How I've changed

As I transition from the Just Me project to focus on creating the Just Me experience, I'm being asked frequently how the 1.5-year-long project changed who I am; Whether it has changed the way I view my body and myself. My answer, up until some recent deep-dive introspection, has been no. I still am not comfortable with my body and I still focus on my insecurities and what I hate. I'm susceptible to the messages that tell me I will never be enough, that I need to buy this or do this or eat this in order to be _____ (fill in the blank).

I knew that because of this project I was viewing other women and the world around me with less judgement and more love/understanding. This project has opened my eyes to all of the beauty and beautiful people that surround me every day. I am SO thankful for that. Why couldn't I give that same non-judgment and love to myself?

I didn't think I had changed much. With some tough love from friends and family, they have told me all the ways I havechanged. Maybe I didn't want to accept it. Maybe I have not been ready to give myself permission to be happy with my body. Maybe I have been too close to it all, and couldn't SEE it happening. I was focused on the fact that my body has not changed. In fact, It's even be bigger than when I started this project. THAT'S what I have been focusing on. Playing on repeat this sad story that I am no longer the toned, skinny 20-year-old that I loved looking at in the mirror. I didn't want to accept that I will never be that girl again... and that crippled my ability to see the way I have changed for the better.

Here's what I've realized:

1) I am keeping myself in this negative state. I am the only one who can shift my perception. I decide how to describe myself, and it should not be ruled by comparison.

2) I am allowed to be unhappy with how I look, but no matter what I look like, I can still create beauty, spread goodness, and change the world (no matter how small of an action). That's an empowering thought.

3) Our bodies are incredible and allow us to experience LIFE to the FULLEST. Instead of focusing on what I hate, I should be doing activities I love. The universe will repay me with even more fulfilling opportunities when I open up and accept (the word of the day).

I have been stepping outside of my comfort zone more than I realized. I've been photographed three times (though I used to love being in front of the camera, I have taken a HUGE break from being photographed since my wedding 3.5 years ago), went shopping for two new outfits (it wasn't as scary as I built it up to be!), and have been making a big effort to initiate intimacy with my husband.

New people I meet tell me I am confident. My family and friends tell me I'm more confident than before. I haven't wanted to accept this compliment. I don't feel it. I'm an actress, after all! I can fake it 'til I make it. But you know what, I sat down and forced myself to accept it... 

I am more confident. Do you know why? The core reason of my shift towards confidence? YOU.The women I have met along the way.YOU have shown me that I have a purpose. There is a reason I am here and why I go through my own struggles. There is a reason I have put everything I have and everything I am into this photography business, and especially the Just Me project.

YOU stepped in front of my camera, bare, insecurities and all, told me your stories, and you have survived. Your stories of transformation have given me the permission to transform as well. I would not be who I am without this project. I have changed. I am new woman and am learning to accept this chapter. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Sending you love.

-Amy

Photo by Emily Keeney

Photo by Emily Keeney

Amy Paine
Another Perspective on the "Just Me" Project

This woman helped me plan my gallery event and because of her organization, communication, and perfectionism, I can first hand say that she truly is an amazing coordinator. She owns Pacific Engagements, and if you're planning a wedding, you will be in such good hands if you hire her. Here is what Alyssa had to say about the project.

Hearing Amy first explain the mission behind her photography project immediately drew me in. I loved how she wanted to change women's perspectives of themselves for the better. It made me want to participate as a way to challenge myself about whether I was confident enough to go through with such a commitment, and to see if I would be happy with images of myself without done-up hair or makeup. There are so many days where I think poorly of my body or facial features because I am constantly surrounded by beautiful women, whether they be strangers, friends, or fellow colleagues. There can be multiple weeks that go by without me ever having the thought of, "Wow, I look really good/pretty/perfect today...," cross my mind. And when some thought even similar to that comes up, it makes me realize how long it has been since a similar moment has occurred, and it's sad when that happens. In those moments, I realize that so many of my daily insecurities are in my head and there is no good reason for me to ever think such negative things about myself. But then days later, I find myself in that negative thought cycle again, and it becomes almost impossible to see through that curtain.

