Erin is one of my favorite people. She’s exceptionally creative and her passion for the things she’s interested in is borderline unparalleled. For instance, about five years ago she got into rock climbing and she’s now a manager at a rock climbing gym, leading clinics, taking people climbing outside in all sorts of gorgeous places, and constantly pushing her edge with her climbing to levels that make me near dizzy imagining. Check out her website, www.hotmamaerin.com to see what I mean. She’s also an amazing mother of two awesome boys, a painter, a seamstress, a surfer, a wild dancer, the owner of some of the most beautiful tattoos I’ve seen, and one of my favorite Scorpios. We’ve been through many powerful moments together and these photo shoots took our journeying into new realms of depth and embodiment. Every word from here on out is her description of her experience during her two photo shoots. You’ll notice a dramatic difference between them visually – and the same is true for the experience they took her on. Enjoy!
Fierce Yet Soft : Fall Shoot 2012
When I first started noticing the “I see your beauty” images rolling out on Robin’s Facebook I was immediately drawn to them. When she posted about her desire to come down and shoot in LA, I responded with an immediate yes. Was I aware of how powerful and transformative the shoots were going to be? No. I should have though, considering what I have experienced of Robin’s work. Thus began a journey through two very distinct shoots. Both with very different intentions and responses.
I have never loved being in front of a camera. I think I had rarely ever seen a photo of myself and responded with a feeling of complete acceptance. A true recognition of self, where what I saw before me on paper was actually how I perceived myself. The intention for my first shoot was to capture the fierce yet soft aspect of myself. I wanted photos that looked edgy and tough as well as images that were feminine. I realized I was looking for an integration. A combination of both my hardcore exterior with my deep sensual femininity.
After the make up was on and the outfits selected I began to feel that familiar pit-in-my-stomach sensation of being out on the edge. As a rock climber that sensation is a visceral one and one that I recognize as the total commitment to the moment feeling. Whatever happens, it is happening. I chose to be here. I made the choice to be vulnerable and in this case explore myself in a way that I knew would challenge me.
The first challenge met me before the camera even came out of the bag. We had to make a quick stop at the MAC counter before shooting to get a few things. I rolled up, fully dressed to the nines, the stylist took one look at me and said, “You need red lips.” WHAT?! I remember losing all touch with the moment and wishing I could just slink out away from that counter as if I had never existed. But knowing that the point of this type of experience is the yes factor you bring to it, I took a deep breath and I let him paint my lips a striking red. I had never even wore red lipstick. That was just to much woman for me to handle… or so I thought.
When the camera finally came out and we settled on a location my nerves were heightened to say the least. Robin was coaching me through moving in front of the camera which was completely unnerving. It felt like I was going to be caught. Caught somehow pretending at something I am not or rather something I am trying to be. This feeling fueled by the red lips, the made-up-ness of my appearance and the fact that two mutual friends walked by us and stopped to talk to Robin, recognizing her but not recognizing me, required me to seriously ground and connect with why I was doing this. This experience was for me to see a reflection of self that I wanted to own more deeply.
Since I had the pleasure of Robin staying with me while she worked in LA I was able to see my pictures almost immediately. I absolutely loved the images we captured that day. I looked fierce, intense and sexy. I felt my own power coming through the images and I looked stunning. Seeing myself in this way has no doubt changed my own self perception. They remind me of my strength and my beauty. I can see the rawness of my femininity and I love it.
Strength in my softness : Spring Shoot 2013
When Robin announced she would be heading down to shoot once again in LA, we made a plan for her to stay again in my home, and I jumped at another opportunity to do a shoot with her. Except this time I decided to challenge myself to go deeper. I loved the images from my previous shoot. I loved seeing my fiercely feminine self. However, over the months in between I felt that those images were what I want people to see and what I tend to present myself as. What began to emerge, catalyzed by the previous shoot, was a willingness to see and express more. My intention this time around was to explore transparency, which translated to me as softness and vulnerability. What am I when I am not identifying with anything? Will I still love what I see? I was also in the beginning stages of redesigning my blog/site and wanted some images to reflect the direction I wanted to go. Less edge, more depth. More integration of the total self. With all this in mind I set in motion an experience that turned me inside out.
