Photography and Healing Part II

005-2

Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we never see it coming.

I was driving down the street trying to find a new clients house except the house number I was given did not exist. I turned around and came to a stop sign looked both ways and proceeded into the intersection and was T-boned by another vehicle doing 45 miles per hour. I never saw it coming.

It has been three months since that accident, the physical injuries are still healing but thankfully a friend had finally gotten through to me about wearing my seat belt every time I get into a car. This would be a completely different story if the other driver and I had not been wearing our seat belts. We were both injured and taken to the hospital but we walked into the emergency room on our own.

I am not one to take the best care of myself so I went back to work a week later. Back to the same house with the correct address this time. I was shaky and nauseous by the time I arrived to the appointment. “that was weird” I thought “I am going to need to get over that real quick” I told myself. By the time I got home that night I was in so much pain I had to be taken back to the ER. I was prescribed another week of rest and pain killers. A week later back on the road to meet with clients. More sweating and nauseousness occurred, it was getting worse everyday. I was getting more and more anxious any time I had to go someplace I didn’t know. Finally my sister recommended that I go see my counselor. I did and she helped me find a calming technique that helped when I started to get anxiety in the car. She helped me learn to visualize the flow of painting and how calming it was for me.

Several weeks later I was driving to a new clients house in Center City Philadelphia,  I was driving on the 309 expressway and somehow maneuvered around what would have been a nasty four car pile up. About a quarter of a mile down the road was my exit for the turnpike and started shaking and crying, I had to pull off the road and find a gas station. I ended up calling my boys father hysterical and he told me to call my client and cancel our appointment, he offered to come get me but somehow I drove myself back home.

092-3

From that day on the anxiety became progressively worse, I couldn’t work, I would get phone calls from clients and coworkers and be gripped when I saw their numbers come up. I would look at emails from work and be so sick to my stomach and I would cry. I kept trying to see clients but I was making mistakes, it was embarrassing. It was a daily struggle to be a mother to my children, to be a friend.  I kept spiraling out of control until one day I woke up terrified before I even got out of bed. I started crying and could not stop. Somehow I made the decision to call my doctor and get some help. He diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and prescribed an anti anxiety medication that is not a tranquilizer and intensive counseling and I’ve begun to get better.

032-2
Peace Valley Park
It has been three months since the accident and I am not fully healed from the mental trauma it caused and I am learning to live a new norm with PTSD but I am getting better. The things that kept me tethered to the ground were painting and photography. Doing these things kept me from completely disintegrating. The day the second accident almost happened I came home took my shoes off and painted in my backyard. When I was finished with the painting I took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook and gave it to the first person who commented on it. That painting is now hanging in a beautiful vacation home in Cape May NJ. During the slide into immobilizing anxiety I forced myself out of the house to photograph the things that bring me peace. It was hard and there were days I could only photograph the plants and flowers in my yard. Other days I would be able to get myself to Peace Valley Park and photograph the lake I love there. I even crawled into abandoned buildings and trains one day with a friend. It helped me feel normal and kept the anxiety monsters at bay once in awhile.  I believe its the only reason I was able to leave the house at times.

IMG_3314
The Painting 
The months since the accident have not been easy. Other things have come to the fore front because of it but I have gotten help medically and started finding peace mentally. I found a new job that keeps me off the road except to drive back and forth to the studio everyday. I started meditating and talking to God again after another friend reminded me that I am not in this by myself. There have been inquiries about selling my paintings and photographs. I have been hired to to do promo shots and album cover art for local bands and musicians. As much as I have struggled after the accident some really good things have come about as well.

I hope that when you are dealing with your own stresses and anxiety that you will also keep doing what helps you find inner peace and keeps you from being swallowed by your own monsters. Do whatever you can to keep them from taking over your life. Remember what it is that makes you happy and brings peace in your life. There is still beauty around us even when we are suffering and we need to go out and explore it… even if the first step is in your own back yard.

