“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” -Maya Angelou
the beautiful mother you see in these photographs, helen joy, wrote me this email months back when she asked me to photograph her family:
"I feel that no one has ever captured that certain beauty I feel wash over me when I am with my babies. Maybe it’s because I never trust the photographer fully to get it or maybe it’s because my kids are crazy and I feel like I spend photo sessions trying to get everyone to get into place and just so for the very non flexible photographer. I would love one “imperfect” shot of me with them. I know and trust that you will be able to capture it. I told my mother the other day that I hate looking into the mirror because I FEEL so much more beautiful than I see in a photograph or in a mirror. So I prefer to live my days just feeling the beauty. This is not to say I want to look thinner or more beautiful. It’s just that no one has ever caught that still, small moment of a piece of heaven that I feel scattered through our chaotic days. I believe after all my searching that you are the one who can find the beauty in me that I feel when I'm with my babies."
what a gift those words were to me. i kept that secret hope for the documentation of her motherhood tucked deep into my heart as i took these photographs. when i look at them i can almost hear her loud, deep, contagious laugh, her head thrown back in bliss, standing on the sand nursing her baby girl, her hair blowing wild in the island wind.
so, to you, helen joy, i say this: YOU are a masterpiece. not only because you are a mother, but because you are the most alive human being i think i have ever met, full of a million feelings and convictions and dreams. you have shown me that beauty shines from within, and that intoxicating light just pours out of you, drenching everyone in your presence with tenderness. you are a gift. thank you for choosing me. i hope that when you look at these images you see truth and depth and all of the beauty i witnessed. it was almost too much for my eyes to hold.
these photographs were taken on the tiny island of north captiva on the southern tip of florida. the george family drove 13 hours each way to meet me for the session all the way from asheville, north carolina! they rented a little beach house for a few days where they knew it would be as close to their happy place as they could imagine.