A series of self portraits exploring the emotions triggered by seeing myself naked.
I have spent the last two years in a mode of fast paced self discovery. I have never been one to wrap myself in religion or new age philosophy, and definitely not that hippie dippy stuff like crystals, and chakras.
In fact, about 4 or 5 years ago I heard Jenna & Tristan speak at the Canada Photo Convention, and as much as their talk resonated with me, at the time I also filed it under the “hippie dippy shit” category of my brain. My best friend Britt, who has always been a vegetarian, even since we were children, and is now a vegan — I used to tease her all the time about being a hippie. But the truth is – I was a closet hippie.
Im not sure what caused me to shy away from my truth – actually I know exactly what it was – FEAR. I wanted to be liked and accepted by others, I didn’t want to step on toes. I didn’t like bringing up God or talking about the universe because it offended others.
That being said I feel strongly these days that I have begun to awaken from a mass slumber, and I can’t help but talk about it because it has been both the most thrilling, and frightening experience I’ve ever had. I can’t do much but speak my truth anymore, and the moment I stray from it I seem to fall ill, or get ear infections – the universe seems to step in and realign my path.
I can’t describe the exact moment I snapped out of my slumber, but what I can tell you, is that my life has been a series of synchronistic events that have lead up to my awakening. I can’t imagine that others do not also feel this way, I suppose some feel like victims of circumstance, but I feel very strongly that everything that has happened in my life, has happened for a reason, and has brought me to the place that i am at now.
Forgive me, Im about to get REALLY hippie dippy here. For the record, I would like to state that I am fully aware how crazy this next little bit is going to sound. If I had heard the same thing before my awakening I would have rolled my eyes and filed it away in my brain under “conspiracy theories to scoff at and then forget”. So bear with me here, because from here on out Im letting all my walls down and Im going to be totally transparent even if everyone makes fun of me and I get locked up in a loony bin.
This is also a complicated topic to break into, so I’m going to go slow, and simplify it as much as I can, and then expand. But here is what this post is going to cover:
We are (collectively, as a planet) shifting (in awareness) from a three-dimensional space, to a multi-dimensional space.
Energy is real. Intention is real. If you ignore them you may struggle to find your equilibrium in this new space.
Time does not exist as we think it does.
How we process information is limited, in this new multi-dimensional universe we will need to use all of our abilities, including intuitive/perceptive/psychic abilities to navigate our paths. Abstract thinking is essential.
As we reach a tipping point in consciousness, awakening will begin to happen more rapidly – everyone will begin to awaken. You are in control of your awakening.
God is real and its not a being – its an energy which permeates all things. You can call it what you want, I call it God, but honestly it doesn’t care what you call it. Your ego cares what you call it. The fact is, it exists through you, and as you, as the deepest parts of your consciousness, but also as your unconsciousness, and as your body.
It’s a lot, right?
We are (collectively, as a planet) shifting from a three-dimensional space, to a multi-dimensional space.
What does this mean? We know that a two-dimensional shape has length, and width, but no depth. So a drawing of say, a square for example is a two-dimensional thing. A three dimensional object, also has depth. So holding a cube in your hand for example you can turn it, and experience it at various angles, because it also has depth to it.
The world as we know it exists as a three dimensional place. Our senses, such as smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch allow us to experience the world around us in the third dimension.
But things exist that we cannot use our senses to experience. For example: We can only see a limited spectrum of light. We cannot see x-rays, or gamma rays, or ultraviolet rays.
Bees and butterflies can see colors that we can’t see. Their range of color vision extends into theultraviolet. The leaves of the flowers they pollinate have special ultraviolet patterns which guide the insects deep into the flower – this is outside of our range.
We cannot hear or smell like a dog can, or use echolocation the way a bat can in our day to day life.
Things exist outside of what we have the ability to perceive in our human form. All different types of energy. Light waves, sound waves, gravitational energy, potential energy and energies emitted by lifeforms (like when you speak energy moves out from you as soundwaves, you generate your own heat etc etc etc).