152-2
Magnolia in my backyard

Photography and Children

Night Moves Challenge 016-2
My Boys

Photographing children can be a challenge to say the least, they can be cranky, wiggly and just plain uncooperative. It has made me a little crazy at times trying to photograph my own kids as well as my friend’s children. When my oldest Zach was still in the single digits I recieved two really great pictures of him, one a friend had taken and he looked great, except in the far left side of the photo her dog was pooping. Later that same year Zach proudly presented me with a picture of himself that was laminated and had a magnet on the back so I could hang it on the the refridgiator…once again in the far left corner was one of his classmates picking his nose. I still proudly display that one on the fridge door even though he has graduated from High School. So challenging!

As a parent I have wanted to photograph my childrens’ lives so that there are memories to look back on because kids keep growing and changing. From the moment that baby is placed in your arms you are trying to capture the perfect picture of your bundle of joy. You would think those little wiggly squishes would learn to sit still and pose like the Gerber baby. Let me let you in on a little secret…the Gerber baby is a drawing…shhhh! Dont tell anybody! All of our babies are beautiful but its rare to capture that perfect picture. I think its why Anne Geddes’ style photography became so popular in the 1990’s.  All these adorable babies in flowers and cabbage patches. Did you ever notice 90% of them were sleeping? Of course they were beautiful! They were asleep! Isn’t that when those little wee ones look the most angelic and beautiful? Its easy to photograph them sleeping because they are peaceful and not trying to figure out what this great big world is all about.

Caleb2007112715-40-06
Caleb’s First Smile

I am an art photographer and I pretty much gave up trying to capture my sons in the perfect pose. Its not going to happen. I have had way to many photo sessions end in crying…me,  and drinking once again, me. I decide to leave that to the portrait photographers. I give them so much credit, the amount of patience and grace it takes to pose these kids of ours is incredible. I have several friends who are portrait photographers and their work is gorgeous and I am a little envious of their talent and patience. At the end of my post I will give you information on two of my favorites. They are Bucks County based and their work is beautiful.

012-2
My boys Mother’s Day gift was to allow me to photograph them this year

I do not have the patience to be a portrait photographer and I have accepted that about myself. This does not mean that I do not take pictures of my kids though. I take tons of pictures of my kids…thousands of pictures of my kids and my friend’s kids. What I do is photograph my kids and other peoples children doing what they do, playing, running, scampering and goofing off. Some of the most fantastic shots of my kids are from behind. I know its weird, but its usually because I am carrying all their crap and that is the only way I can get them. Don’t get me wrong I love capturing my kids faces, I am their mom and I think they have beautiful faces. Its not always easy they have to be well fed and happy to get them from the front. Then there is the other problem…there are three of them and it is  like herding cats. I love the photos I’ve captured of my children over the last seventeen years. Its been amazing to see how much they have changed from year to year. I love looking back and seeing the phases and memories and the kids love it as well. They like looking back and seeing the blue hair and then the dyed jet black hair that was so long I wasn’t sure there was a face behind it all. As my boys have gotten older it has become a little easier to capture their faces, but now its trying to gather them all together.

077

045
Joshua

I recommend from my own personal experience that you relax and stop trying to get that “perfect” picture. Leave the perfect ones to the amazing portrait professionals! Take thousands of shots of your kids in real life doing the things that they love, playing, dancing, singing and shelling on the beach. Take pictures from behind, from the side and when you can from the front! That is where the magic is, when they are laughing and making memories. That is when our kids are perfect.

016-2
Zach

These are two of the wonderful Bucks County based Portrait Photographers I would recommend:

Stacey Crescitelli Photography     Phone 215-262-2682   www.staceycrescitelliphotography.com

Senfstudios Design and Photography      Phone 267-935-9684 /  www.senfstudios.com

 

 

Photography and Healing

 

2014 was a terrible year for my family. We lost three members of our family in the space of 10 months. It was devastating and painful to loose a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, friend, husband, father, brother, uncle. They were more then just three people. They carried all these labels, all these relationships. They were people who marked their time on Earth differently but were well loved and lived well. Losing three family members in one year can be excruciating like a one to punch in the gut that you’re not expecting. It knocks the wind out of you and clouds your brain. Now add a cancer scare two months later. You’re trying to recover from the death of loved ones and now you are being told to look at your mortality because they don’t know what it is and won’t know until they get in. You have to call family members who just lost loved ones and tell them that once again there could be tragedy. Thankfully after major surgery you leave the hospital with a clean bill of health and a new perspective on life.

