I’ve known this woman most of my life - she’s a fire ninja with a sense of humour, a hard-working dreamer, a lovable metal-bending sister who turned a corner of the family welding business into a dreamscape of metallic creatures and creations that could only come out of this beautiful brain!
I love asking couples about their history. It always brings out inspiring stories about how and where they met and a it's a reminder of the serendipity of it all. How on earth we end up where we end up could be so wildly different if we had only made one choice per day differently. For Renata and Cameron, a series of choices and challenges define the 25 year road they've travelled together. They began as two young babes, on September 15th, 1990.
When I asked Renata her story, she began like this:
"I was 16 years old living in São Paulo. One night I went to a party with school friends which was to be a blind date with my friend's brother-in-law. I remember thinking, "He better be nice, because I'm going to marry him." He was 20 and was in university. He thought I was 18. When he realized how young I was, I guess it was too late.
We dated for four years before moving in together and lived together for four more years before deciding, on a whim, to get married. We began thinking about moving to Canada, and thought it would be easier to stay together if we were legally married, so four months after his proposal, we eloped. We had decided to sell our car to buy our tickets to Canada, but our car got stolen, so the Canada dream had to wait another two years. One day we decided it was time to move, so we quit our jobs, packed two suitcases each, closed the apartment and moved to Toronto, Canada."
"Oh, those first years! You know those wedding vows... for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part? We started off with with the bad... the 'worse', 'poorer', 'sickness' part. The first 19 years were a rollercoaster. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. At the time it seemend like a never endingbad luck streak, but it's so nice to look back after all these years and see how far we have come... Yes, we made it! We also probably hold the world record of longest time together before having a child. Our son celebrated his first birthday just after our twenty year anniversary of being together!
Because of that "poorer" part, we never got to have decent pictures of our elopment. A cousin was nice enough to take pictures for us, but then I destroyed the kiss photo by opening the camera thinking the film had been unwinded, when it hadn't. So, when we celebrated 25 years together, all I wanted was some great pictures. We are a bit heavier, there's less hair, but oh, how I treasure these images!"
I'm so thrilled to introduce you to Sandy! A Career Management Professional and certified coach, Sandy is a firm believer that our lives evolve most when we are open to opportunities. She lives by the motto, 'Dwell in Possibility' because she's learned that anything can happen. When you meet Sandy you feel a profound sense of calm and positivity. She's climbed Kilimanjaro, navigated her unique patch to professional success and remained a humble giver and all around beautiful energy to be around. Sandy agreed to share a few thoughts on fabulousness and authenticity, which, in my opinion, this woman has nailed in spades!
How to Look and Feel Fabulous or Why I’m Tickled Pink
With a sigh, I hung my beautiful wedding dress back in my closet. A single occasion gown. I knew I wouldn’t wear it again. With an uncharacteristic lack of sentimentality and show of fiscal responsibility, I had decided to sell my gown, and so I took it to be cleaned in preparation. To my dismay the cleaner declined to risk treating the hand dyed fabric. So, back into the closet it went, and stayed, amongst other precious but seldom worn garments like my mother in law’s fur coat and my husband’s leather university jacket. I need to tell you about this dress. It’s a soft ballerina pink. The full silk skirt is covered by a heavenly swath of pink tulle. The back is sheer, adorned only with a single row of covered buttons from neckline to waist. All of it envisioned by me and skillfully created by a movie costumer designer with nimble fingers and a creative love. I’d never felt so special or feminine as on my big day and my dress played a huge part in that. So it’s very sad to me that my wedding photo album is missing but one shot - a photograph of me, by myself - rapturously enjoying my gown.When I asked Angela what I should wear to my “Notes to Self” shoot, she suggested that I wear a dress, something that made me feel fabulous. This was after she looked at my Facebook page, showcasing me mostly in athletic gear. Hmm, I wasn’t sure where she got the dress idea. I only own three and none would qualify as making me feel fabulous. I couldn’t imagine wearing any of them for a shoot, let alone a pose I could strike!
