2021: I'm a Time Catcher

It is the end of 2021 and I am finding myself lost in thoughts of reflection of the year that is about to come to a close. It started with big ideas of what 2022 would hold for Project Joy Photography. Finally feeling like I have found my feet in this business, I am overrun with new session ideas, new locations to try, new documents to create, new products to provide, and ways to alter and improve my website. That is how it started, but that is not where I am now.

It slowly morphed into personal thoughts of accomplishments and failures that I endured over the last 12 months. People I have met, experiences I have had, and pain that I have felt. It is strange how the New Year affects us. It feels like a new start; a fresh and clean slate. In reality, it is just an extension of the day, week, a month before. I suppose a line has to be drawn somewhere to "start anew" but if you really think about it, it is just time - which according to Einstein, does not even really exist. Every second passes so quickly, a moment in time does not actually stand still long enough to exist. If you think about that too long - it may make your head hurt, I don't advise it. But, alas, it feels true sometimes. However, with photography, you can make time standstill. You can capture a moment that would otherwise drift into the next second. I love that I can use my camera to capture an emotion, a feeling, a moment. It could be a moment of vulnerability or of intense anger. A moment of love or fear. Whatever the moment, it is stuck in my lens and in my camera so that it never truly disappears. Perhaps I will stop calling myself a photographer, and change my title to "time catcher." Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I digress...

Project Joy in 2021

This past year, my business has grown so much. I am so incredibly humbled and honestly, elated with joy when I look at the progress Project Joy has made since 2018. I still have more work to do and as stated above, so many ideas - but I can't help but smile when I look at how much I have grown as a photographer (time catcher) and how much my business has grown. I met so many amazing people who were clients who I hope to see again, whether it's photographing them or just seeing them around, and I learned so much about my craft. That is what is so incredibly beautiful about photography - there is always more to learn. Whether it is with the functions of the camera or an editing tool in photoshop, there are always new things to discover and things to improve upon. Each year I am plagued with the insecurity of imposter syndrome while at the same time, feeling so accomplished in what I do. It is quite confusing, to be honest. How can someone feel so bad and so good all in the same day? Maybe this is just me - but I have a sneaky suspicion that it isn't.

This year I was lucky enough to engage in more Senior Portraits than any year prior, and, spoiler alert - I LOVE THEM. Working with these amazing young people as they embark on their lives is so.much.fun. The challenge of getting a 17 or 18-year-old to let loose and show their true selves on camera is a challenge that I enjoy so much (maybe a little too much). Especially the boys. Man, they can be hard to crack. But, at that moment, when I see a genuine smile and capture it in my time catcher device, I just feel filled with a sense of accomplishment. I had several clients tell me post-session that their son "actually really enjoyed the session" and that, to me, is priceless. Most of them are dreading it and put it off just as long as they possibly can, and if I can make that hour fun and enjoyable, then I must be doing something right. I should probably say right here, that not EVERY senior man gave me that feedback, so there could be someone out there cursing their time with me, but I can't think of anyone who gave me that impression. So, yeah - Senior sessions may become my jam. LOVE THEM SO MUCH. (2023 seniors: for a good time call - 614.226.2676).

As always, my heart belongs to families. Families are why I started this adventure and families are why I stay. Family is everything to me. EVERYTHING. So, capturing the dynamic between a mother and her kids, a husband and his wife, a sister, and a brother, is priceless. We all know that everyday life isn't as "picture perfect" as the time catcher makes it appear, but if you can find the authentic moments of the love that only a family bond can show, you've got a moment in time to hold onto forever. Nothing can replace the feeling you get when you see a mother intently hugging their child, not worried about how she is posed, or how she looks. Or a father getting a big kiss planted on his cheek by his child as he basks in the love they are showing. Or the hug between siblings where their smiles are big and their laughs are genuine. I love being a witness to these moments. I love pushing people out of their comfort zones and making them feel okay to be vulnerable in front of me and the camera. My biggest challenge is always the dad, but I am proud to say that a few of them told me they had a good time on our sessions. I begged them to post a review saying that - but I am not sure that came to fruition, but I know they said it, and that is good enough for me.

This year, I also embarked on a branding and headshot endeavor. Also a new experience I enjoyed immensely. Headshots are fun, and trying new things in this realm is also really exciting and rewarding. The typical stale headshot is not as embraced anymore and having a client look beyond me or not directly at the camera produces some really authentic images. When it comes to branding, I've developed an appreciation for still photography.

Photographing objects/rooms/items instead of people can be just as exciting. Finding new perspectives or ways to look at an object is challenging and rewarding. Playing with light, location, or angles is something I have found really enjoyable. Oftentimes I will go to a branding session and take the photographs they request, stopping along the way to just grab an image of something that looks promising in my head - hoping they can use it on social media or a website. Creating bright and beautiful images displaying a location or product is a lot more fun than I imagined it would be. I am sincerely hoping to be able to book more of these types of shoots this year and have them listed on my non-existent list of goals for 2022 (it's all in my head).

Me in 2021

This past year may have been one of the biggest years of growth in my adult life. I don't say that lightly and mean it sincerely when I say I am not the same person I was at this time in 2020. In 2020, I lost people, I grieved our society and the pandemic, I spiraled out of control emotionally and physically in ways I never thought I could. I skimmed through the year unaware of all the things that were going on in my brain, only to look back and be astounded at the amount of fear and pain I actually experienced. My kids struggled, my husband struggled, my family was out of wack. Despite the year that was ground zero (aka 2020) I realize now how it prepared us for 2021. Still fighting the invisible virus circling our society, we somehow had the wherewithal to unconscionably use what we learned in 2020 to conquer 2021. Although still difficult, we walked into 2021 with the knowledge of how things had to be and what we had to do to make the most of it. Still plagued with hard times, but creating safe and responsible good times in the midst of the bad. I took on a part-time position that I absolutely love, my kids started school with hope instead of dread, and my husband is in the process of making the most of the work-at-home situation. We spent more time with family and took a vacation with just us. We played games, had movie nights, created traditions, and talked. We talked and we listened. It wasn't the easiest year for everyone in my house, but I really believe that the hard times prior prepared us for the hard times now.

The motto of the year 2021 in our house turned out to be: "Depend on yourself for your own happiness, not others." Independence was the goal, and being alone was the test. Finding joy in being with yourself and truly enjoying the company you keep. Letting loose on screen time restrictions and talking openly and honestly about real-life things, like friendship, image, flaws, and mental health all played a part in 2021. It wasn't an easy year, but it was a year of growth, disappointment, realizations, and bonding.

2021 is almost done and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared of what 2022 will bring. However, I am choosing to go into it with stars in my eyes and hope in my heart. I know there will be drama, sadness, and despair - but if I go into it prepared to fight for happiness and health, then I can and will succeed. I promise to bring my family, my friends, and my clients truthful and authentic versions of myself, my time catching, and strip down the bullshit to live the way is meant for me. I am done with worrying about judgment from others, imposter syndrome, and baseless anxiety. I know the pandemic isn't done - and there is not a lot I can do about it (I am vaxed, boosted, wear a mask, etc) but I can decide on how I am going to embrace the world and the craziness that it is offering us these days and do my absolute best at being a parent, a wife, a person, and a time catcher.

Happy 2022 people. I wish you moments of joy, sadness, growth, and perspective as we enter into the "clean start" and "new beginning" that time (which doesn't exist) is offering us. Let's do this.

*Amazing photos of my family courtesy of Scarlet Graves Photography*