Breathtakingly Beautiful – with BrandiLee #finnsfanforever

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” – L.R.Knost

My new photo project: 

I did a personal project about three years ago that I called “This is Motherhood”   In that project, I asked mothers to allow me to take a simple portrait of them, and then I asked them to tell me about motherhood.  I gave them a few prompts or thought starters, but mainly was just looking for some insight or experience they had with motherhood that might mean something to other mothers. I was blown away with what women were willing to share with me.  Their stories ranged from funny to heartbreaking, and all of them were honest and inspiring. 

For some months now, I’ve felt the desire to do another photo project, but I couldn’t get my mind around what exactly it would be. 

I knew that like the first project, I wanted it to be about strong, beautiful women (though not necessarily just mothers.) In my line of work, I see a lot about how women are down on themselves, never feeling “enough”.  I have a desire to somehow show them through my lens, that they are enough. Just the way they are. 

I also knew I wanted it to be different from the first project in that I didn’t want it to be just a single portrait, but a more of a story telling photo essay for each woman.  I wanted it to be set in her own environment doing her own thing. I wanted to show women doing hard things, amazing things, but also ordinary things.  I wanted to photograph women living life. Embracing it even. 

But I wanted some kind of quote or theme to tie them altogether and I’ve struggled with finding what that would be.  For a while, I had settled on “She believed she could, so she did.”  I liked that it implies some action…as I wanted to include some activity in the stories, and not just some portrait.  But something was bothering me about that quote, and I finally figured out what it was….lots of times, she doesn’t believe that she could.  But she does anyway.  Because she has to.  Many times, women don’t know their own strength.  I want my project to show them their strength through the photos, so that quote just didn’t feel right.

Then, as I was browsing the internet, I came across the quote above, and it just felt like exactly what I was looking for.  I want to photograph women doing heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful and ordinary things.  I believe there is beauty in every moment…the hard, the wonderful and also the mundane. I want to photograph that beauty.  

Breathtakingly Beautiful with BrandiLee

Ok so I didn’t take these photos for my project, but taking them helped me to decide on exactly what it was I wanted my project to be. 

I first met BrandiLee last October, when I photographed a family portrait session for them. Last week, a friend of Brandi’s contacted me. She told me that Brandi had been selected by The Mom’s We Love Club as their featured mom for August. The Moms We Love Club is an Instagram account dedicated to loving on struggling moms through spreading awareness, prayer and fundraising.  For the feature, they needed lifestyle images of BrandiLee at home.  I was happy to have the honor of shooting for such a great cause, so we picked a time and I showed up to photograph real life. Brandilee will be featured at The Moms We Love club starting August 9, so please follow the page, and share the posts when you see them. 

As far as strong women go, I’m not sure I know any stronger than BrandiLee, though I’m positive she didn’t plan for life to be that way and that she often feels that she is not strong enough to deal with what life has dealt her. I cannot even begin to do her story justice, but please, please go read about this precious family on their GoFundme page, and if you are lead, consider making a donation.

The quote struck me so when I read it, because honestly, editing these photos took my breath away.

What struck me the most was the joy.

And first let me say that I know it’s not all joy. I don’t want to minimize in any way the horrible heartbreak this family deals with on a daily basis. I cannot even imagine.  I know there must be anger, and tears and so much pain.

But also, there were giggles, and hugs and helping mama make tortilla sandwiches, and licking the butter off the knife.  And funny snap chat videos, and being excited when Daddy gets home. And asking for more watermelon.  And snuggling with brother on the couch. And bedtime kisses. 

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