Photographing Love When Your Heart is Broken
If you've read this post, you know that I took a break from photo for a while. Many reasons prompted me to make that decision, but a big part of it was heartbreak. It's wild what a broken heart can put you through and make you believe about the world. But as I'm on the upswing of that bump in the road, I'm able to take a more objective, yet compassionate view about my tarnished perception of love.
I hate to admit it, but to be entirely candid, I stopped believing in love and had spitefulness toward the idea of relationships. Looking back, I understand why I felt that way and can accept that it was a part of my grieving process. However, I believe that I had externalized those feelings rather than keeping them to myself in relation to my own situation. I learned this pretty quickly as I realized that photographing love didn't make me jealous or spiteful after all; it made me hopeful and very grateful for how things have played out.
Amidst the heartbreak, I was terrified to shoot a couple's session or book any weddings. I was truly so broken down that I was anxious about the possibility of old memories coming back, causing me to get emotional during the session. In fear of it hurting myself or appearing unprofessional, I decided to take a break. Although, during this time I was still second-shooting weddings nearly every weekend. I actually assisted for a wedding the day after I had been broken up with. It was agonizing emotionally and I think that's what put that fear in my head right off the bat. I had to step away to cry more than I'd like to admit and definitely drove around in my car for an extra hour or two after the reception to feel out my emotions.
I realized that it wasn't that I was jealous of the couple, I'm not a jealous person. I was just grieving over what I thought we would share together. Obviously, you date to marry. At least I do. Anyone who has been in a relationship for a year+ knows that the idea of your 'dream wedding' gets tossed around. So it was tough brushing all of those thoughts off long enough to fulfill my role as a photographer.
Relationships of any capacity mean everything to me and I'm not someone who lets people out of my life easily. I think that's why this took such a hard hit. Moving forward, I knew that my relationship with clients needed to be mended and I had to reconstruct my mindset about relationships in order to give them my full-undivided attention and genuine investment into their love.
Giving love is a gift. Being loved is a gift. Photographing love is a GIFT like no other. About a week after the breakup, I had a phenomenal couple's session. It was some of my best work and a session where I felt the most confident. The couple was visibly so in love and they had a blast together. Seeing that in person and also while I was editing was enough to begin the restoration my faith in the possibility that I could be loved again. The way they looked at each other, would joke with each other, and embrace; it was so beautiful. After that session, I think it goes without saying that I shed a few tears. But they were honestly happy tears. I think the worst part about heartbreak is that it fogs your mind and leaves you feeling unworthy of certain gifts in life; like love. Through my client's love, I was able to break that wall and believe that one day I'd find someone that makes me as happy as they made each other.
It's also important to keep in mind that we're all on different paths in life. I know for me, entering the photographer world was intimidating for many reasons. But one thing I noticed was that most female photographers either shared their photo-biz with their husband or they were happily married/planning a wedding. There's a lot of unspoken pressure on us early 20-somethings to get married. I believe if you have found your soulmate, there's no need to wait. But for the singles, it feels like we're ways away from being where we're "supposed" to be at this point in our lives. I thought I had found mine, but God has other plans for me. Whatever those plans may be, I'm just trying to stay patient and in the meantime, photograph love to keep me hopeful for my own happy ending.
The moral of the story is that being a photographer isn't just a job, it's creating relationships with people. Our line of work is all about people, giving them the best experience possible to showcase their love in the most authentic way you can. But, at the end of the day YOU are also a person and your relationship with yourself should be at the utmost priority in your life. If you need a break, take that break. Mend your mindset so you can be on your game and give your best to your clients. Fall in love with your job and find faith through the love you're photographing. That's not to say you're not as capable of a photographer with a broken heart, but I do think you need to assess how it impacts your peace. If it comforts you and motivates you, keep at it. If you need some more time to rekindle those feelings, then please be patient with yourself.
Heartbreak impacts everyone differently. Especially so if you're in a line of work where relationships are at the forefront of your clientele and could serve as a reminder of what you once had. For me, reframing it from "I wish that could be me" to "I am *genuinely* so happy for them" has been remarkably helpful in my personal and professional development. It may take time, but deep down you know you are capable and worthy of a love so pure and unwavering.
I wrote this post as a branch from a book I have in the works. If you're interested in future blog posts about relationships and recovering from heartbreak -- please comment below or reach out to me!