Mental Health and My Current State

Life scares the crap out of me most days. The shear potential of each day overwhelms me. As most of you know I self identify as a deep thinker. I have also told you that I struggle with anxiety and depression. This may come as a shock to some of you but I have also recently learned that I am an empath, a super feeler of my own emotions and others. (I honestly had no idea) Mental health and our each individual nature can look incredibly different for each person. Real talk time, for me, all of this presents as avoidance, rumination, and a lot of the time complete isolation where I feel shame, guilt, and envy. This comes from comparison, but it also come from within. Not knowing myself, not listening to myself, and running toward what I THINK I SHOULD be doing with my life. Can you relate? Recently I have promised myself to work on all of the above.

With photography, especially birth photography, I have seen many people burn out. This looks insanely different, just like anxiety and depression, for each individual. I have written a version of this post a few times now and noticed I kept pushing myself down to provide a lesson to you, the reader. This. Thinking I have to provide a scripted lesson over just sharing my own story is where I am burnt out and honestly a bit lost. I’ve started my business and fueled my passion out of a desire to do more, offer more, and provide what I did not have at any given point in my life. While noble, this "why" is incredibly unhealthy. I did not see what I was doing to myself or who I had become. A giver without regard for myself or even my family. This year I plan to simplify and figure out who Nicole is so I can better serve myself and others.

A powerful part of everything above is the lack of validation and the source of the validation. This is a hot topic word for me right now. The concept and definition I want to make clear, because for all intent and purposes I had it wrong. Validation is the "recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile." (dictionary.com) I’m just starting this journey and I do not have all the answers, but growing up the way I did, I did not get validation from my parents, was constantly questioned my friends, and therefore learned to question myself in everything. This lead to chasing likes, making excuses, pursuing leadership, typing lessons, and honestly doing and giving others what I desperately needed to do and give myself.

Recently, I met with a local friend and told her some of my troubles and she simply told me that I had given everyone else everything but have lost myself. The shirt off my back is gone, so to speak. I say a lot, too much probably, at every turn. I give, take on, and learn so that I can teach others, help, and support others. I got stuck. I’m still stuck. Worrying about everyone else’s business and families, everyone else’s reaction - this is something I thought didn’t affect me. I'm a doer, a change maker - I might be those things but I lost all grace and empathy for myself. I have recently learned this exact thing has held me back. Somewhere along my journey I have stopped creating for myself, for my local community, for my own family. Geez, this is all crazy hard to admit to you and to myself. I don’t have answers as to my next move - what is coming next - other than I need to be doing something different and more simple.

Knowing that ‘you can do more’ can become an excuse, a burden of sorts. Doing more is a big reason I stopped celebrating the tiny victories and chased the next thing I could show, share, and tell each of you who follow me. As much I as I believe in "shedding the should," I have should myself into a hole. The funny thing is I don't do this to others. I have spoken to many people over the course of the past couple of years. Helped many get started, been there for others, all while not really accepting myself. This has to change. I’m scared. I don’t know what this looks like. Asking for help doesn’t come easy. Admitting that I’m struggling is even harder. I’m not even sure what or where I need help most days. I’ve always considered myself the strong one, an island if you will, but as much as I have talked about not feeling lonely, I realize I may have been the most lonely.  

You heard that right. I am guilty. I don't reach out or ask for help often because I'm too afraid to do so and my anxiety about life leads me to avoiding everything and everyone. I also don't really know what I need help with other than to say I'm lost. I’m unsure of the questions to ask and conversations to have. Most days I want to sit still wrapped tightly in a heavy blanket. I have no clue if this is a common occurrence for others, so of course this creates doubt, which means I probably again won't reach out for help. Do you see a theme in this entire post. As I have read, reread, tried to rewrite this piece many different times I see how flippantly unsure I am of my own calling. This mental health thing is no joke. I want to talk about it though. 

Are you scared of sharing yourself? Do you have anxiety or depression? How does it present itself to you? Do you validate yourself or wait and hope for others to take up the slack? How are you feeling - really feeling? 

Birth + Photography Are Not A Competition

Birth is no place for competition. The the advocacy of birth by birth photographers is misplaced under the guise of an image competition. Are we not sharing our work and stories of birth in our everyday marketing strategy? Connect to your mission, your community, and seek guidance if you need it outside of competition.

What the heck is Documentary Photography?

First lets talk about the literal definition of documentary. Whether you use this word as a noun or an adjective, it simply means official pieces of written, printed, or other matter or a factual record or report. This is Google's definition. In my own words documentary, is a real life account of events. No choreography or staging. It is not a fly on the wall approach for me. While I do observe and anticipate what might happen next, my goal is integrate into your family, get close and step back, as any self respecting toddler with the a camera in their hand would do. 

 
richmond family photographer offers documentary photography to create images of parents and their kids.
 

