My name is Jamie Nicole. For those of you who may not know me, I am Stephanie's assistant here at Called2Capture Photography. As much as I love being behind the camera, it took a lot of time, reassurance, and personal growth to be okay with being in front of the camera. This is my story.
Growing up, from infancy through elementary school, I practically lived for the camera. I would always love having my photo taken. Anytime a flash would go off, my head would turn towards the source and a smile would light my face as my cheeks nearly pushed my eyes closed.
But it didn't last. Throughout middle school and high school, my body went through some drastic changes. I became more than overweight, got braces, and went through some serious style alterations. I looked in the mirror and absolutely hated what I saw. The thoughts, words, and actions of others heavily influenced me. Societal standards got inside my head. What I saw in magazines, social media, television, billboards, and movies dictated how I saw myself. All of the lies spewed by the media had taken residence where the love that I had for myself once lived.
While I spent years stuck in what I thought was the worst body, things changed in the late stages of my high school experience. The weight started dropping. I was going down and down in clothing sizes by the week: but the love I had for myself continued to drop, too.
Growing up until that point, I had always assumed, "If I could just lose the weight, I'll be good. I'll be happy." But I found that wasn't true. I never would've thought that dropping over 70 pounds wouldn't make me happy… But it didn't. The years of telling myself that I was not good enough had become permanently ingrained into my head, and the lies weren't going away with the weight loss.
Until I had a photo session that changed how I perceived myself.
Before working here at Called2Capture Photography, I had the honor of being photographed by Stephanie. For the first time in years, I loved the images I saw of myself. I wasn't the monster I had once believed I was - that I had made myself out to be. Stephanie showed me that there was nothing that should have ever held me back from being photographed. I could see myself as I truly was; who I have always been beneath my skin and the false beliefs I held for so long. I was finally set free.
If there was one thing I could go back and do differently throughout the years of constant internal and external bashing, I wouldn't have hidden myself away. I look back and all I can see are many missed memories and opportunities. I simply wish that I would have chosen to live my life more than I was.
There are so many other women out there who are held captive to the same lies I once believed. Stop waiting until you "lose the weight" or until you feel "good enough". It's time to stop hiding and letting years or decades pass without having a single photograph you love of yourself. You're perfect the way you are NOW. I have always been beautiful and deserve to exist in photos, and so do you.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and celebrate your beauty!
The flight from Ft. Lauderdale to LA was about 5 hours long. We had ideal weather and no turbulence. The first place Sarah and I visited was In & Out Burger. This is the BEST place to get a burger! I always have it whenever we are on the west coast. Even being vegetarian, it tastes just as good without the meat. In & Out only uses fresh ingredients. They also have the best customer service.
Sarah and I stayed at the Kawada Hotel. It's a nice hotel in downtown LA. You can stay here without breaking the bank. I love the old brick and architecture in this city. I've never been on a fire escape before. Look at the view!
At night, we walked a few blocks over to Perch. Take an elevator to the thirteenth floor and you will be escorted to another elevator. Take it two more floors up and you arrive to the rooftop bar. With plenty of comfy seating areas, this is the perfect place to have a night out with a drink by the fire.
In LA, you walk everywhere. The Grand Market was a few blocks away from the hotel. This is where we ate the majority of the time. They have Thai food, Mexican food, a coffee bar, breakfast places, produce stands, and more. Eggslut (yes, that's really the name), had the best breakfast sandwiches!
Desiring a reprieve from the city, Sarah and I visited Runyon Canyon Park. It is a 160-acre park where people go to exercise and enjoy nature. The SUV we rented was excellent for parking on a steep hill and navigating our way through the mountains. The weather couldn't have been better as we hiked in 65 degrees. There are many lookout locations where you can get a good view of the Hollywood sign.
Nearby is the Griffith Observatory. Continue driving through Griffith Park and you begin to see the parking for the Griffith Observatory. It took us about thirty minutes walk up the mountain to the observatory. Once we reached the top, it was truly breathtaking. The architecture is incredible. You have a striking view of the Hollywood sign here as well. The observatory itself is remarkable with a lot of activities. Visitors can look through telescopes, learn about the cosmos, view shows, and enjoy the view.
After catching up on rest from our eventful day, we found a Colombian restaurant called La Fonda Antioquena with delicious food. We went over to Perch again at night. We landed comfy seats again close to the fire with a view of the city skyline. It was the perfect way to end the evening.
