I'm Finally Me. | Metro Detroit Documentary Photographer

Rules.

I have a love-hate relationship with rules.

Being Type-A, and a pretty black-and-white person in general, I love them because they provide structure and boundaries, and they keep things in order.

My hatred for them is something that has just recently developed.

See, there are rules that exist within photography, rules that make sense. The rule of thirds exists to enable composition that is pleasing to the eye. The exposure triangle aids us in properly exposing our photographs. But those rules, and everyone’s opinion (because that’s what it is, frankly) on what something is supposed to be/look like, or on lighting, or on anything for that matter, don’t need to govern anyone’s life, or anyone’s art.

Prior to a year ago, I let them govern mine.

I took all of those “rules” and put them in my head, and in turn put myself in a box. I allowed my innate desire to document life’s authentic, love-filled moments to become buried because I was so focused on folding myself up so I would fit perfectly into that box.

Trying to fit in the box meant that I was allowing myself to focus on the dark, on the negative. I concentrated on what my images should look like; how I should be posing people; that I shouldn’t intentionally over or underexpose an image to aid in the sentiment of the moment; that I should be making everyone’s skin look so flawless it appeared fake.

Self-criticism became the norm for me. Every day, I was focusing on what I was “missing,” and I hated every second of it.

I had handed the gauge for my self-worth over to the outside world, and after a while I was desperate to take back the reigns.


About a year ago, I participated in a documentary photo challenge. We were to photograph our life for a week, so I came up with a list of technical things I wanted to conquer and dove right in.

The entire week, my heart went back and forth between soaring and crashing into the ground. I struggled with my work, because I had become so critical of myself, and because the images I was producing weren’t anything close to what I had been told they should be in order to be good. But when I viewed the photographs, I was overflowed with emotion. Having just become a family of four, I was documenting the beginnings of a bond between my two daughters, and the every-day moments I have with them that will forever be engrained in my heart. Seeing their love for one another, and our amazing life, through photographs was truly life changing. I knew, at the end of the challenge, that I had been put back in tune with my heart.

So I opened my box, and I jumped the hell out of it.

I realized that my art was mine. If I wanted to break the rule of thirds, I was going to break the rule of thirds. If my photo wasn’t completely in focus but it captured a moment that moved me, it was included in a gallery, I shared it on my website, I shared it on Facebook, and I was proud to do so because it was mine, and I created it with my heart.

I stopped worrying about everything and I focused on that heart. I took photographs of moments that moved me. I edited my images until looking at them moved me. And as time passed, I let go of everything I had allowed to govern my art, on everything that influenced me to jump into that box.

I let go of all of the things the world said I should be, and became who I am.

I let go of the negative, of the darkness, and began to let the light all the way in…the light that first made its way in during that seven-day photo challenge.

There’s a quote by Ernest Hemingway that I love: “We are all broken—that’s how the light gets in.”

I love it because it is so true. Our brokenness is so significant; without it, we cannot grow or learn. That said, as much as I appreciate the cracks that allow the light in, the thing that really pulls my heartstrings is the moment the light enters. That moment is the moment we feel, the moment we change, the moment we let love reach the innermost part of our hearts and souls, the moment a story begins. And once that light gets in, it comes right back out and into our world.

This will sound so cliché, but after I read that quote, it hit me. I had decided what my mission was long before I stumbled across wise Ernest’s words, I just hadn’t known how to express it in a concise manner that wholeheartedly and simultaneously reflected who I am and what my mission consisted of. Thanks to him, now I know how.

I’ve made it my mission to authentically document all types of love; to tell the story of the light that is in your life; to share with the world the heart-filled chapter you’re currently living out; and to, by doing this, put more love out into our world.

Every portion of every story is significant, but the moment it begins is the start of it all, and the one I love the most. My new journey, my new self, my new approach to my art, will all center on that moment.

The one...