I have personally been working on self-growth throughout the last couple of months, a big part of it pertaining to walking through my past with my current boyfriend. We have gotten to the point in our relationship where the only way for him to know the full "me" is for me to explain the hurt and pain experienced from my past relationships. Though I have never been a victim of physical violence, there are a lot of self-confidence issues and messed up ways of thinking how it is normal to be treated by others that stem from a decade of verbal abuse. And it's so crazy to think that someone so close to me found out the roots of my self-doubt, insecurities, and depression so far down the road. And it's even crazier to reflect on how many people see me on a daily basis and know absolutely nothing about that side of me. Thoughts like that don't even cross their minds. And I appreciate Amy taking these images of women who have been affected in similar ways and sharing their stories publicly so other women out there feel empowered and know they are not alone.

Alyssa, I think you are STUNNING. You are a unique woman with a huge heart and amazing hair. ;) Thank you so much for all you have done for me, and most of all, for trusting me and sharing your vulnerablility. You are a strong, intelligent, passionate woman and I am thankful to know you.

Amy Paine
"Just Me" Experience

A year after her photo session, I received an email. I can't not share it. I cried reading her words. And now, I share it with you in case you are out there and need to hear this. I give you permission to be scared. But do it anyway. Do this scared.

"Hi Amy!

I'm pretty sure I drafted an e-mail to you very early last year and never sent it...mainly because I was having a hard time getting all of my thoughts together and would go on really long (and likely unnecessary) rants about all of my feelings and emotions related to my "just me" shoot.  So, here I am trying to e-mail you yet again, almost a year later!  (sorry in advance that I will likely rant again)...

I remember the day I did my photo shoot very well.  While walking back to my car, I felt a sudden sense of relaxation and comfort in my own skin.  I remember that I needed to go run a few errands on my way home.  When I got to the grocery store and parked in the lot, I remember opening up my mirror and checking myself to make sure I "looked okay"...I guess "okay" enough to go into the grocery store.  I remember having a moment where I suddenly didn't see all of the wrinkles, big pores, big nose, and all of the other insecurities and flaws I usually took note of right away.  For the first time in a while, I just saw myself.  I saw my imperfections but I didn't punish myself for them - instead, I told myself that they were the things that made me unique.  I walked into the grocery store holding my head up slightly higher than I typically would have when walking around without any make-up on.  It felt really great!!"

just-me-am-1.jpg

"When I got home, I called my mom and I told her all about the photo shoot.  I was SO EXCITED.  I then explained to her that once I got my collage of photos, she could pick some to buy if she wanted.  Her immediate response was "why would I want a photo of you without any make-up on?  I would rather have a photo of you all done up and looking nice!".................I remember feeling suuuuuper deflated and confused in that moment.  It then struck me that my mom was likely the reason I always felt the need to wear make-up in the first place.  During my entire childhood (and still to this day), my mom always made it a point to reference how horrible she looked if she wasn't wearing make-up.  I couldn't dare take any photographs of her unless she had make-up on.  She's still like that to this day...it's ridiculous.  So yeah, it was all very interesting and something I hadn't realized was an issue (and likely led to my current insecurities) until after this phone interaction.  I should also mention that once I posted one of my photos from your shoot on social media, my mom LOVED it and suddenly was all about my "no-makeup" look....ironic, huh?"