When you go deeper you find shadow, and fear, and rejection, and the task becomes to stay present and find beauty in it. I tried to recall my intention as Robin asked me to tune in and be drawn to our first photo stop. I felt indecisive and resistant. I wanted someone to decide for me. I finally settled on a spot and I put on my first outfit feeling shaky and unsure of myself. The tears came almost immediately as the camera began to capture it’s love for moments. I couldn’t possibly be soft, beautiful and feminine. I felt bare and exposed. In my mind all I could hear were the reasons why I couldn’t and I shouldn’t. I wanted to move sultry and soft for the camera but I swore I didn’t know how to connect through the lens before me. Tears began to flow and I began to feel something other than fear. Softness. I wanted to fight back and I couldn’t. The moment wouldn’t allow me to fight back in my comforting ways of lessening sexual behaviors or powerful moves up rocky surfaces. Instead, I had to accept that I called this experience here to me. That I asked for my depth to be visible and my softness transparent even to my eye. Every moment in front of the camera that day, I felt I was being pulled from presence.
As we are shooting, a friend rolls up to the scene, much like what happened in the previous shoot. At this point I have given up fighting back and was kneeling in the grass in my salmon pink dress, red eyed from tears. We said our hello’s as I tried to look composed. She remarked at how beautiful I looked. I forced myself to quell the tears in response to her remark, my body trying desperately to take in her words. But I had to laugh nervously, embarrassed like I had just been caught in a moment of pretending. There was that feeling again. Pretending. Just as before in the previous shoot. My idea of self so strong that to let myself freely express was somehow equated with an act of pretending. I had made up my own judge that existed only in my mind, that I allowed to decide whose expression is real and whose is pretend. Throughout the shoot I was given many opportunities to unravel these deeply ingrained ideas of self … sometimes I fought silent and expressionless, at others I cried.
At the end of the shoot we walked quietly back to the car. I could feel myself oozing out past my bones and dripping on to the floor. The voice of opposition quieted as beauty and love had been given the wheel for the afternoon. I knew this feeling. It was the feeling of transformation. When the barricades to something deeper get bull dozed down and what’s left in the rubble can’t really be described yet. It hasn’t yet hardened into another brief persona awaiting to be crumbled again.
A few weeks later I received the email with my photos. I was genuinely nervous to see the images. As I viewed them for the first time, one after another felt like they were stabbing at already gaping wounds. My reaction was to shut my laptop and walk away. Walk away from all of it. Here is an excerpt of an email I sent to Robin in response to seeing these photos. I think it captures it perfect.
I went through this whole process after the first viewing where it felt like every part of me that was scared, fearful and entrenched in self rejection and self hate was right before me… bare and naked looking at me. I have had a whole story that these photos are just me trying to be something… something that I don’t even want to express/be. I have no idea what I am going to use these for because in some ways I can’t even really accept that they are me… this is like deep ingrained self hate / lack of acceptance… self inflicted for the most part I think. It’s like pressing right on old wounds and seeing how much they still hurt. It has been a roller coaster sitting with these images… the reality of what I put forth with the intention of being soft and transparent… why such intense lack of self acceptance? I have definitely had the opportunity clearly identify my extra harsh critic.
Truth be told I cried and recoiled from life for about a solid week after I first saw these photos. Finally several weeks later I had the courage to look at them again. The next few passes through the photos and I actually began to select a few that I wanted to have. I still cringed at others but something had in fact opened in me. I found through vulnerability a greater degree of acceptance and an understanding of the spectrum of expression that is me. I understand that I am the only person standing in the way of my own expression. Of living my fullness. That integration is something that I live through the acceptance of all aspects of myself.
Integration. Fierce Femininity. Depth. Softness. I asked for it. And I most certainly got it.
Thank you Robin … for your incredible ability to witness, guide and encourage with grace to explore the beauty inside. I am deeply grateful.
Erin’s website: www.hotmamaerin.com