Collateral Beauty

In the movie Collateral Beauty Helen Miron, “Brigette” tells Naomie Harris, “Madeline” in the face of loosing her 6 yr old daughter to cancer to, “Watch out for the Collateral Beauty”, a seemingly thoughtless comment when a mother is about to loose their child, I was reminded of how I knew this experience in the face of deep pain, this idea of collateral beauty.

When my mom passed almost 4 years ago friends asked about my experience that the first year. I shared that it was equally devastatingly heart wrenching and stunningly beautiful all at once. I think its fare to assume we all know why this would be the former experience but what exactly was the latter? The latter it would turn out was the collateral beauty of it all.

As I began to deal with the anguishing pain of loosing my mom without any warning I was acutely aware I needed to dig into our combined bag of not so pretty dynamics. I sifted through what belonged to each of us, what was true, what was a story and all the emotions around it. It was an amazing, expansive time in my life.  I retold all the stories I held onto for 45 yrs. All the hurts and pains I carried from my dynamic with my mom and along the way I found myself.

I became vulnerable and open in a way that stripped any facade from my being, it was exhausting and unmatched in the rewards and gifts it gave me. As I went into the deep hurt of my past experiences and stories with my mom I allowed myself to think, feel and declare whatever came up.  Even if some part of me knew it was MY story based in fear I allowed myself to go deep into it. It didn’t have to be based in someone else’s truth or experience, it was my truth and that was where the answers would be.  Allowing myself to feel say whatever I believed to be real around my experience with my mother ultimately allowed me to reach the core of it.  At the core was the unearthed parts, what I refer to as the muck of it all, those parts we may or may not know about but when they are revealed we can choose to them put to rest and let go. Through this process I also saw falsehoods that I created out of protection. Again digging into why I was protecting myself and how that showed up ultimately allowed its release.

Along this almost 4 year journey I have come to a place of understanding for myself, compassion for myself and a deep compassion for my mom and her experience. I’ve cried it out so many times and each time I release the stuck pain of the experiences we had together and move closer to the love.

There is still some hurt and pain and overtime I know if I am brave enough to dive into it there is the gateway to expansion and love. This is my collateral beauty of loosing my mother, seeing me and loving myself for where we I am and who I am.

As I move through the transition of a romantic relationship into whatever it will be next  I am again aware of the collateral beauty. Through the grieving of it, of this relationship not being what I thought it might I also get to see into myself via the pain. How? I let myself tell the story in my head and I get a chance to debunk it. I get a chance, if I stick with the hurt and let it out to see the underlying thread, where it originated from and let it free.

In honor of moms and their children everywhere I am sharing some of my favorites including Lieselotte Anke and her beautiful mother who passed shortly after our photoshoot.

 

 

 

 

Trigger Happy

Last week I participated in a woman led, all women attended capital raising workshop. It was terrifying! So much so that in the days leading up I sent multiple emails to my business coach and inundated my friend with a should I or shouldn’t I conversation at least 5 -10 times in a 7 day period. I don’t normally have this much trouble making decisions but this was brutal. I would soon find out why.

In the days to follow, 3 to be exact, a cornucopia of emotions ranging from straight up pissed off, to fight or flight, hulk strength resistance, and finally resolution and joy flooded my mind and body. I had no idea the emotions and thoughts that would be triggered by this one workshop.

Lucky I was in a room of women who got it  including Jenny Kassen, my client and the female empowering, financially savvy entrepreneur who created and led her workshop #FundandFuelYourDreams.  As I slowly met the impressive women entrepreneurs who filled the room I began sharing my top question I had, “Why me?” Why would someone invest in MY business? I didn’t think it or I was ready. I could see the brilliance of the other women in the room and their value but I couldn’t see mine.  After 20 years creating my business and hundreds of happy clients I still struggled with my own value.

This wasn’t my only issue. Every time Jenny began speaking about finances and using phrases like, 50c3, debt, VC, and equity I did a hard check out. Yup, Jennifer had left the building. By the end of day two it all came to a head. Following the afternoon session I decided I couldn’t take it any more. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of insecurity and being in over my head. This is when my fight or flight response kicked in. I told women I met I wouldn’t be coming back the next day, that  it wasn’t for me. “I wont use this information”, I claimed. “No one is going to invest in my business and what I am creating”, I declared. Oh yeah, I was pissed…but why?

