Photography in my life is a force as protective as my higher power. She’s cradled me through every growing pain, silently guiding me toward womanhood and enlightenment.
I was too young to remember what it was like breathing my first breath behind the camera but I can look at the film and allow my younger self to communicate her feelings to me. That’s the beauty of visual art- it’s a message in a bottle, a way to transcend time and experience intangible inexplicable wonder! I've always been sentimental. Perhaps I get that from my mother.
I’ve grown up in front of her lens and modeled for many other women photographers in my family; my older sister Acadia, Aunt Patti, Aunt Nikki, and cousins Paris and Sadie. I’m lucky to have had such creative feminine forces to look up to and who have encouraged me to live a life of play and connectivity. These women taught me to look for beauty in the world. They gave me the gift of gratitude.
In my childhood, my mom set up still lives for me on the kitchen table and let my sister and I take turns photographing at powwows. We would frame our favorite images and enter them into local art competitions. She allowed my older sister to accompany her on senior photo sessions but she told me she thought I would be too shy to give direction. What neither of us knew yet was that the camera would free me from my social anxiety. Throughout elementary school and high school, I brought my camera around with me like my backpack- capturing moments of my friends and classmates. Photography gave me a purpose and an easy conversation starter.
I dropped photography for a little while in middle school but picked it back up again in 2014. I was hit with a wave of inspiration and felt the call to return back to my camera. I did my first photoshoot with my best friend and then I photographed her sister and her friends. It snowballed and a couple of months later I had established a portrait and wedding photography business. I liked how it felt making someone see themselves as beautiful. It was like a superpower and it gave me confidence.
I recognized the transformative power of photography and started to use it as a tool for self-liberation. My first conceptual performance photo series was called Pure and Imperfect. I photographed my female peers without makeup on and with natural hair. I began the series because I finally became frustrated enough with my insecurities and I wanted to overcome them. I knew if I was feeling the social pressure to maintain a level of superficial beauty that other girls were too.
I came to FIT because I have a love of fashion and I had an extensive portrait portfolio. I didn’t know there was any potential for a career in art photography- that in my mind was still a myth. It took almost two years here for me to find my spark. It was spring semester of 2020 when covid sent us home. I felt how my presence shifted the dynamic my family settled into while I was gone. I noticed that I projected my shame towards nudity onto my little sisters. I was afraid to be seen naked and even felt outside eyes on me when I was alone in my room. I didn't want my voice to become the evil echo in the back of their minds. To overcome my own shame and set a better example for my sisters, I started a series of environmental nude self-portraits around my family's home with the assistance of my sisters.
I have since continued this work of liberation with my photographic series Safe to Cry. I photograph myself intentionally crying to confront and release my emotions and share the message that it takes courage to be vulnerable and crying is an honorable act.
I also am continuing to conquer my social anxiety by making intimate self-portraits with strangers. The project is also a way to deconstruct the myth of the passive female muse and celebrate consent, agency, and equality in the art space.
There is a passage from the book Braiding Sweetgrass that I think about often when I start to question my place in the world or if a career in photography is really possible for me. It goes like this: “Many indigenous peoples share the understanding that we are each endowed with a particular gift, a unique ability. Birds to sing and stars to glitter, for instance. It is understood that these gifts have a dual nature, though: a gift is also a responsibility. If the bird’s gift is song, then it has a responsibility to greet the day with music. It is the duty of birds to sing and the rest of us receive the song as a gift. Asking what is our responsibility is perhaps also to ask, What is our gift? And how shall we use it?” My gift is photography, it is my responsibility to share my images, and I will use my gift to grow as a human being, to connect with others, and to make our world a little bit more beautiful and welcoming.