As a writer, I spend most of my time behind the computer creating moving images with words. My sister, Kendra, on the other hand, is a photographer and spends her time behind a camera making gorgeous visual images. I don’t tend to spend a lot of time on girly things like fussy hair and makeup. Kendra is just the opposite. She loves dolling people up and helping them see themselves in a new light. After spending an afternoon being photographed by her, I realized the process goes way beyond surface level. Somehow she’d brought out the brilliant sensual side I’ve always had, but tend to keep tamped down as I go about the practicalities of every day life.
During my daughter’s spring break, we traveled to the small town where Brett and I met and fell in love to visit the family. Both of our parents still live there, as well as my photographer sister. I was in need of a new author photo for the backs of my books, website, social media, all that jazz, but I also wanted to explore myself a little bit…be a little daring.
Kendra, always eager for a challenge, agreed to try out some of my wacky ideas (like wearing my favorite black and white checkered workout swimsuit because it makes me feel strong and fast). We also decided to take some photos of me a little less than dressed. I liked the idea, but was a little unsure of how I’d feel about the outcome. I’m not as young and lean as I used to be.
When I got to Kendra’s house, I was a little frazzled. I was running late from dropping off my daughter with her grandma. I hadn’t had time to do my makeup, and I was toting a giant bag of clothes, unsure of which outfits I wanted to use.
First, Kendra snapped a quick before photo of me to show how I look when I’m my typical unmade up self. I’m happy to report, even after seeing my fancy pictures, I’m still happy with the “naked” me. Then, in her soft spoken manner, Kendra started asking me questions. What did I want from the session? What was the general color palette of the clothing I’d brought? As I answered, we agreed I should do my makeup in neutral grays, leaning toward a smokey eye. My responses helped Kendra decide what props to set up in her studio while I got gussied up.
She had everything ready when I arrived in their shop turned photography studio. A stereo was blaring fun music that made me want to dance. It reminded me of when we shared a room when we were teenagers and how we rocked out with our friends. I felt light and young and brave.
We got to work. Well, Kendra worked. I sat around in my underwear and other random outfits letting her boss me around. Now, that I think about it, that must’ve been a fun experience for her. I’m the oldest sister and have done the majority of the bossing in our thirty odd years on this planet. Anyway, I wasn’t distracted by being mom, wife, or writer. I was in my own world for a while, and it centered on me. It’s rare that I think just about myself and my needs. I think that’s the case with a lot of women. Well, let me tell you it was empowering, and it showed on my face in those photos.
When Kendra showed me the images she’d captured, I was in awe of myself. I was introduced to a happier, softer me. I tend to scrutinize myself, berate myself for not being able to hang on to that ripped triathlete body I sported four years ago. Honestly, I was pretty nervous to see what was on that camera. Soft looks good on me. Enjoying life looks good on me. Letting go looks good on me. I couldn’t wait to show my friends the before and after piece Kendra put together, and you’ll see it too at the end of this article. Never in a million years would I have thought the picture I chose for the reveal would be one where I’m in barely more than my undies. Baring it all ignited something in me. In the last week, I’ve become more productive with my work, more understanding with my daughter, and a whole lot nicer to myself. There’ve been moments when the darkness of self-criticism have tried to creep in, but they’ve been easier to shove aside. I’d like to recommend to all of you reading this, whatever your gender, to take a day do something just for you. Even better, do something daring, something that will let you look at yourself from a different angle. I think you will be surprised at what you find.