I was pretty quickly aware I was triggered and new that saying my goodbyes was a cry for help. I wanted someone to stop me. My more expansive self  knew I could do this. I knew this was the next big step in my business as I just had my two most profitable months to date. The paradigm was changing and I could change with it and float with ease down stream or fight like hell and stay stuck where I was.

As the other women began talking me off the ledge they reminded me of some very important facts.  We are the first generation of women entrepreneurs and we are learning as we go.  Even now this thought fills me with so much pride and relief!  They also reminded me that as women of my generation and others we are raised in an economic and entreprenural  boys club where we have had to fight to take our place at the table.  Along with many other women we grew up taking-in the story that finances were to confusing and over our heads. Some of us grew up with our value in being a nice girl, being accommodating which was unlike a lot of our male counterparts whose value was in what they offered and were encouraged that what they wanted was theirs for the taking.

This awareness was exactly what I needed to acknowledge my fears.  I thought I had to know it all, I thought I wasn’t intelligent if I didn’t and I thought if I couldn’t do it all on my own I had failed.  Knowing I was not alone, that many of these women struggled with the same stories, I relaxed into being comfortable with what I didn’t know, that I can rely on others and that I don’t have to do it all on my own.

Tara Mohr, author of “Playing Big” has created her book and a leadership program around women learning how to show up and put their dreams and goals into action. I highly recommend you checking out her book. It is eyeopening and a revelation!

I’d love to hear your stories of what has come up for you as a female entrepreneur or woman in business. Happy #EqualPayDay ladies! #WeAreStrongerTogether

BOOK a Complimentary Phone Consultation &  find out how a phenomenal Business Portrait can take your business to the next level.

One Simple Tip For Living Our Best Selves On and Off Camera

I always ask my clients how they feel about being photographed just before we begin the session. It’s very common to have the response be anything from, “I’m not photogenic.” to “it feels uncomfortable” and even “I hate it” and I completely understand!

I begin with this question so we can start unfolding what the real fear is for so many of my clients…being seen. On some level we fear we wont be accepted for who we are and someone might see those things we feel are flaws.

One of my last clients bravely shared that when she looks in the mirror she doesn’t see who she thinks she is. In this very raw honest moment we both began to welled up with tears and emotion. We want to look in the mirror or at photographs of ourselves and love who we see. The true us. The beauty of of who we are that radiates from the inside.

 Midway through our session, as she began to trust me and the process and allowed me to see the real her fearlessly and with ease.  I showed her the back of my camera and the photograph I captured in that moment of openness.  Her eyes filled with tears as she exclaimed,

“THAT is who I feel like!”

This women, who is one of the most gentle, loving and support women I have ever met, and a long time client has been someone whose beauty has always stayed with me. Her confidence and generous nature have always been at the forefront of how I see her.

Being able to see ourselves for WHO we know we are is an empowering experience. Being able to live in this place can also be empowering to the people around us, in our personal lives and our careers. It also brings a great level of  joy and ease into our lives that is unmatched.

So I started wondering, why can’t we see ourselves in the same way others see us and is there a way we can?

I’d love to share a technique I use with my clients which enables them to embody this authentic place with greater ease. You can try this anytime, anywhere.

Let’s take a moment to try it together….

I ask my clients to give me 3 adjectives describing how they want to be seen. How they would like the world to perceive them. These words can change from day to day depending on what aspect of ourselves we need to call forward. Today let’s choose the one I hear most often, CONFIDENT.

 I ask my clients how the word CONFIDENT feels in their bodies. I ask them to repeat it a few times, live into the word a bit. I ask them to imagine what possessing this attribute might look like in their body, how they might stand, walk or sit, and even how their facial expression might change. We use the word or words as an intention for the photographs we create that day. Soon I see them begin to shift. They grow taller, their gaze is more direct, and their smile more genuine.

Try this next time your not feeling you.  I believe with a little effort and some practice we can live into the best version of who we know we are.

Finally, to all my incredible clients who are willing to be seen for the extraordinarily people you are, who have taught me so much about the beautiful and powerful vulnerability of being seen, I THANK YOU.

