Four years ago, I realized I wanted to see what someone else sees about the way I live in my body. I wanted, in some way, to create a yearly project that would be an artistic, visual representation of my body as it and I change through time. Photography seemed like an obvious choice, but for four years, I avoided making it happen.
After surviving, and even at times enjoying three previous photo shoots this year, I knew this had to be the year I didn’t avoid it.
For a photography session focused on capturing a visual, artistic representation of my body, for no reason other than my own vulnerability, I wanted to work with a female photographer.
Clara Fisher Johnson of Cap & Feather Photography is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. We coordinated everything via email, and she immediately grasped the idea and focus on my body. When we met at the arboretum, I was a bundle of nerves and insecurity. I once again gave my vague description, letting her know that I wanted a “visual, artistic representation of my body over time” and that I wanted to make it an annual thing. Beyond that, I asked her to be the artist.
Clara has a keen sense of people, a confidence in her own work, and a decisiveness about what to do next that is absolutely comforting. She put me at ease within half a second.
As we started up one of the trails, surrounded by beautiful old trees, one of the first things Clara asked was if she could photograph my freckles. When I said yes, she picked a flower, handed it to me, made one slight adjustment to how I was holding it, quickly snapped a couple of shots, and then guided us further up the trail. (The picture above is what she captured in those brief seconds.)
I barely had time to realize my picture was being taken. And that was exactly what I wanted. I had no idea whether I would ever share these photos with anyone. They were for me. Something that would allow me to observe myself, where I am in this moment, and over time. I was able to let go of any real concerns about what the photos would be, and I was happy to follow Clara's artistic lead.
She found amazing pockets of light among the branches and gave me simple instructions about how to stand and where to look, before efficiently moving us back onto the trail and onto the next spot.
And, though I was right in my original thought that not all pictures would be ones I would share publicly, I will say that being topless in a forest feels amazing. I highly recommend it.