A year ago I received an email asking if I would photograph someone as a gift – a single portrait of art that would capture her essence. A tall order, but one that I love attempting. I accepted, and then, I promptly did not do it. I was nervous to fail. I was nervous to meet everyone. In general, I was just being my usual scared self, when that version of me decides to emerge.
How serendipitous that turned out to be, for it is that understanding of darkness and seeing the light at the end that ties me so well to my new friend Jenny, who I had the privilege of photographing in April. When we met, and we sat down together at lunch and I got to hear her stories, I felt so connected in a way that I’m not sure I can describe – it was a completely silent recognition of myself in the way she lives her life…and while I cannot lay even an inch’s claim to how amazing she is, I can identify with the struggles we both go through.
It was only late in the process of going to photograph Jenny that I learned of what a huge presence she is in the literary world. As a New York Times #1 bestselling author and popular blogger (like…really, really popular), I felt like I was going to meet a celebrity. And after meeting her, I have that feeling even more so. Not because of her demeanor, but because of her humble way of almost rejecting the spotlight while refusing to be anything but herself.
When the shoot rolled around I felt so comfortable with everyone. I toured her house and marveled at the treasures they’ve collected over the years, and then shyly asked if we could tear down a particular birdcage that I had fallen in love with. When we got to the location, I asked if she could jump up into a tree. The answer was ‘no’, but not for lack of trying, as the tree was taller than she was. So her amazing husband lifted her up into it, and we got to shooting.
I explained the concept as best I could and, after pinning fabric all around her (I’m not sure anyone understood what I was doing), we moved the fabric about to create motion as I told her how to pose, and I got the shot quickly and swiftly. I lit some smoke bombs to photograph with the bird cage, capturing many different angles just to be sure it would fit together, and afterward, I said, as I always do: I’m not sure if that worked, but I’m going to try my best. And I meant it.
I got home and I did try my best, putting pieces together. And only when I felt as though the image conveyed the strong and beautiful woman that she is did I send it along. I was heart-pounding nervous for a response, and cried when she said she liked it. You can read her blog post about it here: Jenny the amazing Bloggess.