Today I am so excited (and nervous!) to introduce a personal project that is months in the planning: my new photographic series, Blessed Strength.
Blessed Strength is devoted to capturing the strength of mamas–in all its forms, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Mamas are survivors, often unsung heroes, pillars of the family, molding tiny lives and melding disparate spirits into one beautiful whole called “family,” and I am passionate about chronicling powerful examples of maternal strength right here in our community.
The series will be kicking off with three expectant mothers who all have been inspirational to me for a variety of reasons. All of them are models of strength, determination, and love, and all of them are beautiful. As the series progresses I hope to feature a variety of moms and even grandmothers, and I can’t wait to see how this series evolves in ways I don’t even foresee yet.
But for today, I am thrilled to introduce our first Blessed Strength Mama, Kristy Fassio.
Kristy is the owner–and very active participant and teacher–of several local Stroller Strides franchises. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Stroller Strides, check out Monday’s blog post for a sneak peek into a class.) After meeting Kristy at a local fair and following her Facebook feed for awhile, what I was most struck by was that, in spite of being immersed in a fitness world that is sometimes rife with tough expectations, Kristy maintains a refreshingly honest, real and positive voice of self-acceptance and health of the whole person.
I approached Kristy a few months ago with my vision of photographing her teaching a Stroller Strides class, and I told her I hoped she would agree to be my first Blessed Strength Mama. At the time she agreed, telling me that she didn’t think she had ever seen a plus-size maternity model, let alone one being active, and that she was happy to be featured.
But while it would be tempting to view my choice of Kristy as our first Mama as just a counterpoint to a fitness industry in which models are no bigger than a size 4 and even the expectant models are sporting a barely-there bump–no puffy ankles, widened hips, or stretch marks to be seen–that would be missing the real point.
I didn’t choose Kristy because I thought she should be a poster-child for active plus-size mamas; I chose her because I think she should be a model for ALL mamas.
Kristy can break out ten burpees without breaking a sweat, teach a fitness class at eight months’ pregnant, and do pushups that would put a Marine to shame, but that isn’t even touching where her real strength lies. I chose Kristy because her strength of spirit is so immense.
One thing I love about Kristy is that she freely admits that self-love and self-care is at times a struggle, and I think all of us mamas can relate to that. We all have some demons, those nagging little voices that whisper their little lies that we aren’t good enough in some way. But what makes Kristy so strong is that she acknowledges how hard it is to face those demons, and then she blasts them away with a rocket launcher. Kristy is careful to emphasize that the journey to being a strong mama isn’t about reaching a certain size, or BMI, or even completing a half-marathon (which she has, by the way), but it’s about learning to love the person you are RIGHT NOW, not the one you hope to be “someday.” And along the way, she helps other mamas to recognize their own strength as well.
As I hope the images below show, Kristy shines. Even as merely an acquaintance, I can say that knowing Kristy has made me feel stronger and more empowered, and I can only imagine that her lucky friends and Stroller Strides pupils are that much more benefitted by having such a strong, powerful voice in their lives.
Kristy, thank you for trusting me to tell your story. You are full of Blessed Strength indeed.
This project is a real outpouring of my heart. I don’t usually ask for blog comments, but if the Blessed Strength project resonates with you, please tell me how it speaks to you. And if you know a strong mama, please let me know! I am hoping to grow this project throughout the upcoming months.
Today’s a long one, but I really have tried hard to put into words my goals for a photo shoot… and why photography is so important to me.
When I first began shooting projects for clients and for my portfolio, I was very much in an experimental mode. I eagerly looked at other photographer’s work for inspiration and I sought to have a game plan for each of my shoots. And yet I found myself left cold by not only a lot of what was out there, but also by what I was capturing in my own shoots. I saw a lot of beautiful pictures, where everyone looked glossy and perfect, very well-pressed and combed to be sure, but I didn’t feel a lot of soul in the photos.
