I am the oldest of six children. I have four sisters and one brother. Growing up in a house with five siblings wasn’t always easy, but it certainly wasn’t boring. Being the big sister came with responsibilities, most of them were everyday things like helping them keep their rooms clean, or reading bedtime stories for them, holding their hands while crossing a road, teaching them how to skate, helping with homework etc. Then there are the responsibilities that we can’t see, like making sure they feel safe at school, encouraging them to do their best, for me, this was the biggest part of being a big sister. I felt and still do, feel responsible for them, like so responsible that I once dreamt that one of my sisters and I were on a plane that was falling from the sky, she was full of panic and I could literally feel her heart racing, I covered her body with mine, knowing I would take the impact of the fall and might be able to save her. I wanted her to feel safe, to take some of the panic away, I wanted her to know that I would always protect her. Even in our adult lives I feel this for them.
This is Stacey, fourth child. My other siblings and I were born with slim bodies, just genetics I suppose. Stacey was always the curvy sister, always the one with the big boobs and tiny waist. She was also blessed with gorgeous thick hair and killer strong nails, but she never felt blessed. She always struggled with her weight, and after having four babies, the weight piled on, so I guess there were times she felt like the odd one out. She never said anything though. Not a word. The last year I have seen a massive change in her, she smiled more, loved more, played more, enjoyed life more, she cut out a lot of sugar, not for anyone else, not because her husband would love her more, he married her when she was a size 20, he loves her for her not what size clothes she fits into, but for her. She decided it for herself. There is a real shift in energy when someone decides to do something for themselves, and this was no exception.
When I told her that I would love her to be my model, she was hesitant, I told her that we’ll have fun, and she deserves to have beautiful photos of herself. She came over to my house, I curled her hair, splashed on a little makeup, wrapped her in tulle, and put her in a size 12 top. We giggled, a lot, we could have been transported back in time to my teenage bedroom, there is a deep connection between siblings and being in her company was easy. I have always known photographs are priceless, that my craft is my gift and this is what I was born to do. I usually photograph children, and receive beautiful compliments from parents about how their children loved the session, but I never realised the powerful impact that a portrait could have on a woman until I received this message from my sister after viewing a few photos from her shoot.
“I haven’t felt this good about myself since I was a teenager Tina, I didn’t even feel pretty on my wedding day and right now I feel pretty. This is all your doing, and I am so grateful to you for doing this with me today. xoxoxo”
The truth of the matter is, we never really know how people feel about themselves. I guess I’m a glass half full kinda gal and I always thought she was beautiful, I always thought she knew she was beautiful, but that wasn’t the case. When I read her message I felt a little sad, how could someone not feel pretty on their own wedding day? The sadness quickly turned to joy and damn the tears that followed crept up on me. I knew that this photoshoot meant more to her than it did to me, and that this gift was exactly what she needed. That somehow, our relationship has come full circle again, and I was looking after her, and because of that, she could see herself as I see her. Beautiful.