It took a few days, but we discovered a Starbucks a block from the hotel. This was a much more pleasant walk than the previous trips to the Starbucks a few blocks away in chilly weather. With caffeine and new energy, Sarah and I ventured over to the Last Bookstore. This is a MUST SEE location for whenever you visit LA. I am an avid book reader. This place is heaven on earth for book lovers. They have new and used books and vinyl records on the first floor. Art is incorporated into the design of the bookstore. Most of my time was spent searching through the poetry section. I purchased two new books by Rupi Kaur to add to my personal library at home. The second floor has more books, a labyrinth, shops, and an art gallery from local artists.
Later in the afternoon we drove to the Santa Monica Beach & Pier. This historic landmark opened in 1909. There are restaurants, gift shops, and rides along the pier. Since Sarah and I are from the east coast of Florida, we were looking forward to seeing a sunset on the west coast. It definitely did not disappoint!
This would be the day I have the honor of attending a complimentary workshop with Sue Bryce. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants who entered their name for one of twenty seats. When I got the email that I was accepted, I must admit I did freak out with excitement. Sue Bryce is one of the world's most renowned portrait photographers. I had been following her education for about a year and a half and now I would finally get to meet her in person at her own studio!
Still not familiar with the buildings in LA, I was thankful to run into Bri in the elevator. She is Sue's hair and makeup artist. She led me to the room where other nineteen equally nervous and excited photographers awaited. We all talked over breakfast that Sue and her team generously provided. Many of the attendees were from the west coast. It turns out I traveled the farthest coming from South Florida.
When it was time for us all to enter into the studio, we couldn't wait to see everything. Her studio was just as gorgeous as it appears in the education videos. I made sure to grab a seat in the front row since I'm so short. Sue greeted us all with great enthusiasm and a welcoming spirit. The Confidence Workshop was broadcasted live to all the other members of Sue Bryce Education. There were four 90 minute segments with breaks and lunch in between. When the broadcast was over, Sue spent about an hour with us all. She took a picture with everyone and chatted with each of us personally.
You will have to watch or listen to the workshop for yourself, but this was a life changing experience for me. For those of you who know about my journey and how much C2C has grown this year, you know about the turmoil my family has gone through since my brother passed away four months ago. This the biggest thing I learned from this workshop. When you go through challenging and painful times such as this, you have two decisions: let the pain cripple you or use it to your advantage. Grief has a way of making you face your fears. There is arguably nothing more frightening than having to learn to live without someone you love. I will not live an unlived life. I choose on a daily basis to be empowered by my pain and to honor my brother's memory by chasing after my dreams. I hope you do the same. Face your fears, no matter what they are. Spend each day doing something to work towards your dreams and they will happen sooner than you think. Big things are in store for 2018!
THANK YOU to Sue Bryce for hosting this workshop; to my husband, Julio, for encouraging me every step of the way; to Sarah Bonilla for traveling to LA with me; and to my family, friends, and clients who continue to support me and C2C. :)
This is a special blog where Dorothy shares her personal story about her journey through addiction and grief. It is in remembrance of her son Michael Anthony Grant.
From early childhood, I was exposed to it…
The screaming, cursing, fighting, hiding in closets, barricading my bedroom door, surrounding my body with stuffed animals while I slept, as if to protect me. I was too young to understand why my Mother kept her bedroom door locked, alcohol and items of value hidden in various places, keys and money under her pillow; or why she cried herself to sleep.
Before puberty, I was experimenting with it…
Skipping school to drink while friend’s parents were at work, stealing cigarettes out of ashtrays, buying marijuana at the bus stop on my way to school, sneaking out at night to continue those daytime activities. My fifth grade teacher taught me the word “pathetic” for all the trouble I caused.
In adolescence, I was engulfed with it…
I was uncontrollable in behavior, drinking, or smoking weed. I moved from family member to family member, in and out of Detention Centers, Rehabs, Shelter homes, even a Boot camp. I had problems, I caused problems. I grew up fast.
As an adult, I battle with it…
I have been to parks to feed loved ones who didn’t have anywhere else to go. I have been through the life and death of overdoses of family and friends. I have watched loved ones slowly deteriorate until there is no more life left within them. I, myself, have gone through the DUI’s, Rehabs, support groups, and individual counseling. I face a lifetime struggle.
No one can prepare you for it. No one chooses it. One does not just wake up and say, “I want to be an addict today.” It is a life of turmoil and living hell.
Our son, Michael, began in his teenage years. As parents, we took action early. His first treatment center was at the age of 15. For years, he struggled. For years, we struggled with him. Where did we go wrong? What can we do to get him to stop? Oh, the endless questions and emotions. The feelings of insignificance, guilt, shame, anger, doubt, hurt, hope, love, denial, betrayal, and the fear were a constant companion.
