2020.)
PHOTOGRAPHY SAVED MY LIFE.
Growing up, I struggled with bulimia, abuse, body shaming and being assaulted. I hated my body. On one hand I thought I was fat and then after being assaulted I felt ashamed. These two conflicting stories did not allow me to embrace my body or feel good about it.
Writing my story was one of the most therapeutic things I have ever done. I was able to fully see how strong and resilient my body actually was. It was during the writing process that I began to embrace my perceived flaws and for once was able to believe that those are what makes me ME.
I always knew I loved photography. The way a photo freezes time and doesn't fade like a memory. But I hated to be photographed. I would hide my body as much as possible. But I wanted to be photographed so I started studying how to look better in pictures.
I came across fine art nude photography and took courses on how to photograph the nude form. I began to use similar lighting techniques in my boudoir work. Boudoir photography in particular helps me heal a little more because I am not alone in the body confidence department. Each client shares with me what she doesn't love about her body.... EVERY woman dislikes SOMETHING. Even a client who I would have thought was so confident and wouldn't dislike anything about her body... did. So I felt normal. But also it helped me to see that sometimes the parts we don't love about our body are what make us beautiful. That rocked my beliefs about my own body.
How did photography save my life? Remember that headshot client who invited me to her book launch? My client who shared the book with me that gave me the courage to find my words? Or each and every photography client I have ever photographed or will photograph? I continue to be amazed by all of the wonderful people I meet on this journey in my life. I titled my chapter, Work in Progress because I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS. Thank YOU for being a part of my journey. Much love, mj.
Michele Johns is an award winning, professional boudoir photographer located in Castle Rock, Colorado, serving clients from all over the world