I got my first camera for a high school film photography class at a small prep-school in Connecticut. I was there on a full scholarship, and came home each night to a super tiny 900-square foot home in a pretty rough town with some pretty rough family stuff going on. I will never ever forget what my teacher said when I explained how embarrassed I was that all I could afford was the most basic Pentax K-1000, and all of my homework assignments told stories so different from my other classmates. He actually wrote it in a note to me when I left the school.  "You see the world differently. And that's going to be your greatest curse growing up. But I promise you Michelle, if you just stick with this, it will also be a huge blessing. It doesn't matter what camera you hold in your hands. Just keep shooting, never stop telling the truth, and stop apologizing. Someday you will be grateful for your burdens." 

This journey of River Story magic has been breathlessly beautiful, and also, at times, a total hot mess. 

It's been littered with unapologetic plagiarism, and deafening criticism (both internal and external) and required extreme sacrifice from every member of my little family... But today, as I near my 100th session, there is no doubt that he was right. 

These sessions have become my own Kintsugi: the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold as a means of adding value while bringing attention to the places where they are cracked. 

Every single time I step into the waters, it becomes a ceremonial celebration of human breakage and repair, a dusting of gold to the places that once were hidden. 

Thank you for embracing these stories. 

Thank you for embracing my story. 

It is only the beginning...