. Late on the night before the shoot, I remembered my pink wedding dress - the only dress I have ever loved. I sent Angela a note about my dress and a photo of it. “YES”, she exclaimed, “You have to wear it! It is fabulous!”The next night, she and I jumped into my VW beetle, me at the wheel with tulle up to my ears. We hurried to the location, knowing we had limited time to catch that elusive magic hour light. And we did have magic. I had fun. We both laughed. I was wearing my ‘Sandy’ dress. No heels, just barefoot in the grass. I didn’t pull out the hairspray or comb that I had brought along, just in case. I was able to be myself and there isn’t anything easier to be….if only we could allow ourselves the luxury of just that - Being ourselves….that’s when we look and feel fabulous, both inside and out.
Location: Hillary House National Historic Site
Averill Bell is an artist, manifestor and magnificent mother of three. She's fearless in her pursuits and relies (with a great deal of success) on her free spirit and kindheartedness to overcome challenges. Averill aspires to enjoy life no matter what comes her way, to laugh, smile, drink wine and always be grateful for what she has been given. No matter what, "Life is Good!"
As a photographer, being on the other side of the camera is very different for me. It is not a place where I’m used to being or at all comfortable, but it’s important from time to time, to get out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves in ways we normally wouldn’t.
There is something to be said for having courage and allowing yourself to be seen. I’m not as skinny or as fit as I used to be, I have plenty of wrinkles and grey hair. My body after three babies has taken a beating and I’m not as young as I once was. So is this why so many of us are afraid to have our picture taken? To have a moment where the focus in on us? Why do we hesitate to give historical and photographic proof of who we are, especially as we grow older?
As women, and mothers in particular, we typically don’t like to be seen. But our existence needs to be captured and we must take the opportunity to be remembered for who we are, wrinkles and all! We have to jump in, both feet, and embrace the moments we are given and not shy away from them. Too often we run away from the camera, feeling we aren’t in our ideal state – our hair is a mess, we are carrying a few extra pounds or have no make-up on. Sometimes we are missing from photos altogether because we’re just too busy doing other important things.
But it’s important that when our children are older, they have photos where they see us for the women we were – not for the outfits we were wearing or if we sucked it in enough. They don’t look at us that way. All they see is “mom” - how beautiful we are, the love we carry for them and hopefully, a warm and wonderful memory to go alongside the image. When I look at older photos of my own mother – all I see is how beautiful she is, her warm and tender smile, and how much she loved us. Nothing else! It’s vital that we start to see our beauty through our children’s eyes.
As nervous as I was to take this leap, I am so grateful to have had the courage to let myself be seen through the lense, to be captured in the moment, to let the world see who I am, to have an image of myself for my children to always remember, and above all – to allow myself the opportunity to embrace my own beauty and who I am.
Be courageous, smile and be seen!
If you don't already know this writer, I'm stoked to introduce you to her! Holly West is a Toronto-based writer, who is working on not being a lady of leisure. She likes fanfiction, documentaries, Dolly Parton, and cool and tart glasses of lemonade. Check her out at westerlywinds.tumblr.com where her refreshing and witty style will have you wondering where the afternoon went.
“Here comes the sun and I say, it’s all right.” ~ The Beatles
For me being seen has long been an issue – I stand a staggering 4’11” and have always been easy to miss in a crowd. I’ll admit blending into the tapestry was by design, but as the years and decades have marched merrily along I’ve made inroads into not only being seen but also being seen in the way that I want.
The day of this photo shoot I was on the tail end of some bleak mental health days and the further along I got in the long trek the more I felt myself unfurl – was it the literal physical forward motion? Was it the coy and interested looks some of the fairer sex were casting my way? Was it the landscape as it chased its way from pot-holed and industrial, to sprawling farms and smooth roads? Who can say, but by the time I hopped off the bus I was ready to lay bare all normally left shuttered away.
