What moments impacted you the most from 2015?
I started the year 2015 in India. January. Kolkata. I found myself back where I always end up, a difficult place to be but so filled with love and warmth. I taught my third workshop there benefitting survivors of human trafficking. I ended my trip at an orphanage in a small village outside of the city. I waved goodbye to the boys and girls, two of whom knocked on our door at night to sit and giggle on our bed, singing traditional Bengali songs while we looked on in awe, unable to find a single song to sing in return save for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
There are so many moments that shape who a person is and becomes. I looked out of the car that was taking us to the train station at the children, all of them reaching their little hands into the open window for one last goodbye, and that moment struck me. I felt as though I was watching someone else through the dusty window of the old vehicle, like time was moving so slowly and the huge smile on my face frozen in time.
Another moment was in March, on my birthday, when I was supposed to be teaching a class at WPPI. Instead I was in the hospital from food poisoning, made worse because of my Fibromyalgia. I was unable to walk by myself and couldn’t get out of bed to get to my class. I cried when my friends left for a time. I posted online about how sorry I was, and expected backlash because I had to miss my own class…the one I baked a cake for and everything. But nothing bad happened. Instead, I saw the kindness of this community. I received well over a thousand comments and messages and emails with healing vibes, and I harnessed them all so I could share my birthday cake with everyone the next day. Moments like that stay with you.
April came. I was desperate for adventure. I wanted to do something uncomfortable and exciting. I went camping despite the weather being at 20 degrees F. We froze all night. My best friend woke me every half hour to ask if I saw something moving outside the tent. At five AM we packed up and went to a nearby lake, and I jumped in. It took every ounce of energy and mental control I had. I have never been in colder water than that. And it was entirely worth it. To summon your energy and find the strength to say yes instead of no, that is why I do these things to myself.
In May I found myself sitting with a dead bird in an old chateau in France. I cradled it; a small bird in my small hands. I had no idea what I was going to create, but I wanted to honor the bird’s life. And so I did create – whatever felt natural, whatever felt right. “The Weight of a Feather”, I titled it, and it felt like it was supposed to be. I wafted through the countless rooms of the castle with my new friends, each of them offering to help in different ways, each of them showing their support to someone they had just met days before. And it felt like family. I felt like I was home. And I felt like I, finally, listened to my heart.
Later that month I went to Iceland. The hour was midnight and all four of our RVs pulled up to the glacier lagoon. Some of us were tired. Others were excited. Most of us were a mix of both. We got out and stared at the blue icebergs floating, quietly, in the blue water. The blue sky turning from slate gray to purple from time to time, clouds wandering in and out of my gaze. It took us time to get our bearings. And once I saw the spot that I had been dreaming of, the one I had conjured up in my imagination of what Iceland would look like, I put my blue dress on. I slipped into a pair of plastic waders to keep dry, and I set my camera up for a self-portrait. I wandered into that icy water, playing down how scared I was, and I focused my mind. Just create. Just breathe. Just feel. And I did. All 18 of us took pictures as I glided into the water, stumbling every now and then over the uneven terrain of the water’s floor. And I posed, back-bending, lightly touching the water, head up to the sky, exactly as I felt in that moment. Alive. Whole. Fulfilled.
In June I was in Australia entirely by myself. I didn’t know a single person. After I gave a lecture, I invited anyone who wanted to join out on a photo shoot at the Secret Garden. The next morning that group of us showed up ready to have an adventure, and so we did. The mud was up to our knees in places, and I decided I would throw caution to the wind and despite my better judgment, I let all of my outfits get covered in mud for the sake of adventure (and later, the nicest woman would take all of those muddy clothes and wash them in her machine at home so I wouldn’t have to hand-wash them in my bathtub at my hotel). We took pictures, gave hugs, laughed until our stomachs hurt, and made friends. By the end of it a girl called Laura came to join us. She had driven 3 hours to be there and just caught us at the end. I was covered in mud from head to toe, literally. She asked if she could help model, and within seconds was rolling in a mud puddle. We embraced in a hug and afterwards, the group of us went out to eat lunch like we’d been old friends for as long as we could remember.
Fast forward to October. My life was changed forever. I hosted my first convention. Trying to use words to describe it would be too time consuming, so I’ll say this: I was supported in ways I never thought I would be. I was challenged in ways I never imagined. I was changed in ways I did not expect. And every single part of it was a dream come true.
November. Back to India. “Right back where we started from”. And it was a full circle. After over two years of fundraising and jumping through hurdles, I opened The Light Space, photography school for survivors of human trafficking and abuse with my partners Laura Price of Blossomy and Urmi Basu of New Light Kolkata. The inauguration started as I spoke to the students. They wanted to learn. They wanted a different life. They saw their future, the possibility of it all. And I knew, beyond a doubt, that the work had been worth it. My dear friend Amy Parrish came with me to dedicate 4 months of her time to educating the students. Cameras and lenses and computers were all donated and our little school grew wings.
There were so many moments this year that impacted me. Meeting 100 creatives in London. Speaking at different venues. Swimming at sunrise in France. Vacationing in Spain. Quiet mornings writing my novel. Portfolio reviews. Building a set. Making videos. A photo shoot at the ancient temples in Cambodia. Bathing with elephants in Thailand. Watching my family grieve as my aunt passed away. My husband’s dedication to our fulfillment. My sister moving to be closer to me.
And so I ask you…
What moments impacted you the most from 2015?
When you share your most impactful moments from 2015 in the comments below, you will be automatically entered to win a giveaway of this dress that you see in the cloud/space image!
I am weirdly sentimental toward this dress, and it is today’s GIVEAWAY! I got it a couple of years ago and wore it to events, notably the Project Imagination red carpet. I then proceeded to abuse it beyond reason in a multitude of different photo shoots, including some of my personal favorite images. It is time to send it off to a new home though, tattered and worn as it may be. Leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing!
Love & Peace!