Truth and Vulnerability

If I had to choose an animal to represent me, it would be a Phoenix. I go through some super tough times and I somehow manage to fly out of the fire. Then...I experienced the most painful time of my life that I could imagine.

It’s about to get reeeeaal vulnerable up in here! Although I’m not one to share my personal life publicly or even post more than one selfie a month on social media, I’ve come to learn that being transparent and open saves people from lots of pain and misunderstandings. I hope you hang in there for this long post while I explain where I’ve been for the last few years and why I haven’t been returning your calls.

If I had to choose an animal to represent me, it would be a Phoenix. I go through some super tough times and I somehow manage to fly out of the fire. The recession of 2008 graced me with multiple layoffs, a foreclosure, and a move out of state with an infant. I also had to **GASP!** move in with my mother to stay afloat.

That all sucked. But I eventually rose from those ashes and started a portrait photography business I loved by converting my living room into a studio.

Then…I experienced the most painful time of my life I’ve been through so far.

Sometime after moving back to Virginia I started dating a man who loved and accepted me and my daughter. I also really loved his kids. We moved in together and things were great. However, soon after, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Each day was emotionally draining and intense. Watching him go through that illness ripped me apart from the inside out.

When he passed, I was an emotionless zombie. I relied heavily on my mom to help me take care of my daughter. I had no desire to shoot weddings of happy-go-lucky couples or give my portrait clients the level of service they deserved. I couldn’t even manage simple tasks like responding to client’s emails or fulfilling orders. I didn’t know I was suffering from depression.

I didn’t publicly acknowledge that I needed time to heal and I never officially announced my break from photography. I couldn’t find the words to explain why something I had pursued with my heart and soul since 1999 no longer gave me any joy or pleasure. The conversation was too hard to have. So my business slowly unraveled day by day, one unanswered request after another. Being a photographer was so closely tied to my identity that I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do without it. I felt worthless.

During that difficult time, I took a job working for a real estate company photographing luxury homes in the area. Working on autopilot while earning an income truly saved me from bankruptcy, and I am forever grateful to the manager who trusted my skills as a photographer even though I didn’t have a single house photo in my portfolio at the time.

The decision to enroll in the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program was guided by my need to find myself and express myself. It also allowed me to teach at the college level again. I could write a whole series of posts about what I learned and didn’t learn in the program. But, I learned valuable lessons about failure and vulnerability. The truth is, you need both to sustain a business for the long term.

I learned to accept failure as a growth process and was forced to shed my perfectionist tendencies. I also learned that in order to do good work, you have to be vulnerable. The artwork I produced for the first two years of school was absolute garbage. I felt like giving up until I dug into my painful past and discovered my “why” in creating artwork.

So why the heck am I restarting during a global pandemic??? The truth is that I’m terrified. I’m willing to work through the fear in order to start mixing in fine art principles with photography and being of greater service to my clients. I’ve had a long time to think about what is truly important and what I can contribute to my community and that’s creating artwork that connects people with their heritage. Taking heirloom photos that can be passed down from generation to generation brings a sense of purpose to my work that I am happy to share with others.

If you are new to my page, I welcome you. And, if you’re a former client, I thank you for your patience and unrelenting belief in me. When you’re ready, book a session with me in my new beautiful space. I look forward to growing connections and being more vulnerable with you in the future.

Talk to you soon!
XOXO LaKaye

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