Cheers to a New Year of Being Brave and Starting a Charity Fund!

This is my whole life. This daughter of mine. I want to show her what it means to be a whole person. A real woman of courage, confidence, and grace. I think this post explains why I was drawn to glamour (makeover) photography and what I seek to do with it.

Domestic abuse – a tricky subject for a laundry list of reasons.  We all have our take on pretty much everything about life, from religion and politics to the psychology of why people do the things they do. Everything can be approached from so many perspectives and opinions and, some people find that they don't talk about a lot of these subjects openly. I can understand why.

Then there are the subjects that I think we would benefit from talking about but we still don't. Subjects like mental and emotional health issues, and domestic abuse. I think these subjects are hard for people. There is a huge stigma that goes along with all of these subjects. You know, the subjects that makes you cringe when they come up.  

I want to talk about domestic violence and abuse. I could get into statistics of victims of domestic abuse. They are always appalling. How about I just share my story. Because we all have a story. For those that have experienced domestic abuse our stories are ones of fear coupled with courage, with a strength of spirit that is a sheer force of will. It is our stories that I want to capture and celebrate in my photography.

Here is my courage, my story- in the nutshell version. By the time I was five my mother was marrying her third abusive husband. Though he never hit me, he did count how many sheets of toilet paper I used before I was allowed to flush, among other random insanities. After many failed attempts to leave, my mother gathered her strength and left for the last time. That time he chased us down, tore the car hood open, and ripped out wires as we were driving away.

He threatened to kill us many times. So we lived in hiding. For 6 months we lived with friends and made plans to move across the country. He found us shortly after we moved. He followed us, found our neighbors and waved the gun at them. He was serious. He was going to kill us. He stalked us everywhere we went. Hid in bushes outside friend’s houses. Left gifts on our doorstep.  And, generally just scared the living shit out of me. We lived like this for an amount of time that, for a child, seemed like an eternity.

Eventually he gave up. My mom married again. He left our lives. But his memory stayed with me for much of my adult life. For over half my life I slept with nightmares that someone was trying to kill me in some horrible way.

Then there is my own mother. Abusive herself. The kind of bat shit, lock herself in her bedroom for weeks at a time, screaming fits of rage, cut off all her hair, periodically suicidal, beat the shit out of you, and tell you that you will never be loved kind of lady.  

I grew up with no confidence at all. My mother and her husband’s had me living in fear and hating myself quite thoroughly. Moving beyond that was an immense amount of work. Sharing this out loud is a very scary thing to do. I worry, like everyone does, about being judged. Even though intellectually I know this was all outside of my control.

Now I am a photographer and I work with women whose courage and strength of spirit still prevail. Through portraits I work to capture who they are -  inside and outside. There are some clients though that come to me who truly don't realize how beautiful they are because they are too afraid to really look. All too often they can't see it. For those who find their way to me, it's like taking another step in the healing journey.  Maybe no one has ever taken the time to nurture them; to look them in the eye and tell them they matter... to see that they are beautiful and lovable. That is something I understand.  I have had clients cry when they see their portraits and realize how beautiful they are inside and out. I feel so fortunate to be given the chance to capture the grace, wonder and fun of being female, while showing women that it is ok to see themselves as beautiful as well as strong.

I have created a life that fills me with contentment. I get to play with my daughter, have work I love doing, read my favorite books, drink wine with my friends, and make enchiladas and cake (my favs)! I am very fortunate. I have known for some time that I want to give back and been working on what that would look like. The people in  my life who did not protect me or hurt me are my past, but they no longer define me. My story is so much more than my past. My story now will include women who invite me into their life as they change their story.

From January 1, 2015 moving forward, 10% of all profits from Radiance Sessions will go into a fund for women who have experienced abuse to come have a Radiance Makeover Portrait Session. If you are interested in donating to the charity please email me at jen@jendeanphoto.com.  If you know of someone you would like to nominate for the charity please talk to them first and then get in touch with me. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that it has given you something to think about and that maybe you too will become part of an open dialog about domestic abuse.

Love who you are. Right now.
- Jen

PS: I owe a big thank you to my friend-family who read and edited this and who encouraged me to share it.