My mother must have been having an affair with the entire staff of Olan Mills Portrait Studio in Pensacola. Because we went there every week. At least, it seems like we went there every week. Well, we have enough photos that, realistically, we could have been there every week.
When I was a kid, there was nothing, nothing, that I loved more than posing for the camera! I would strike a pose. I’d artfully display my profile. I’d perform for the camera. And I was an expert at making pouty, surprised faces. The minute someone whipped out a camera, the surrounding environment became my playground! In front of a camera, I felt alive!
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment in my life when that stopped. I think it was about the time that my photos started looking like this:
I met date 34, Chris, during the taping of The JellyVision Show for date 14. One of the hosts, Jennifer, jokingly mentioned to Chris that he should be one of my dates. At the end of the show, we were talking and both decided “why not?” I had a date spot open. He could carry on a conversation. I happily locked it down.
Chris is an artist. A photographer, among many other talents. So when he mentioned that a studio was going to be involved in our date, I was excited! I’ve always dabbled in photography and am eager to take my skill level up a notch to become less of an “amateur.” But as our conversations progressed, it was clear that a photography lesson wasn’t what Chris had in mind. Rather, I was going to be the subject of the session. (*Insert images of “casting couch” sessions spinning through my mind, with the theme song to “Fame” playing in the background*)
I arrived at Union 206 Studio in Old Town Alexandria before Chris. That gave me time to primp. And primp. And primp some more. I thought that nothing could be more terrifying than trapeze school. I was wrong. Chris arrived and we hugged hello and I almost tripped over my feet! I was a nervous wreck! Luckily, a photographer and employee of the studio, Lori, was around and we chatted and calmed my nerves down while Chris prepared the lighting. Entirely too soon, it was time for the session to begin. I was frozen. A disaster in front of the lens. Chris was patient and kind and professional. He possesses a certain quality that makes you feel at ease. (Although, as he was my date, I don’t think I got as relaxed as I could have had he been a random party taking my photograph.) Before I knew it, the session was over. I didn’t look at any of the photographs.
Chris had prepared a picnic dinner that we enjoyed in the studio. We discussed my fear of being photographed. Photography in general. The time flew. Our studio time was up. We weren’t ready for the night to end, so we walked around the harbor of Old Town Alexandria for a while and wandered into Virtue Feed and Grain where we were the only two in the bar. We sat until closing, talking about our philosophies on art, dating, and life. Maybe it’s due to the skills that he’s acquired as a photographer. Or due to the amazing ability he has to read someone. But I felt very comfortable with Chris. Not once was I focused on what I was saying, how I was saying it, how I looked or how I sounded. Rather, I was just able to be. To be completely present. 100% comfortable with who I was, right at that moment.
He since e-mailed me, sending me one of the photos for the blog. I’ll be honest, I’m nervous to post the photo! But here it goes:
The minute I opened the photo file, my mind started racing, focusing on everything that I did not like about my appearance. But I stopped myself cold. In working with dating coaches Jess McCann and Dave Elliott, I’ve grown to recognize when I start down the path of “negative thinking.” And I stop myself and make a sharp right turn towards positive thoughts. The article, “Why is Self-Esteem Important for Dating,” lists ten, solid, tips for building one’s self-esteem. I cleared my head, looked at the photo and stopped comparing myself to my friends, models and other girls I know. I focused on the attributes in the photo that I love. I vocalized the strengths of the photo aloud. Within minutes, my opinion of the photo – and of me – had changed. I found that I felt similar to the way I did by the end of my night with Chris. Flawed and beautiful all at the same time.
“Most things in life are moments of pleasure and a lifetime of embarrassment;
photography is a moment of embarrassment and a lifetime of pleasure.” ~Tony Benn