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the art of letting go // laie point, oahu

This is a little story about a girl & her camera, and a trip that felt like a lost cause. Here are some photos from that trip, and I’ll then tell you why it felt like it was a lost cause… even though I’m finally (thankfully!) starting to think differently.

I’ve always trusted my cameras & have never had reason not to… I’m one of those that scoffs at the idea of anything bad happening to my camera or my photos, and am always completely confident that my photos will come out as planned. I’ve always, with everything, had the attitude that I won’t allow bad things into my life… and that went for my cameras as well.

So then what happens? I get all of my rolls of film back from what was a life-altering trip to Hawaii to attend FIND 2.0, and six of them are blank. BLANK. As in, no photos. The photos didn’t happen. I was utterly confused at first, because if you know my camera (the Hasselblad 500c/m), then you know that it has a very loud & distinctive *ker-klunk* sound to it that is unmistakable. I knew that if something had been wrong with my camera, that I would’ve sensed it immediately. So no, it wasn’t my camera; it was my lens. My “new” lens that I was so excited about, malfunctioned & the shutter stayed wide open for the remaining six rolls that I shot on it. And not only was it rolls from Hawaii, but a few rolls from a family session that I did when I had returned home; although luckily, that camera I only use for some fun shots when I do family sessions, and definitely not for the majority of the session’s photos. Anyway, needless to say I was devastated. I felt lost. It may sound a tad overdramatic, but I went through a good period of mourning, where I could barely get out of bed.

After all, if there’s no photo to show, did that memory really happen?

I can tell you that there’s more to this story as well. Like I said, I’d had an enlightening trip to Hawaii, to say the very least. I came home from the sunny Pacific Ocean energized, hopeful, informed, ready to be a better wife & mom & friend, and prepared to take on the world. When I got home however, life had clearly decided something different for me. I came home to find out that something devastating had happened to our family. Something that I would never publicly share, but something that left us all feeling violated, hopeless, angry, and suddenly questioning everything that we had done & believed in & everyone we had trusted up until this point. It was something that I would never wish on my worst enemy. So I know in my heart, that when I went to pick up my rolls of film from the lab, I was hoping that I would somehow be picking up a piece of me that would remind me to feel hopeful & empowered again. And it did not. Instead I picked up six rolls—ninety six frames—of memories that I would never be able to properly recover, and I felt more lost than I had ever felt in my life.

As if the film was a metaphor for what was going on in my life; the memories lost… like innocence, or like security.

But this is where the good happens… or at least this is where we were forced to find good. I had to let go. I had to let go. I had to be in touch with the fact that I can’t control everything. I had to let go of the fact that nothing is perfect, ever. I had to come to terms with the fact that just because I lost some photos, doesn’t mean that I should forget everything that happened. And more importantly of all, I was forced to face the truth about the ugliness of life… and out of that came beauty. Frederick Douglas said, “If there is not struggle, there is not progress.” What he was referring to was on a much grander scale, obviously, but for the first time in a very long time, my family was faced with struggle… and I hope that it made us stronger, if not today, then one day. It progressed us to a life together where we try harder to understand one another, where we are honest with each other, can confide in each other, and where if we know anything at all, we know that we always, always have each other’s back.

So with that, I had to see the good. I have to see the good in everything… and to me, that is the basis of the art of letting go.

amy grace - you have me crying. you turn fucked into beautiful. and that is the trick of it all, that’s not a trick at all. it’s grace. you have it. you have it in your eyes, your bones, your spirit, you have this camera as your perfect tool. the act of trying is something pretty near close to perfect. especially when we are trying to make beauty. so the blank rolls are kind of sublime after all.
one day, i want to stay up all night talking to you. if that makes me a stalker, so be it. you always lift things up. xoxo

meg - my heart sunk for you while reading this…when it rains it pours, huh? i’m so sorry this bundle of hurt happened to you and yours. you’ve got to be some of the last people on earth who would ever deserve it! it’s all we can do to sometimes to see the silver lining and you’re so much stronger to choose to see the good in every situation!
ps – the images that *did* make it are soso perfect!

Ali - I felt like the vibe in this post matched “the art of letting go” very well. The first few frames were my favorite, and set up a great feel as I began reading what you wrote. I’m sorry for your loss, that is tough. That is an incredibly important life lesson to have learned from your experience, though.

xo love,

Karen - I read this post when you first posted it, was moved and wanted to leave a comment but couldn’t find the right words and I’m afraid I still haven’t. It feels so personal, it makes me want to call J.E. and tell him to comment here because he would say the right thing because he knows you and would know what to say and it would mean more to you. But what I do know for sure, just from reading your blog and IG, is that the way you live your life–full of total passion and love for your family and your lives together and your work–is the way that most people want to live their lives but don’t have the courage to do so. Your family will be stronger from this one day because of your ability to see the good in a difficult situation when others would only dwell on the difficult. Bravo.

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