As we begin to shift to a multidimensional, we do not necessarily gain the ability to see x-rays but we DO gain awareness of energy, we begin to perceive it in our lives. We begin to notice how energies affect us, the role we play in them, and we begin to awaken to a deep seated awareness of our interconnection with all things. In addition to the three dimensions we are already aware of, other dimensions also become available to us. Time, for example may be considered a dimension. Energy, another.
So how we PERCEIVE our REALITIES will no longer be about objects in a space (ie: me in this place), but objects in space and time, containing energy (ie me in this place and time with momentum going in a direction), and of course other dimensions which we cannot even fathom at this point.
This is hard for a lot of people to wrap their minds about it – in some ways it sounds simple. In other ways this is the kind of shit that quantum physicists all over the world are stumbling their way through.
I am a visual artists, so I understand things better with visuals. So let me also try explaining this visually.
So picture a cube.
We can see three sides, or facets to this cube. THREE DIMENSIONS. We perceive its length, width, and depth.
But what if this cube were made of glass? How many facets would we perceive then?
Well if it were made of glass we could see all of the side of the cube, we would see that this cube actually has 6 sides, not three. And our perception of the cube changes, or rather our awareness of the cube is expanded.
But its not just the flat faces we now see in this cube, we also see some triangles where the lines intersect, and our perception here gets a bit confused. Is this cube coming out of the page or going into the page? How do we account for the direction this cube is moving or expanding? Or what if this cube is not totally rigid, what if it flexes and changes, like our curvy bodies? What if other factors contribute to the way we perceive this cube? Our world is not stationary, we are beings in motion in a world that is constantly changing around us. We account for this with TIME.
Time is an object moving through space, or the duration in which some thing, happens.
This is a hyper cube. Essentially it looks like a cube inside of a cube, with every corner from the inner cube, connected to the outer cube. If it were made of glass we would see that this cube has MANY different facets and faces.
Just like when we look at a stranger we may see their three dimension form, but we do not know their backstory, where they came from, what makes them uniquely them, we are limited by our sense in how we perceive them.
From one angle it looks like a fancy 3-d cube…
… but from another angle, like an object we can hardly describe – a multi faceted gem!
It is not the cube that changed, rather our perception of it when seen from a different angle.
Below is a hyper cube in motion. It appears to us as a cube moving out of a cube, ever expanding, but ONLY because we can only perceive three dimensions here and you cannot show a multi dimensional object in a three dimensional space. The thing to remember here, is that if all of these walls were solid, and we could not see through the cube, we would only perceive it as a normal rotating cube. We wouldn’t have an awareness of all the facets, and how they all move in sync.
In a multi-dimensional universe we would perceive ALL of the facets moving at once, together.
This same theory is applied to our reality. We perceive the world as one solid object.
We treat our lives, our experiences like separate facets of a cube. We slap a label on the faces of the cube saying this side of the cube is Government. This side of the cube is Plants. This side of the cube is my health. But what we fail to see in our limited perception, is that all sides of the cube exist at once and are deeply interconnected. and when one moves, the whole thing moves.
In a brutally simple and specific chain for an example: How we treat animals bred for food, which affects how we process food, which affects what we eat > how we feel > how productive we are > how much money we make > how secure we feel in our ability to survive > our ability to feel peace.
Fast food production requires cattle to be grown as quickly as possible > Animals injected with hormones & steroids as well as antibiotics to ensure growth > Animals slaughtered and ground up for burgers > you eat to many burgers, your health fails, you’re sluggish, and therefore suffer.
Its not just that animals are filled with hormones and then you eat them end of story. Its that all of the things connected to those animals are ALSO affected.
Animals as food production is just one small example of this, so don’t get too hung up on it.
The important thing is everything is inter connected, and we live in a multidimensional universe. what is shifting is our PERSPECTIVE. Meaning we are becoming AWARE of this.
This post has gotten long, and I feel if I don’t end it here Im going to lose people. So Im going to leave it here and come back to discuss the other points.
There are two paths people can walk in life. The path of fear, or the path of love.
