I used to be a lot more cynical and angry. I’ve mellowed out considerably over the years, but still, as a type A ambitious professional, I’ve never really considered myself a particularly warm or joyful person.
In fact, when a colleague a few years ago commented on how warm I am, I was rather surprised.
Society ingrains all kinds of false dichotomies into us, and one of them is success vs. joy.
When I started Photosanity in 2011, I was a new(ish) mom and family photographer, and it was in response to a lot of questions I was starting to get from parents about taking better photos of their own kids.
So I developed a workshop that would teach parents just that, but not only how to take better photos, but how to handle the organizing, editing and sharing piece as well that can be so overwhelming.
However, from the very start, I always taught photography from the perspective of a mom who derived a great deal of joy and satisfaction from photographing my own kids, not just because of the resulting photos, but because of how my camera helped me to process the whole experience of becoming a mom.
This will come as no surprise to anyone, but being a mom is hard. And although I know this is an exaggeration, I feel like I would never have made it as a mom, had it not been for the amazing group of moms I met when Liam was around 6 or 7 weeks old.
We were all first-time moms with babies born within weeks of each other, and we met weekly at a local cafe, huddled over our nursing or feeding or sleeping or crying babies. We exchanged stories, information and commiseration from the front lines of those early and mysterious days of trying to figure out diapers, feeding and sleep schedules, postpartum recovery, and the crazy transformation we had experienced where we were now taking care of tiny, helpless, living, breathing, human beings outside of our bodies.
I was recently invited by Light.co, a brand new camera technology company, to write about how my photography career has evolved, along with my style and technique, in relation to technology. I thought this was such a great topic to write about, so here is my response.
And actually, it just so happens that I was doing some decluttering the other day and came across the very first camera that I ever owned. It was a small point-and-shoot, film of course, and I was in middle school at the time.
This was way before smartphone cameras or the internet became prevalent - in fact, people were only just starting to get “personal computers” in their homes. You took 24 or 36 photos per roll of film, took it to be developed, and a few days later, picked up your prints, and then mounted your photos into albums. I’m guessing most of you reading this are familiar with what I’m talking about, but our kids would be flabbergasted!
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about joy as not just a nice-to-have, but essential if you are to survive and thrive. Last week I took a look at what gets between us and joy.
Today, I want to talk about specific, concrete, simple actions you can take to find the joy that is already in your life without having to deny the things that are causing you to struggle, and without having to create joy out of thin air.
Last week, I talked about how joy is not just a “nice-to-have” but essential if you are to survive and thrive. Because what I’ve been exploring and experiencing these past few months is about how joy is an incredible tool for resilience.
As I was writing that post, I thought to myself that I would be interested to read and research more about joy (I’ve already been reading about resilience)… and so I’ve been reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World based on a week of conversations between none other than the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu, as told by Douglas Abrams - not a bad place to start, right?
Chills, I tell you. Just chills.
I've been thinking a lot about joy lately.
As a former straight-A student turned type-A overachiever, and as an ambitious and serious professional, that’s hard for me to admit.
Because, at least in my mind, we have a tendency to think of joy as frivolous, and somehow uncouth or undignified… or very unicorns and flowers and rainbows type of “woo woo.”
And yet it is also very liberating for me to own it, and to realize that everything that I’ve been teaching and exploring and experiencing through Photosanity comes back to joy.
We talked last week about how it’s totally fine if you just want to use your iPhone to take photos. However, your DSLR still offers some significant advantages when it comes to really being in the moment and capturing it in a way that best reflects how you experienced it.
If you missed it, don’t forget to grab our “get out of auto” cheatsheet to get started. You’ll need this in order to use “shallow depth of field,” where the subject is in focus, and the background is blurry. THIS is what will make it worth carrying your DSLR around with you.
Along with the best camera bag for moms that I talked about last week, there’s one other piece to the puzzle that makes camera-toting life so much easier as a mom, and that is the camera strap.
I talk with a lot of women with kids, and while everyone has their own unique situation and approach, there are some questions and themes that come up over and over again, some of them bigger and more philosophical, while others are more practical such as:
How on earth do you lug your big camera around with you?!!!