 

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My beautiful fearless client, Panda. Thank you for letting me share your experience.

 

One day left to receive your complimentary business mentoring session with my own amazing Intuitive Business Mentor, Kelly Tadlock when you book at my 2106 prices!

Your Italia Photo Shoot!

First I feel its  important to tell you why I do what I do…. creating portraits. I deeply feel my service in life is to create a safe space for people to been seen.  When we allow the veil to drop, the mask to come off, and we show up in our truth the result is to be seen as our most powerful and beautiful self. I see this time after time in my photography sessions whether I am photographing a venture capitalist for a magazine cover, a yoga teacher for her amazing business *wink wink* or a personal portrait.  I am moved and honored to be a part of this experience every time.

Imagine the incredible beauty we could create in the quant town of Cortina, within the stunning landscape of the Dolomites, or if we are in Venice at the same time, even there! I am swooning just imagining the beauty & memories you would walk away with.

I would like to extend the offer of an Italian photo shoot to 3 people or 3 couples while we share in the incredible and nourishing experience of Laura’s Dolomite retreat.

Your Italia photo session (OMG CAN YOU IMAGINE!?) is an investment of $695 for this, I have to say it, once in a lifetime experience.  Book by May 1st & receive $50 early booking discount. Please schedule a complementary consultation with me here to find out all the details.

Following are a few samples of portraits I’ve created with clients from around the country and around the world. You may recognize 1 or 2 people. 😉

View more of my work @ jennifergrahamphotography.com

Laura in Careyes

Laura in Careyes, Mexico

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Diana, Studio Session

Read More…

Who Tells Your Story?

I grew up watching infomercials in the 90’s of Sally Struthers “Save the Children Campaign”.  The visual was of small malnourished children with flies on their faces, surrounded by garbage. I didn’t think much beyond the story I was given about those children or of Africa. I believed what I saw.  I walked away beleiveing Africa was a scary place where people where dying. The sad part of this, I was not alone.

I never thought to ask, “Is this true?” or “What else DON’T I know about these children. The answer, EVERYTHING.

As I grew up I began to think more critically and listened to the scholars, intellectuals and people around me. I realized we were all fed one story and it was damaging not only to the children Sally asked us to save but to anyone who believed there was only one story to be told. It’s not that it was untrue, but was it complete?

Like anyone of you reading this you know one photo of you, one Facebook post cannot tell the entire story of who you are. If its a photo of you at your most vulnerable then there is a very real chance people can walk away with a narrative about you that does not honor you as whole and boxes you into that one difficult challenging moment. That doesn’t seem fair does it?

For the people of Africa in particular this one story has been on a loop for decades. A loop creating the story that all of Africa is starving, dying and in struggle.

My goal in creating portraits for my VOICES project which I started during a long time dream trip to kenya was to let the subject take control of the narrative. We each know who we are beyond our circumstances and it is so much greater than most people can tell from a photograph. The women  I photographed represent life from, the slums of Kibera to the beaches of Mombasa. Small business owners, caretakers and scholars. Rather than go to a continent and country I have never been and impose a visual story upon it & it’s people with my camera, I chose to leave the story telling in the hands of the women I met.

I asked women from all over Kenya to choose 3 words to describe themselves. I asked, “How would you like to be seen?” This is a question I ask all my clients before a photoshoot because the one truth I know is, the beauty of WHO you are is WHAT I see.

These women shared how they see themselves at the core, how someone who loves them might describe them.  The results are the following images.

Voices Kenya

Pamela(far right), a small business owner and Kiva zip loan provider seen here with her friends and business owners Jane (left), and Benta (middle) from Kibera, Kenya.

Girls on Fire Leaders

Girls on Fire Leaders: Deborah Odenyi, Head Mistress at SHOFCO School for Girls. Mama Rose, life and love giver at Kibera Safe House for Girls. Rubie Ruth, leader at Ubuntu Brand Nonprofit.

Women from Tuele Orphanage in Ambaseli, Kibera, Kenya, and Mombasa, Kenya.

Women from Tuele Orphanage in Ambaseli, Kibera, Kenya, and Mombasa, Kenya.