With the afternoon sun warming my freshly shorn head I sat on the parallel lines of train track and thought about all that came before and what is yet to be.
My last name may be a direction but I was directionless. Years of internal struggle left me adrift. But as my grandfather used to say, “hurry up slowly.” I was and am going to get ‘there’ someday. I now dress, cut my hair, and write so that I am presenting exactly who I am. You won’t have to squint to see me.
As the sunset and I headed home with my grass stained butt I felt that thing. You know that feeling? It feels a little like hope, a little like loving myself again. That love is helping me to have better days and a future that looks just as crystal clear as the sunlight highlighting the blue of my eyes.
Guest Blogger: Holly West
Find Her: westerlywinds.tumblr.com
Photographer: Angela Durante, Dukát Photos
One day an email came from a friend. She asked me to photograph her beautifully wrinkled belly with her kids to celebrate the work her body had done to bring two lives into the world. As I spoke to others about it, one mother turned into two, two into four. Before long, we were arranging a weekend-long shoot with a circle of women who wanted to celebrate their bodies and honour the magic of motherhood. Each mother also contributed a piece of writing - some wrote letters, some, words of wisdom and others declarations - and the following year we published the images and women's written pieces in a book called Conversations With my Body: Mothers. For a year it sat on my desk. I loved it. I showed it. When I asked the mothers in this project if they wanted to share it with you, the response was and overwhelmingly fearless, Yes! Today, we're sharing our magnificent mothers in the hopes that they join the quickening current of self-love and unique expression.
Pablo Neruda is a famous Literature Nobel Prize winner whose memoirs are titled, Confieso que he vivido. “I confess that I have lived”. This phrase is precisely the one that one day suddenly came to my mind one spring morning after having my second baby and spending endless hours in front of the mirror - Many hours or may be just many minutes that seemed like hours trying to find the “old" me within my “new” I. And just like that, this was the phrase that brought me peace - and still does when looking at my body on the mirror. The one that helped me to come to terms with my deep stretch marks, my c-section scar, my tired eyes. That is it, that is all. Since then on and in a revolutionary and rebellious latin tone- just as I imagine Pablo Neruda saying it when he came up with the name of his book, I think- sometimes aloud before turning my back to that implacable mirror… “ who cares.. I do indeed, confess I HAVE LIVED!”
I am a mother. It's quite possibly the most important role I will ever play in my life. And when I look at my daughter I am consumed with the idea that I need to be the best role model I could possibly be and it starts with loving myself. Sure things hang a little more than they used to - gravity has a whole new meaning. But to be perfect is to be imperfect. This is me - fearless and standing strong embracing what nature has given me.
As a Yoga teacher and counsellor at a women’s shelter, I talk to a lot of people, mostly women, about self-care. As a mom, I understand the need to take time for myself every day and crocheting allows me that.
I started crocheting 5 years ago as a hobby and quickly realized that it was an outlet for me. I am always amazed at what I can produce in a short period of time and the relief it provides me. My hands are always busy, always moving, and when I have yarn and hook in them I can make beautiful things for the people I love.
I knew my body would change when I had my son, and it has. My breast hang low after 2.5 years of breast feeding, my stomach is rounder, and I never sleep well because I’m up in the middle of the night wondering if I’m living my life right! I realize now that crocheting makes me a better mother, partner and friend.
I am so grateful to have found this gift and to be able to share it with the people I love.
Motocross is cool. Motherhood is cool. I am still cool. My passions and love for what defines me have only been empowered more by becoming a mother. Do not be quick to judge this book by its cover, as the cover has been reshaped, made more beautiful, and redefined by motherhood. This is my conversation with my body. Join the conversation.
