“Always make sure the Mom looks good.” – Rebecca Murphy, photographer and life coach
This strategy for taking professional family portraits was one of my first indications of how brilliant my friend and fellow Tribe member Rebecca actually is. Her recognition that it is most often the Mom who decides which and how many photos to purchase was certainly accurate. But it was her understanding regarding our psyche that clinched it for me. Rebecca is not a Mom (yet), but she knew how much we crave photos of ourselves that make us feel good, even though most of us are loathe to admit it. And the gift she gave to me and the other Tribe members while we were together in Manzanita in June confirmed that she also knew why.
At some point in your life (unless you are a celebrity or a model), people stop being interested in taking your picture. Sure, many of us show up in snapshots throughout our entire lives, but after our wedding portrait, we don’t appear on our own in any formal way. We are relegated to either taking the pictures ourselves or participating alongside of our family, often with our teeth clenched as we pray for everyone else to look good.
In many ways, it is a metaphor for life. And, as in life, we don’t really mind not being the center of attention. We are happy to let others shine and, in fact, step into the shadows, gently pushing our children forward. We are sure to capture their portrait at every age, and spend significant, time, money and effort on those photos.
But every now and then, there is a part of us that wants to matter again. After years of playing fourth and fifth fiddle to everyone’s needs but our own, deep down inside, we wouldn’t mind being the focus of SOMETHING, if only for a short period of time. So why not a camera? I’ll tell why not. Because most of us will never admit to such an indulgence for fear it would be construed as vain or selfish or implying that we are sooooo beautiful that we are worthy of the attention. So we do nothing, and continue to see ourselves both literally and figuratively as background material, captured hastily or by happenstance as we move through life.
This unconscious reality bubbled to the surface this summer when Rebecca told us that, as her gift to the Tribe, she was going to do a photo shoot with each of us. The excitement and joy that came with the prospect of having someone like Rebecca take my picture was DOUBLED by the fact that she was giving me permission to have it done. Because even if I was offered a “free photo shoot”, I probably wouldn’t take it for all the reasons I cited above. But Rebecca wasn’t suggesting that we do this, she was mandating it. And that push was the greatest gift of all.
For the shoot, Rebecca asked us to wear something we felt really, really good in. For me, it was jeans and an oversized white button down with a tank underneath. Bare feet. And for 15 or 20 minutes, we played on the beach. Did I feel self conscious? Roger that. But soon, the sillies got the best of me – and consequently so did Rebecca.
I love these pictures, not because I am contemplating a second career as a super model but because through her camera lens, Rebecca captured the best of me… all that I aspire to be… all according to me. I don’t frankly care what anyone else thinks of these shots. When I look at them, I am reminded that I am happy… and pensive… and fun. I am reminded that I can be fairly intense, but aspire to be softer around the edges. I am reminded that I have imperfections (can you tell which eye no longer sees?) but that the light is always shining around me. And, most of all, I am reminded that, although my role in life is most often played as part of a group, I am – and will always be — an individual.
Want to give someone you love the greatest gift ever? Arrange a photo shoot just for them. No family. No kiddos. No pets. Just them Tell them they have no choice because you want these pictures. And then make sure it happens. I call this the Rebecca Murphy Method of Happiness, in honor of my friend who had the wisdom to understand it all first. And if you’re in the New York/Connecticut area, you might get lucky and be able to hire Rebecca herself! Her work is simply inspiring.