light&life

I hope to be a developer of images, children, words, friends, myself, and hopefully as a result, this world. And development is a process. I process the world through photos and words. I invite you to process with me through these writings and posts. I welcome your input!

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My favorite movie these days is a cartoon. Yes. I do have small children. But this cartoon is of such high quality that even I cannot get enough. It’s called Song of the Sea. It takes an old Irish legend about a selkie (part human, part seal) and brings it to life in a small family that lives in a lighthouse on an island. It is expertly crafted in visual, musical, and literary arts.

            This movie wouldn’t be strong if the story itself were not so powerful, and if I didn’t feel like its message was speaking so directly to me. The story is all about what we do with our emotions [not unlike Pixar’s Inside Out, another great cartoon I’m into lately!]. There are two parallel sets of characters. One set are all normal humans, the other set are the people of legend and magic. The great antagonist of the film is a witch who traps people’s emotions to keep them from being overwhelming, be they big and bad or big and good emotions. Her parallel is the grandmother to the main characters. She also cannot tolerate big emotions, or great risk. She is seen belittling her son’s emotions and popping pills to calm herself down.

            On my now fourth viewing of the film, I caught a new symptom of the grandmother’s relationship with emotion. It is her granddaughter’s sixth birthday and she’s come to be sure it is celebrated properly with fancy dresses and candlelit cakes. As she sets the camera up to shoot the birthday girl blowing out her candle, she says, “Now everybody smile. I want to capture the emotion of the day.”

            As a photographer, that word capture rang out to me.

Capture is a word I use often to describe what I aim to do. Who we are in this moment, who we are in relationship with, how we are feeling, what we are experiencing is all so fleeting, like the ripples in a river. But with a photograph taken in the whirlwind of a moment, we have the power to push pause and “capture” that moment so that we can hold onto it forever. It feels like a good power that my little tool can wield.

            But portrayed through her parallel, the witch, who also captures emotions, we see another side of what that looks like. Emotions are all bottled up in magical jars in her attic, brewing and storming and waiting to be set free. The witch’s victims who have their emotions captured gradually begin to turn to stone until all their emotions are sucked out of them all together. Their inability to feel leads to their inability to move.

            As a person with depression, I know how dangerous overwhelming emotions can be. More than once, I have drowned in my own emotions. And to keep afloat and maintain balance, I do take medication. And I also believe very strongly in allowing ourselves to experience emotions. And not just good emotions, but the full range of emotions that round us out as complete humans. In fact, I know my depression is at its most dangerous when I no longer have the capacity to feel emotions at all, because like the fairies in the film, with no emotions I too become immobilized. Emotions, in balance, are my sign of healthy life.

            And I think emotions are an essential part of what makes for good photography (whether or not there is a human in the frame). A good photograph can display exquisite joy, tender affection, contemplative stillness, anguish, pain, and comfort. One image I’ve captured in particular comes to mind. It is of a bride on her wedding day. We were attempting to gather the entire wedding party and family for formal shots when the excitement and stress and exhaustion of the day suddenly hit the bride’s young daughter like a truck. And in a gesture most anti-thetical to bridezilla one could dream of, this mother-bride disregarded her dress and make-up, she put the crowd of onlookers out of her mind, and she certainly made herself last on the list of her present priorities as she knelt to the floor, held her daughter, and let the tears and sobs pour out until her daughter was refilled and revived by her love. It was an intimate moment [so while I humbly shared it with the bride, I won’t share it publicly here]. It was a hard moment. It was a beautiful moment. It is a moment I did not just capture, it is a moment I treasure in my heart as a reminder of what patience, sacrifice, and beauty looks like.

The necessary part of my craft is that I not just capture these emotions, but that I set them free. When I get to share those moments I find to be beautiful, I open doors for connection, for people to see the life within themselves and also the feelings in another that they may be harboring within themselves. Shared captures offer opportunities for empathy, both extended and received. When vulnerable emotions can be shared, we know we are less alone, more safe, and hopefully a little bit stronger. But that requires your help.

