I love the Feist song “I Feel It All” and it has been running through my mind for the last few days as I’ve been considering this blog post about JOY! It may be a surprise to have an expert in wedding photography talk about feeling it all and trust me when I tell you it is an awesome and direct access to authentically beautiful photographs. I love using the example of children and particularly portraits of children ecstatically joyful (not to mention – who doesn’t feel great when they see a smile like this, right?).
For every wildly happy portrait I’ve taken of a child or a baby or a toddler, I’ve experienced as many moments of tone-defying screams and big wide mouthed tears and then almost like magic within moments they are laughing and delighted.
Recently, I had the pleasure of photographing the Lombard Family. I captured Tom and Jenn’s wedding in 2008 and it is always a treat to work with a couple again once they have a child. Our photo shoot was scheduled for a gorgeous early November afternoon and when we arrived, Ella was lethargic and upset and mostly just wanted to be tucked into mom’s lap as deeply as possible. We took a few photos and they looked mostly like this
Tom and Jenn assured me that Ella was typically a really happy child and this was highly unusual for her. We decided to reschedule for a couple weeks out and give it another go. GREAT MOVE! Happy child is right, possibly the happiest I have seen (notice in the first shot – the crowd gathered around to witness Ella’s joy – seriously!!)
It was a few years ago, I started to wonder – “What is their secret? How do children feel so much joy?” I think their secret is simple – by allowing the upset and painful feelings to be fully expressed they are fully able to experience the joy of being alive. I spent years trying to avoid pain and upset and disappointment and what I didn’t realize was the whole time I spent avoiding it, I was actually numbing my ability to feel joy and love and attraction. There was a “dull happiness” present and a belief that life was good and I was happy but had lost my connection to actually feeling it.
Things changed and here is how – I was going through a heartbreak and unwilling to acknowledge how let down I had been by the man. My mentor said “Oh yeah, you avoid disappointment.” and she was right on, I did, I was scared that the disappointment would be so great I would never return to joy. What I learned was exactly the opposite, the more willing I was to acknowledge and feel the disappointment, the more I was able to actually notice and fully experience the utter joy of my life and the briefer the experience of disappointment lasted. Now, I am able to change the aspects of my life that do not inherently brings me happiness, basically I tell the truth. And the truth sets me free.
Now when I smile for the camera it is radiant and real. It is a smile that says – LIFE IS GOOD! Many of us already are willing to “feel it all” and if you are, like me, scared that you will never recover from the let down, let me tell you – YOU WILL and I invite you to take on being willing to feel it all!