It’s a challenge, I know, and what’s happened is that as smartphone cameras have become better and better, and as we rely on our phones more and more, the upside of that fancy DSLR you likely bought when you first became a parent becomes less and less.
I was chatting with a friend the other day about my blog and what to write about next, now that I wrapped up my series on “you don’t need to do more, ” and she said, “Alethea, you have to tell them about the skirts with pockets!”
I thought this was hilarious, and I couldn’t believe she remembered this, as it’s been at least six months since this first came up.
We are all doing the best that we can, but it is so easy to feel like we are not doing enough or doing it well enough, no matter how hard we try.
And yet we try.
We try to do it all, because we are ambitious and driven, because we care deeply about what we do, because we want what's best for our kids, and we want to make the world a better place while we're at it.
But we also try because it's what we've been conditioned to do.
These past few weeks, I've been talking about how tired I am of women beating themselves up for not doing enough when in fact we are already doing so much, it's just hard to see it.
The answer isn't to try to do more, it truly isn't.
Instead, I've been talking about speaking up for yourself, and about feeling and expressing your feelings without defending them (and listening to others in the same way too).
Today I want to talk about another component to this that I believe is critically important as we rise up as women to stand up for what we believe, increase our impact, and make the world a better place for ALL.
What a week it has been. I know that it feels really overwhelming right now. On top of all of our usual responsibilities, being an informed and active citizen is starting to feel like a full-time job in and of itself. Fear, horror, outrage, and anxiety are everywhere, and it can be a struggle to get basic tasks completed.
Take a deep breath. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It is really important right now to put self-care practices into full force so that we have the energy and stamina to keep moving forward and taking action, whether politically, personally or both.
If you've been reading or listening to my blog posts lately, you'll know that I've been thinking a lot about how we as women in particular feel like we are never doing enough, or doing it well enough.
We beat ourselves up, and we try to do more until we run ourselves ragged with no end in sight. We are holding ourselves up to impossible standards of perfection. And we are not doing ourselves, our families, our jobs or our communities any favors.
I'm tired of seeing women beating themselves up because they're not doing enough - for their kids, their families, their jobs.
I'm tired of seeing the work that women do remaining invisible and undervalued - even by ourselves.
I'm tired of seeing women's needs and voices being overlooked, silenced, undermined or downright attacked.
Enough is enough.
Yesterday morning as I walked to my office, I had a “life is beautiful” moment of well-being. It wasn’t that the street I walk along is particularly picturesque - it isn’t, plus it was below freezing and dreary, and I was trudging along in snow boots in the left over muddy dredges of snow.
But it felt beautiful to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately.
I remember the first time I played chess with Liam. He had been learning via a Kindle app, but when we played, he was adamant that I was not allowed to capture any of his pieces… but he was still allowed to capture mine.
It’s pretty hard to play chess that way, let me tell you!
I also remember the first time he played a video game and he was about to “die.” He totally freaked out. I told him it was ok, that he would lose and then he could start over and try again. And sure enough, he did.
I've been talking about how what you do matters, and how understanding this is an important step in addressing one of the biggest parenting challenges we face - that of time and balance.
And I know! "Time and balance"... blah blah blah it's such a cliche and an unsolvable problem.
We accept that not having enough time to do everything we want is a given condition of being a parent and that there is nothing we can do about it.
One of my favorite questions to ask recently has been “what is your biggest challenge as a parent?” It’s the question I’m most passionate about asking and hearing the answer to, and it’s the question I most like helping to solve, using photography as a surprisingly powerful tool to do so.
I've been having the most amazing conversations lately, and I am feeling very very grateful for the people I know and the work that I get to do, not just now but throughout my life, both personally and professionally. Some of you are reading this, some of you are not, but I am really sinking into that feeling of gratitude right now. I am honored and privileged to have been in incredible company throughout all phases of my life, and I try not to take this for granted. This feels especially important, meaningful and helpful now as, like many, I continue to struggle to process the US election and the still developing outcomes.