"Okay....so now I'm going to report to you from the present (2018).  Somewhat recently, I started making small attempts here and there to not put make-up on...mostly on the weekends.  I would usually just end up putting on some powder and a bit of mascara (typically, I also put on eyeliner and eyeshadow and lipstick and all that jazz).  It felt pretty good!  It also made me start to get used to looking at (and being okay with) my face in its more natural state.  A few weekends ago, I didn't have any makeup for the day (it was a Saturday) and around 7 or 8pm that night, my boyfriend got a text from some friends who wanted to meet up in Ballard.  I was wearing a hoodie, jeans and had no makeup on and I immediately started to panic about needing to make myself look "presentable" to go out on a Saturday night in Ballard.  After a few minutes, I decided that I was just going to go out without make-up.  I did it and guess what....nothing happened!  Nobody commented on how I looked, nobody cared!  I didn't care either!  It was awesome! I was so empowered by that experience that I finally decided (for the first time) to not wear make-up to WORK.  Crazy, right?  That Monday, I showed up to work with just a little bit of mascara and some face powder.  I was bracing myself for the "are you sick?" or "you look tired" comments that us women are so used to hearing when we suddenly are seen with less make-up.  The opposite ended up happening...nobody said a word.  In fact, the only person who did say something was one of my bosses and she actually said "you look REALLY pretty today.  Your eyes are glowing!  I really like the minimal make-up look on you!"......WWWWWHHHHAAAAATTTTT?  I joked to one of my male coworkers about it (he wasn't at work that day) and he told me that he would likely make a rude comment about it if he were to have been there to see me.  I went to work a week later with the same natural look and when I asked him what he thought, he said "I actually think you look better like this".  So, yeah.  It was all very eye-opening and sort of made me feel like my entire life has been a lie.  I could've been wearing minimal make-up this entire time and people wouldn't have cared either way!  So yeah, that being said, I'm going to continue to embrace my face in its more natural state and remind myself that I'm perfectly acceptable just the way I am."

just-me-am-2.jpg

"I guess the point of this whole long rant is to tell you that I truly feel that your photoshoot was what led me to all of these conclusions and all of this self-acceptance.  It almost makes me want to do ANOTHER shoot because I feel like so much has changed within me in the past year.  I feel so much stronger, more confident, more capable, in all aspects of my life (despite not really changing physically...I haven't lost any weight and I used to associate most of my self-worth with how much I weighed).  So I'll just end with yet another THANK YOU. Thank you for what you did for us 104 ladies through your work."

just-me-am-3.jpg
just-me-am-5.jpg
just-me-am-6.jpg

You are beautiful. I saw your wrinkles and gravitated towards photographing them. I saw your nose and was reminded of my own. You thought you'd hate seeing your legs in these photographs, but I see strength, and they're actually pretty sexy. They carry you through life. You have so much to give to this world and I am thankful to be a part of your journey. You are a shining light of hope. 

Thank you for your email. When I hear stories like yours, my heart is so full and makes me keep going. I love these photo sessions and when I started, I had no idea the impact it could make.

I'm sending you love.

acpmeshow-89.jpg
Amy Paine
"Just Me" Experience

"I have struggled with self love and self acceptance for as long as I can remember. Over the past 15 years I've put my body through physical and emotional hell, through countless diets, pills and painful "shapewear" to make myself look thinner. 

I would look at myself in the mirror and hate everything I saw. I used to fantasize about waking up in a different body than my own, having a different life. This self criticism went on for a long time. In 2010, I had weight loss surgery and lost 80lbs in 9 months. While this weight loss did positive things for my health, my mind was still at war. Even at my lowest weight, I still hated my body. Nothing was ever good enough. "

rose-2.jpg

 

"It wasn't until last year that I began to change my self perception and negative self talk. I started to pick out the things I really liked about myself, even if it was just one or two things. I began to say 'I love you' to myself in the mirror at night, which felt very strange at first but then started to feel normal. I began to walk with more confidence, smile more, wear less make up out in public and put my focus into what made me happy. Little by little, it began to make a difference.  

Participating in the 'Just Me' photo shoot felt so right to me. It was almost like my journey to self love led me to this experience, to really show how much progress I had made over the last year. Of course, this photo-shoot still felt foreign to me in the beginning. It was uncomfortable and strange - especially when I was being photographed in certain poses that showed off the parts of myself I've tried to hide for so long. But even in the awkwardness.....I felt a wave of love coming over me. Love for myself and love for other people in my life. Its true that once you start to love yourself, you can truly love other people at the fullest."

rose-4.jpg

"I would absolutely do something like this again, this was such an important thing for me to experience. I truly feel that every woman should do something like this. Once I saw my photos I was speechless, those photos were me. Me and ONLY me. I chose to share my photos on social media; share them without shame, without justification. I chose to share them out of pure love for the person I am with the body I have. The response I received after sharing these pictures was overwhelming. I was flooded with love and admiration for doing this photo-shoot, so many women I know told me the photos inspired them - which made this experience all the more worth it. 

