Yesterday, I had the honor of photographing a beautiful soul named Shelby. As you all know, I am doing a Disney Princess fantasy series, and Shelby played the part of Ariel. Originally, this project was about me and something I've wanted to do for years, but it turned out to be more about Shelby and her journey, which means more to me than you can imagine.
Shelby asked me last week, "Can we somehow make this a transformation shoot? I've been clean for six months, and this has been such a positive transition in my life. I'd like to celebrate it a little." My heart exploded with joy, because this was now about Shelby and not just some silly little project I wanted to do. We didn't celebrate her "a little." We celebrated her and her accomplishments full force!
I was so humbled with this experience, because for someone who has never been an addict, six months may not seem like a long time, but for someone who has gone through it, six months is a lifetime - and I was given the opportunity to capture not only her struggle, but also her courage. It takes some serious balls to hold yourself accountable and then be vulnerable enough to share it with someone else, a photographer nonetheless.
In the beginning of our shoot, you'll notice the images are a little on the darker side, her expressions are sad, and the fishing net is a symbol of her addiction, binding itself to her and consuming her. Towards the end of the shoot, you'll see that the photos are brighter as she rips the fishing net choker away from her neck, freeing herself. I also gave her a message in a bottle, she didn't know there was anything written on it until she unfolded the scroll. It read, "Freedom."
We all have things in our lives that consume us in a negative way, and some of us never escape. I have an older brother who is 37, and is a heroin addict and he has never had the guts to face his demons like Shelby has. "I'm still at the point with this being clean thing, that nobody takes me seriously yet, so I need something like this. Not so much to prove a point to other people, but to celebrate it for myself." Amen to that, girl.
I think we accomplished more than what we could have ever envisioned, and I will be forever humbled by this experience.