For the first time since we opened our doors in 2009, I closed them for a week to reconnect with myself and one of my best friends from high school. Jen and I have been friends for almost 25 years; she was my Maid of Honor in my wedding and I had not seen her since 2011. Jen flew out to Utah on May 27th. On May 28th, we head to Southern Utah where there was no cellphone service and the land was the way the Earth originally intended without interruption. We went to the Needles in Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah.
To say the two days with nature and no modern conveniences was humbling would be an understatement. I was profoundly reconnected with not only my dear friend, but with my own energy. As human beings, we are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful world full of natural wonders. The lives we have been given, plentiful or difficult, are blessings in disguise and always preparing us for a bigger picture. For two days, I was without makeup or worrying if my shoes matched my outfit. Will I be wearing heals today or flats? I simply headed out to the trails in workout gear and felt amazing.
Originally, we planned to drive down to the Canyonlands, explore and drive home. It was a 3.5-hour drive, so we knew it would be possible. When we arrived, Jen and I explored the Island in the Sky. We had hoped to hike in the Needles that day, but we learned we had to drive 50 miles south of where we were to do it. We decided to stay an additional night and explore the Needles the following day. We had no luggage at the time. We drove to the Family Dollar in Monticello, Utah and purchased a couple of clean t-shirts and shorts and drove to our hotel to rest. It was a great evening of washing out under garments in the sink and eating microwave pizza over girl talk. It was the best night!
The next morning, bright and early, we drove to the Needles. I cannot express enough how moved I was by the beauty of this place. To consider, at one time Native Americans and Cowboys navigated the land without the conveniences we all share today was extremely humbling. At 1000 in the morning it was already 95 degrees and we had an entire park to explore.
At around noon (literally like 1155 am), we decided to do a trail hike into the Needles canyons. It was around 100 degrees or better and we had a gallon of water each. We figured we would hike a trail called “Lost Canyon” which was estimated as 2.3-miles out and 2.3-miles back. Well, we took a wrong turn along the way and our 4.6-mile hike became an 8-mile hike. We ended up hiking 3.9-miles out to “Peek-a-Boo Springs” instead and 3.9 miles back, because we took the same way back so as not to get lost. After all, we had already done it once.
That hike was incredible. It was so beautiful to see nature uninterrupted. I returned feeling like there was nothing in the world I could not accomplish. Sometimes, I think we need to make time for those moments. I think we need to set everything down and go someplace to be uninterrupted to remind us how beautiful life really is, obstacles and all.
Every woman goes through a phase in life in which she asks herself, "Where do I belong." Sometimes, these explorations happen more than once. My dear friend Alicia told me during her session she was on this path. Now, I have photographed her many times over the past few years; she tends to utilize the camera as self-evaluation the same way a woman would use a mirror. Her shoot during this time in her life was incredibly raw.
I thought hard on the idea of sharing her vulnerability, but the fact is she is walking a path many of my clients are walking. A path that forces self-value to emotionally survive. Her strength and willingness to embrace weakness was as empowering for me as her commitment to self reflection through in my lens. Her photo shoot was shot without makeup and set with the intent capture her naked vulnerability.
What happens to a Queen when she has the opportunity to lay down her crown and embrace her beauty for what it is? She becomes comfortable with her own existence in her own space.
Melissa darns the crown of Miss Fashion Week Utah 2017. She has an amazing schedule of photo shoots and obligations that fill her schedule. During our session, I asked Melissa to set her obligations aside and to become nude for the camera. Not meaning unclothed, but raw with emotion and no makeup or couture gowns. I told her I would not be doing any retouching to her skin or body sculpting, because I wanted to capture her the way she is before the fashion world steps in.
She told me the shoot made her feel free and she was able to let down her guard and be herself for a few moments in her day. Here are a few of her images: