A Year in Self Portraits

 

I did something to challenge myself this year. I took a bold (well, bold for me) leap into one of my greatest fears in photography - pointing the lens at myself. I had admired other photographers who pursued self-portraiture as a means of understanding both sides of the camera, but as for me, I had little interest in pursuing it myself. Though last January, I decided to give it a fair try, used a few boxes as a tripod, and took a simple portrait in my favourite coat. From there, I decided that maybe this could be the year I would document pieces of my own life in a more personal way than I have before.

Fast forward twelve months, I could not have known everything this year would hold - that I would be sitting here feeling like a different person in many ways than I was this time last year. I am grateful I chose to capture it in this way as it has helped me face myself, see myself, and get over myself. It is humbling to see myself in the realness of my own fragility, but I feel that much more grateful to be nearing the end of this year with greater empathy and deeper joy than I could have imagined. Taking time to reflect on my past, mistakes, trials, and victories is something I consider important in moving forward, living better, loving better, being better.

And for this year that is coming to its end, I can say more truly than I have ever said before. Jesus is more faithful than the sun that rises.

- S

 

January

Winter

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February

A Home Video

March

The Art of Procrastination

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April

Spring Brought Its Warmth

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May

The Cottage My Grandfather Built Destroyed By Winds and Waves

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June

Coldness in the Morning

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July

That Day I Felt Fragile

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August

Nothing and Everything

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September

Packing for Norway

October

A New Beginning

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November

My Heart is Not In My Body

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December

Alive

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For the Hearts that Hurt

I have been sitting on these photographs for a month now, trying to find words to attach to them.

It seems as though every time I have tried to write, I just find myself hitting the backspace and starting over. Over and over and over again.

Sometimes it can feel rare to find the hurt you’re carrying echoed in another. Ariana and I met for a couple of hours over coffee while she was in town after not seeing one another for nearly two years. We hardly needed to catch up because within minutes, we discovered that although by way of starkly different circumstances, we were both in a place of grieving.

Grieving feels like a heavy word.

It is often associated with death.

But I am convinced, that you won’t live a long life and die one day without already experiencing death a hundred times before.

I am not talking about physical death.

Sometimes, you meet the death of something inside of you.

These may be the dreams that never took root, love that couldn’t last, seasons of life passing as quickly as they came.

As for me, I have felt this more deeply this year than any other. Last December my grandfather passed away and with him, an era of my life and upbringing that I will never have again. Since then, I feel as though I have been facing a series of things dying in me. The kind of grieving I have found myself in I can’t even place on one sole event, place, or person. My Mom said to me, “Sarah at this age, you’re life is unfolding in sweet seasons, but they do pass quickly”. For months, I have felt as though the fabric holding this heart together has been fraying at its edges and unravelling me with it. I think the time you have to live in the tension between loss and all that is yet to come can be disheartening, isolating, and even numbing. Though in the midst of it all, I have held to the promise of resurrection.

That is the beautiful thing about things dying in you.

Just like the wild flowers, old things die, so new things can grow up from their soil.

The truth is, you can’t wish winter away. It comes, and you have to face it. I feel this deeply today as the snow is blanketing the ground outside my window. You have to be in this place of clinging to hope when it doesn’t seem present. I have been learning what it means to sit with myself, to grieve well, to not dismiss my own emotions, and to not allow myself to suffer in my natural tendency to withdraw, to understand that you don’t have to fully move on before you can move forward.

These photographs are an expression of all of this. Ariana came to the studio hours after I first got the keys to it. We tore the blank pages out of one of my journals and began writing. We had no objective, no expectations. We just wrote. We filled nearly every page with words. Naturally, we were both crying as a side effect. It just happened. The least natural thing to do would be to pull out a camera, but we had decided that whatever this morning became, we were going to capture it. Call us “weird, moody, artists girls”, but quite honestly, we didn’t spend a penny on some of the best therapy out there.

The photographs could easily be misunderstood or dismissed as “misery loves company”, but that is truly missing the point. These photographs are an expression of humanness, in one of its rawest forms. In the simplest way, they are a reminder that grieving is vital for the heart. For all of the times we have told ourselves not to cry, to just “get over it”, we strip our hearts of their softness. I am confident that it is better to have a heart that hurts than a heart that is hard.

You have to feel so you can heal.

Let yourself, my friend.

And don’t you lose that heart of yours. The spring is on its way.

-S

Newfoundland 02

I had the best fish cake of my humble existence.

We stood on top of cliffs in 100km/hr winds and didn’t even die.

My sister turned 20.

My friends got engaged.

Four days and seven friends running around St. John’s for a much needed trip to clear our heads, laugh with our whole bodies, and appreciate the beauty of a province that is a true treasure - in landscape and people.

Grateful.

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Cape Spencer Lighthouse

I was running on less than four hours of sleep, packed the car in the pouring rain, and found myself on the coast just after 7 am, skies beginning to clear above me, golden and grey. 

These photographs are from a place I love.

Sisters and the Lupin Patch


"Sister" is a title I have worn since the first second of my life. 
It is the greatest gift I never chose. To grow up so closely alongside 6 other women. To have carried each others dreams and heartbreak and loneliness and risks and joys. To have been the 15 year old who would cradle her crying baby sister, to becoming the 22 year old who ugly cried in that now 7 year olds arms the other day (Danielle is the very best therapist no joke). As we grow older, our individuality has become more obvious in the different paths we have chosen, and it is a beautiful thing to be able to be championed by the girls who have known you since the dreaming days. 

Long live the girl squad.

The Quiet Coast: Home

I suppose I have come to the place where I can live without mountains in my back yard or skyscrapers towering above me. I can handle harsh winters and the cold that chilled my spine as I walked to the post office to pick up a package this morning.

But the coast. I don't know if I could distance myself too far from the coast. 

High cliffs that overlook untouchable horizons and seas that separate continents are my favourite kind of landscape. My favourite kind of anything really. 

I fight with the wind, wander until I can't wander anymore, and then I am there. All that is standing before me are high tides of a deep sea, currents that echo the stirring in my heart for something greater, something more vast and expanding than the walls that hold my spirit can contain. I lose my breath and feel like I can finally breathe again.  

Sometimes I feel as though I am a hurricane in the form of a girl. But the vastness of the ocean puts me in my place. No storm inside can be greater than the ones that rock the waters, and if Jesus calmed the sea, He can do the same thing in this little heart. 

I'm going to visit the ocean on Thursday. It's been a bit too long. 

But for now, I thought I would share these photographs, captured here on the east coast of Canada. I have thousands of photographs that feel so familiar to me that I forget that I haven't actually shared them. These were all taken in the last few months. I love this place. 

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