This April, on a chilly spring morning, I made my way to Old Town Alexandria for Living Dappled’s spring shoot. I had the photographer lined up, the accessories in hand and a schedule mapped out. I was ready for a full morning of pictures and wardrobe changes. What I hadn’t anticipated was the heart touching conversations and life lessons that would come with it.
When you’re photographing vitiligo, it’s more than just a shoot. As the founder and editor of Living Dappled, I often show up to shoots with my business hat on – ready to get the shots and stay on brand. I often forget that for many of the women we’re photographing, this is the first time they are having pictures of their spots taken – and sometimes even the first time they are meeting another person with vitiligo.
Within the hour, my business mindset fades away and I’m in the moment, amazed and inspired at the stories and conversations taking place between snaps of the camera. What starts as a photo shoot becomes a touching encounter that reveals the raw, unfiltered emotions behind the smiling faces of our models. Our spring shoot was no exception. As we snapped away, we heard stories about struggling and anxiety, full of fears. We also heard about moments of strength. And that took us to the current moment – photographing a vulnerability.
What became clear as we worked with each model was this: we are our own worst critics. While Shawna and I grew more and more excited with each snap of the camera, the women we were photographing had a harder time seeing the beauty in their own skin. The conversation always came back to the same conclusion: while we can see the beauty in others, we set the bar so much higher for ourselves. In fact, sometimes we can’t see past our own fears to see our own beauty.
Leaving the shoot, I’m inspired to take another look at my own self-perception. I’m so blessed to be loved by my husband, family and friends. They see a strong, beautiful woman working hard to lead a community she’s passionate about. I hope to see more of that girl when I look in the mirror – and get my own head out of the way.
Do you struggle with confidence? How can you change your perception to match the beauty others see in you?
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.