I have recently just returned from two very inspiring photographers workshops where we talked about our '“why”. Why do we take photographs for others? You would think that this would be a fairly easy question to answer. But a lot of soul searching was needed to give the true answer to this question.
I first attended the Learning To Fly retreat in October 2015. Whilst listening to the very talented Paula O’Hara about her photography journey I had my lightbulb moment. I realised then why I love doing what I do for other people. I have been meaning to write about this since 2015 but have always put it off. But having attended the Learning To Fly retreat again a couple of weeks ago I felt the need to share my story.
Rewind back 41 years. Back to 1977 - 3 years after I was born. In 1977 my life changed in its entirety & for the better. I was adopted by Sean & Sinead - aka mum & dad. They hadn’t been able to have children of their own &, thankfully for me, they decided to adopt. I grew up in a happy house, full of storytelling, imagination, creativity. We didn’t have much money back then but that didn’t stop my brother, sister & I enjoying our childhood. I have this to thank for my own creativity and imagination when it comes to working with kids in the studio for my themed shoots. It brings me back to my dad telling us about goblins trying to get us as we drove up Slieve Gullion in a clapped out old Renault 5 called Clarissa. Those goblins were the exhaust needing replaced but it was so much more fun for us thinking we were trying to escape the goblins while searching for fairies.
As I grew older I suffered from a real identity crisis. I didn’t know who I was, where I fitted in, who I looked like, where I was born, what time I was born at……. This really affected me in my teenage years, & with the help of my mum & dad I started the long journey in trying to trace my biological parents when I turned 18. I came across brick wall after brick wall. Dead ends everywhere & it was soul destroying. I felt so strongly that I needed to find them to find me.
I went to counselling at my local hospital with the loveliest of ladies who helped me get my head around my adoption, talking about the feeling of rejection, the feeling of not belonging anywhere. We talked about what would happen, if I traced my biological parents & they didn’t want to see me or the opposite if they did want to be part of my life. My mum & dad, whilst having their own fears about me tracing my biological parents, were such an immense support to me through that time. I was so angry with the world and I know I put them through hell at times with how I treated them. I needed to lash out & like a lot of people it was the people who gave me the most love that I lashed out at.
When I was 19 I did trace my biological father & met him & his family which was a really positive experience then. But I still had no idea where my biological mother was. Over the next 5 years I kept looking and due to a chance encounter between a lady who worked in welfare at the time I was adopted and my granny I finally met my biological mother - I was 6 months pregnant with my own daughter. It was at this time that I received the only picture I have of me as a baby. A lot of my questions were unanswered, meeting my biological mother didn’t automatically give me my identity like I thought it would. I struggled after my eldest daughter was born 3 months later. I had severe postnatal depression - the doctor likened it more to battle fatigue/ PTSD as I had gone through so much.
My brother had a daughter a year before me & when her & Becca grew older I could see how alike they looked. She had the same colour eyes as me & Becca. This might seem trivial but to me it meant the world. Finally I looked like someone, had the same features as they had. This was the start of me realising that I did know who I was, I had my own wee family & that meeting biological parents wasn’t what was going to give me my identity.
My photograph of me as a baby helped me so much - finally I knew what I looked like. I did get the information about what time I was born at & where but they didn’t really make any difference.
It was only while listening to Paula back at that retreat in 2015 that I realised this photograph was my “why”. I returned to the retreat this month & it reminded my again of my “why” & the journey I have travelled to get there. I also attended Burn Workshop last week & listened to very talented photographer Nadia Meli who spoke about finding your “why” - hence the kick up the backside to write this.
I love capturing special moments for my families and my couples whether its in the studio or on their wedding day. I love it because it makes me feel alive, it makes me feel that I am creating something special that families will look at down the generations, I love it it because I am giving them something & that child something that I didn’t have until I was just about to become a mother. Something that will show that child how loved they are, how important they are in their families lives. How amazing a gift that is to be able to give to people! I am so fortunate that I found photography when I was 39 & going through a really rough time in life (maybe it was photography that found me).
No matter what you do in life capture your children, capture you with your children, print the images & display them so that your children know how much they mean to you, that they know exactly where they belong. My mum & dad took me to a studio after I was adopted to capture our adoption photographs. 41 years later they are still called our “adoption photographs” & take pride of place on the wall in my parents home. I love those photographs as I can see how loved I felt, how happy I was to be with mum & dad. But I love them even more now that I have the one baby image of me.. the life before I came to mum & dad.
I suppose I should really show you me seeing as you read so far:
Thank you reading through my ramblings. Thank you to the Learning To Fly photographers retreat, to Jay who brought his idea to life, to Paula for allowing me to open my mind & my heart fully to find out my “why”. Thanks to Rob who also brought his idea to life with Burn Workshop & to Nadia for getting us to question our “why”
I love the fact that I get to do this as my “job” now, creating memories for children and their parents. Maybe we all have to go through hard times to truly find ourselves.
The most important than you goes to my mum and dad who have made me the person I am today, for giving me a chance at being the best version of me that I possibly can be… love you both xx