I have always hated being photographed. Ironic, I know. Un-photogenic was a label I applied to myself and that was the general consensus among my friends and family. I never did get that perfect "cheese" face down. So I hid from the camera and now there are just 5 to 10 pictures of me to document almost 15 years of my life.
There's a long story about how I fell into photography but after that happy accident came about I naturally gravitated towards photographing little humans. Children don't worry about being photogenic. And although working with them has it's own challenges, those challenges were much more in my comfort zone. After all, how could I, a woman who would rather have teeth pulled than be the subject of a photo shoot, convince other women that they should do what I wouldn't.
So "just the kids this time" was a line I welcomed for a long time. But something changed...
"This photo is one of the few I have of her." my mother said as she passed around a nursing graduation portrait of my late grandmother. We started talking about how lucky we are to even have the one. How valuable that photograph is. And how we (my siblings and I) don't have a portrait of our mom. That needed to change, and it did.
When I posted the images I had taken, some of the stories that people shared were heartbreaking. But it was also inspiring. It made me want to break down the barriers that keep us all hiding behind the camera.
It doesn't matter if you are 10 (or 100) pounds overweight. It doesn't matter if you have wrinkles, or acne, or flabby arms or any one of the hundreds of things women worry about. Your family loves you, just as you are, right now.
You are beautiful, and I can prove it. I know this because I've changed the way I see myself, and now I want to do the same for you.
Victoria West is an international award winning photographer and holds a national accreditation in Portraiture & Canine Portrait and Image Manipulation from The Professional Photographers of Canada.