Last night I went out with a friend to dinner and I got chatting it up with our waitress. In between courses, it came up that I was a photographer. "I don't know when the last time my girls and I have had our picture taken," she said distractedly while refilling my glass.
"How old are your daughters?" I asked her.
Her cheeks flushed. "Thirteen and six. I know, I KNOW, it's been way too long."
When we went to leave, I handed her a tip and a business card, telling her I would love to photograph her family.
"I will definitely get in touch with you! I have really wanted to get my girls some updated photos to send to grandparents." She tucked the card inside her dirty apron.
"I'm not just a child photographer - I would love to get some fantastic family shots of the three of you as well," I said.
She waved a hand in front of me with a laugh. "Ohhhh, no. I'm way too out of shape for pictures. Maybe next summer after I get all of this weight off. But I'll definitely call you for the girls' pictures."
The entire way home I couldn't get what she had said out of my mind. It's not the first time I've heard that excuse. Or one like it.
"We're just way too busy for family photos."
"I haven't had time to get to the hairstylist and I am NOT getting my photos done with all of these grays."
"I'm not photogenic."
And on and on they go....
Where did we get the ludicrous idea that we had to meet certain requirements to be in a family portrait? We only get one shot at this life thing - your girls aren't going to care you were fat, or had gray hairs, or were busy, or had zits, psoriasis, or whatever other excuses you're coming up with. They're going to look for a photo of you to show their kids or grand kids someday and guess what - you're not going to be there. And more than that, you are leaving a legacy of unworthiness. You must think about what you're teaching your loved ones. You tell them every day to be strong in who they are, to not care what others may say or think, to love themselves as they are - and yet you aren't willing to walk that walk yourself.
I'm not asking you to hire me as your photographer.
I'm not telling you you must get a professional to take your pictures.
I'm telling you it's time to simply acknowledge that you are a human being on this planet, worthy of love, acceptance, and respect.
And that must start inside yourself.
Your dear ones will cherish any photo of you that you give them and no other's opinion matter.
They deserve to know someone as extraordinary as yourself existed.
Don't let your insecurities and your doubts rob your descendants the pleasure of knowing you - even through something as small as a photograph they'll hold someday, long after you're gone.
I leave you with this excerpt from a talk with the phenomenal Sue Bryce, world-renowned glamour portrait photographer. This is geared towards the photographer, but ultimately she is speaking to all of us. #existinphotographs