I’ve owned a camera since 2008, which I suppose means I’ve been a photographer for 4 and a half years. In that time I’ve been asked why I became one more times than I can count. People don’t ask that question because they are curious, but – in all honesty you guys – because it’s what matters. It’s been a resonating concept in everything I’ve done, and every person I’ve sought advice or guidance from since I decided to pursue photography as a business. I’ve read about finding my why on blogs and in books, and have been consistently motivated to dig deep. To have a purpose. To do things for a reason. To start with why.
And to make it visible in everything.
A month ago – in a gorgeous lodge in Colorado – I came back to my why. I wrote it down and forced myself to be accountable to it. I remembered the reasons, the motivations, and the dreams that propelled me into Best Buy to purchase my first SLR. I remembered the promises that I made to myself when I agreed to finally accept money from friends and make images for them. And on that day a month ago, I made a conscious decision to refocus my business, my brand, my existence on living to the full extent of my why. Every. Single. Day.
I went outside, sat down against an evergreen, and wrote myself the following letter. To remember. To never again forget. And to always be in search of exactly who I was born to be. And I’m sharing it with you – my dear readers and friends – because this is who I am.
This, you guys, is every vulnerable ounce of me.
Do you hear that voice? The tiny one coming from deep within? The one you’re terrified to listen to? Listen to it. Please stop doing the tings you think you should do, the ones that don’t feel true or authentic. Stop it. Now. Be true, be authentic. The only person stopping you is yourself. You know that. So believe it. But more than that, do something about it. Be brave enough to believe in yourself. Be brave enough to make images that make you feel – and stop caring who else notices them.
Live life for you, darling. For your daughters. For DRL. Be brave enough to let the rest fall into the distance. Let it become the bokeh in your life. Let it become the soft, unfocused haze that only matters because it makes the central focus of the image beautiful. Not because it’s there, too – but quite the opposite – because it isn’t there.
Stop trying so hard to make a difference in the lives of others. Make a difference in your own life. In your daughter’s lives. In your husband’s. Matter. But to yourself. Be wrong. Make mistakes. Laugh. Cry. Hug. Wonder. MARVEL at the mundane.
Be enthusiastically you. Not the version you think other people want to see – but the truest version of who you already are. Who you were created to be. Live HER story.
Please stop believing that your photography is about an image you take. It’s not. It’s about life. Remember when you bought the D60? What did you tell people? You told them you bought it because no one knew Elena like you did, and you didn’t just want photographs of her as a child, you wanted photographs that captured the spirit of her childhood. You see, it’s always been about story, Athena. It’s always been about truth and authenticity. You just let the bokeh come into focus. You let the noise get in the way. But what’s great about that – about focus – is that it can shift.
The good stuff in life, the stuff that matters and that changes and shapes you – that’s the hard stuff. Don’t turn away from it, or try to walk around it. Go through it, and accept and expect the criticism that will come from it. You are not everyone else.
YOU ARE NOT EVERYONE ELSE!!
Remember to ask yourself why, but also be brave enough to do something about it if you can’t answer the question, or if you don’t like the answer. Be you. Ask why. LIVE.
Stop worrying about what you’ll get today or tomorrow, but make a greater effort to leave something great behind. Maybe life isn’t about the take aways. Maybe it’s about the leave behinds. Those things are our legacies. Those things are who we are. Who we are created to be.
So be her.
And don’t ever look back.
Don’t be afraid of what will happen if you do something. Be afraid of what will happen if you don’t. ”
Two weeks ago – in a freak April snowstorm – I stopped being afraid. I took my daughters outside and reconnected with the person I was created to be. I lived her story, and I discovered that love really is a place.
Snow Day from athena pelton on Vimeo.
you are the best. this letter inspires me.
I think I’ve said many of these similar phrases and words of wisdom to you over the years. Because, for an instant, I thought it was me talking to you. You are grand, my darling daughter. Grand in the largest sense of the word. Exceptional. Inspiring. And love. It radiates from you. You’re an exceptional photographer and writer. Be true to you, always.
I couldn’t love you more.
These words make my heart sing. Live your why, and LOVE it. Life is at its most beautiful that way :) XO!
Also, killer song choice.
ahhh this is amazing!! i’m sorry you had such a snowstorm in april, but what a way to make lemonade out of lemons :) the song and the images are perfect. your girls are the cutest ever. love you xx
oh thank you for posting this letter. it was amazing when i heard you read it, and just as amazing a month later. *you* are amazing. here’s to finding the why and stopping being afraid!
Beautiful Athena! Thank you for sharing this in March and thank you for sharing it again now :)