I'm about to get brave on here for a second and spill some truths. I haven't done it in a while but it's time. To everyone who has reached out to me in the last few months warning me about so-and-so photographer copying my River Stories, I thank you. I mean that when I say it. It means so much to me that you care about me and this work. I see them. I know they are there. I cannot go onto instagram or Facebook without seeing another photographer who I am "friends" with presenting their river work to the world.
It bothered me at first. At first it totally pissed me off. And then when I sat with that anger for a while, I realized it wasn't anger I was feeling at all.
It was fear. I was afraid that somehow, my message would get diluted and swept up in the wave of pop-photography-culture.
I'm still afraid sometimes.
This isn't a trend. This isn't hay bales for seats or hemp table runners or Pantone's color of the year inspiration board. This is my salvation. And I don't care who makes fun of me for being "too deep" but that's my truth. Going to the river waters keeps me alive.
For example, this week I didn't get enough sleep because I was awake wondering if my biological father remembers my birthday is coming up, and worrying about my adoptive father dying while fighting for his life for the ten thousandth time in rehab. My son is flying alone for the first time, thousands of miles away, and I'm terrified of all the what-ifs. I could go on and on.
For now, I just mean to illustrate that we all have our battles. We all have our masks. And we all have our ways of facing each day.
Photography is my way of thriving in the face of my struggles.
I know what it's like to stop creating. I know what it's like to take only pretty pictures of pretty people in pretty poses, sterile and pretend. To try and be like the others who color within the lines. But, I also know what it's like to photograph love stories that make my bones ache with awe, and to bring women to wild rushing waters to meet themselves in entirely new ways then they ever thought possible. I know what it's like to stay up all night editing and writing and crying because that tiny part of you that you never thought would ever heal, is somehow being transformed by the cosmic creative process.
And so every single day, I choose to make the art that keeps my light shining. I choose to make art that makes me a better mother, wife, human being.
I choose to stand, completely vulnerable, in the waters with my clients and share laughs and stories and tears. I choose to take my heart straight out of my chest and frame it in Squareready/instagram/VSCO/whatever app is out next, and share it with the world. I choose to take a stick and draw a circle around myself in the sand and call it this blog, and then fill it with images still hot from the glow of my inner fire.
Not because it's a cool trend, or because people might look cool if they are wet. But because I don't want to ever go back to taking empty photographs.
I don't want to, and I won't.
So now, when I see all of the other photographers crowing their clients with wildflowers and plunging them into waters worldwide, there is a part of my heart that celebrates a little.
Because even if their motives are shallow and even if their pictures are all wrong and even if they are just trying to copy or play it safe or use my ideas to get ahead or whatever, the fact is, they are standing in the rivers. Something I created woke up a calling in their own soul to journey to the waters and walk through the mud and come face to face and heart to heart with the whisper in their sleep that sings, "Wild." And that matters to me.
They made it to the water.
That feels important to my heart.
River Story was my idea and born of my bones. Women wearing flower crowns and white bohemian dresses, or nothing at all, being sacredly and poetically photographed in rivers is, was, and always will be my creation. There's a kickstarter campain and international magazine features, and an upcoming book. There are thousands of miles traveled all across the country in a tiny Airstream and a billion campfire stories for my children to share with their children.
But, I guess there's a deeper part of this whole process that's about healing and helping and moving beyond the boundaries of ownership, pride and ego. Sure it was my idea, but maybe there's something so much bigger to all of this.
I wish all of the women could do it, together. I wish we could all have hair tangled with lavender and plumeria and naked river-stained skin. I do.
And maybe we can.
People are going to unapologetically copy. It's just the way it is now. And I'm determined to find the goodness in that, too because there's no stopping it, and because why would I ever want to stop women from finding their ways to the waters.
The rivers need us, and we need them, and the world needs women who aren't afraid of getting dirty or loving one another right up close.
So for tonight, I'm going to ask that you stop emailing me about the copycats. Because for now, in this moment, I'm happy celebrating that I'm not alone. That there are other women out there who love the rivers just as much as I do.
And maybe, just maybe, there's a way for me to share my wisdom and vision and help more people then I ever even thought was possible.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.