I slowly came to realize that for me, photos that merely answered who, what, where, and when didn’t do much for me emotionally. I couldn’t connect to them–no matter how stunning the child or how perfectly staged the shot, or how much it looked like an ad from an Anthropologie catalog. And yes, I do love the work in Anthro… but for my own work, it just wasn’t “me” and I when I tried to stage my shoots to be like what I thought the families wanted or to be like a magazine ad, I was left frustrated with the outcome.
I realized that what really interested me about photography was the way it can crystallize the essence of a person, or a relationship, in just a split-second of time. And for me photography represents an art that I can pour not just my head but also my heart and feeling into. I love the challenge of capturing the emotional connections between mother and child, brother and sister, husband and wife… and answering the “how” and “why” questions. How do these people connect to one another and interact? How are they different from other families? Why are they special?
In August I was then introduced to a new method called Beloved. While originally geared toward couples, I’ve seen Beloved have powerful results in my most recent family sessions as well. With my most recent sessions I finally had the courage to embrace the Beloved approach. By forsaking the most traditional posing and embracing an altogether different methodology in my photo shoots, inviting the participants to engage in games, invitations to relate to one other, and reflection, I am finally feeling like I am seeing into the heart of people, into the heart of a family… past the “camera smile” that is a bit too wide and doesn’t quite reach the eyes and instead capturing moments of genuine emotion. And because each relationship is so different one from another, and each couple and family so unique, every session is different and beautiful in its own right.
Beloved may not be for everyone. It requires a certain openness toward one another, a willingness to open yourself to something “different” and even the courage to see a side of yourself that you may not always let down your guard to reveal in photos. But the results can be so powerful and so beautiful, I think. There is something so affirming to see, captured in a print forever, just how you are loved, and how much you are loved.
I am still growing in this method, and learning how to balance traditional posing options with the Beloved approach, but I am so excited to see what this year brings as I dive deeper into this, and I am grateful for the people who are coming along with me.
Here are some moments from my most recent mini session… Mom/Dinah works in children’s ministry at our church and is such an encourager and joy to everyone, and her men form her “team” (rarely is there a night you won’t find them on a court somewhere!). And the foundation of everything for this family is their faith in God. I love some of the moments we caught in just our 30 minutes together for the mini session…
Boys will be boys!
Mama and her crew
I love this photo of this couple, sharing a laugh together, their enjoyment of one another evident.
One of my favorite families in the world joined me at Lake Wilderness for a mini session on Saturday. Their adorable 2-year-old is a photographer’s dream…making life quite easy! I mean, really, how could the pictures *not* be cute? And mom and dad aren’t too shabby either… I didn’t realize until later they were celebrating an anniversary! And here they are looking as cute as I imagine they looked on their wedding day.
A family affair.
The cutest toddler smiles!
On Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to share my day with three great families for holiday mini sessions… this is the first of our sneak peeks!
The F Family was a delight to photograph. Their closeness and affection for one another is obvious, plus they have two seriously cute kids who are no strangers to the camera. Sometimes toddlers will be a bit camera-shy, but not these two! And they put up with the sub-40 degree temperatures without any complaints.
Here are just a few highlights from our 30 minutes!
the girls alone
… and the whole family
I had the honor of photographing the S family as they await the arrival of their newest blessing, little Molly. This mama will always hold a special place in my heart, because she was one of the people who encouraged me to pursue photography as a business, so much so that she signed up for her maternity session months ago!
This couple is so sweet to each other; the love between them is so beautiful. Their faith and love for one another were obvious even during our short session, and I think those feelings are palpable even in their images! The weather wasn’t being very cooperative, but we didn’t let that stop us–we moved inside, where we captured some great pictures on the stairs… and these stairs are particularly important since these two just finished rebuilding them from the ground up themselves! I love the idea that this family will have pictures that capture the beginning of their family, right in the same house that Dad grew up in and that they are working to make special for their own little ones.
Just a few of my favorites…
One of my favorites… I love photographing couples, and ones on the cusp of such a joyous moment are particularly rewarding!
Smiles of expectancy
the sweetest baby bump