Thank you Amy for this experience, it was truly a necessary step in my journey to self love. I am SO thrilled to see the work you are doing with this project and with your behind the scenes social media groups. Its things like that, that can make a difference in our world. Having the power to help women feel beautiful is a profound and glorious skill."

 

I loved her reveal. She had a very "normal" reaction, with nerves, contemplation (not shown, because watching people look at photos that you can't see is pretty boring), revelations, nice things to say about herself in the images, and had a difficult time selecting her favorites because she loved so many. If you've wondered what a reveal is, this is a really great video to watch through! The images are printed and framed, sitting on ledges, and the GoPro is recording. :)

Amy Paine
"I Saw You" (A Poem)

One of the women who participated in the project wrote this poem and shared it at the gallery event. So much love for her and this poem. It's perfect.


I saw you in your natural form of beauty.

I heard the power in your voices

You spoke of your pain and vulnerability when you looked at my lens. 

As each click of my camera and every new pose I could see through you, to a part of your secret self that I’m not sure you could see. 

I’m humbled by your nakedness, baring your soul at every angle.  

You're empowering

You’ve faced fears that I have had to face myself. Others seeing us without a mask, a performance, a shield that can no longer be hidden behind. 

I’ve seen your inner goddess peak through your insecurities as I asked you to show me who you are. 

Be gentle with yourself because what I see through my lens are women who are changing the world.

Lift your head up when you speak 

When you lower your eyes you are telling the world “I am not worthy enough to be in your atmosphere” 

What we fail to realize that who we allow in our sacred space are the ones who should feel honored. We are goddess that were created to carry the burdens that many would parish from the weight. 

Broken creates beauty 

Scars creates stories

Love creates healing

I saw you in your natural form of beauty.

I heard power in your stories

 

By Linsay Irene Foster

Just-Me-LF
Amy Paine
Press Release - Gallery Show

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    

Contact: Amy Paine, Amy Catherine Photography

Phone: (206) 450-0411

Email: amy@amycatherinephoto.com

Photographer to showcase female empowerment project in one-day exhibition

SEATTLE, March 23, 2018 — Photographer Amy Paine of Amy Catherine Photography will host “Just Me - Portraits of Women” on Sunday, April 8, at Metropolist in Seattle.

The exhibition is the culmination of a year long project in which Paine created black-and-white photographs of 104 women without makeup, hair styling, or retouching. The exhibit is made up of one photo from each woman’s photo session and celebrates the community created by the project.

“I’m invigorated going to these sessions with a bare face and an open heart,” Paine said. “If my client is not allowed to wear makeup or style her hair, I am meeting her where she’s at. Our time together is vulnerable, raw, and takes a lot of trust.”

Following each photography session, Paine presented each participant with 20 photos she selected from their shoot. She documented each woman’s reaction on video and is creating a series of short videos that feature the women’s stories and what the project meant to them.

“This is so much more than just taking pretty pictures,” Paine said. “Some women have changed the way they walk about the Earth because of the ‘Just Me’ experience, and I never expected these sessions to have this impact. It’s become a sort of therapy to empower women, to let her know she is worthy, enough, and beautiful even if society says she needs to be different.”

The experience was equally transformative for the participants.

“These photos gave me an unbiased and objective reality check,” participant Jessa Lowe said via email after seeing her photos. “With no makeup, hair not styled I'm just me. All me. And that's not so bad.”

“I feel electric, so happy with how I am, I can't even imagine picking any part of myself apart now,” participant Sara Ranlett said. “The love and confidence I feel toward myself, I can't even put into words.”

The exhibition, which is sponsored by The Soulmate Strategist Julie Pierce, will be held April 8, 2018, from noon to 4 p.m. at Metropolist, 2931 1st Ave. S #A in Seattle. Tickets are free, but guests are encouraged to register for the event before attending. For information or to register for a free ticket, visit www.acphoto.studio/justmeshow

 

At a glance:

Event: “Just Me” photography exhibit

Date: April 8, 2018

Time: Noon to 4 p.m.

Location: Metropolist, 2931 1st Ave. S #A, Seattle, WA 98134

Cost: Free, but registration is available

Registration: www.acphoto.studio/justmeshow

Amy Paine