Some of us walk around fearful of what others think, fearful of rejection. Their actions are guided by fear, no matter how subtle. They are quiet and allow themselves to be walked on, or they are obnoxiously loud out of fear of not being heard.
I used to live a life of fear. I was obnoxiously loud. I was ignorant not only by naivety, and fear but also by choice at times. I was so fearful that people didn’t like me, I was scared of being rejected and I would bitch and moan about so much because at the very least putting low vibration energy out there attracted others and then I wasn’t alone. But even surrounded some part of my life didn’t resonate with me. I hated living in fear, because it dominated every level of my life: I was afraid to make Tia a vegetarian because I didn’t want to hear my parents complain, I was afraid to shoot a bride in her underwear in case she told me to put my camera down. I was afraid to reclaim the word God back for myself because it’s such a bloodstained word that seems to offend everyone. I shaved my legs because I was afraid the natural hair on my legs might offend someone not living in my body. I was even afraid to post stuff about crystals at one point. Jeez I even worried about my clothes ‘matching’ when I left the house. I hated trying to justify my actions to myself and others. It was always out of fear.
I’m done with that life of fear, though.
I’m ready to walk a path of love. I’m ready to let compassion, love, acceptance, and inner wisdom guide me. I will parent, and work, and create and maintain meaningful friendships and connections with my true values in mind. It’s not an easy path to give up fear, it’s a long and arduous one actually. I have to check in with myself daily and ask myself “is this an action of love?”
I fail daily, but I’m getting better. It’s now my only real goal in life – to live love daily.
The Bhagavad Gita says that since God is the potential in energy itself, that all things are God. You, me, the trees, the earth and stars. We are tiny fragments of the infinite, and unimaginable.
Therefore every action is an act of worship whether one single person believes it to be or not. There are many paths to love and peace, and therefore God accepts all actions given with a loving heart (even to the self). A cup of water to a friend, a flower to a love, food for the needy, a hug for a sister or brother, taking care of your own body through yoga or fitness, eating well,awareness of the breath, giving gratitude for food, being gentle on the earth, petting a dog, giving kind compliment, or giving a helping hand, a prayer said for someone in desperation, or simply stopping to notice and appreciate the way the trees move in the wind.
All these things are acts of love, and they are accepted as worship by the divine energy of the universe that permeates all things. We know this as our truth because God-energy exists with each of us, and we ourselves feel good when we act in accordance with love (which is worship itself). When we work out we worship our bodies, marveling at their strength, putting our health first. When we eat fresh, healthy nourishing food we feel healthy and nourished. When we help a friend in need we ourselves feel better afterwards. When we meditate we feel an instant peacefulness.
When we feel disharmony in our lives and bodies we can be sure that those lapses are a direct reflection of disharmony on a spiritual level, perhaps within yourself, or within the collective of everyone (since we are all one, and our actions affect each other) Maybe you are living in fear, maybe you are waking up and transitioning to love, but just know you’re not alone. There are a lot of people out there who are where you are, and know your path is right. It’s right because it feels right in your soul.
There are many paths to peace. All are accepted, if you act with a loving heart.
A question I often ask myself is, “if every action is an act of worship is the action I’m taking right now worthy?”
(This pops up EVERYTIME I get road rage, or my dog eats my socks or underwear)
What path are you choosing today? Are you choosing to live in fear? Are you choosing to live in love?
Every moment that choice is yours and yours alone.
This week someone asked me what my work was about and I took a moment to think about it and this was almost my exact answer: “my work is about holding space for people so they can experience their love, however it unfolds, and then I then I show them how beautiful that is”
As of late, it’s really my only goal, I’ve stopped caring about publishing my work in magazines, lost my drive for peer approval, stopped caring what new trend is happening in the industry. The only thing I want is to be able to look back on my body of work and say this is what it looks like to be a human, and love. That will be enough. And the thing I really need to do that well, is be compassionate, be present and hold space for others. When I do that well, it becomes reflected in my work, and that is where the real connection between photographer, portrait subject and viewer happens.
