To know her is to adore her. Bethany Harvey Stewart is one of the most unassuming women I have ever met. I have known Bethany for a few years now and our friendship has deepened over time with the advent of children, Facebook, and now, photography. I really enjoyed photographing Bethany for so many reasons….most of all because I witnessed that *moment* when she finally just “let go” and gave herself permission to show up in the photographs….and once she did she literally shone like a prism. She makes me remember that we are in fact spiritual beings- our body is our vessel, and our eyes the windows to our soul.
1) What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot ( before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?
When Robyn and Monica first asked me, my first reaction was that it would be fun. But, after I thought about it some more I was terrified. I was very nervous, not so much about taking the photos, but about other people seeing them. I was worried that people might think I was a narcissist for having pictures taken of myself, when in reality my self esteem was at a very low point. An interesting thing happened on the drive over, though. I really felt exhilarated by the idea of doing something that scared me. That hadn’t happened in a while! As far as what I was expecting, I know that you both are wonderful photographers, but you can only do so much with a subject! I have never enjoyed posed photos of myself….aside from my wedding photos and pictures of my pregnant belly. So, I was not confident…in me, not in you!
2) How did you feel during the shoot and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed or open to the process? Can you tell me if there was a point in which you finally “surrendered” to the shoot and do you remember when, and what made it happen?
I loved that the pictures were being taken at your home and on regular furniture, not with traditional photography props and and backdrops. That put me at ease somewhat. You and Robyn have such a good time together, and you both kept me laughing. I don’t know if I ever really “let go” completely, but you were both good at distracting me and eliciting natural smiles and expressions.
3) Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot.
Exhilarated, terrified, unworthy
4) 3 words for after
Exhilarated, optimistic, empowered
5) Three words for when you saw the results
Thrilled, surprised, flattered
6) After you left but before you saw the results – did you have any thoughts about the experience? What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?
I was laughing all night about some of the antics you two went through to get me loosened up! I was really nervous about having the pictures posted on facebook for the world to see.
7) When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
I wasn’t sure I was really looking at me!
Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
I got so many wonderful comments from friends and family (mostly women). I think most of them understood the motivation behind the photo shoot. So many of us stop thinking of ourselves as beautiful individuals once we take that leap to motherhood. Many women told me how brave they thought I was.
9) Did you feel beautiful during the shoot? why? why not?
Ummm, I was still feeling pretty unworthy during the shoot. When you showed me a couple of the shots on your camera mid way through, I felt a little more confident.
10) Did you feel empowered? why? Why not?
That feeling didn’t really hit me until after the shoot. I was so proud that I went through with it. It was so outside of my comfort zone…and I hadn’t been there in quite some time. That felt amazing.
11) Since the shoot happened almost two weeks ago now can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?
Since participating in the revelation project, the truth that has come to light for me is that sometime during the last five years, since I quit my job to be with my two children full time, I ceased to really see myself as an individual. I always put my needs last, even denied that I might have needs outside of caring for my family. Now many might say that that is what being a parent is all about. Being a parent requires always considering the needs of one’s children. I don’t argue with that. The question I have come to ask myself is, isn’t there a way to fulfill my own needs without sacrificing the needs of those I love? Wouldn’t taking care of myself and truly being happy and fulfilled, wouldn’t that in fact be the best gift to (and example to set for) my girls? Seeing those pictures of me (not of me and my kids, or even of me and my husband but of JUST ME) woke something up inside of me that had been buried far too long. I am excited to get to know myself again and I insist on making my own happiness a priority. The reality is, if I am not truly happy, I am not really capable of offering by best self to others either. We all deserve more.
12) Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? why?
Yes! I knew that I had been feeling low, but I didn’t quite realize how badly I had been perceiving myself until looking in hindsight after this experience. It was an amazing feeling looking at a beautiful, confident woman and realizing I AM HER. WHOA. Who knew?
13) Do you think it’s relevant for other women? why?
Yes! I have been encouraging everyone to try this. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like stepping outside of yourself and gaining a new and better perspective – on YOU. I am thinking more than I have in a long time about who I am as an individual and what I need to be happy and fulfilled. I want to make that woman in the photos proud!
14) How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? as gifts?
Any of the above. I am so happy to have them for my girls, too.
15) If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
I would say that this experience is an incredible gift you can give to yourself.