Growing up, I never dreamt of marriage or envisioned a house full of kids. I had a few different reasons for “going against the grain” – or so I thought – but mainly though, I just wasn’t ready. I enjoyed sleeping in, staying out late, hanging out with friends, focusing on my career, on myself. And that’s exactly what I did for a very long time. And then of course that all changed when I met my husband. Just like that, I knew I wanted to become a family and instead of feeling panicky I felt excited about a new future. Women have been granted the gift of creating and carrying a life within us, such a beautiful and wondrous experience. How best to express how it feels to have a baby and to be a mother? It’s amazing and humbling, exhilarating and exhausting, peaceful and chaotic, imperfect, inconvenient and without question the most monumental occurrence of my entire life. Through all of this change I have emerged as a different version of myself and my body is the physical representation of all these things. I love my life and what I have become. I love caring for my little boy every day and watching him grow and change. I love being a mother, and the body that goes along with it.
Having children brought about a new found love and appreciation for my body (surprisingly). Prior to children the measure of my body was competitive and comparative. My involvement in sport measured by body's ability, or in my mind, its inability. Family, friends, magazines and a slew of influences charted where I compared to the rest of the world.
I am now most importantly a measure of my children, as they are a measure of me, physically or otherwise. My body's purpose extends well beyond the physical, thankfully leaving it's shape and size of distant importance.
My essential survival kit to motherhood:
Gratitude for my gifts,
a flow of reminders to live in the moment
and a sense of humour.
Lessons learned from my children. Thank you babies!
I always wanted to be a mother. Embraced my body changes for the rewarding experience of knowing that part of me is in each of my 4 beautiful children.
I would do it all over again....and maybe better knowing what I now know!
Life and motherhood (body and all) is beautiful!
Joy, new love, beautiful, gentle, speechless,
Overwhelmed, emotional, tired, exhausted, frustrated, grumpy,
Wide-eyed, Cooing, crying, laughing,
Silly, playful, spontaneous,
Chubby, healthy, exercise, food, cooking,
Confident, strong, happy, thankful, cherish.
I thank our Creator My Lord for blessing me with the gift of motherhood and giving me two beautiful daughters.
I dedicate this image to my daughters as a symbol of strength and Love, for it is their love that makes me strong. It is my children who give me the reason to fight, no matter what life throws my way.
To my girls, I love you with all my heart.
Deciding on having a child is momentous! A hard decision to make for those who are undecided like I was. In a world where the new generation can be a little selfish one of my biggest worries was that a child would take away from all the fun I was having and some of my natural beauty.
In fact, I'm so happy that I decided to take the leap, listened to my inner gut as I wouldn't change a thing. I'm having the best time of my life, exploring, learning as I go and watching my boy grow stronger everyday. The fun has just begun and I can't wait for tomorrow.
For those in the know - know that it comes with a little hard work and for those who are thinking twice do take the plunge, have no regrets, trust me you will have fun getting to know your new bundle of joy, to share your new found love and you're going to love it.
Today I celebrate the beauty found in real people - real mothers and real woman.
I'm a kid. Always been a kid. Having a child allows me to be a kid, to have fun and be me.
After having my second child, I became very self-conscious of my body. I knew my body would change but I wasn’t prepared for the stretch marks. It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that I would never have my flat, smooth belly back.
I am so grateful for my wonderful children and I wouldn’t change a thing! They look to me for strength and guidance and with unconditional love they inspire me to become a better mother. Each day I become more confident in myself and my body. This is me, this is my body and I am proud of what and who I am.
My husband says that “he sees the smiles of our sons” in my belly. What an amazing feeling!
Without a doubt, motherhood has been the most physical and emotional challenge for me. My prenatal and postnatal moments have shaped and tested my body in ways I could not even imagine. My two amazingly energetic children are continuously giving me the opportunities to learn life lessons in humility, patience, empathy, and love. I will teach them to be good to others, to care for the planet, and to be the best version of themselves. Because of them, I am strong and will always be their rock and safe haven when they need me.