            If you’re reading this, you’ve probably also taken a moment to take a look at, at least one of my photos [for more click on "showcase" in my website menu navigation]. So thank you. Thank you for allowing me not just to capture, but to share. You make me stronger. I hope you will find something true to share too! 

It feels good to be 2nd!

The state of Maine understandably draws some profound creative types. Many famous authors and artists have found refuge in the remarkable mix of beauty and quiet in this corner of the country. It is not lost on me that I, a writer and artist who is the wife of a Bowdoin professor, share similarities with the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin while her own husband taught at Bowdoin. The stunning vistas of coastline and glowing green woods fill up and inspire, and yield way to frosty cozy winters where one can process and digest the beauty [that is currently unfolding in a whole new way] in quiet and awe. This environment produces spectacular art.

This Fall, DownEast Magazine [@magazineofmaine] undertook its first Reader Photo Contest to collect some of the beautiful imagery of our state. Being the first such contest it ran, I was nervously excited to enter, but not quite sure what I was getting myself into. I couldn't imagine I could possibly catch any attention from the judges, but as a matter of discipline, I forced myself to get myself out there. 

Months later, after I'd forgotten about the entry, I got an email letting me know I was being considered as a finalist. I could not believe it. That was enough to make me feel like the year was a win for my photographic art. But even in my joy, I started to rain on my own parade.

In my younger days, I entered a state wide contest with my photography and won a prize. My whole family traveled to the capital to receive an award and see my piece on display in a gallery with the other winners. It felt like a big deal. And then I saw the other pieces, and frankly, they were infantile. I was embarrassed to be among them, to have felt pride over the experience. It was clearly an excuse for some politicians to smile and nod at cute children pretending to have talent. When I found out I was a finalist with DownEast, I started to assume I was in a repeat situation.

And then I found out I won second place. Somehow, second felt better, given my fears. There was someone out there better than me, maybe I was in better company this time. And sure enough, the magazine found its way to my door and the cover had an image from one of my favorite local landscape photographers, and then the other 11 winners showcased turned out to be fantastic. And as if being on display in print among them wasn't enough, I found out there were over 1,000 entries the judges had to choose from [here's a link to the contest and the honorable mentions, feast your eyes on some of this beautiful work!]. This win is feeling much more sweet!


This whole month I've gotten to see the magazine around town on the shelves at the grocery store and our library. Friends and neighbors have written and called and even driven in reverse down the street to take a moment to say they'd seen the picture in their own subscription copies. The honor and kindness of it all is such a treat. Thank you DownEast! Congratulations to my fellow talented winners! Thank you friends, for celebrating with me!!

But the best prize of all came from the subject of my winning photo, my daughter. She was so proud of and excited for me, that she added her own award to the very envelope my winning copy of the magazine arrived in. I think I will treasure her precious pride for me above all the rest, along with my gratitude to her for being my beautiful little muse!


Gift the Present

Give the gift of The Present. Introducing gift cards for my services so that someone you love can treasure this unique moment in history forever. #CyberMonday deal: 20% off if you purchase a gift card for a full hour session, today only. Only 15 available, first come first served. Email me at zoe@zoereyesphotography.com if you would like to purchase or have any questions. 


And then they were four . . .

In looking over my recent photo sessions, I'm struck by how different each set feels to me. I am the same photographer, using the same camera, only switching between two lenses. But the families and individuals and their relationships with one another change. And so the whole feel of the collection changes for me too.

The Gaudette family had the great idea to do our session in the hiking trails where they love to walk together. The power of place can do something special to light people up, reveal a unique window into their relationships with each other.

Where would your place be?

 

The Beckett Three

I will never forget the day I ran into Greg and Michelle out on a walk. Michelle was bursting with joy and could not contain her news that a new Beckett was on the way. Pregnancy is not all pleasant, and parenting is full of challenges and dark valleys. But getting to spend an hour with Marlowe and her parents years later, the joy is still shinning, only now it also walks and talks and jumps and smiles with the light of a star. I have always felt happier in Michelle's presence and it is a gift to us all that there is more of her in this world now. Here's a little taste of that joy for you!