I recently read a blog post on a website about death and dying, and how a palliative care nurse held space for a family as they came face to face with an inevitable death. The blogger wrote:
“What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.”
It’s an idea that has become increasingly important to me as I move through my work as a photographer, and it’s something I keep coming back to lately. What does it mean to hold space for others? What does it mean to hold space for myself?
Sometimes it’s so easy to collapse in on the pressure of not succeeding as an artist. My fear is that I will get commissioned to shoot and somehow will fail and disappoint, but the truth is, I do a lot more than snap a picture of people, and I think the one place I really have to worry about failing them, is if I fail to see them all together.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t occasionally show them something they don’t want to see about themselves – a double chin, some cellulite, an awkward expression. We are all human, we perceive ourselves and others as flawed, sometimes these “flaws” come out in photographs and our feelings about them can be mixed, especially if we struggle to feel good about who we are or have a big ego in regards to how we appear to the outside world. What it means is that if I fail to be present, if I fail to recognize signals in body language about my client’s comfort, if I fail to hold space so that they can speak up if they feel uncomfortable, if I fail to communicate from the heart, if I fail to be open and vulnerable myself, if I fail to allow them the space to enjoy who they are both together and as a couple, then I rob them of a beautiful experience – which is to be accepted for who you are, and to see that joy, confidence and love reflected in a portrait of yourself.
Now I know I can’t make every single person on the earth comfortable in front of the camera. No matter how I hold that space, some will simply choose not to let their walls down and enter it. I have to let go of my own expectations and hopes that if I am vulnerable others will follow suit. The thing is, the camera never lies though – if people don’t let their walls down, it shows. It shows in tight shoulders, forced smiles, tension in the face. It shows in awkwardness. If people have an unwillingness to be vulnerable that gets reflected back to the camera. So the camera shows us our fears and insecurities too, and sometimes that can be difficult for people to see – they may be totally unaware of what it is that feels “off” about the picture, but they will recognize that something feels unnatural.
So with my wedding and portrait work I want to break that barrier down so people can enter that space and feel good. I want to cross over into a space where it feels good for people to be themselves, walls totally down. To be accepted for that, and to accept themselves for that. Then I want to show them everything that is divine about them and the way they love.
I think THAT is what makes both a beautiful portrait, and a beautiful world. And it’s what my work is about.
As its suicide prevention week I want to share a little story I don’t tell very often (though I’ve spoken about it on this blog before).
A decade ago I was working multiple jobs, going to school fulltime for journalism, which was a heavy course load. I was working in retail, and staying up late at night to write as a freelance journalist for a magazine in the states, a blog that barely paid and a few magazines in Canada. I was miserable. Deeply miserable.
I was flunking through economics thanks to a teacher who lacked English skills and despite fights with the department the college wouldn’t help so I was also paying out of pocket for a tutor. Everything began falling apart under the pressure, my relationships, and every aspect of me. I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating shitty foods, and having health problems. I stopped brushing my hair, getting out of bed was hard.
I had a deep yearning for something more, something different, but I had just invested so much money in tuition, and I felt trapped.
I didn’t have many friends/supports at this point, I was very lonely.
I was dealing with a violent sexual assault I hadn’t yet spoken out about, and it has haunted me into a weak, and desperate woman.
I wanted to be an artist, a writer. I wanted to tell stories but i felt hopeless, I didn’t know how to do that and afford to eat. I felt like a weak and helpless woman who might always have to depend on a man, that thought killed me. I hated it more than anything. I wanted to follow my own dreams, I wanted to be self sufficient. It seemed like a dream behind reach.
One day I just snapped.
I walked out of economics class straight to VGH and told the staff I’m going to kill myself today. After sitting in the ER, without help for 4+ hours I got up, and walked to the Granville Street Bridge, to jump.
I climbed up on the bridge in hysterics, and a stranger walked by asking if I was okay. I didn’t respond, and I guess he called the police, in what seemed like a matter of minutes traffic was stopped. Suddenly Brad came rollerblading over the bridge (which I will still never understand to this day how he knew I was there because I never told him
And he was at work and I don’t even know why he had rollerblades on) and he talked me down off the ledge and the police arrived and took me back to the hospital where I was hospitalized for months for severe depression.
