This is Part One of our Vulnerability Series.
We talk a lot about expectations with our clients. It is a focus of ours during the consultation so our clients – particularly those who have never worked with us, scheduled a shoot for themselves, or been in front of camera – have a clear understanding of what will happen during each session. We talk about physical expectations, emotional expectations, logistical expectations, interpersonal expectations, and artistic expectations. We find unclear expectations is one of the quickest ways to a poor experience, and so one of our core values is clear, expectations, brought to the forefront of our attention.
We value acknowledged expectations. There is a simple power in simply acknowledging anything; however, that can be difficult to do for a number of reasons. We self-protect. We avoid. We escape. And we sometimes do these things without knowing we are doing them. We attribute some of this to the hidden expectations we carry with us. These can undermine our ability to connect with others and more importantly, connect with ourselves. It requires vulnerability and self-examination.
Now when we book a session and hold consultations, these are not therapy sessions, though they can be therapeutic. We do not need to know your deepest, closely held secrets. For clients that choose to share their personal burdens with us – to be vulnerable with details – we feel humbled and honored. But details are not necessary to be vulnerable in a session. Truth is necessary. Here are some of the truths we embrace with our clients in order to unlock vulnerability.
Vulnerability & Loving Ourselves Truths
I love who I am: my strengths, my foibles, my insecurities, and my past make me who I am. I must be the first to relinquish the belief and behavior that holding these things over my own head as a means of turning me into someone else is rooted in shame and guilt.
I love how I feel: my feelings are real. We can find any number of ways to undermine whether or not we should feel justified in what we’re feeling. But that does not mean that the feelings and emotions we experience are any less real! I must stop seeking to convince myself that I should not be having certain feelings. This doesn’t mean that I stop seeking to understand whether the circumstances or intentions that influenced my feelings were virtuous or malicious: it means that I stop punishing myself for feeling.
This is a tricky piece. Weaponizing feelings is something we do not condone: feeling angry and using that as a justification for punishing others is not OK (including punishing ourselves). But being honest with ourselves that we are feeling disappointed, grieving, happy, amorous, or any number of other feelings, and embracing those feelings as a part of who we are is healthy!
I like who I am: I am comfortable with where I am in my own personal journey and comfortable with the uncertainty of what the future holds. This is a tough one. There are times when I do not like a choice I have made, it doesn’t fit with my values today or the values I hold for the future. I may go through a period of multiple poor decisions. The more I place myself in a position of making decisions that conflict against my values, the more I am at risk for finding a person I do not like staring back at me in the mirror. This forces me to make active choices and to choose every new day as one where I will make choices that are in line with the person I want to be. The person I like.
Do we accept these as truths every day? Nope. We struggle to find a balance, but it is a balance we fight to find. Because we have found that when we forgot these truths, we start losing track of who we are and who we can be: we become less vulnerable. And at the end of the day, we want to be vulnerable. We think vulnerability is super sexy!
Vulnerability & Loving Ourselves Undermined
Reminding ourselves of these truths is further challenged, because we live in a world where we impact each other’s headspace and self-talk.
The internal truths and standards above (I love who I am, I love how I feel, I like who I am) conflict with external standards. We pay close attention to the word should. “Should/should not” are evidence of a standard. Untangling the sources of standards is messy business. But worthwhile. Because when we live our lives according to standards – without knowing where, when, or how they originated – we are susceptible not only to self-judgment, but turning that judgment toward others. And that judgment can be contrary to our own values.
Our sessions are “should-less.” If you ask the question “Should I put my hand here?” our response will be: “Let’s try it! If it works, great! If not, we’ll try something else!” If you ask us, “Should I bring this outfit?” our response will be: “Bring it! If it’s not working, what did we lose? Nothing!”/
We understand the impulse to ask should questions. Our clients often see us as the standard, we know all the “shoulds.” We are technical experts. We are artistic experts. We have studied and conducted sessions with hundreds of clients. We have a lot of knowledge. This is new. You have never done this before. You look to us for a vote of confidence. And we have that confidence! It’s a confidence in you! We are confident that you are sexy, beautiful, intelligent, sincere.
We have a lot of tools in our toolbox, but none of them are universal! We will use lots of those tools during your session, but the most important piece we have found to an exceptional creative photographic experience is embracing you first, not the tools.
Championing Vulnerability & Loving Ourselves
When we ask our clients to trust us, we’re asking them to trust us with their vulnerability. To reconnect with their own personal truths. To reconnect with what makes you feel sexy and to be sexy. To reconnect with what make you feel sassy and to be sassy. To reconnect with what makes you feel tempting and to tempt! But many of our clients are wounded, and it is difficult to be vulnerable. They have forgotten how to be vulnerable. Our focus for the session is exclusively on the experience so that you can be vulnerable. So that you can reconnect.
It is why we have created the business model we have. The session fee is an investment in the experience, an investment in vulnerability. Our role is to facilitate the vulnerability. And for you to give full license for you to focus on you for the day. This is why we separate physical art investment from session investment. Too often, the client focuses on needing to perform in front of camera in order to produce an outcome.
Once you fall back in love with yourself, at the reveal session we talk about falling in love with your art. And you only invest in what you love. We will produce images we love. We will fall in love with certain pieces of art. But you don’t need to love what we love. This isn’t about us. This is about you.