Piccola Amore ... My Thoughts of You
Like a mamma lioness to her baby cub, fierce motherly instincts have kicked in and I will protect you with all my being.
You are my precious gift, my joy, my sunshine each morning. Miracle of life, I will nourish, nurture and love you with all my heart. There are no words to express the bond between a mother and child and the tremendous amount of love you feel instantly.
Little one, I will be strong for you, a mother you will be proud of and a role model worthy for you to look up to ... because ...
I CAN, I WILL and I AM ... a woman and mother totally in love with you.
This is my expression of strength and dedication to my baby girl.
Nothing can ever be the same. It has been a year, the most life-altering year, and my truth is that life, for me, can never be the same. You are self-sufficient, confident and adventurous, all that I aspire to be. Oh the things we will teach each other.
I write to commemorate our first year together, mother and daughter. You hear about this type of love, and it’s unimaginable, but I now know just how true it is. You are confident, self-sufficient and effervescent; all that I strive to be. Oh the things we will teach each other. There was a time when my life’s focus was work. I remember sitting at my desk, looking down at my ever-growing belly and thinking “I need to find balance in my life, perhaps this little lady bug is the ticket”. I loved every minute of spending your first year together; we made memories that will forever stay in that little corner of a mom’s heart. I had trouble adjusting, life was just so different, this wasn’t so black and white for me, there was a gray area, and something was missing. The year flew by, and returning to work loomed, I was nervous and wracked with guilt. One week in, everyone asked with their scrunched faces, “how is it going? Has it been as terrible as I hear it is?” No, it wasn’t at all! I felt alive, there was a new found pep in my step, in one word; it was awesome! Now a new guilt, where were my tears? Where was this horrible feeling of abandon? It took my first four days at work to realize, the gray was work, I had missed it terribly, and I was damn happy to be back. I want you to know that it’s OK to want it all. You CAN work and be a mom, a great mom at that. I know in my heart I am giving you the very best of me every minute we spend together, by fulfilling my dreams outside of being a mom.
A journey to learn so much more about Me.
I took in endless amounts of advice while pregnant. I read as much as I could. I improved my lifestyle to improve quality of life for the being inside my body. I devoted myself to my unborn child.
I was praised. Told I would make a great Mother. Listened to compliments and encouragements. Made note of the hardships of others. Compiled a strong birth plan. Pumped myself up to go drug-free for the sake of my baby.
Kept my body fit and ready. Did all the proper exercises. Even took up Yoga. Meditation. Faith.
Nothing prepared me for the mental stretch marks that becoming a Mother would bring. The scars of Motherhood that nobody else will ever see. The ones that will forever bring a heavy feeling in my heart and a tear to my eye.
Yet I carry those emotional scars just like the women who bear them on their skin. With pride. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I can do this. I did do this. Bring it on, one day I will do it again.
Thank you to all the mothers who brought their creativity and wisdom to the project, especially Becky and Anna who are the bones of the Conversations with My Body group, and to a fabulous father, László, who helped to capture each mother in her best light. No photoshop was used in the production of these images - just love, light and a circle of creative mothers. All images were taken in the fall of 2013 near Toronto, Canada.
If there is anyone who can summon spring's blooms it's Lisa. A bright, ever-smiling, creative beauty, Lisa hasn't changed a single bit since I last saw her twenty years ago. Lisa came into the studio this weekend with this caveat - "You know I've never done this before, right?" I assume she meant sit as a model. I dismissed her, perhaps too flippantly, because I knew that Lisa was the perfect choice for a project that needed doing. This has been a long and chilly spring and I felt we could all use a little bit of metaphoric conjuring. So, Lisa arrived, inspirational headpiece in hand (designed by Robin Sevigny) and no idea what to expect. Yes, spring can be a little like that, no? Let the warmup begin!
It didn't take long for Lisa's transformation into Spring to take shape.
With her headpiece in place it seemed that Lisa was indeed invoking the grace and awe that the season holds.