While I have studied proper posing and have followed all the rules to learn my craft; rules are meant to be broken right? In a documentary session there are no rules, no posing, no guided interaction, or intervening (unless someone is doing something that may kill or seriously harm them self or another). I am hands off and integrate as another kid in your family.

You read right, I become a kid. I'm on their side, even though you paid for the the session, because it is their trust and unique character and how they interact with you, mom and dad, that we want to capture.

 
Nicoleinbold, arichmond family photographer offers documentary photography to create images of parents and their kids as seen here in a father and daughter mirror pose during lunch while at Children's Museum of Richmond.
 

Documentary photography is the observation of real life emotions and connection throughout mundane tasks and adventures alike. After all, it is those everyday moments, the goofy, sticky, tantrum filled moments, that you are going to want to remember so many years in the future. Unscripted moments documented are proof you lived, proof you tried and failed, proof that you existed with your children. Documentary photography is powerful.

 
Nicoleinbold, a Richmond family photographer travels to West End and Glen Allen to offer documentary photography to create images of parents and their kids as seen here in as this toddler give me the stink eye in her backyard.
 

Think of it this way, a yearly school photo can't capture you or your children's unapologetically being nor can it depict your authentic family. I don't mean to bash school pictures, they have their purpose; a record of a hair cut and missing teeth, or the phases of puberty. Documentary photography captures their fluid place in this world, as a member of your particular human unit.

That was a lot about kids, but documentary photography is also an account of your parenthood. It is a series of still frames that show your strength, perseverance, and love. We don't often have the opportunity as parents or even adults to see how much we are loved, how beautiful we appear in our surrounds, yes, even if that is a messy kitchen or toy infested living room. Sure we are tired most days, exhausted on others, but our journey with our children and partners is astoundingly profound.

Whether it be your child's unparalleled passion to share their emotions or your unmatched desire to remember the good and the bad I hope you consider a documentary photography session with me or an artist in your area, because your story matters in this crazy adventure called life.

Ashtanga Maternity | Pregnancy Inspiration | Richmond, Va

When I was pregnant over 4 years ago, I did one yoga class. I was living outside of DC, which is to say I lived a fast lane life and had a lot of trouble slowing myself down enough to think about let alone enjoy the art of yoga. I had a preconceived notion that all yoga is slow. Pregnant or not. Yeah - I was wrong in my thought process!

I am so happy to have met and been present for this amazing mama's maternity session. She practices Ashtanga and Rocket Yoga which is a considerably fast paced flow of yoga. This session really drove home for me the principle that pregnancy is a state of health and that pregnant women really can do every, assuming they are healthy. Check it out!

*NOTE* Be sure to clear physical activity with your care provider. This mama is an avid yogi who continued her practice throughout her pregnancy. 

Location: The Yoga Dojo

judgement and winning | image competition results

put yourself out there

There are so many ways to be judged in this world as a person, so why throw yourself into the limelight? As an introvert, putting myself out in the world is super hard. Now take this concept and apply it to an image competition, and I'm just about paralyzed with fear. Does anyone really ever feel like they have taken an award winning image? 

With any art form, you put a part of yourself into every finished piece. Especially the pieces within your portfolio that you share with the world. I know for me these images are of other's experiences, but it is still through my perspective, with my vision and final styling. Naturally, putting this piece of my heart up to be judged is not done lightly. With that said, without judgement or criticism, how am I supposed to grow and learn?

This year I entered 3 images to be viewed and judged in a new birth photography image competition called Elevate. You can click to read the judging process and rubric here. Further, you can see all the amazing finalists on their website.  

As for my images, thank you so much to my wonderful clients who allow me to hold space with them at such an intimate time in their lives and for allowing me to share their birth love stories with you!

Cherished

Cherished is a frame I adore. Mother's hand gently caressing her new tiny human's cheek, makes you feel the love and awe a parent feels when the finally meet the being they have felt so close for over 9 months. Full Birth Story

mirrored-creation.jpg

Mirrored Creation

Mirrored Creation, again is a frame I love as a member of this families journey to bringing their 4th baby into the world. Mom had felt the tell tale signs of labor early Friday evening. The birth team was on alert and stand by with them in the birthing center from Friday night until Sunday evening. This image was taken in that last tired and delirious hour of wanting to meet their newest family member. I utilized a prism to increase the emotion of the moment and now carry it with me everywhere I go! Full Birth Story

Persistance and Strength

Persistence and Strength is what every mother possesses. I was quite torn as to whether I should submit this image into a competition for it's sheer intimacy of life unfolding. With that said, this frame fully embodies the story of birth in one frame, from my perspective, with a clear focus on mom. I wish, deep down, that every woman could see a similar image of themselves in labor, from an out of body perspective, as she grips on to her lifeline while her world and heart expands to fit another beautiful soul.

with grit and grace,