The reason I am an artist …
I just got finished with a course called photo native in SB, California and during it they asked us what our why was. Why do we do what we do and to think of a photograph that moved us or inspired our path.
At first I thought I had many. All different ones for different parts but I guess my main one. The one that brought me to women’s empowerment, group sessions, birth and mother hood was this…
When I was 18 and in college I met a man who stole my heart. He was kind and affectionate, handsome and hard working. But he also had a dark side. Something that ended up shaping me to be exactly who I was supposed to be. He had a drinking problem and when he would drink hard alcohol he would turn into a different human. Someone who wasn’t kind or affectionate. Someone who would rip his hand away from mine in disgust and call me a slut for no reason. He would disrespect me, shame me, manipulate me and put me down. And then when the alcohol would wear off he’d return to a beautiful supportive happy loving human who treated me like a queen. He was the first man I loved… I was only 18 when we met and for some reason even though I knew it was wrong and not okay I put up with it. I put up with it for 5 years. 5 years we lived together in a cute little house in a relationship that was bi-polar.
At the time I offered boudoir sessions but with each one I did I would see the same thing happen. Women would come to me shy and scared and throughout the session they would grow and evolve. By the end the insecure woman that walked in was a strong and courageous woman who was on such a high she wanted to share her images with the world. So.. I would post a photo of her and the likes and comments would pour in about her raw beauty and magnetic soul. She would be radiating, buzzing on a new frequency of love for herself but then… her partner would see the post and jealousy would be born. They would have an argument over it and next thing I knew I was getting a phone call to take it down from my page. The woman would be miserable, defeated from her journey and back to square one full of shame and sadness and I would never hear from her again.
I was also in this position. Every time I posted something vulnerable or intimate my boyfriend would come at me with gun fire. He’d tear me apart and tell me I was doing it for attention of other men. That I was acting like a whore and needed to keep myself private and only for him.
But I continued to fight for what I believed in. I continued to push his boundaries and others and fight for my passion. I knew this change needed to happen for the world and I knew I was the one that needed to make it happen.
So with a fire burning inside of me I decided to set myself free. Free from a man I will always have love for but from a man who was suffering from his own insecurities and putting them on me. And set out on a new journey of self expression. About a month after the relationship ended I woke up in a friends bed with the morning light pouring in and new what I needed to do. I set my camera up on a tripod and stripped my clothing off. I cried as I held myself, but with each frame I could feel myself getting lighter. I edited 15 of those images and looked at myself in them. I could feel this power about them… but I was nervous. I was SO FUCKING nervous. For years I had been told I wasn’t allowed to show my body to the world that I was sexual and that’s all I was. That if I posted these I would be a slut wanting attention from other men. But that wasn’t why I was doing this. That wasn’t how I felt. I wanted to share these to be raw, to be vulnerable to educate the world that skin is skin and that nudity isn’t always sexual. That nudity can be honesty. Can be strength. Can be self love. Nudity can be respected and admired.
So I took my laptop home and made my family look at them. I forced my mother and father to look at me naked in the photos I’d selected.I waited in complete terror to see what they thought. But they were supportive. They were behind me. They didn’t think for a second that these images were pornogrphic or sexual. They trusted me and my vision and that is all I could have ever asked for. To have support from my loved ones.
So I posted them online. Knowing my ex would probably end up seeing them and knowing he would be angry but also knowing that I was free from his judgement. I made a post about how I wanted to start photographing women who wanted to celebrate their bodies for themselves. To get photos done to thank their skin for holding their hearts. And if they chose to share them with their partners they could but the photos would not be taken for anyone but themselves and it would be their choice to share them or not. They were meant to empower. And empower they did.
It is now what I am known for in the artist world. I am an empowerment artist. A teacher of self love and expression. I photograph the good the bad and the ugly. The vulnerable and the brave and I will never let another human hold my magic back from this world.
Words by me
Photos by I.W.H.K
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