But this blog is not about death, its about healing and how loss, pain, tragedy and fear can change your for the better. Getting through those things can be daunting and it can absolutely change you for the worse. We have all met people who have been through hell and it destroys them. They see the world as a cold dark place and forget that there is still beauty out there. They forget that the sun rises again and we can take all the pain and tragedy and turn it into something more. They don’t realize that they can heal.

The way I was able to start the healing process and get back in touch with the creativity I had set aside was by rediscovering the art of photography. Being able to focus on something else besides the pain and mourning helped in the healing process. Seeing beauty again and wanting to capture it and create it from my own perspective led me to that place. Capturing beautiful sunrises over the ocean, a place my grandmother and uncle loved, made me remember them. The way I photographed reminded my grandmother of her own father, expressing myself through the lens, telling a story with my pictures. It was part of the process and helped me learn to breathe again. I didn’t forget the pain and tragedy, how could I? Photography has given me the ability to not let the pain devour me. It has given me the ability to move forward.

Bethany Beach 2015 254-2

I have talked to other photographers and most them have experienced pain as well and they use their photography to help heal and get through it. We have all discovered that pain and tragedy changes your perspective on how you view life. It doesn’t have to torment you, that you can find beauty with new eyes. That pain can actually cause you to see things through the lens differently. I don’t think any of us wanted the pain but some of us have used it and turned it into something different. Photography made it more manageable, creating helps us heal. Creativity gives us new eyes to see things differently.

I know that not everybody feels that they are creative but most people have something that they are passionate about. Pour yourself into whatever that thing is, use it to help in the healing process. Discover what it is that makes life beautiful for you and learn how to breathe again and share it. It doesn’t have to be photography, but if it is, pick up your camera again go out and find what it is that you love…what speaks to you. Do not allow the pain to devour and swallow you. The pain and tragedy in life will change you, but take control of it and make it change you for the better.

I’m posting this today on the second anniversary of my grandmother’s death. Her passing knocked the breath out of me. I miss her everyday but I know that she is with me and my memories of her continue to guide me. This is for my family…who suffered through that tragic year but have come out on the other side. This is for my friends who are suffering through their own tragic years. To all of you, just breathe and find that thing that helps you see beauty because it is still out there.

 

 

Photography and a Leap of Faith

It was like a lightening strike…I stopped breathing for several moments because he spoke the words I had been secretly holding in the back of my head. An idea I had been thinking about for several months but was not sure I could do.

Lets go back a little and I will tell you about myself. I am and artist and a photographer, but I forgot for a long time that I am those things. Life got in the way…what I thought was real life, a job, a mortgage, family and friends. Somehow I had forgotten that I needed to be creative too. No I didn’t forget I put creative aside because of the monsters in my head. Yes I said it monsters. Those nasty little voices in your head that say you are not good enough, not smart enough, basically not enough. I let the monsters stay in control for a long time and it nearly destroyed me.

Two years ago everything changed, 2014 was a nightmare of a year. It was full of pain, loss and fear. But I got through it with some counseling and the help of amazing friends and family.  2015 was a better year, it was full of self discovery and learning to control those monsters. I stopped listening and they quieted down. I picked my camera up and started taking pictures again. Lots of pictures, pictures of the kids, pictures of the beach and sunrises, pictures of the lake I love. It was those pictures of the lake that brought an old friend out of the woodwork. Pete contacted me on Facebook to compliment my photos and tell me how much he enjoyed the photos of Peace Valley Park because it was a place he loved when he lived in the area. I was stunned but thanked him. Pete recently messaged me and told me my whole Instagram account was beautiful and that I needed to get more followers. He said that he sees a lot of photos and mine were really good and he enjoyed looking at them. Again I was stunned but I thanked him. Then he said the words that made me catch my breath “you should photo blog Bucks County”.

I had been thinking about starting a photo blog for several months but wasn’t sure if I could do it. That statement confirmed it for me. I had to at least try. So here I am writing my first blog post and showing you one of the photographs that started the conversation that led me to try this. Its not one of my better pictures but its part of the journey. There are other things that have happened and there have been others who have inspired me during this journey I have embarked on. But it was that lightening strike statement that finally made me take the leap of faith.

Lake Galena 12 6 017-2
Bald Eagle flying over Lake Galena at Peace Valley Park in Doylestown Pa.