Immaculate Conception

There’s not a good way to begin this post because it is deeply meaningful to me and frankly, beyond words. I’ve known Kiffy for years. I knew her through part of this journey, and I had the pleasure of photographing the birth of their daughter after miscarriage and IVF. She is a dear friend, and I am grateful to call her my first saint. These are the words of Saint Kiffy:

“Everyone’s experience with miscarriage is so, so different. When we miscarried, we had been trying for years, and we were racked with doubt and a little credit card debt. After 6 failed IUIs, a surgery to remove my left fallopian tube, another failed IUI after the surgery, suddenly, with no intervention, we got pregnant naturally. We were elated. We had been lifted up so high with hope. Maybe it was true - like everyone kept telling us - “just give up, stop trying, and it will happen”.

When I look at these photos, I can see the darkness and the light in them. I see the pain and the beauty. Which is really how it felt...one moment you’re world has fallen apart, the worst thing that could happen - did happen...and then I’m looking at Mike in the eyes as we hold our sweet little baby, and I’ve never felt closer to anyone or more loved. We miscarried in the bathtub, so we got to see our tiny baby in the best way possible, in the water. I’ll never forget her tiny little hands. Then we’re laughing about how appreciative I am that he is pulling the blood clots out of the drain. Which is the most badass thing your partner could ever do for you to show you their love.”

Ophelia

Ophelia

“We’ve gone into debt to pursue the family of our dreams. It was worth every penny. When we decided to take the IVF route, we knew we could pay the money back, but we couldn’t make up for lost time. Now that I have our daughter, I’ve learned that motherhood is all of the feelings all at once. It’s overwhelming. It’s beautiful. It’s a mess. One thing that hurt more than anything after our loss was having an uncertain status as a mom. I had lost my baby, but I wasn’t a mom. I felt so out of place.

Sadly, miscarriage happens to 1 in 5 pregnancies. It’s so common. The most unhelpful response we received was that “everything happens for a reason”. Nope. Sorry. You can make lemons out of lemonade. You can learn lessons - so many lessons! But sometimes shit happens. It’s not some higher power pulling some fucked up strings so you can learn a lesson. It just happened. Its just awful. And it’s life. And we must go on. But don’t tell women there was a reason for their miscarriage other than genetic abnormalities, an incompetent cervix, or something else that actually makes sense. Even the best midwives and doctors can’t tell you why every miscarriage happens. So don’t expect grieving women to try to find one.”

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception

“Perspective is everything, and we know there are a lot of folks who have spent a lot of money on IVF attempts. When we got pregnant with our second daughter on the first try, we were even more excited and grateful. I try to be the most grateful mom in the world. Grateful for science. Grateful for a partner who has stretched himself emotionally to understand what this has been like for me. I’ve tried to do the same for him. Life is about the journey, not the destination. We built our family together, and to me, that is everything.”

Madonna and Children

Madonna and Children

For those who are trying to conceive

You know better than most of us that the road home is not a straight and narrow path.
It is an unrelenting pursuit of the life you want, a truth given only by the inner voice.

Mother, we honor you.
Mother, we trust you.

You have been dealt one of the harshest blows wombyn experience: A loss of life.
Not just the life of the one you carried but of the life you had built in your mind’s eye from the moment you knew.

Mother, we remember with you.
Mother, we mourn with you.

May your womb and your mind heal with time, patience, stillness, rage, and tears.
May your heart and your hope expand with wholeness, perspective, warmth, and touch

Mother, you are innocent
Mother, we will laugh with you

For now, let there be space to feel and be and sleep
For now, let there be release, solitude and witness in exactly the right measure

Mother, we hold space for you
Mother, we lift you up

When All Else Fails... Just Shoot

I’ve been obsessing about what to shoot next, where to go from that last post. The vulnerability left me with a hangover and it stopped me for a few days. But, I decided I need to keep shooting, even while I’m mulling those things over.

With no idea where to go next, I went to what I would call my photography security blanket: macro. When I first started taking pictures I would spend hours outside investigating the minuteness of nature and all the beauty it offered. While I’m not sure they are conceptually relevant at this time, I still want to share them with you.