My escape was the alcohol. Drinking became my way of life. Get up, go to work, come home, drink a 12 pack, go to bed; wake up only to do it all over again. My number one focus was drinking. I rarely missed work. I didn’t lie, cheat, or steal. That was justification enough for me.
On March 25, 2017 I agreed to go with my son’s girlfriend to a support group. My purpose was to support her in attendance and ask what is “enabling? Well, I left with no answer to my question and a very strong sense of loneliness. The first place we went afterwards was a bar. It was there the discussion arose, if I feel like this, how many others do? I can’t possibly be alone, right? Ironically, two other people within a 5’ radius struggled as well.
During the course of the next two days, I spoke to a few loved ones about how I was feeling. I expressed the desire to not only feel alone in my struggles, but also to help others know the same. H.E.A.L. was born in thought. Sunday evening, my daughter, simply said in full support, “Mom, it’s a great idea but you can’t do it drinking.” My husband said, “We will overcome whatever. Just get sober.”
Monday, March 27, 2017 I admitted myself to yet another rehabilitation center. On March 28, 2017 I was 100% without alcohol. Four months later on July 28, 2017 our child, Michael, was pronounced deceased of a drug overdose. Not even two weeks after experiencing his first drug overdose. At 26 years old, he lost the battle of addiction. His struggle has ended. Ours has not.
As a parent, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend of an addict and also as an addict, I know it is a process. Hoping against all hope that something will give and life will return to a somewhat normalcy. Experiencing the roller coaster of emotions and the merry-go-round of situations. Accepting my control over the occurring situation is limited. And loving no matter what because it is all I have to give.
Yet, we are not alone in this. We encounter similar situations, dynamics, trials, and emotions. The severity of each, we own individually. Without knowledge and experience found through other people, the comfort and support that can be provided amongst us, the acceptance of what we cannot completely control, and loving even though it hurts; we will continue on in an empty shell that will be only ours to bear.
It is never anticipated that someday I will “get it.” Nor will I have a sudden epiphany and my world will be alright again. I cannot state, regardless of knowing what I know, that I will not drink tomorrow. What I have is right here, right now. We don’t have to struggle alone. There is still hope to be had, experience to gain, acceptance to embrace, and love to give.
When you have lost someone you love, a photograph becomes priceless. A prized possession. One of the only things you have left of that person. It is physical proof that they were here at one point: walking beside you, talking about their hopes and dreams, breathing the same air as you. You cherish this photo because time stands still here. It is attached to a memory of the person you love. You can remember EXACTLY what they wore, imagine how their voice sounded as they laughed at your joke, the way the sun shined, how you had better days ahead. You will frame this photo, box it up, and keep it safe so you don't lose this person, this moment, this dream.
Death has no boundaries or preferences. He does not exclude the rich or poor, good or bad, young or wise. It will take a wonderful woman to cancer, a baby who has yet to see the light of day, a successful businessman, religious leaders, a nomad, and anyone else in-between. From dust we have been made and to dust we shall return.
And, suddenly, my only brother has returned to dust. I received the news late in the evening on Friday, July 28th. My brother had lost his battle to his addiction after sixty days of sobriety, joining many others as a statistic of the opiate epidemic. He was only twenty-six years old and had his whole life ahead of him. In his journals, he wrote about how much he loved his family, how he wanted to go to school, how he loved his son Tristen, how he knew Jesus was his Lord and Savior, how he wanted to get better. With a shattered heart, I accept that he is no longer suffering or a victim to his addiction.
While making the funeral arrangements, I am naturally given the task of putting together the photo slideshow. Many hours are spent scouring through old family photo albums, social media, messaging old friends for anything they might have. Each photograph embodies a specific time in his life: when he was playing sports as a kid, skating with his friends at the YMCA, the times he skipped school, family vacations, when he became a father, when he was a kid before the troubles of this world caught up to him, when he went to church and gave his life back to Jesus. I devoured each image, staring at them for hours. Trying to remember how his head is thrown back when he laughs, what his tattoos say, how his eyes reveal his internal pain, how he smiles when he is genuinely happy.
Fortunately, I always made my family take pictures the past few years whenever we got together for Thanksgiving. Nothing fancy. Just some photos of us all in the backyard. Now these photos are more valuable than gold, money, or jewels. I could have a thousand pictures and it will never be enough to fill this whole in my heart . But it is enough to remind me of who he is, how much I love him, and how I will miss him until I see him in heaven again.
Take the picture. Someone else may need it someday.