“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong.
You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission.
Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough.
You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal.
True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world.
The truth about who we are lives in our hearts.
Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own.
No one belongs here more than you.”
― Brené Brown, "Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone"
Brené Brown was quoted often at The Family Narrative, a retreat for family photographers I was lucky enough to attend last week, and for good reason. This learning space was truly soul food - more appropriately framed, in my opinion, the internal narrative. And the place - great city of New Orleans - holds dear friends of mine; each time I visit I feel filled up with southern history and humbled by a culture so vastly different than my rural Minnesota roots and current Colorado landscape that I feel like a child walking around in pure awe of this shock-to-the-senses urban gem.
Last summer, just when I was beginning to take on clients beyond my circle of friends pro bono, I stumbled upon The Family Narrative through my photog crush, Leslie Kershaw, who taught at the inaugural retreat last year. I decided to save my pennies in search of what seemed to be the most intimate, authentic in-person learning community available. Well, it proved to be all of that and so much more.
However, being so new to my craft, my artistic voice still raw and developing, still learning my way around all the gear and stumbling through social media and mostly getting stuck in my own head, I arrived there guarded, looking for reasons why I shouldn't be there, and of course, my reasons proved as true as I sought them out. I shouldn't have left my little ones without their mother for a week, right? I shouldn't have spent so much of our family budget on this indulgent escape. I didn't have much to contribute to the conversation yet. I didn't know a soul there. What was I thinking?
But slowly, as my peers asked me to join in time and time again, and as teachers remained as available and honest as old childhood friends, I began to peel back the guards and excuses I had built up and started the hard work of digging deep within. My head and heart were (and still are) spinning with questions that run much deeper than simply business decisions or technical prowess.
I thought a lot about questions of worthiness and my definition of beauty. And about guilt. And what work really means to me and what my time is really worth. I thought a lot about fear. And about my own story and my own mixed up beliefs about money and power and good and justice. I needed to go there to inform where I want to grow next. I deserved the kindness and acceptance afforded to me at this retreat. And I guess, to be honest, I don't yet feel worthy of my beautiful, full life, but I feel worthy of working to be deserving of it, and I think my voice is a gift worth giving to those I love. I have this rare opportunity to bring something to the world that brings a particular sense of honesty and strength, and I desperately want to use this gift I've been given and not waste it through my own self-doubt.
Here are a few of my favorite images. I believe in their story. I trust in my voice. I am thankful for you soaking them in. If they touch you in any way, will you let me know? I'd love to hear how you connected with this series.
With love and gratitude - xoxo Shea
The Pontchartrain Hotel
The Garden District
A few Portraits of Me
Just a Few of our Community and Out & About