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While working on those macro shots, I took two images that moved the conceptual needle just a bit.

Amanda Gough // Thigh-gaps And Classical Figure Study

There was something romantic about the house as I walked up the tree covered path. The blue home with it's wooden door felt dreamy against the lush green grass and bushes populating her front yard. Amanda met me at the door with her waist-high Great Dane, and total scaredy cat, Annie.

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"I fell into painting in college. I had always been creative, but I never considered it to be something I would pursue as a career. I'd been told art wasn't a practical choice, I would never be able to support myself with it. So, I entered college as a criminal justice major, prepared to join the military or law enforcement, but I still wanted my quintessential liberating college experience."

Amanda led the way through her house to check on a painting experiment outside. The warm hue of the walls, the wooden chest serving as a coffee table, the straw sunhat resting on the counter. It all matched her. It all matched her work. 

"I found out there were modeling positions for figure drawing classes, and I went to the art building to sign up. When I entered the building, there was an overwhelming sense of belonging. Paint was everywhere, on the floors, on the walls, on the chairs, on the tables. I had such a guttural reaction to my surroundings that I decided to listen to it; I never left. I started modeling that very semester. By the next, I was on the other side of the easel."

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After a tour of both her studio spaces, we settled into the downstairs studio. Classical music wafted through the cozy home, and I was transported. Her paints rested on an old rolling wooden table where a candle burned, filling the room with eucalyptus and peppermint. We move the easel around a few times to find the right light, but once we did, I felt I could be living in a painting by the old masters. I mean... a bunny literally showed up outside the window as she painted. It was like a Beatrix Potter meets Davinci. 

"My work is mostly about using art history as a way to reflect on aesthetics and societal body standards. I explore representations of the female body in past works by renowned artist from different influential art movements (mostly the Italian Renaissance at the moment). The female figure has always been the subject of artists' gaze, differing in representation based on its contemporary society. Seeing the physical changes of "the female muse", we can see how flexible the concept of beauty is."

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"I hate seeing women with crippling self doubt and insecurity because they believe they don't fit into societal standards. I want women to take life by the balls without concerning themselves with thigh gaps our Toblerone tunnels. I am no different, I am not above the insecurity. I have fallen into the same cycle where Ive tried to morph myself into someone I think people will admire -not my wit, intelligence, or sense of humor- my body. It's something I still work on every day. I want women to see other body types that are different but still celebrated. Bodies that were once considered the ideal figure. Then they can begin to understand that beauty standards contradict themselves. They are fictional, fluid concepts that change with every new audience."

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Aimee Bayles // The Emotional Power Of Music

Music drifts across the apartment as I walk back to grab a different lens from my bag. Aimee sits on her bed; guitar in her lap and lyric books spread in front of her. She’s working on a new song with a catchy hook and a gentle melody.

I can hear tinges of her influences, including Patty Griffin and Norah Jones along with the subtle blending of Harlem jazz, rockabilly, and folk music, woven across her music. Their commonality being the emphasis on vulnerable, story-telling and a deep connection to their place of origin.

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"I think music just ... has a way of cutting into the soul and into feelings that are hard to reach any other way. We make the art that we make because it's a part of ourselves that we want to carry outside so that other people can see it." says Aimee.

Through her new album, Enough, Aimee's voice rises and falls, saturated with nuanced feeling. She soars across an ode to finding a home far away from family in No One Can Tell Us No. Then she maintains her strength while letting us into the grief of her mom's passing a few years ago through, Enough, a song sung with mournful hope to her mother

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"I remember, when my mom died, not being able to play or sing for several months afterward. I couldn't bring myself to do it. Then one day it just felt like the time. I ended up sitting down with my guitar on my couch and playing through one of my favorite Patty Griffin songs. I was crying all the way through it, but in a way that felt cathartic and healing... It felt like she was there with me a little bit ... That opened up being able to get back into it again and sort of, move through."

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Somewhere in the middle of our session, we have a cup of tea together, bonding over our mutual love for Harry Potter via a mug that turns into the Marauder's Map when it gets hot. This nerdiness is a perfect example of the thing I love about Aimee, she's willing to talk about all her perceived shortcomings, but she's also unequivocally herself.

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