I didn't find photography.
Photography found me.
And then it healed me.
I started as a writer.
For 10 years I worked on one book, Beauty Restored: Finding Life and Hope After Date Rape. The heart of this book was to be a message of hope to women and their husbands/boyfriends, parents and friends. I wanted them to know they were not alone in their pain. It is based on my own painful experience of being date raped in college.
Almost ten years later, on March 20th, 2001, the first day of spring, I birthed two babies; my beautiful, firstborn, Pascaline and Beauty Restored. When Pascaline was three months old we hit the road and for the next 18 months did over 50 National TV Shows and Radio Interviews. While my little one slept in the backs of churches and colleges, I was up front sharing my story and hoping one woman would feel hope again.
After two amazing years on the road, Brian and I were pregnant with our second. His name was Aidan, our little fire. While in TN for a week long speaking tour I started experiencing abdominal pains and three weeks later our baby Aidan's heartbeat stopped.
After losing Aidan, I couldn't speak or write and sought refuge in Brian and Pascaline's love. During those times of grief, I picked up a camera. Pascaline's innocence was precious from every view point. I found myself working to capture her story: the times she couldn't stop giggling, the times she curled into the safety of daddy's arms, the asleep time, the fussy and frustrated times, the first time she played with a yellow balloon...
Friends and family started noticing the photos and asked me to photograph their kids. Soon brides were contacting me for their weddings. I had gone from speaking to 800 women and sharing my story, to finding healing behind a camera. Life had taken this unexpected turn and now I was given the privilege to artistically capture another woman's story on her wedding day. Photography had found me.
A new chapter of life unfolded, a chapter of writing other people's stories through images. Stories of new beginnings, moments of choosing to trust. Every time we shoot a wedding I'd see these moments; a grandmother reaches to squeeze the bride's hand, a groom whispers in his bride's ear, and then her giggle afterwards, a father's tears while he dances with his daughter. What could be more worthy of capturing than these moments?
Photography is not just an art, trade or skill. It's a tool of healing for myself and those I have the honor of capturing. When we approach the camera as a healing tool, the world opens it's heart to us.
Throughout this amazing journey, we've had the honor of having our work featured on VH1's Fabulous Weddings, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Lifetime Television. Grace Ormonde's premier Wedding Style magazine named us one their Masters of Craft photography teams. And I am also proud to be a Sony Artisan of Imagery and count our partnership with Sony to be an incredible gift of reaching women through dreams like the SOAR! Scholarship.
Our images of weddings and children have been published worldwide, as well as won international awards. Alongside our joy for photography, Brian and I have rekindled our love for speaking. Together, we travel nationwide, teaching our CONFIDENCE Workshops to women, speaking at photography expos and conferences--with a heart to empower and inspire not only the professional photographer but the parent, enthusiast and scrapbooker too.
Refuse to Say Cheese and Beyond the Green Box are two instructional DVDs that we scripted and produced. Our vision was to help empower moms in learning to use their cameras. This project exploded, was licensed by Sony to create "Kids in Focus", and continues to bring joy to thousands!
I've also found a new platform for combining my love of writing and photography: blogging. Each day I share a bit of my heart, our work and Photo-Recipes and exercises for the pro or enthusiast. In a short time, this outlet has gained an audience of over 15K unique visitors a month.
Just as the SOAR! Scholarship empowers women to DREAM BIG, I challenged myself to go big for my own dreams of reaching more women through TV. Little did we know the Nate Berkus Show would be knocking on our door! Every time I appear on Nate's show, and get the opportunity to teach and inspire over 2 million viewers with their photos, I want to pinch myself, jump up and down, cry and just laugh. And yet, I have a feeling that the journey has just begun.
But the most wonderful gift of all...the gift that anchors me every day...our beautiful children: Pascaline and Blaze. Capturing their lives is the greatest honor of all.
How does a woman start at such a place of deep pain and find herself standing in front of wide, open skies...I'm speechless. If I can do this, I know with full confidence you can reach your impossible dreams too.
Each day I find that my pain is still with me over my losses, but the joy is just as deep if not deeper.
Thank you for joining this beautiful community of women. May we all take flight together!
*For details on our DVDs and upcoming photography workshops, visit www.merakoh.com.