It was hard. I felt like everyone knew. When the hospital noticed I was gone they called the police too, who called not only my family, but brads family too. Within a day or two my friends, my family, my employer, my school, seemly everyone, knew I had lost it. I was ashamed and embarrassed, I thought about hanging myself with bedsheets. I fought a psychiatric nurse to get out of there and got a needle in the ass and a week in solitary confinement. It was the darkest period of my life.
But the thing about the dark is that it is always darkest right before dawn.
In the hospital I met an art therapist who encouraged me to persue a dream of art. She would force me to play piano, to read, to bead necklaces and to paint pottery, to just wake up and create every day. I hated her at first. I’d imagine her going home to her perfect life with her perfect husband not giving an actual shit about anyone. Day in and day out that woman dragged me out of bed to create, and I came to trust and like her. I began to look forward to beading crappy necklaces and painting terrible pictures. And combined with a doctor who made sure I ate, didn’t sleep too much, got exercise every day, and a dose of anti depressants, over time, I got better.
Looking back I know in that moment of desperation on the railing of the bridge I uttered a prayer into the universe. I remember saying if there is a god listening, any God, help me, please. In my heart what I was asking for was peace, a clear path, love, radical self acceptance – to see my own value and worth, to feel I had a purpose and a place.
I was brushing my hair a few months ago, right before I went to the ashram in Indonesia, and looking at myself in the mirror when I burst into tears, realizing that every prayer I had uttered on that bridge had been answered.
Not just on the bridge, but every prayer I’ve ever uttered, in my whole life.
I never considered myself a woman of faith, even in my moments of desperation I was a devout atheist who rolled my eyes at religious fanatics, and yet some unknown, unseen force in the universe had conspired to answer every prayer.
I’m not saying I went to jump off the bridge and God dropped a camera in my hand and said try telling stories through this. I’m saying I identified a truth in my soul (which was to create) and I begged the universe in a moment of desperation to help me, and an answer came to me in a most unexpected way. (And in ways I could never dream up) I never knew I was going to be a photographer, a series of events lead up to it, starting with being hospitalized long term in a hospital with an occupational art therapist. Any other hospital and I wouldn’t be where I am.
When prayers are answered it’s rarely the way we expect, sometimes it’s so far from what we expect we miss it entirely. Or we forget we even asked.
It started with a dslr gift from brad. It started with the newspaper asking me to shoot my own assignments and having to learn to use it. It started with a good Photojournalism teacher, and one couple who thought my work was good enough to shoot their wedding. None of these were things I asked for in that moment of desperation.
These days, i have less financial strain, more friends than I can count, I get to document beautiful stories about the human capacity for love, and make my own art on the side. I have a beautiful family, a loving husband who gives me the freedom to explore and express myself, a little girl who brings me deep joy. I have been able to travel the world, and I have come to know this mysterious force in the universe that came to rescue me from myself on the Granville street bridge, over 9 years ago. All glittering pebbles in the path I have come to walk.
That mysterious force brought all the right people into my life at all the right times. Each of them nudging me along my path, and keep me on course. Synchronicity? Maybe. But to me it’s far too coincidental and mysterious. The universe heard my prayers and the moment I decided to move it curved and bent and manifested a reality all around me, guiding me on the path I had set in front of myself.
So I just want to say, if you’re out there, if you’re struggling, know this: the universe IS listening. I don’t know how but it is. Maybe it’s the potential in every atom. Maybe in each breath, we exhale our prayers out into the universe and begin to move to wheels of change. Maybe the potentials in atoms begin to take direction and manifest as realities around us. I’m not sure I’ll ever know how it all works, but I do know without a doubt that hanging in there was worth it.
The moment I decided to step off the ledge back towards help, I set in motion a series of events that has lead to deeper peace and happiness than I could have ever imagined.
So hold on. Even if you can only hold on for a few more seconds. You never know where those few seconds will lead.