And if nothing else, Spring has had her fun with us this year!But our allegory for Spring didn't seem complete until we ventured into the wilds where Lisa gave in and truly embraced her role as mother nature's most optimistic daughter.
So let this be our ode to Spring, our visual invitation for the beauty and miracle that the season offers, and above all a threshold through which we can pass and emerge refreshed, vibrant and inspired.
An enormous thank you to Lisa for being the most beautiful of muses and an enthusiastic proponent of "Anything for Art" which she repeated vehemently as we shot outdoors. Thank you also to Robin Sevigny for the beautiful spring headpiece, to Alaina Lee for styling Lisa's amazing hair, and to Laura Misek, Linda Allen and Anna Andronova, three most creative and knowledgeable assistants. Now, bring on the Spring!
Here in Canada we're spending today celebrating FAMILY DAY! So, it seemed appropriate to feature the Dabits. We hit High Park, Toronto with them last Sunday morning with the snow falling gently and the trees piled high with white - the perfect backdrop for family fun and some wintery family photos. Happy Family Day to everybody celebrating with the people they love most today!
I LOVE surprises. The kind that no one plans for you. The kind that just happen in life that fills you up with inspiration and energy. This week I was hired by the Ontario Historical Society to photograph their 125th Anniversary Celebration held at Queen's Park, Toronto. The OHS has been around since 1888 - a fixture of Canadian History as much as a purveyor of it. They are a non-profit corporation, publisher and registered charity who work inclusively to bring people together in the interest of preserving Ontario's history. As an honorary patron of the Ontario Historical Society Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley hosted the celebration in the Lieutenant Governor's Suite, where I fell in LOVE. The LG Suite is home to a stunning exhibition of portraiture called "About Face: Celebrating Ontarians Then and Now." It is inspiring and flawless in its gorgeousness. It features dozens of striking portraits of notable Ontarians spanning 150 years; from Pauline Johnson and Robertson Davies to Dre, Jian Ghomeshi and Chris Hadfield. I revelled in the few minutes I had alone with the portraits before the guests arrived - I stared and studied, overwhelmed with the feast for my eyes and my soul, unsettled on which wall moved me most. Any lover of portrait photography could watch these walls for hours. And what a perfect venue for a celebration of history. Isn't that what every photograph ever taken does? Perhaps we don't hang them all on the wall for public admiration but every image we take and preserve is the doing of history. It's that person's presence in that moment documented for as long as that photograph lasts. I was speechless and taken and filled with new desire to take more pictures and make more art. I walked home in the rain that night with a big smile on my face. I couldn't have cared less that it was wet or freezing. It reminded me of falling in love. Yes. It's THAT good!
The exhibition in the Lieutenant Governor's Suite is accessible to the public until March 31, 2014 and it's free! If you're interested in visiting, you can get more information on the City of Toronto website, here.
Re-meeting old friends and school mates after years have passed is good for the soul. Not only are you reminded of beautiful people you used to know but you get to celebrate with them the amazing things that life has brought in the years that have passed. For Jayme and Robin, that includes two loveable little girls who keep them permanently poised on their toes. And yes, we parents might roll our eyes when we talk about our kids - it's obligatory when you talk to other people who have children - because they spread us thin and run us ragged! But, when the day is done and we finally sit, we're thankful for them and how much they enrich our lives. We know that someday, all our little babes will go off into the world to be the beautiful and kind people we have taught them to be and we will sit and remember the way they fought with one another and chuckle. We'll reminisce about the way they hugged one another and it will warm our hearts. After my morning with Jayme and Robin and their girls, I drove home to my own family grateful for the reminder that our kids are growing fast. When I got in the door I snatched up my two-year-old and smothered him with kisses. He fought to escape my grip... I rolled my eyes. Sigh!
Thank you Jayme, Robin, Teagan and Rhianne! I'm better for re-meeting you :)
Love & Light,