I talked about it last week with Chrissi, actually.
Chrissi was one of my recent couchsurfing guests and we were hiking together at Trail of 100 Giants at the Sequoia National Forest. I said something about how Americans always seem to insist on big goofy grins in their photos. “One of my French exchange students back, oh, fifteen years ago, commented on this. She was right. But I think now, it has changed. With digital photography, people seem to have calmed down the need for the whole “chhheeeeeeze!” pose constantly.”
My Mother had a favorite photo of me when I was a little girl. I haven’t seen it in years, but I can still see myself in it. I am sitting on a bench at Turtleback Zoo. I sat with my hair in braids, as always, a blue gingham sleeveless shirt, my hands on either side of my frame. I was probably waiting as I sat on the bench. I was eight years old, looking straight ahead of my view but you can only see my profile in the photo. I had no idea my photo was being taken or I would have hidden the question living in my face, my heart, my spirit.
This morning I was inspired by my friend Paula D’Andrea to focus on a song today. Well, Paula is always focused on Rockin' Life! but when my breakfast was accompanied by Jackson Browne on the Muzak, I laughed quietly at first and then thought, “This is not a song you hear often.”
By the time I got home, I felt the song was an assignment of sorts.
Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn't show your spirit quite as true
You were turning 'round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes
I feel a call today to study images of my own authenticity, to put those on display, to not concern myself with conventional norms like ugly or pretty or middle aged or out of shape or embarrassed, but instead focus on showing you my true spirit: unmasked, unafraid and non judgemental.
Cameron has told me my face is one of the most changeable he has encountered. I can look so different on any given day. Sometimes I think that is from being an actor but then, upon thinking, I think it is from being true. My face shows my emotions in that precise moment.
My emotions are worn differently on my face. I think they are authentic. Some of these photos I look prettier or more “conventionally acceptable” than others. What I love about them all is they are all perfectly 1,000% me.
This Spring I sat on a hill overlooking Bakersfield, one of my favorite spots in the world. My friend mentioned me and the words “deliriously happy” in the same sentence.
This photo was taken of me on that day
I wasn’t sure what prompted me to say this, but it is true.
I love and hate this photo. He used to capture fantastic photos of me, true photos of me. I am praying in this photo, perhaps trying to block out the lack of the love I used to feel and an attempt at being content with the love that remains.
It is truly me, even with the spot on my cheek waiting to be checked out by my doctor, the eyebrows that need reshaping, and my hair that was way too blonde for a while.
I am beyond happy. I don’t see happy as better than sad or maudlin as worse than blissful.
Authentic emotions, in the moment. That’s what I want to wear on my face.
This is me in the beginning of October, 2011. It is a very clear portrayal of precisely how I was feeling in that moment. I was in Westwood with my friend, Cameron. I asked him to take the shot and he just clicked away as I stood and "felt" - it is significant as a model (even if the only audience is you) to just be with what you are feeling instead of playing fashion model with the photographer choreographing the whole thing. If your intent is for a specific purpose other than catching your own authenticity, that is a whole different experience.
This photo was taken in September 2008, by my friend, Todd Powers with
Foxglove Photography. We did a session that night with these wonders of nature I had collected on a walk while I was working on a collection of poetry and essays called “Last Years Leaves.” I wish this photo shoot had an element of smell. It was soooooo heavenly with overripe and weathered, hungry leaves.
What I love is Todd gives me space to just experience and he just clicks. See how intent I am on the berries? I am not even thinking Todd is taking photos me me, I am clearly in the moment, a little sad, a little curious, a little hopeful, a little grounded, a little wishing I could float up and out of where I was.
This is Emma in Alice in Wonderland this November at her first High School play. She is an extension of me, always will be, and in this photo she reminds me so much of myself I decided to include it. She had a pretty miserable time during this process. This shot has the quality it does because I had to crop her out of a group but I love what her face says. “I am trying, I am here, I am successful because in my trying, I am doing, no matter how awkward or sad or lonely I am, I am here, on stage and in life, I am giving my all.”
My final photo for today is a self portrait I took. It was a part of my Soul Grief series. There was a time when I cried for 142 days in a row. I consciously created this because when I cried, I remembered, "I have no crying photos. Shoot this, now."
I wasn't faking these tears, I was feeling them.
I laugh now when I see women whose faces have been frozen in place by a variety of procedures so they can keep their skin smooth no matter what they are feeling. I would rather look conventionally ugly than falsely, conventionally beautiful.
Ironically, the second photo here - the one with my eyes open - is one of my favorite photos of myself looking, in my opinion, beautiful.
Don't you love photos like Emma's that say, "“I am trying, I am here, I am successful because in my trying, I am doing, no matter how awkward or sad or lonely I am, I am here, on stage and in life, I am giving my all.”
What more could life ask?
In the old days, I would plaster on my happy mask and move through my day, smiling no matter what. My mother even noted in my baby book, “Julie even smiles through her tears.” As a baby I had this life skill. As a baby I had this life skill.
It is a skill I no longer use. I am grateful for that.
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Julie Jordan Scott has been a Life & Creativity Coach, Writer, Facilitator and Teleclass Leader since 1999. She is also an award winning Actor, Director, Artist and Mother Extraordinaire. She was twice the StoryTelling Slam champion in Bakersfield. She leads Writing Camp with JJS & this Summer will be traveling throughout the US to bring this unique, fun filled creative experience to the people wherever she finds the passion & the interest.
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